A Short Guide to TikTok Contests - Best Practices, Tips, and Examples

Learn how to run a TikTok contest for your brand, tapping into the addictive and viral nature of TikTok videos.

By Will Blunt ・5 min read
Campaign & Contest Ideas
Social Media

Have you ever been lost in a TikTok vortex?If you’re not familiar with this term, then let me explain…It all starts when you innocently open the TikTok app on your phone to watch a video a friend has sent you. Maybe it’s a creative dance montage or perhaps it’s a perfectly cut basketball trick shot video.Whatever the content of the video, something about it grips you and you want more.So, you explore the app for another video just like it…85 videos and two hours later you’re drained, confused, and wondering what just happened. (The average daily view time for a TikTok user is 52 minutes!)That is a TikTok vortex!What’s my point?TikTok is addictive. The myriad of creative short-form user-generated videos that fuel this platform is trending like nothing we have seen before.Whether they’re cute, hilarious, meaningful, shocking, or just fun to watch, TikTok videos have captured the younger generation and are spreading like wildfire across society.The addictive and viral nature of this form of content is perfect for a social media contest. But it’s not just about wasting time watching videos, TikTok contests can generate significant interest for your brand and improve your lead flow.

How do you run a TikTok contest for your brand?

The principles for running a TikTok contest aren’t too different from any other form of social media giveaway but there are a few subtleties. Let’s explore the key areas.

Determine your goals and expectations

It may sound like an obvious step, but the purpose of your TikTok contest will greatly influence its structure and execution. For example, if your goal is to grow your TikTok following then the way you run your contest will be fundamentally different than if you are looking to increase lead generation.Here are some things to consider when determining your goals and expectations:

  • Are you looking to engage your current customers or attract new prospects? The answer to this question will influence how you promote the contest and whether you invest in advertising.
  • Is social media engagement important? Or is it more about lead generation? If you’re more concerned with engagement, then a hashtag contest may be adequate, whereas lead gen goals require a landing page for collecting leads.
  • Do you purely want brand exposure or are high-quality user interactions more important? If reach and exposure is the purpose, then the contest you run needs to target a broader audience than if you are aiming for meaningful interactions with prospects.

Another thing to consider is the prize you choose for your TikTok contest. For example, a more generic prize such as a gift card or an iPad will attract a broader audience and aid a social media engagement goal. On the other hand, a more personalized prize or something closely aligned with your product or service will improve the quality of leads and brand interactions.Cosmetics brand, e.l.f., nailed its TikTok contest by combining a viral concept, unique hashtag, relevant prize ($250 of its products), and smart influencer collaborations to reach over 5 billion people:

Eyes Lips Face ELF TikTok Contest

Unique campaign hashtag on TikTok

Understand what content performs well on TikTok

Content that performs well on TikTok is typically very different from any other platform. While controversial or shocking content may go well on Facebook and sentimental videos can spark virality on Instagram, TikTok is more about trends and challenges.So while it may look cool to create a high-production fully edited TikTok video, trending contests tap into replicability. As in, the easier it is for someone else to replicate or copy your concept the more chance they will.Take a moment to check out TikTok’s Discover Page and look at the trending hashtags or themes and the style of videos that gain traction. Dance routines are popular and so are mini-challenges, before and after clips, and trending movies or songs.

TikTok's Discover Page With All the Trending Hashtags And Theme

TikTok Discovery Page

Come up with a concept for the contest

Coming up with the concept of a TikTok contest is one of the hardest parts. If you choose something run-of-the-mill, it will simply get lost in the noise of the platform. Something too niche will be unlikely to catch fire and gain the attention you’re looking for.So what makes for a good concept?Yes, you want your concept to be unique but you also want to tap into the current TikTok trends. To do this, I recommend choosing a trending hashtag theme as well as a campaign-specific hashtag.For example, TikTok recently released a “Creative Effect” feature that turns objects from green to purple in videos. You can see examples of this by searching for the hashtag #GreenToPurple. The top-ranking videos for this hashtag are also featured on the TikTok Discover Page.Here is an example of a TikTok video that turns an Avocado purple: could find a way to tap into this new feature and trending hashtag by applying the concept of #GreenToPurple to your brand or product and asking participants to submit creative videos based on certain criteria. As a condition for entry, ask participants to use this hashtag and a unique campaign hashtag you come up with to track entries. This way you create brand awareness as well as tapping into a trending topic.Some other examples of popular hashtags you could piggyback are #furnitureflip, #beautyreview, or #chocolaterecipe - the list of opportunities is extensive!

Different TikTok Categories About #Chocolaterecipe

Tapping into popular hashtags on TikTok

Don’t forget the legal stuff

As with any social media contest or giveaway, TikTok contests need to abide by rules and regulations.

  • Read TikTok’s Community Guidelines before launching your contest.
  • Be careful not to infringe on copyright by accepting entries from participants with music, logos, or other copyrighted materials.
  • Make sure you have official contest rules that are included in any promotional material, posts, or on landing pages.
  • Keep up to date with contest regulations in your geography so you don’t breach any local laws.

Also, consider societal beliefs and sensitivities when creating your contest concept to avoid brand backlash or unwanted press.

What’s the difference between a TikTok challenge and a TikTok contest?

You may be wondering what the difference between a TikTok challenge and a TikTok contest is.The difference is subtle but important to recognize.A TikTok challenge is not controlled by any single brand, business, or individual. They are trends, such as the #ToosieSlide dance challenge (with over 6 billion views) that take a mind of its own and inspire TikTok users from all over the world to participate.

#Toosieslide Stepping TikTok Challange

TikTok Challenge ExampleTikTok contests, on the other hand, are started and controlled (to a certain degree) by one entity or collaboration. They typically offer a prize for the winning entry, have a start and end date, collect entries on a landing page, and require participants to create videos that are unique to the campaign itself.While contests could leverage trending TikTok challenges with a twist, and on a rare occasion, turn into a TikTok challenge themselves, this is not the norm.

ShortStack's TikTok Contest Template allow you to collect leads as well as TikTok videosView and Create Your Own


For brands targeting teens and young adults, TikTok is a must. The 13-24-year-old age bracket makes up 69% of its user base.A great thing about this age group is that they are more than open to being creative with user-generated video content. In fact, they love making it. This makes TikTok contests a powerful mechanism for engaging with this audience, increasing the awareness of your brand, and collecting leads in the process.Before you dive in head first, be sure to familiarize yourself with the style of popular content on TikTok, get up to speed with relevant rules and regulations, and make sure your contest concept contributes to your greater marketing objectives.

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About the author

By Will Blunt ・5 min read

Will Blunt is the founder of Sidekick Digital by Will Blunt - B2B Marketing Expert - Sidekick Digital, a publishing business that launches, manages, and grows brands with content marketing.

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