Remember when cereal companies used to offer prizes if you filled out a form that was printed on the inside of the box? They offered all kinds of gifts like t-shirts, computers, and even vacations. You don’t see much of those anymore!

The idea of giveaways, however, didn’t completely disappear. Instead, they moved from cereal boxes and magazines to social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Brands across the globe host social media contests every single day, but are they doing it correctly? After all, it’s not as simple as selling a lottery ticket! Let’s take a deep dive into the world of social media contests to learn the do’s and don’ts.

Here’s what marketers need to know about social media contests:

  1. Which type of contest you should run
  2. The rules for each social media platform
  3. What should be included in your terms & conditions
  4. How you should promote your contest
  5. How to measure the success of your contest

1. Run the Right Type of Contest for Your Business

While a contest and a sweepstakes might sound like the same thing, they’re actually quite different. Each type of promotion has its own set of rules and expectations. Your business needs to understand which one you’re looking to go with before you launch your campaign!

The three types of social media promotions are:

  • Contest
  • Sweepstakes
  • Lottery


A contest is a promotion where the winner is chosen based on merit. For example, the best drawing, the funniest picture, etc.


A sweepstakes is most commonly known as a giveaway. Each entrant has an equal chance to win, and they are selected at random.


A lottery is a promotion in which a purchase is required for entry.

The type of giveaway you choose will set the ground rules for people, so they know how to enter and how they can win. Once you know which type of promotion you’re going to create, you can start planning the details!

2. Research the Social Media Rules

The biggest mistake you can make when organizing a social media giveaway is not familiarizing yourself with the rules first. Not only does each social platform have its own set of guidelines, but the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) does, too.

FTC Social Media Guidelines

If you have a paid partnership with another brand who is providing the item you are giving away, the FTC requires that you disclose that in your post. It’s important for your followers to fully understand the connection you have to the brand, so they can better understand what they are applying for. It’s all about transparency!

Following the FTC guidelines for social media partnerships is even more important than it sounds. If you violate their rules, you could be hit with a hefty fine. While it’s tempting to launch a campaign right away to start seeing the new followers come in, take some time to make sure you’re complying. It doesn’t hurt to have a lawyer take a look at things beforehand, either!

Social Media Contest Rules

Not all social media platforms are the same. For example, Instagram has a completely different set of guidelines than Twitter! Whether you’re hosting your sweepstakes on one specific outlet or you’re promoting it on several different ones, you need to make sure you’re following the rules.

Take a look at these guides before you get started on your campaign!

Not following the rules for each platform can result in your posts getting removed, your social media profile getting deactivated, or your company incurring fines. It’s better to be proactive and make sure you’re following all the rules!

3. Set Your Terms & Conditions

The last thing you want is a bunch of questions about terms and conditions while you’re in the middle of your contest. Before you set your sweepstakes out into the world, write out the qualifications. This sets the ground rules and can prevent future problems down the line.

The more valuable the giveaway item, the more important it is to iron out the terms and conditions. This is especially true if the prize involves travel or other potentially risky rewards. No matter the prize, though, don’t forget to sort out those details!

Here is what you should consider for your contest terms:

  • Required age of entry
  • Geographical locations, like country restrictions
  • What day the promotion starts and ends
  • When you’re going to announce the winner
  • How the winner will be contacted
  • Whether the winner will be announced publicly
  • The exact name and quantity of items you are giving away
  • Whether there is a purchase required for entry

Creating contest terms and conditions is one of the most important steps of organizing a social media giveaway. It may seem like a drag, but without them, you could open your business up to lawsuits or unfairness claims. It’s worth the time and effort!

4. Promote Your Social Media Contest

What’s the point of hosting a social media contest if you aren’t going to take the time to promote it? Your followers need to know that something big is about to go down. Even if people are required to enter through one specific social media platform, you should still share it on your other social profiles as well. Bonus points if you also share it on your website or over email!

For example, if you’re giving away a Peloton bike on your Instagram account, take the time to write a post on Facebook letting people know. You should add links to your Instagram profile, as well as some ground rules like when they need to complete their entry in order to qualify.

5. Measure the Success of the Contest

If you are going to take the time to plan a social media contest, it’s important to be a bit analytical about it. For example, you’ll want to know how many followers you gained as a result of running the promotion. It’s also important to keep track of your profile’s overall engagement before, during, and after your contest is done.

Be sure to document the following information before and after you launch your contest:

  • Follower count
  • Page views
  • Page likes
  • Post reach
  • Post engagement

Brands don’t just host giveaways because they’re feeling generous. They also do it because they want to grow their social following! Since contests take a lot of time, effort, and money to plan, it’s important to document how successful they are. You wouldn’t want to keep investing in more giveaways if it turns out they don’t have an impact on your performance metrics!

How to Run a Social Media Giveaway

How to Run a Social Media Giveaway

Running a social media giveaway isn’t rocket science! There are some formats that are more complex than others, but all it takes is a little creativity to make your contest a success.

Here’s how to run a social media giveaway:

  1. Decide on which social platform you want to host your contest.
  2. Research that platform’s rules and regulations.
  3. Determine how you want people to enter.
  4. Write instructions on how people can enter and pair it with a quality photo.
  5. Share details about the promotion on all your social media outlets.
  6. Once the contest is over, share who won on your social media.
  7. Measure the success of the contest by looking at your page’s performance.

Don’t forget to take some fun photos or design graphics for your contest! Most people on social media are visual learners, so it’s important to grab their attention quickly while still representing your brand. Try sharing a photo of your prize or using a text-based image with bright colors to promote your campaign.

What Are the Best Social Media Contests?

The best social media contests are creative, valuable, and aligned with your brand. Your followers should feel that the prize you’re offering actually has some meaning behind it, so don’t just offer up some random household object in exchange for a couple followers. No one wants your sock collection, anyway.

The most successful social media contests feature items that are relevant to their followers. If you’re a brand that sells custom wine glasses, it’s safe to assume your followers would probably appreciate a high-end bottle of wine over something random like a toaster oven. Be thoughtful and brainstorm some ideas for creative social media contests!

Here are the best social media contests of all time:

  • Domino’s Super Fan Contest
  • Southwest Airlines Storyteller Contest
  • McDonald’s Bling Mac Contest
  • Sephora’s “I Want It, I Win It” Sweepstakes

Domino’s Super Fan Contest


In 2017, Domino’s hosted a contest on each of their social media pages where they gave away $10,000 to one of their top fans. People could enter by following their accounts, and then sharing a photo to their page with the hashtag #PieceofthePieContest. Domino’s has been known to host this contest every couple of years, and it increases their followers and engagement each time!

Southwest Airlines Storyteller Contest

Source: USA Today

In 2019, Southwest Airlines hosted a viral Instagram contest where they gave away free flights, travel gift cards, and airmiles. In order to enter, you needed to post your favorite travel photo to Instagram with a fun caption along with the hashtag #SouthwestStorytellers. From there, Southwest selected 100 semifinalists who were sent a survey about their ideal travel plans. There were 10 lucky winners of the campaign, and the airline received a ton of press in the process.

McDonald’s Bling Mac Contest

Source: AdWeek

McDonald’s has been stepping up its marketing game, so its no surprise their 2018 Bling Mac campaign was a hit. They asked fans to write vows about how much they love the Grand Big Mac, one of their newer sandwiches. From there, they chose 1 lucky winner to receive a burger ring valued at $10,000. They even footed the bill for the taxes on the ring!

Sephora’s “I Want It, I Win It” Sweepstakes

Source: Glossy

Sephora made waves in 2016 when they launched their “I Want It, I Win It” sweepstakes on Instagram. The brand created a dedicated account for their Sephora Collection makeup line, and each day, published a new post promoting their line. All you needed to do to enter was tag a friend in the post, and make sure you were following the account! They quickly grew a following, and their Sephora Collection grew a dedicated fan base. There are tons of creative contest ideas out there. Chances are, all you need to do is take one look at your Instagram feed and you’re bound to see some examples! As long as you put thought into your campaign, your followers are bound to appreciate it.

Do Social Media Contests Work?

Social media contests definitely work! They can help you gain followers and spread the word about your brand. Most social media contests require that entrants tag their friends and family in the comment section of a social media post. Each time they tag someone, that person will discover your company!

If you’re just starting out and can’t afford a giveaway item, try partnering with other brands or influencers to split the cost. This not only makes it more affordable to offer a prize, but it’s always a good idea to collaborate with other brands. They don’t say “it’s all about who you know” for nothing!

What Is the Impact of Social Media Contests?

Social media contests can increase your followers, improve engagement, and strengthen the loyalty your followers have to your brand. Overall, they help grow your account in a way that wouldn’t happen organically. In fact, Instagram accounts that host contests can grow up to 70% faster than accounts that don’t!

Everyone likes free stuff. That’s why contests are so successful! The idea of winning a new computer or a trip to Cancun without paying a dime is super enticing. When your brand uses this approach, followers are sure to come. Even better, if you sell a product or service, you’re likely to see your conversions increase as well. Contests can have a conversion rate of up to 34%!

Social media contests can be successful if done properly. From choosing the right contest to measuring the results, the steps are simple but crucial to follow. At the end of the day, as long as you know your followers, provide value to them, and follow the rules, you’ll be golden!

Simington, T. (2019, February 06). Love Southwest Airlines? You could fly for free as a ‘Storyteller’. Retrieved May 11, 2020, from

DaveGian. (2018, February 13). McDonald’s Absurdly Lavish ‘Bling Mac’ Ring Could Be Yours, If You Love It Enough. Retrieved May 11, 2020, from

Sephora launches standalone Instagram for Collection. (2018, May 29). Retrieved May 11, 2020, from

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