Marketing & Branding

Everything Marketers Need to Know About Social Media Contests

Can you believe it’s already been over ten years since Twitter invented the hashtag? It seems like just yesterday we were relying on message boards and Myspace bulletins to send our thoughts to the world. Who would have thought it would ever evolve to become one of the top means of advertising in the world?

One of the most common ways brands get their name out there is by hosting social media contests. These promotions encourage engagement, help spread the word about the brand, and offer a chance for someone to win something nifty. What’s not to love?

Social media promotions are a lot of fun, but they also come with a lot of responsibility. Contests aren’t as simple as posting a picture on Instagram and randomly selecting one of your followers as a winner. Each promotion needs to adhere to state and federal laws while simultaneously being creative, fun, and worth talking about. It’s a balancing act, but we’re here to break it all down for you and make you the branding guru you were meant to be!

What are the different types of social media giveaways?

So, you want to be the next social media superstar? Don’t we all! Before diving in, let’s brush up on some of the promotion basics. First, you’ll want to determine what type of giveaway you want to promote. Don’t know if you’re hosting a contest or a sweepstakes? You’ve come to the right place!

The three types of social media promotions are:

Contest Definition

Sweepstakes Definition

Lottery Definition

It’s also important to note that, legally speaking, any one promotion cannot include the three elements of gambling: price, chance, and consideration. Definitely keep this in mind when planning your next giveaway!

Social Media Contest Rules and Regulations

In 2017, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released a public reminder for brands and influencers to accurately disclose their relationship with advertisers. This was a breath of fresh air after what seemed like an epidemic of paid Instagram influencers being shady about their sponsored content. Any social media user can attest to the overwhelming number of sponsored posts taking over their feed. Anyone remember the Scott Disick fiasco?

According to the FTC, if there is a “material connection” between an endorser and the marketer, that should be clearly disclosed. This means if you’ve partnered with a brand or influencer and are receiving compensation for your social media contest, you’re required by law to disclose that to your followers.

Each social media platform also has its own set of rules and regulations you must follow. Brush up on these before you plan too far ahead!

Social Media Giveaway Ideas

So, you know you want to host a digital giveaway but you’re not sure what your prize should be. In a nutshell, it’s always best to stick to your industry. If you’re the PR manager for a cosmetics company, you’ll probably generate a lot of interest by offering some free cosmetics to your followers. Similarly, if you work at a software company, try offering a free one-year subscription to your service. You might be surprised at the amount of buzz that ensues! There are a lot of unique ideas out there, but as long as you choose a relevant and appropriate option for your brand, you won’t go wrong.

Be sure to keep in mind how many winners you want to select. Your audience is smart, and they know that the more winners you are selecting, their chances of winning your prize are a lot higher. People are more likely to apply for a giveaway when they know they have a reasonable shot at winning!

How to Run a Social Media Contest

Now that you know the ins and outs of social media contests, you’re almost ready to roll! Here are some of the next steps to running a social media contest.

  1. Decide what type of contest you’re running. Is it a sweepstakes, contest, or lottery? Make sure you can answer this question before moving forward.
  2. Check your state law. Make sure your promotion is 100% legal from both the state and federal level. The last thing you want is to get slapped on the hand when you’re trying to grow your brand.
  3. Check the rules of the platform you’re using. If you’re promoting your contest on several different social platforms, investigate all of them. The laws around promotional contests are always changing and doing a quick Google search can get you further than you think. It also never hurts to consult a lawyer, especially if you’re planning a big contest.
  4. Decide how long you want the contest to run. Usually, the shorter the contest, the better. Running a promotion too long can result in a lack of engagement and reduce the sense of urgency. You don’t want it too short, either. Find the right sweet spot for your brand.
  5. Draft your terms and conditions. We’d be lying if we said we knew it all when it comes to FTC guidelines and laws, but there are plenty of templates out there to help you get started. Also, don’t be afraid to ask your lawyer about this, too. Often times you can even use the same outline for future contests, making your lawyer fees 100% worth it in the end.
  6. Measure your responses. If you’re using software like Rafflecopter or Gleam, there might be built-in analytics for your contest. If not, Facebook/Instagram Insights and Twitter Analytics will become your best friend. You’ll want to know which platform results in the most signups for future marketing opportunities.
  7. Be timely in delivering the prize. If you promised your winner a free copy of your book, mail it out the same day you receive their address. They’ll be eagerly awaiting their prize, and the sooner you can get it to them the better. After all, leaving them hanging won’t do your brand any favors.
  8. Have a backup plan. You want your contest to go swimmingly and are crossing your fingers that this is the extra push your brand needs to get noticed. The reality is that sometimes these contests don’t go as hoped, and the responsible thing is to always have a social media crisis plan in place. What will you do if something goes awry? The Boy Scouts got it right with this one: Be Prepared.

Whether you’re offering a trip to Punta Cana or a brand-new computer, social media giveaways can be powerful marketing tools to help grow your audience. If done correctly, they can legitimize your brand and show you care about your followers. Just remember to tread lightly and make sure you’re following both local and federal laws. The last thing you want is a PR nightmare on your hands!