Running a social media competition is one of the best ways to achieve engagement while dangling the carrot of a prize in front of your audience. A social media competition is a fun and relatively cost-efficient way to promote your brand and get people talking about you.

But how do you implement a competition on social media, and what platform should it run on? There’s a lot to unpack but worry not. In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about running a successful social media competition.

What returns can you expect from a social media competition? 

social media competition expectations

If done successfully, a social media competition can:

  • Gain followers
  • Increase subscriber lists
  • Engage followers
  • Create brand awareness
  • Reward customers
  • Generate more content
  • Boost sales and leads
  • Gather entry feedback

Eye on the prize

You will need to decide on a prize before promoting any type of competition on social media. It’s arguably the most crucial aspect and will help define the content’s success. Budget is a key factor, but the prize should be appealing enough to make people want to enter.

There are a few factors to consider when choosing a prize:

Should it be brand related?

In an ideal world, the prize should link to your brand in some way. However, free creating brand-related content isn’t always practical and depends on your offering. For example, it might not be in the interest of a software brand to offer thousands of dollars worth of their service for free. Instead, they would need to find something enticing enough to offer.

Alternative options

If you can’t offer products in line with your brand, you can still give away exciting prizes. Some of these might include:

  • Vouchers at online stores like Amazon
  • Partner offerings, such as partnering with a gym to provide a free membership
  • Seasonal prizes based on particular days of the year, such as Valentine’s or Easter
  • Electronic products that aren’t too expensive, such as cameras or USB sticks
  • Clothing

It’s best to keep your offer aligned with your brand in some way. For example, if you’re a travel company, offering a free holiday might be too expensive. But giving away a camera so they can take holiday snaps is a relatable product to the brand.

How many prizes?

How you’ll distribute prizes is another decision that will need to be made early on in the process. Will you provide one single prize to the winner, will there be several winners, or will you offer smaller runner-up prizes? The more incentive people have to win, the better. But you need to balance your offering with your overall budget. 

Once you’ve decided on a prize, it’s time to make your social media competition a reality. 

Choosing a platform

best social media competition platforms

Some competitions are cross-channel, using hashtags to collate entries into one pace; others focus on one primary platform where there is already a strong following. There’s no definitive platform for promoting your competition. You should aim for the most exposure, however

If you opt to run your social media competition across several platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, it’s essential that you use ask entries to use a hashtag. Using one hashtag lets you easily manage your entries across multiple social media networks. And it’s even easier if you manage them all in one place with a social media tool.

Keeping it simple

how to run social media competition

Any social media competition aims to get as many entries as possible, which is why you need to keep entry guidelines simple. Overly complex requirements will put people off, especially if the prize isn’t anything out of the ordinary. As a rule of thumb, you should follow three simple rules for getting people to enter a social media competition:

  • Ask for likes
  • Ask for reposts
  • Ask for comments

Getting people to do these three things lets you know they’ve entered the competition while also telling the social networks that your post is popular. The result of the latter could lead to the post being favored by the algorithm, which then automatically promotes it in relevant topic fields. 

When can you be creative with entries?

While it’s best to keep things simple, there are times when you can ask for a little more from entrants. If you’re offering a special prize, try being more inventive and getting them to film and submit videos or create content that you can reuse as user-generated content.

Competition length

The next stage involves deciding how long the competition runs. The longer it goes, the better the chance of increasing the number of entries. However, you don’t want it to leave it for too long; otherwise, people will lose interest. 

Aim for between 24 hours and three days for smaller giveaways and a week for more lavish prizes. Anything longer than a week could see you losing momentum, especially if you don’t have a large budget to promote it.

Promoting your contest

how to promote social media competition

One of the primary reasons for running a competition involves gaining more followers and promoting your brand. You should get in the mindset of ‘“promote, promote, promote.” That means utilizing paid advertising, creating promotional content around the contest, and keeping on top of entrants.

Paid promotion

Paid promotion is a great option if you want to reach new audiences, especially when platforms like Facebook have relatively low organic search. You can boost the competition post and target a particular demographic that matches your target audience.

Creating content

There are also in-house promotion mechanisms you can take advantage of. For example, try creating a blog post around the competition and letting current email subscribers know about the content in an e-shot. While sending an email might not attract new customers, it is an effective way to spread the word and raise awareness.

Keeping track

Once the competition is live, you’ll want to keep on top of entrants and posts. You can also monitor conversations around your contest if entrants are using a specific hashtag. Also, be aware of questions entrants might have about the competition. 

The Ts & Cs

social media competition terms and conditions

Implementing terms and conditions for your contest is vital if you want to safeguard yourself. Offering people a chance to win something means you’ll be running a legally regulated competition. Terms should include who is eligible, details of the prize, time frame, and how winners will be selected. 

Doing this covers your back and provides you with official documentation you can give to entrants that require more information. You should also check each social network’s individual Ts & Cs, as some platforms differ from others. 

Facebook key guidelines

  • Include a complete release of Facebook by each entrant or participant
  • Acknowledge the promotion isn’t endorsed by Facebook
  • State official entry rules
  • You can’t ask people to like or share a page to enter the contest
  • Be clear with how winners will be chosen

Instagram key guidelines

  • Acknowledge that your contest is not sponsored by, or associated with, Instagram
  • Include your brand name on promotional content
  • Include competition dates
  • Create clear entry guidelines
  • Outline how and when winners will be chosen

Competition examples


Virginia radio station, WCVE, wanted to get its followers flexing their creatives chops. It asked people to create coffee mug designs that promoted the radio station. The results were impressive…

WCVE radio competition


Shoe brand Zappos ran a social media contest with the #ImNotABox, which encouraged participants to share their most creative uses for empty shoe boxes. The winner received a $500 Zappos gift card and the competition ended up going viral. The result was a piece of marketing capital the brand could use to promote their company.

Zappos social media compeition


UK real estate agent Emoov wanted to get promote homelessness by asking its followers to create an easter-egg themed house during the easter season. As well as awarding a winner, the brand donated money to homeless charity Crisis for every entry it received for the Facebook competition.

And the winner is…

Now that your competition is fully underway, all that’s left to do is pick a winner. How you choose the lucky entrant is up to you, but you should make a live announcement on your social media feeds and then contact the winner privately. 

By the time you’ve announced a winner, you should have grown your brand presence and run a successful social media competition that is a big hit with your audience, both old and new. 

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