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Social Media Contests: Do’s and Don’ts

Social media contests are an amazing way to boost engagement and gain new followers. They are also just plain fun and a great way to show your appreciation to your fans. Here are some of our suggested DO’s and DON’Ts for running your own social media contest or sweepstakes!

DO: Understand your audience

Every good marketer knows that one of the most important elements of communications is knowing who your audience is and what they want. When dealing with social media contests, this is especially crucial because the main goal is to offer something that would motivate your audience to engage and share.

DON’T: Ignore platform rules

A lot of smaller and larger brands alike have the tendency to ignore Facebook and Instagram’s rules regarding hosting social media contests and giveaways. There are actually a lot of surprising rules to be aware of:

  • You cannot require entrants to purchase or give up anything in return for an entry in a contest based on chance. (This may include contact information depending on the state, so be aware of the specific laws that may apply to you depending on location.)
  • If the campaign is a true contest, you can require entrants to submit a photo or video to enter if it is to be judged to determine a winner. The element of chance musn’t be involved in any way, and the winner should be chosen based on skill/merit.
  • Lotteries are strictly forbidden. You may not require participants to buy entries under any circumstances.
  • You cannot force an entrant to share your contest to their timeline.
  • You cannot force an entrant to share your contest on a friend’s timeline.
  • You cannot make an entrant tag themselves or a friend to enter a contest. This one may come as a surprise, as you’d be hard pressed to find a contest on Facebook or Instagram that doesn’t require this. But don’t be fooled, under the guidelines this is not allowed, as it is considered engagement baiting.

DO: Offer relevant prizes

If you know your audience well, you should be able to pinpoint which prizes will capture their attention and which will fall short. Be mindful of requirements vs value: You don’t want to require your followers to jump through tons of hoops for something fairly low-value or an item they could easily purchase themselves. Consider offering something limited-edition or perhaps even an experience of some kind, as studies show that 72% of Millennials prefer to spend their money on experiences as opposed to material goods.

DON’T: Neglect marketing

Don’t expect your followers to do all the work of sharing your contest for you. Make sure to do your own legwork when it comes to promoting your contest. Social media posts, information and instructions on your website, in-store signage, and advertising are all good places to start.

DO: Analyze the results of the campaign

It doesn’t matter if it’s your first contest, your fifth, or your hundredth, you need to be testing, recording, and analyzing results and figures. This is how you are going to nail down which campaigns work and which need work and why. The only way for your brand to continue growing is by investing in what works and understanding what does not.

DON’T: Have unclear contest rules

Your “How to Enter” section should be unmistakably clear and straightforward. Again, don’t develop a complicated process with so many steps that people will give up halfway through, thinking “Sheesh, this isn’t worth it.” It may be tempting to milk it for all its worth by requiring shares, tags, contact information, and everything under the sun, but all this does is turn people away instead of getting you the valuable engagement you are seeking.

DO: Use a branded hashtag

Finally, ensure that you have a branded hashtag associated with your campaign. This will do a number of things: 1) making the contest easy to share, 2) easy to find, and 3) you can easily keep an inventory of entries.

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