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How to run a social media contest or giveaway this holiday season: 10 steps for success

How to run a social media contest or giveaway this holiday season: 10 steps for success

The holiday season is here and you may be brainstorming tactics to engage or thank your customers on social media. A social media contest is a great way to do both!

To run a successful, engaging contest, you'll need to consider all of the variables ahead of time. What kind of contest will you run? What will the prize be? Will you run an Instagram contest or a Facebook contest? Do you have contest rules laid out or a plan for awarding prizes? It can become more complicated than you think! That's where this handy 10 step guide comes in.

Keep reading for 10 steps to run a successful and engaging social media contest or giveaway this holiday season.

Note: always reference the social contest guidelines and laws for your state before running a contest or giveaway on social media.

Step 1: Outline your goals

First things first: determine the purpose of running a contest or giveaway on social media. You should always have a reason, or multiple reasons, in mind for running a contest on social. Convert those reasons into goals. If you're looking to increase your Instagram followers by running an Instagram contest this holiday season, set a goal for how many followers you want to gain during the contest. If you're looking to boost engagement for your brand on social media, monitor engagement (likes, comments, shares) on your posts. Make sure you have a few measurable goals in mind before you embark on the rest of your contest-planning journey.

Here are some common goals brands usually have in mind when running a social media holiday contest:

  • Increase brand recognition.

  • Boost engagement.

  • Grow your social media following.

  • Build your email list.

  • Increase website traffic.

  • Convert followers into leads and sales.

  • Gather user generated content (UGC).

  • Market a new product or service.

Step 2: Determine your platform(s)

Which social media platform are you planning to run your contest on? It will really depend on your goals and your business. However, running your contest on a single platform is probably best if it's your first time. If you're active on Instagram and Facebook, but you really want to increase your Facebook followers, consider just running your contest on Facebook. Alternately, if you're trying to get more traction on Instagram, choose that platform instead.

Step 3: Decide on the entry method

How will people enter your contest or giveaway? Here are some common entry methods:

  • Ask your audience to like and comment on your contest post.

  • Ask your audience to use your contest hashtag and tag their friends on your contest post.

  • Ask your audience to share their own post and use your contest hashtag and/or tag your brand (UGC contest).

  • Ask your audience to follow you in addition to any method above.

The entry method will depend on the type of contest or giveaway you run. For example, if you're running a user generated content (UGC) based contest, you'd ask users to post their own content and tag you in some way as a method of entry. Alternately, if you're running a giveaway or raffle, users should just need to do something simple like comment on your post with a hashtag to enter.

Step 4: Come up with the perfect contest hashtag and theme

A contest theme is necessary for every type of contest, but especially if you're running a user generated content (UGC) contest. It's important to identify a clear theme for your contest so that users know what types of content to post on their social channels.

Additionally, every contest should have a dedicated hashtag. Without a contest hashtag, there's nothing to link your contest with the content that is being produced. Whether you reuse your contest hashtag for future contests is up to you, but be sure to include one!

Your contest hashtag should be short, relevant, easy to remember, and unpopulated on social channels. To check if your hashtag is being used or not yet, search for the hashtag in the search bar on the social platform you're planning to use to run your contest. Choose a hashtag that doesn't have too many posts on it yet to ensure that the hashtag is populated with only relevant content!

Step 5: Decide on the prize(s) for your social contest

Before determining how winners will be chosen, you should decide how many winners you'll choose and what they will win. Your winner structure will depend on your goals, budgetary constraints, and your audience.

You're asking your audience to complete an action, so any prizes will need to outweigh the perceived effort on their part to enter the contest. Also, users usually prefer to enter contests that have more than one potential winner, since it increases the perceived chance that they will be able to win a prize for their effort.

Find a prize that is relevant to your brand and to your audience.

Some examples of contest prizes include:

  • A gift certificate.

  • A shopping trip valued at a certain dollar amount.

  • A free membership or subscription.

  • An exclusive item or set of items.

Step 6: Decide how winners will be chosen and announced

The number of winners you choose will likely be based on your budget, goals, and the type of prize you're offering. Decide how many winners make sense for your contest, then figure out how you're going to select them. Here are a few common types of selection methods:

Select contest winners with random selection

Some states require that winners of a giveaway or contest be randomized and selected at random to avoid running in to any legal issues. Be sure to check your state laws on running contests and giveaways beforehand.

To randomly select winners, you can assign a number to each entry and then use a random number picker to pick a selection of lucky winners. Whatever method you choose, make sure that it's completely random to ensure it stays fair!

Select contest winners using a jury system

Select a group of experts to select a winner or set of winners. Each member would consider every entry and choose their favorite, then the jury would vote to come to a consensus on winner(s).

Once you've figured out how you're going to choose your winners, determine how you're going to announce them. Are you going to put them in your Instagram stories? As a post on Facebook? In an email to your subscribers? Announcing winners is important to provide recognition to them, but also to signify the completion of the contest or giveaway to the rest of your followers.

Step 7: Draw up terms and conditions for your contest

You need to follow legal guidelines in your area for any contests or giveaways that you run on social media. We recommend consulting a lawyer for help in drafting up your terms and conditions.

Some components to consider for your terms and conditions:

  • Your brand name and contact.

  • Contest start and end dates.

  • Guidelines for entry.

  • Rules for who can enter and how many times they can enter.

  • Guidelines for how a winner is selected.

  • Date(s) that winner(s) will be chosen and announced.

  • Date(s) and method in which winners will be notified.

  • Time period winner has to claim their prize and contingency for if they don't.

  • Details of the prize (monetary value, description, how many prizes are being awarded, how they will be awarded).

  • Acknowledgement that the contest is not sponsored by the social platform its being held on.

Alsobe sure to reference the promotion guidelines for the social platform you are holding your contest or giveaway on. Here's a few of the most common:

Step 8: Launch and promote your contest!

Once you've planned everything, it's time to launch! Share a post about your contest, outlining the nature of the contest, what the prize is, entry method, and where your followers can find terms and conditions for your contest.

Promote your contest with posts on social media

This is one of the best ways to promote your contest. Post about your contest a few different times throughout the contest period to increase awareness. Share a post from our holiday giveaway collection on your social channels:

Holiday giveaway social media post templates for social media contests and giveaways
Holiday giveaway template collection

Promote your contest using your contest hashtag

Remember Step 4? You came up with the perfect contest hashtag that was easy to remember, relevant, and on-brand. Use that hashtag in all of your marketing materials when promoting your contest!

Promote your contest via email

Send an email to your subscribers and encourage them to participate in your social media contest.

Promote your contest on your website or blog

If you have another platform to post on, such as a website or blog, be sure to promote your contest there! Don't forget to link to your social channels so readers can easily participate.

Don't forget to monitor entries

Don't just launch and forget about it! Make sure to track submissions, participants, total likes, follower growth during the contest, and more. What you track will be based on what goals you set for your contest or giveaway in Step 1.

If you're finding you're not getting as many entries as you'd like, consider promoting your contest again on various channels.

Step 9: Close the contest and follow up with winners

Once the contest time period ends, announce the contest end on your page. Consult your terms and conditions for the method of selecting and notifying winners. Once you've selected and notified the winner(s), and they've claimed their prize, don't forget to announce them on your page!

Step 10: Revisit your goals

Revisit the goals you set for your contest in Step 1. How did your contest or giveaway perform based on the goals you set? Put together a summary for yourself with key findings to use the next time you run a contest. And don't forget to celebrate your achievement! You just ran a successful contest or giveaway on social media! Congratulations.


Check out our social media guide to the holiday season for more tips and marketing strategies for the holidays.


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