The Secret To Running A Successful Social Media Contest Reveled In 5 Simple Steps
Digital Marketing Productivity Social Media

The Secret To Running A Successful Social Media Contest Reveled In 5 Steps

(Last Updated On: February 23, 2020)

Are you starting to feel the holiday spirit? Or is it the feeling of getting stressed out because you have planned no social media contest this year and your manager is starting to get pushy about it…

As a marketer, or in particular a social media manager, I am sure at least once in your career you ran a social media contest?

Any memories on how it went?

Did you wish you have had planned it better? Did you end up having no time to monitor it and ensure it runs smoothly? Did you maybe break a rule or two? Did enough people end up participating or was your cost per participant way over budget?

I get it…

In my short career as a social media manager, I ran a ton of contests and I was never ever satisfied with how they went.

As any other social media manager task, a lot of people might be too fast to assume that planning out and running a social media contest is easy.

But in fact, it is a marketing campaign that requires its fare share of time put in research, analysis, planning, preparation and execution.

Did it start to feel relatable yet?

Are you ready to start planning a successful social media contest? Are you tired of being unsatisfied with the efforts you make while the results never seem good enough?

Then keep reading…

Get All The Data You Need

No matter how quick and simple you think your idea for a social media contest is, you will have to sit down and get busy with research and planning.

A solid research will be the backbone of setting yourself up for a successful contest.

Here is a checklist with the things you would want to focus on and research before you even start brainstorming ideas:

  • Target Audience Analysis:
    • Who are they;
    • Where are they located;
    • In which social media do they spend most time at;
    • What are their hobbies and interests;
    • Do they like contests and giveaways;
    • In what kind of contests and giveaways do they take part in;
    • What prize will they be interested to win;
  • Social Media Channels Research:
    • Which are the social media channels that your followers are most active at;
    • What are the post/content formats that you could possibly use;
    • What will be your options for paid promotion of the contest;
    • What are the rules for contest running in each social network;
  • Competitors:
    • Do your competitors run social media contests;
    • What kind of contests do they run and on which social networks;
    • What do you think are their most successful and engaging contests;
    • Are a lot of people participating in these contests;
  • Your Previous Contests:
    • How did your past social media contests go;
    • What could have been done/planned better;
    • What opportunities could you identify;
    • What were your costs per participant;
    • What were the positives and negatives;
  • Social Media Contest Software and Tools:
    • What tools and software can be used;
    • Would using any special software or tool help you be more efficient;
    • Will they help during the contest monitoring and when winners need to be picked;
    • Can these tools be developed in-house;

I can almost hear you say “Wait… This is a pretty long check list…” already.

Truth be told… it can get even longer.

But I will keep it as it is, because I believe if you manage to go over at least 50% of the research points in the list you will already have a 300% better chance of planning out and running a successful social media contest.

By analyzing your audience, the available social media networks and contest tools, your past contests’ performance, and your competitors contest strategies, you will have the foundation that will help you brainstorm and pick the right ideas. Moreover, it will ease the planning process a ton.

So what’s next…

Set Goals, Brainstorm Ideas, Outline Your Strategy

Now that you have a solid resource with initial data and analysis, it is time to start brainstorming contest ideas and set goals.

You have two options here: to first start with setting a goal (which is ALWAYS the recommended approach) or to start with brainstorming ideas (not recommended, but you can always adjust the ideas to a goal you will want to achieve).

No matter, how simple or complicated your social media contest campaign will be, it is always a must to have goals and objectives.

And you would always want them to be SMART.

I know you have heard it a thousand times…

“Goals should be S.M.A.R.T.”

And you might have already started to get bored with setting such defined, specific and measurable objectives.

However, if you really want to plan out and run a successful social media contest, you will need a way to measure “success”.

Not matter how broad (for example awareness) or specific (100 new email leads) your goal will be, you need to decide how to measure it.

Once you have your goal all set and specific to the tiniest detail, you can start brainstorming ideas.

Are We Brainstorming the Wrong Way?

Once you have brainstormed and came up with a few ideas, make sure to evaluate each and every one of them.

You would want to weigh in the pros and cons of each idea and how will it help you achieve your goal.

It is possible that you will come up with a ton of ideas but none of them would be a good fit, considering what your social media contest objective is.

In such cases you can either, evaluate and adjust your objective, clear your mind and plan out a new brainstorming session, or see what opportunities there are to adjust the idea so that it fits your goal.

Here is a checklist you can follow to help you set your social media contest goal, generate ideas and outline your strategy:

  • Set a Goal:
    • What do you want to achieve by running this contest;
    • What is something that your social media strategy has so far failed to achieve;
    • How can you make your goal Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-oriented, and Time-bound;
    • Does your goal support your other social media and online marketing efforts;
  • Brainstorm ideas:
    • Prepare by having all data, analysis and research ready;
    • Brainstorm on your own or with a team;
    • Identify top 5-10 ideas and drill them down additionally;
    • Analyze the pros and cons of each idea;
    • Evaluate and pick the one that will both help you achieve your SMART goal and will be something your audience will be interested in;
  • Outline your strategy:
    • What will you need to implement your idea;
    • Where will you run your social media contest;
    • Who exactly will be your target participant;
    • What resources will you need;
    • How will you pick the winner;
    • How much time will you have to plan it out;
    • When will be the best time to run it and for how long;

Time For Detailed Planning


Now you have your goal, idea and strategy outline.

What you need to do next is a detailed plan.

And when I say detailed I mean it…

Starting with a campaign timeline, you would want to have planned out every week, day and hour of the social media contest campaign. You would want to list out and plan out all the resources you need, all the team member and their responsibilities. A detailed communication strategy is also a must — will you run the contest in one network only, how often will you make posts about it, will you use paid advertising and what budget and techniques will you use. You will also want to have an exit strategy — when will the contest end, how exactly will the winner be picked and announced, when will you analyze and evaluate the results and what will be the metrics you will focus on to measure success. And last but not least, make sure you plan out time to spend monitoring the social media contest, to ensure it runs smoothly and you are able to troubleshoot in a timely manner.

Some of my resources that you may find helpful during the planning process are listed below:

Launch And Monitoring

Now you have reached the moment to launch your new awesomely-planned contest in the social media channel(s) of your choice.

Before the launch it is important for you to go over your detailed plan and your checklists. Make sure you have all the assets you need — all copies, visuals, landing pages, subscription forms. Make sure you have planned out all organic and paid promotional activities.

And most of all…

Make sure that you have set aside time to monitor and troubleshoot.

It is important to be prepared for any issues that might arise.

You should also be anticipating a variety of questions that your audience might have and it is a great idea to be prepared to answer timely.

Don’t forget that great customer service is something that you should strive for no matter the campaign you are running.

Analyze And Evaluate Your Social Media Contest Results

Hopefully, your contest ran smoothly, you picked the winners and now it is time to sit down to analyze and evaluate how it went.

Why would you want to do that?

Firstly, because you ran this contest for a reason and you need to know if your objectives were met.

Secondly, what you might find while analyzing the results you achieve could be your starting point when you are planning your next social media contest.

While there are many types of analysis you can do, a good starting point will always be a SWOT analysis.

Some good questions to include in your social media contest SWOT analysis are the below:

  • What made this contest better than others?
  • What did you do well?
  • What knowledge, skills and data did you gather that can help you in the future?
  • What was the positive feedback from users?
  • What could you improve?
  • What could you have planned better?
  • In what ways were you not efficient?
  • What didn’t go as planned?
  • What knowledge, skills and resources were you missing?
  • What you should have avoided doing?
  • What negative feedback did you receive from users?
  • What other opportunities can you identify after running the contest?
  • What happened or what did you learn that can be useful in the future?
  • What could you do now to continue engaging with the people who participated in the contest?
  • What are the obstacles that you could be facing in future contests?
  • What and who might cause you problems in the future and how?
  • What is the competition doing that might cause difficulties for you?

Ready To Start Planning Your Successful Social Media Contest?

I hope I inspired you with this article and that you now know what are the areas you need to focus on.

Let me know in the comments section below what social media contest are you planning for next?


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