Did you know that, according to Outgrow.co, 34% of new customers are acquired through contests?

Running a contest is a great way to generate brand awareness, attract new leads, and clearly demonstrate the value of your business.

So, what is the best way to run a social media contest that actually converts?

We created this 10-step guide to walk you through the process of hosting a successful social media contest:

STEP 1: Figure out what YOU want. It’s important to clarify, as a business, what you want to get out running a contest. Do you want to build your social media following? Attract new customers? Add to your email list? Generate buzz about a new product? Figuring this out at the beginning will determine the trajectory of your contest. Having one or two clear, concise, and specific goals will allow you to focus on achieving them. Having ambiguous goals will only lead to ambiguous results. When in doubt, a good rule of thumb is to follow the S.M.A.R.T. guideline when setting your contest goals.

STEP 2: Figure out who your audience is, what they want, and where they hang out. What age range is your target audience? What social media platforms do they use most frequently? What makes them excited? A good way to figure this out is to examine your existing audience and see where, from who, and on what content you generate the most engagement. This might require some A/B testing on your part prior to the contest. It might even be worth it to personally reach out to your most loyal customers and ask them three questions:

#1: What are your hobbies/skills?

#2: What type of contest would make you excited to participate in?

#3: If you could win any prize valued at $X or less, what would it be? (If you are trying to bolster excitement about your products, you might want to rework this question to refer to your specific products as the potential prizes)

STEP 3: Determine your budget. What can you realistically afford to spend? Some factors that budget includes: prizes, legal fees, and ad spend. Although tempting to save money, do not skimp on setting aside a decent budget for advertising. People need to see your campaign in order to participate. Check out this nifty ROI calculator to help you figure out the right budget for ad spend for your contest.

STEP 4: Set the logistics. Figure out all the small details that determine how the contest is run. A few questions to ask yourself:

  • Who is eligible to enter?
  • How will someone enter?
  • What personal information will entrants be required to provide in order to enter?
  • What prizes will be offered?
  • Will there be multiple prizes offered?
  • What is the timeline of the contest?
  • Will there be recurring contests throughout the year?
  • Will people be allowed more than one contest entry?
  • What social media platforms will you be using?
  • Will the contest be hosted on multiple social media platforms?
  • What are the criteria for judging?
  • Who will be judging the contest?
  • Will you do cross-promotion of any kind?
  • How will you make the official rules visible to the general public?

Pro tip: Be sure to do a little digging on all of these topics. The best approach may be more complicated than you think. For example, a higher percentage of your audience might be on Twitter, so your initial inclination may be to keep the contest limited to Twitter. However, Instagram accounts that host contests have a consistently higher rate of conversion AND grow followers 70% faster than Instagram accounts that don’t host contests. So, even though you might start out with a higher engagement on Twitter, if your goal is to grow your following and increase conversion rates, you may want to consider hosting the contest on Instagram as well. For more stats that can help you to make the hard decisions, check out this article.

STEP 5: Make sure your contest is legal. In order for the contest to be legal, you have to:

  1. Make sure it is a contest. A contest, by definition, is based on skill and not random chance.
  2. Follow federal and state laws and regulations. We recently highlighted these regulations in this article for the U.S.
  3. Be in strict compliance with the guidelines for your social media platform of choice. Here are the promotional guidelines for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok.
  4. Consider consulting with a legal professional or sweepstakes/contest management company to ensure you have thoroughly considered every legal aspect of your contest campaign. US Sweeps is now offering a 30 minute FREE consultation about your contest or sweepstakes.

A few commonly overlooked factors to keep in mind to make sure your contest is legally compliant:

  • Make your official rules, contest guidelines, chances of winning and judging criteria easily visible, accessible, and unchanging throughout the contest period.
  • If you are offering a product outside your brand without permission, there are restrictions on where and how you advertise that product.
  • If the value of your prize is over $600, you must issue an IRS 1099-Misc to the winner.

STEP 6: Get your graphics, copy, videos and method of entry set before you begin your contest. A few things to consider:

  • Make sure you are using consistent language throughout the copy
  • Make graphics simple, straightforward and eye-catching for your target audience
  • Make videos short, clear, and digestible
  • Make your contest as easy as possible to enter. Consider social media auto-fill for the entry form. This can up your conversion rate by 189%!

STEP 7: Promote, promote, promote. Once you have everything in order for promotion, determine the best times of day to promote based on your audience. You will not be promoting at the same time for a 70 year old grandparent as you will for a 20-year-old college student. From there, promote consistently and frequently.

STEP 8: Monitor your metrics. Throughout your campaign, don’t forget to keep track of the data. Social media platforms allow you to monitor engagement and conversion. See which ads are most appealing, which language is most effective, who is most likely to engage, and what time of day people engage. It is ok and encouraged to modify your posting approach accordingly.

STEP 9: Have clear communication with your winner(s). Be transparent about income tax they have to pay on their winnings or any information they need to provide in order to claim their prize. If you want to use their personal information such as name or photo to announce them as the winner, it is imperative that it’s disclosed to the winner and in some cases you should get their permission.

STEP 10: Follow up with your leads. Although your contest may have ended, your work has just begun. It is important to follow up with new leads soon after the contest is over to increase the chances of converting them from leads to new customers. Consider offering them discounts, free products, or other opportunities as a ‘thank you’ for their participation.

Best of luck on running your contest! Should you need any assistance on ensuring your social media contest is effective and legal, contact us to schedule your free 30 minute consultation.