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How to Run an Amazing Social Media Contest Guide [12 Steps & Checklist]

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on organizing and running enthralling contests on social media! In this article, we will reveal everything you need to know about how to run a social media contest. You’ll get invaluable insights and strategies to help you plan, execute, and optimize. The guide has everything you need to captivate your audience and drive impressive results. Plus, there’s a downloadable pdf at the end of the article.

Why bother?

Giveaways have become increasingly popular as they offer numerous benefits. In fact, they have emerged as one of the fastest ways to energize a brand’s community. Moreover, they have a remarkable ability to bring people together, fostering connections and making relationships stronger.

The rewards your business and brand will enjoy are massive. Let’s shine a light on the top five reasons why companies host challenges and competitions on digital platforms.

1. Boost brand awareness

Challenges on social platforms provide an exceptional opportunity to increase brand visibility. Creating a competition that resonates with your target audience can spur excitement and encourage participants to share it with their networks. The viral nature of social platforms allows your brand to reach a wider audience, significantly enhancing brand recognition.

2. Increase engagement

In the digital realm, giveaways are an incredibly effective method for captivating and involving your audience, significantly boosting audience engagement. They possess a natural ability to draw in and actively engage your audience. By offering attractive prizes and interactive features, you can create a lively buzz around your brand. This strategy not only heightens audience engagement but also leads to increased interactions such as likes, comments, and shares, enhancing your brand’s online visibility.

increase engagement and followers when you learn how to run a social media contest

3. Expand your social following

When done correctly, these strategies can lead to a significant influx of followers and fans to your social media networks. By requiring entrants to follow your social channels as part of the competition rules, you can guarantee an increase in followers. A larger audience not only broadens your impact but also enhances your brand’s credibility and the evidence of its social influence.

Roster run social media contest for a Blendtec blender
4. Drive traffic and conversions

Successful challenges can grow the traffic to your website or preferred landing pages. By including clear and compelling calls to action, you can guide participants to take specific steps that align with your goals. These actions may be signing up for your newsletter, visiting your website, downloading your app, leaving a product review, or exploring your offerings. As a result, you can increase conversions and drive more sales through these engaged participants.

5. Gather UGC

Online competitions and giveaways are a fantastic way to gather user-generated content (UGC). You can obtain a treasure trove of genuine and captivating content when you encourage participants to submit photos, videos, or creative entries related to your brand or products. You can repurpose the UGC across different marketing channels to offer social proof, build trust, and enhance your brand’s image.

An impressive 79% of people attribute UGC as a significant factor in shaping their purchasing decisions. (STACKLA)

Get real with UGC

Running a giveaway or competition online empowers your brand to engage and delight your audience, amplify your online presence, and foster deeper connections within your community. By harnessing the unique benefits of these activities, you can leverage the enthusiasm of your audience and propel your brand toward greater success.

12 Steps to running a social media contest 

It is essential to devote time and effort to meticulous planning to make sure you get the best possible outcomes. Here are the step-by-step instructions to consider when mapping out all the details.

1️⃣ Define the objectives

Before diving into the details, clearly outline your goals and objectives for running a digital competition. Some common goals include the following: 

  • Brand awareness 
  • User-generated content
  • Get leads
  • Drive ecommerce store traffic
  • Drive sales (i.e., a specific sale or event)
  • Get more followers on brand socials
  • Boost reach and engagement

Having well-defined goals will guide your decision-making process throughout the planning and execution phases.

2️⃣ Identify your target audience

Understanding your target audience is essential for tailoring to their preferences and interests. Conduct market research, analyze your existing audience demographics, and gain insights into their online habits. This information will help you create an activity that resonates with your target audience, increasing the chances of participation and engagement.

Furthermore, it is crucial to understand the habits of your target audience. Each social channel attracts a distinct demographic, and knowing which platform aligns best with your audience can significantly affect your participation and results.

In step 4, we’ll cover the specific software. Also, we’ll define their unique characteristics to help you make an informed decision.

3️⃣ Select an engaging theme

Selecting an engaging theme that aligns with your brand or product is essential. A well-chosen theme can attract participants and generate excitement. Here are a few theme ideas to consider:

Remember, the theme you choose should resonate with your target audience and create a sense of enthusiasm. Take into account your brand identity and the preferences of your audience when selecting the theme.

Choose the right social media platformv when you run a social media contest

4️⃣ Choose the right social media platform

Selecting the most appropriate platform to host everything is crucial. Each has its own unique strengths and user demographics. Consider factors such as your target audience’s preferred platforms, the nature of your activities, and the features available on each platform.

Before we jump into the specific platform, here is some advice.

  • Consider using multiple social platforms. While the focus is on choosing the ‘right’ platform, hosting on multiple platforms can also be beneficial. This can extend your reach and encourage cross-platform engagement.
  • Make sure you understand the regulations and guidelines. Every platform has its unique set of rules and guidelines. Ensure to include this in your considerations to avoid unforeseen issues or cancellations.

To help you make an informed choice, let’s explore the pros and cons of three popular platforms: Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok.

📸 Instagram

One of the leading social contest platforms, Instagram is an ideal choice for content that is visually appealing. While its broad user base promises increased engagement, it also means high competition.


  • Broad user base, particularly popular among younger demographics.
  • Visual-centric platform ideal for showcasing visually appealing content.
  • Strong engagement through likes, comments, and shares.
  • Effective use of hashtags for discoverability.


  • High competition due to the large number of active users.
  • Limited link-sharing capabilities, restricting website traffic.

🌐 Facebook

Regarded as a well-established titan in the social media realm, Facebook offers a varied user community and potent advertising tools, yet it also presents hurdles due to its intricate algorithm and diminishing natural reach.


  • Vast user base with diverse demographics.
  • Robust advertising and targeting options.
  • Ability to promote and create event pages.
  • Shareable content reaches a vast network of friends.


  • Organic reach has declined over time.
  • The algorithm prioritizes content from friends and family over business pages.
  • Complex interface and algorithms may require a learning curve.

🎵 TikTok 

TikTok, an increasingly popular social contest platform, offers a unique focus on short, engaging videos, which lends itself well to virality and trend-driven content, but also means rapidly changing trends and a younger audience.


  • Rapidly growing platform, trendy among younger demographics.
  • Emphasis on short, engaging videos perfect for creative UGC.
  • Trend-driven content with the potential for viral reach.
  • Discoverability through popular hashtags and challenges.


  • Limited demographics with a younger target audience.
  • Less established advertising options compared to other platforms.
  • Less content longevity as trends change quickly.

By weighing these pros and cons, you can decide which platforms will be the perfect fit.. This way, you can ensure that you choose the best setting that will maximize visibility and boost participation.

5️⃣ How to host a contest

When you’re figuring out how to host a contest, it’s critical to design an engaging and user-friendly mechanics framework that aligns with your goals and resonates with your audience.

You can leverage social media contest tools to aid this process. In the case of how to run a social media photo contest, it’s likely you’ll be leaning towards a photo submission format. But remember, other formats can also be considered, like video submissions, captions, quizzes, challenges, competitions, or sweepstakes. Be sure to choose a format that suits your brand and objectives.

Furthermore, selecting enticing prizes is essential. These should be relevant to your audience and align with your brand image, creating a balance between aspirational and achievable. Whether it’s a VIP experience, a product giveaway, or exclusive discounts, your prize should incentivize your audience to participate and share with their networks.

In the context of how to host a contest or how to run a social media photo contest, understanding your audience, deciding the right theme, selecting an attractive prize, and promoting effectively are key steps to ensure success.

6️⃣ Create compelling content

Crafting compelling content is crucial to attract participants and drive engagement. Develop captivating visuals. Write persuasive copy. And create clear instructions to ensure participants understand how to enter and engage.

Use compelling headlines, catchy taglines, and powerful storytelling techniques to create an emotional connection with your audience.

7️⃣ Set clear rules

Every challenge needs clear and fair rules. How else are participants supposed to know what to do? Here’s what you need to consider:

Who can enter?
Decide who is eligible to participate. It could be based on age, location, or other appropriate criteria.

Acceptable content
Outline the type of content that participants can submit. This can be photos, videos, captions, or any other format that relates to the theme.

Choosing the winner
Define how the winner will be selected. Will it be based on creativity, originality, or public voting? Make it clear so that everyone understands the criteria.

Submission deadline
Set a specific date and time by which participants must submit their entries. This way, everyone knows when it closes.

Required content
If there’s any specific message or theme that participants need to include in their submissions, make sure to mention it.

Legal considerations
Be mindful of any legal requirements or restrictions that apply. This can include copyright permissions, usage rights, or compliance with local laws.

Establishing clear rules creates a fair and organized environment where participants know what’s expected of them. Make sure to provide a link or reference to a detailed rules page for participants to review and understand all the rules before entering.

8️⃣ Select an irresistible prize

Choosing the right prize for your giveaway is critical to capturing the interest and excitement of your audience. Follow these tips to select a giveaway that will entice and engage participants.

Relevance.  Ensure the prize is relevant to your audience and aligns with their interests and preferences. Consider what would genuinely excite and motivate them to participate.

Desirability.  Aim for a prize that generates excitement and a strong desire to win. The more appealing and valuable the award, the higher the level of participation and engagement you can expect.

Think big!  Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Offer a prize that truly stands out. 

Ideas for prizes.  Choose prizes that are accessible and appeal to a wide range of participants. Below are some of the most popular and creative options we’ve seen.

  • Top-selling, popular products
  • Product bundle
  • Customized merchandise
  • Exclusive discounts
  • Gift cards
  • VIP experience
  • Travel getaway
  • Exclusive access to event or headquarters

Remember, the prize you select should motivate your audience to take action and actively participate in your giveaway. Make it something truly desirable that people can’t resist.

9️⃣ How to promote a contest on social media

Once you have planned everything, it’s go time. A well-promoted event can significantly increase your engagement and brand visibility. Here are some promotion strategies:

Leverage your brand community
When it comes to running a competitions, collaborating with your brand ambassadors and influencers can be pivotal. These are the people who not only share your brand values but also have a loyal and engaged following. By teaming up with them, you can reach a wider audience and make a bigger impact. 

For a thrilling competition, team up with your brand ambassadors and influencers! They’re key players who embody your brand and captivate a loyal audience. How to make reels on Instagram becomes an essential skill here, as these partners can craft vibrant, engaging contest. This collaboration amplifies your reach and makes a big impact!

So, take the time to identify the people in your industry who align with your brand. Then work together to create a bunch of buzz.

Optimize hashtags and keywords
To boost the visibility and searchability, make sure to use keywords and hashtags. By including these in your posts and captions, you help others learn about the amazing opportunity. Take the time to research popular industry-specific keywords and trending hashtags things stand out and attract more participants.

Cross-promote across multiple channels
Promote across multiple marketing channels to reach a wider audience. Leverage your website, blog, email newsletters, and other accounts to create buzz and direct traffic. Encourage participants to share with their networks for additional visibility.

Use ads
Consider running targeted ad campaigns to increase reach and engagement. Channels like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter offer advanced targeting options, allowing you to reach specific demographics, interests, and locations.

🔟 Select and announce the winners 

It’s victory time! Evaluate the entries and choose the winners.

Now you can notify the winners privately and collect any necessary information or permissions for prize distribution.

Also, share the exciting news with your audience on Instagram and other relevant platforms, like your website. Moreover, you can create visually appealing posts to celebrate the winners and showcase their entries.

1️⃣1️⃣ Track and analyze 

As your iniative comes to a close, evaluate its effectiveness and gather insights for future improvements. The following are some KPIs you’ll want to gauge. 

Engagementmeasure the level of interaction and engagement generated.

Participation rateevaluate the number of entries or participants relative to your overall audience size.

Follower growth monitor the growth of your followers.

Website traffic assess the increase in website visits during the period.

Conversions track the number of desired actions that resulted.

To analyze these metrics, use analytics tools like Roster to gain valuable insights for future campaigns. Also, there are social media sweepstakes tools and social contest tools that are useful for tracking. 

1️⃣2️⃣ Follow up

Once the time period ends, follow up and maintain engagement with your audience. Here are some ideas for following up.

Highlight the best entries.  Show appreciation for the participants by featuring some of the best entries on your Instagram account. Always thank people for their efforts. In turn, this generates more content for your brand.

Engage with content.  Take the time to interact with the content and related posts. Like, comment, and share the entries to foster community and encourage continual engagement.

By following up after, you can continue to nurture the relationship with your audience and keep the excitement going. The ongoing involvement helps to strengthen your brand’s connection with your followers and build long-term loyalty.


Bravo! You now know how to brilliantly manage a top-notch contest on digital platforms. This hands-on guide provides you the strategies and techniques you need to excel past your competitors and score big wins. Keep it up!

Remember, a well-planned and executed initiative can boost brand awareness, increase engagement, drive traffic, and foster meaningful connections with your audience. So go ahead, implement these insights, and create an experience that leaves a lasting impression on your followers and elevates your brand to new heights.



How to Run a Social Media Contest
Step-by-Step Guide

With this easy-to-follow guide and checklist in hand, you’re all set to organize and win by captivating your audience, and hitting all your set goals. Onwards and upwards!

Objectives 📝
▢  Identify and write down the goals
Examples: brand awareness, UGC, leads, sales, followers, etc.

Target Audience 🎯
▢  Research audience preferences and social media habits
▢  Utilize market research data 

Theme 🌟
▢  Align theme with brand and audience
▢  Reflect audience interests and industry trends

Social Media Platforms 🌐
▢  Identify the best channels for audience and goals
▢  Pros and cons of Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, etc.

Mechanics and Prizes 🎁
▢  Create a seamless experience
▢  Decide format (photo/video submissions, quizzes, sweepstakes, etc.)
▢  Pick awesome prizes

Content 🖋️
▢  Develop captivating visuals
▢  Write persuasive copy
▢  Provide clear instructions
▢  Craft compelling headlines, taglines, and storylines

Rules 📜
▢  Eligibility, submission, selection, and deadlines
▢  Ensure compliance with platform 

Promote 📢
▢  Leverage brand community, influencers, ambassadors, etc.
▢  Optimize hashtags and keywords
▢  Promote across multiple channels
▢  Maybe run digital ads

Winners 🏆
▢  Evaluate entries based on criteria
▢  Privately notify winners and collect information
▢  Announce winners on social, website, etc.

Track and Analyze 📈
▢  Measure engagement, participation, growth, traffic, and conversions
▢  Use analytics tools for insights and improvements

Follow Up 💬
▢  Highlight top entries everywhere
▢  Engage with content (like, comment, share)
▢  Nurture ongoing engagement


➡️ PDF version of the guide!

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