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How to Run an Amazing Social Media Contest Guide and Checklist

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

Why run a social media contest?

Social media contests 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, contests have a remarkable ability to bring people together, fostering connections and making relationships stronger.

Running a social media contest offers numerous benefits for businesses and brands. We’re highlight the 5 primary reasons why companies run a social media contest. 

1. Boost brand awareness

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

2. Increase audience engagement

Engaging your audience is vital in the digital realm, and social media contests are an incredibly effective way to captivate and involve them. Contests have a natural knack for engaging your audience and encouraging active participation. You can create an exciting buzz around your brand by offering attractive prizes and interactive features. This heightened engagement results in more interactions like likes, comments, and shares, boosting your brand’s online visibility.

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

3. Expand your social following

A successful social media contest can bring many new followers and fans to your social media profiles. You can ensure new followers by requiring participants to follow your social media accounts as part of the contest entry. Having a larger social following not only expands your reach but also boosts your brand’s credibility and social proof.

4. Drive traffic and conversions

Successful social media contests 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

Social media contests 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 social media contest 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 contests, you can leverage the enthusiasm of your audience and propel your brand toward greater success.

How to run a social media contest

It is essential to devote time and effort to meticulous planning to make sure your social media contest yields the best possible outcomes. Here are the step-by-step instructions to consider when mapping out a successful contest.

Step 1: Define the contest’s objective

Before diving into the details, clearly outline your goals and objectives for running a social media contest. 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 contest planning and execution phases.

Step 2: Identify your target audience

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

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

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

Step 3: Select an engaging contest theme

Selecting an engaging contest 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 contest theme.

Step 4: Choose the right social media platform

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

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

Consider using multiple social platforms. While the focus is on choosing the ‘right’ platform, hosting your contest 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 for contests and promotions. Ensure to include this in your considerations to avoid unforeseen issues or contest cancellations.

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

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



  • 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.



  • Vast user base with diverse demographics.
  • Robust advertising and targeting options.
  • Ability to create event pages and promote contests.
  • 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.



  • Rapidly growing platform, trendy among younger demographics.
  • Emphasis on short, engaging videos perfect for creative contests.
  • 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 social media platform(s) will be the perfect fit for your contest. This way, you can ensure that you choose the platforms that will maximize visibility and boost participation.

Step 5: Determine contest mechanics and prizes

Design an engaging and user-friendly contest mechanics framework that aligns with your goals and resonates with your audience. Consider various contest formats, such as photo/video submissions, caption contests, quizzes, or sweepstakes, and choose one that suits your brand and objectives.

Additionally, decide on enticing prizes that are relevant to your audience and aligned with your brand image.

Step 6: Create compelling contest content

Crafting compelling contest 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 with your contest.

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

Step 7: Set clear contest rules

Every contest 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 in the contest. 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 of your contest.

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 the contest 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 to your contest. This can include copyright permissions, usage rights, or compliance with local laws.

Establishing clear contest 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 contest rules page for participants to review and understand all the rules before entering.

Step 8: 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.

Step 9: Promote your contest

Once you have planned your contest, it’s go time. Here are some effective strategies to implement during this phase.

Leverage your brand community.  When it comes to running a social media contest, 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 with your contest. 

So, take the time to identify the people in your industry who align with your brand. Then work together to create a buzz about your contest and your company.

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

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

Run targeted ads.  Consider running targeted social media ad campaigns to increase contest reach and engagement. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter offer advanced targeting options, allowing you to reach specific demographics, interests, and locations.

Step 10: Select and announce the winners

It’s victory time! Evaluate the entries and choose the winners of your social media contest. 

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.

Step 11: Track and analyze 

As your social media contest 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 by your contest.

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

Follower growth monitor the growth of your social media followers during the contest.

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

Conversions track the number of desired actions that resulted from the contest.

To analyze these metrics, use social media analytics tools like Roster to gain valuable insights for future campaigns.

Step 12: Follow up

Once the contest has 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 contest 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 posts related to the contest. Like, comment, and share the entries to foster community and encourage continual engagement.

By following up after the contest, 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.

Takeaways on how to run a social media contest

Congratulations! You now have an in-depth understanding of how to run a highly effective social media contest. Thus, the strategies and techniques outlined in this guide -equip you to outrank your competitors and achieve great results. 

Remember, a well-planned and executed contest can boost brand awareness, increase engagement, drive traffic, and foster meaningful connections with your audience. So go ahead, implement these insights, and create a social media contest 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

By following this guide and checklist, you can plan and execute a successful social media contest, engage your audience, and achieve your defined objectives.       

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

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

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

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

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

Contest 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 social media ads

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

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

Follow Up 💬
▢  Highlight top entries on social media
▢  Engage with contest content (like, comment, share)
▢  Nurture ongoing engagement


➡️ PDF version of the guide!

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