How to plan, execute and measure Social Media contests
HOW TO PLAN, SOCIAL
EXECUTE AND MEDIA
TABLE OF CONTENTS
BEFORE YOU BEGIN
Know the law | 01
Know the rules | 04
Know the risks | 06
PLANNING, EXECUTING AND MEASURING YOUR PROMOTION
Defining your goals | 07
Budgeting | 08
Workflow | 08
Choosing your network | 09
Cross-promotion | 10
Tracking | 10
Post-contest analysis | 11
Prize fulfillment and delivery | 11
HOW TO PLAN, EXECUTE AND MEASURE SOCIAL MEDIA CONTESTS
Looking for a fun way to attract new users, increase engagement or build a
library of user-generated content? Run a social media contest. But before
you start brainstorming, do your homework. A poorly run contest can get you
in trouble – with your audience and social media sites. You could also suffer
legal ramifications if not executed according to federal and state law.
In this guide, we’ll give you a general primer on social media contests, along
with specific tips for running them on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. You’ll
also get some advice for executing your contest and making the most of
BEFORE YOU BEGIN
1. Know the law
If you’ve ever run any type of contest, you probably already know that they
are subject to various legal requirements. All these laws supersede any
channel-specific rules or etiquette guidelines, and violating them can subject
you to fines or civil litigation.
Laws can vary depending on your region or state. It’s a good idea to consult
your legal team before running a major promotion, but here are some general
things to keep in mind:
Use the right terminology:
A “sweepstakes” awards prizes based on chance: every entry gets equal
consideration. A “contest” implies skill: winners are chosen based on the
merits of their entry. Sweepstakes and contests are subject to different laws,
and there are multiple definitions of what constitutes a skill.
Cannot require a purchase to enter. You can ask for a purchase, but
you will have to provide a free entry option and clearly disclose it.
You may be able to require that entrants opt-in to receive emails or
subscribe to your blog.
These include many popular social media promotions: photo and video
contests, caption contests and the like. While you cannot require
a purchase to enter, you may be able to mandate that an image of
your product be used in the entry. If it involves some sort of judging
process, you should disclose who the judges will be and the basis for
selecting the winners. If winners will be selected through a random
drawing, though, it may qualify as a sweepstakes.
Terms and conditions
In addition to the contest deadlines and conditions for entry, you’ll want to
You should consider prohibiting certain people – typically company
employees, their immediate families, agencies or vendors, and maybe
even people under a certain age – from entering. You’ll want to avoid
introducing any kind of bias, or the risk of violating consent laws.
Rights of usage
If the contest asks for user-generated content, such as photos, videos,
taglines, etc., you might want to specify that all entries become the
property of your company, and can be used in any way you see fit.
Announcement of winners
Clearly define when and where winners will be announced. Make sure
to post them somewhere on your website, so you can benefit from the
Include “cover your hide” language such as “void where prohibited,”
“no purchase necessary,” “all federal, state and local taxes apply,”
etc. Again, your legal team should be able to draft a solid set of
Registrations, fees and bonding
Some states require that companies register or post a bond before launching
certain promotions, so be sure to check.
Other legal considerations
Not to scare you, but your promotion may also be affected by certain other
laws. While it’s tempting to cut and paste your rules and conditions from
another source, you should use caution. Have your legal team read over
everything, just to be safe.
2. Know the rules
Every social media platform has specific rules for contests, sweepstakes
and promotions, and they get updated frequently. If you violate them, you
won’t be charged with a crime, but your promotion may be halted, and further
violations may get you banned from the site.
Facebook probably has the most extensive set of rules – all of which can be
found on the Facebook Promotions Guidelines. Be aware that Facebook is
a little more lax about its rules than in the past. As of August 2013, you can
now use “likes,” posts and personal messages as voting mechanisms, and
promotions can be administered on Page Timelines as well as via Facebook
apps. But you still must make it clear that your promotion is in no way
endorsed or administered by Facebook.
Their guidelines can be found here, and mostly revolve around preventing
spam, duplicate postings, and discouraging the creation of multiple accounts.
Violating the rules could get your promotion filtered out of Twitter search.
Being a highly visual site, Pinterest contest guidelines focus on adhering to
their brand guidelines emphasizing quality over quantity. You can’t require
that entrants pin specific items, or add a minimum number of pins. Like
Facebook, Pinterest makes it clear that they are not responsible for the
contest in any way. And they must have gotten sick of the phrase “Pin It to
Win It,” because you can’t refer to your contest by that name anymore.
Read the full guidelines here.
3. Know the risks
You can’t expect everyone to follow the rules, or even the spirit of the
contest. Opportunists and trolls may come out of the closet. Or worse, your
competition may shut you down. A few things to watch out for:
If you put your entries up for public voting, don’t be surprised if users
create multiple accounts for the sole purpose of racking up votes.
This is especially dangerous on Twitter. Cheating can lead to customer
complaints, which can harm your company image and derail your
If you run a photo or video contest, make sure you have control over
whose content can be viewed. Like it or not, some people may see it
as an opportunity to complain, or present your brand in a poor light.
Trolls also have been known to hijack comment threads and contest
Avoid mentioning your competition in your promotion. Quizno’s, the
sandwich chain, was sued by rival Subway after it ran a promotion
inviting users to create and upload homemade commercials showing
why their sandwiches were superior. Even though Quizno’s argued
that they had no hand in content creation, the ads were created on
the company’s behalf and Quizno’s ended up settling out of court.
What is an internet troll?
Trolls are people who literally “troll” the
internet – social media, blogs, forums,
comment sections, etc. – seeking any
opportunity to make comments that
incite reaction from other users.
PLANNING YOUR PROMOTION
Legal ramifications aside, social media contests and sweepstakes are a
great way to promote your business and drive lots of great fan activity on
your social pages. Now that you have an overview of the general landscape,
it’s time to get started.
1. Define your goals for the promotion
Do you want to attract new friends and followers? Add to your email or
opt-in list? Build a library of user-generated content? Sell products? Your
goals should tie into your overall sales and marketing objectives. What
does success look like? If there’s a metric you have had trouble reaching, a
promotion could help move the needle. Conduct pre-promotional analysis to
see where you need help, and then design your promotion accordingly.
Make sure you clearly define goals and KPIs before the promotion, and
decide which metrics you’ll use to determine success. Furthermore, make
sure you’ll have access to those metrics. There’s nothing worse than wanting
to track something after the fact, and realizing that you don’t have the data.
Additionally, make sure there’s buyoff on what your success metrics are, and
what numbers you need to hit to call the campaign a success. If your boss,
your boss’ boss or your boss’ boss’ boss needs to OK the plan, have them
sign off before you start running the promotion.
All of this will make it much easier for reporting and determining success
after the campaign is finished.
2. Carve out a budget
A great set of prizes will help generate interest. Get creative: discover what’s
trending or popular among your target demographic and base your prizes
around that. You might be craving the latest techie gadget, but your audience
might respond better to a spa day or glamorous getaway. Think about what
your brand offers and why your target audience might be interested in you –
your prize should reflect that.
Figure out how much you have to spend on prizes, as well as the hard costs
involved in promoting it (a few online ads or sponsored posts could help
immensely) before you get going.
3. Work it into your workflow
Keep in mind the time it will take to run the promotion.
If it depends on curated content, make sure you
have time to review the entries on a regular basis.
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all submissions on a weekly or daily basis (or however
often you want). Want to test it out? Start your free trial.
You may also be required to track entries and metrics via Google Analytics
or in your marketing automation system to determine web traffic, leads
generated and conversions (aka the good stuff). Get help if you need to
and make sure you give yourself enough leeway before the contest launch.
Contests take more time than you think, and your audience will be expecting
a well-run promotion.
4. Choose your social network appropriately
You can run promotions on just about any social channel (we’ve outlined
a few of the more popular ones below). Your choice will depend on your
target audience, existing or desired user base (promotions are a good way
to attract people to a new page or channel), goals, and channel-specific
rules (some sites won’t let you run certain types of
promotions). Performing audience analyses before
you’re ready to run your promotion is key to figuring
out which channel(s) to choose. Don’t have a tool to
help you analyze your current or desired audience?
We can help you with that. Start a free trial.
If you’re looking for simple engagement, Facebook promotions are
wonderful. Users can enter your sweepstakes by liking your status, posting
something to your wall, or sending you a private message. Facebook is also
popular for photo contests and other promotions designed to generate usercreated content. You can also easily attract users to your landing page or
website by enabling them to sign up using their Facebook account.
Though Twitter is also great for photo contests, it’s ideal for gathering short
(140 character) testimonials or stories. You can also use Twitter for trivia
contests and other promotions that require a succinct but creative response.
And even if you don’t run your promotions on Twitter, you should definitely
promote them on your account.
Want to encourage visitors to your website? Encourage them to pin items to
win a prize (just don’t call it “Pin It to Win It,” per their rules). The nice thing
about Pinterest is that pinned items stay there until the user takes them
down, so your promotion can continue to drive traffic and engagement long
after the deadline has passed.
If your goal is to grow your Pinterest audience and you already have a huge
Facebook following, definitely leverage your Facebook to drive traffic to the
Pinterest promotion. Post the details to your page with a link directing users
to the contest, and consider running a few Facebook ad campaigns. Be
careful how you position it though, because sometimes users aren’t receptive
to promotions for one social channel on another.
Leverage your most active channels, which are typically your website, blog
and email list. You might also want to run ads on search engines or other
sites where your users congregate, or even on TV, in print, or via traditional
marketing media, like radio.
Use a single hashtag across multiple networks to tie your promoted efforts
into one campaign, so you can gauge success across all channels.
6. Make activity easy to track
Create unique hashtags, tracking tokens and/or URLs and require the
entrants to use them in order to be considered. This will help you filter
entries and chat about the contest, and make it easier to identify customers
who entered your marketing funnel through the promotion.
Again, be organized at the get-go, and it will be easier to see your results.
A successful promotion means lots of data to track, organize and report
on. Make sure you have the entire workflow set up and tested before
you launch, so you know what data you’re receiving on your end from the
entrants, and how you’ll organize it.
7. Post-contest analytics
Since you already established which metrics you’ll want to measure,
reporting should be a cakewalk. Pull down all the data and see how well you
did. More importantly, what can you learn? If you plan more promotions in the
future, you can use this information to hone your strategy. You should also
have a plan in place for leveraging user-generated content. Perhaps you can
create a gallery of runners-up after the winning entries are announced? Or
even post them individually on a daily or weekly basis. This can help improve
engagement in the long term, is a great way to repurpose great (free!)
content, continue the momentum and nurture a sense of community among
your expanded fan base.
8. Prize fulfillment and delivery
You’re not quite done! Don’t forget your end of the bargain – prize fulfillment.
If you get this wrong, you may hurt your chances of running a successful
contest in the future, or even damage your brand. Depending on the size of
the prize, it’s very easy to underestimate how much time and effort it can
take to make sure your winner(s) receive their prizes. Make sure you consult
your legal team, because depending on the prize size, state and federal tax
laws may apply.
Capture any winner information you’ll need – name, address, phone number,
email, age (if prize is age-restricted, such as a vacation), etc. Also make sure
you can deliver the prize in a timely manner – not several months after the
Keep in mind that delivering prizes provides you with an added opportunity
to connect with delighted fans, and an avenue to develop additional content
that you can distribute to your community later on.
Contests and sweepstakes take a little extra planning and groundwork, but
executed correctly, they can provide an immediate and lasting boost to your
company. Remember to follow all the laws and rules, design a promotion
around metrics you want to accomplish, carve out a budget and allocate
resources, and be sure to measure and track before, during and after so
you can determine ROI and gain insight for your next promotion.
Where do you stand with your user engagement?
Simply Measured offers powerful analytics to help
you see what your audience is doing on social, and
what type of contest or sweepstakes might spark
their interest. Request your free trial.