UNB Marketing Blog
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Social media contests: How to win every time

Author: Sarah Albert

Posted on Oct 30, 2019

Category: Web and Social Media

Organizations often turn to social media contests as an inexpensive way to increase traffic to their pages with minimal effort.

This type of marketing is mostly used on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, and it feels like everyone is either doing it or participating in them.

But before you go ahead and hop on the bandwagon, you need to keep three things in mind before you create a social media contest: the rules of your chosen platform, what type of contest best fits your needs, and how to plan your contest strategically.

Facebook and Instagram’s terms of service

Each platform has its own unique terms of service, and it is no secret that most of us like to carelessly click ‘accept’ when agreeing to these terms without actually having read any of it.

But when it comes to running a social media contest, ignorance is not bliss.

Going against a platform’s rules and guidelines could get your account suspended or even permanently deleted – a nightmare for anyone with an established following.

The most commonly used social media platforms for contests are Facebook and Instagram. As both are subsidiaries of Facebook Inc., there is an overlap in their terms of service.

In the past, Facebook Inc. required the use of third-party applications to run a contest. This rule has since been lifted, but this change came with strict restrictions:

You must follow the law

This seems pretty obvious, but can sometimes be tricky.

Your contest needs to follow all provincial and federal regulations for each location it is operating in. Every country/state/province has different laws regarding contests, which means this may require extensive research on your part.

An example of an illegal contest would be a lottery – where participants have to pay to participate – for which you would need an official license.

You must have transparency

Transparency is mandatory in many aspects of social media, and this is no exception.

When running a contest, you need to clearly establish guidelines such as age restrictions, country restrictions, the duration of the contest, etc. You also need to clearly state that your contest is not sponsored by the platform – in this case, Facebook or Instagram – therefore releasing them of any responsibility.

It is recommended that you establish a landing page that outlines all the rules, regulations and disclaimers for your contest that you can link to from your page for reference.

Sharing is NOT caring

According to Facebook’s terms of service, you cannot create a contest that requires participants to share anything to their timeline/feed, share on their friend’s timeline/feed, or tag a friend to win.

Yes, we know these contests still happen, but these methods amplify spam content for users who are not a part of your audience, which can create a lot of annoyance.

And if it keeps your page safe from an unexpected shutdown, then it’s best to avoid these contests at all costs.

What contests CAN you do?

While it may seem like a lot of red tape to cut through, don’t worry! There are still plenty of contests you can utilize for social media.

Giveaway and sweepstakes

To engage your audience without breaking any rules, you can ask them to follow your account and like your post or comment to be entered in a draw for a prize. The key to this kind of contest is to stay away from anything that requires SHARING.

Countdown or multi-day contest

To keep the engagement high over a period of time, you can turn to multi-day contests. This can be done by adding conditions such as liking a new daily post for additional entries and commenting every day for additional ballots. Or you can have a week of giveaways, with new prizes to be won every day.

Brainy contest

For this type of contest, you need to appeal to the participant’s brainpower. A simple example of this would be to require participants to answer a question correctly to be entered in a draw for the prize.

Photo contest

If you are in need of collateral, why not turn to your audience? For example, if you want to promote the acquisition of a new piece of equipment, ask your followers to post a picture while using it for a chance to win a prize. You can later repurpose the best submissions on your social channels.

Crowdsourcing contest

This is another example of how your audience can help you. If you want feedback, ideas for a new product or simply a funny caption for a picture, turn to your followers! You can pick a winner based on your favourite response or enter every participant in a draw.

Popularity contest

You can create a post and ask your followers to vote for their favourite comment by liking it – the comment with the most likes wins! Just keep the golden rule in mind: NO SHARING!

Planning your content

The type of contest you choose really depends on what you’re trying to achieve. So make sure to keep these five things in mind when creating your next contest...

1. Create a goal

Do you want to increase your following or traffic, drive sales or gather content? As mentioned above, each type of contest will bring different results for your unit. It is important to have a clear desired outcome for your contest. After all, there has to be something in it for you!

2. Know your audience

We’ve all seen the social media contests where you can win an iPad. Because let’s be real, anyone and their dog could use an iPad. So be sure to tailor your contests to fit your audience by giving them something they specifically want. Maybe this will be a product you are offering, a free service or cool swag that promotes your brand.

3. Keep it simple

If your goal is to get as many contest entries as possible, limit the barriers to entry. Most people won’t participate in contests that require more than two steps to enter.

4. Or make it hard

If your goal is quality rather than quantity, make your contest more difficult to enter. This way, you will weed out those in your audience not strongly committed to winning and be left with the cream of the crop!

5. Promote, promote, promote!

You will not get participants without a little work. Make sure your audience is aware of your contest by cross-promoting on different platforms. This will also help drive users from one platform to another.

Social media contests can yield awesome results. The key is to be mindful, stay informed and never disregard the terms of service.

Best of luck! If you follow the rules, you will win every time.

- Sarah Albert, UNB Marketing Co-op Student

Learn more

Want to learn more about social media marketing? Check out our Social Hub for helpful tips or contact us at socialmedia@unb.ca.