(Not Quite) A Dozen Steps to Follow For an Amazing Online Contest

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You’ve won!

Those words are always great to hear or see. It means you’ve got something free coming your way. You know who else loves those words? Your current and potential clients.

Holding contests is one of the best ways to engage people with your brand and nowadays the easiest way to run a contest is via social media.

If you go into it with a carefully orchestrated plan, you’ll reap the rewards of increased audience engagement, shares, followers and all around impressions. Try it without a solid plan and you may find yourself with a bit of a mess that can give your brand a black eye.

Follow these 11 steps to strategize, plan, schedule and administer your social media contest so you get the most benefit from it.

1. Know the Goal

Contests are exciting and fun, but the most exciting and fun parts are the promoting, the prizes and the themes. The goals can tend to be a bit of an afterthought, even though it’s the goals that should really be shaping your entire campaign.

For example, let’s say you are a company that offers hang gliding instruction and instructor certification, so you hold a contest where people can win a free top-of-the-market altimeter, which keeps track of a glider’s altitude, and a variometer, which keeps track of a glider’s climb or descent rate. But, the real goal of your contest is to try and get people to sign up for the lessons you offer.

Because you’re after people who have never hang glided before instead of seasoned hang gliding veterans, who would also be interested in this equipment, you have to come up with a format that will target the former rather than the latter.

This can be tricky because seasoned hang gliders will be the ones who know the true value of the equipment you are offering as a prize and will most likely be the ones to share it and want to win, whereas people who have never hang glided before might not even know what an altimeter and a variometer are and almost certainly wouldn’t know that you’re offering the best ones available.

So, in order to target people who have never hang glided, you’ll need to emphasize how winning the equipment will make it easier to learn because these pieces of equipment will help them.

When you start with the goal of increasing lesson sign-ups (or whatever your goal is), you can develop the contest format organically from there.

Common contest goals include:

Increase overall purchases.

Increase brand awareness.

Increase conversion actions registrations for demos, lesson, webinars, content downloads.

Capture emails.

Boost site traffic.

Get more social media followers.

Your contest has to reinforce whatever goal you have. So, if more traffic for your site is a goal, visiting a landing page should be a mandatory action to enter the contest. If you want to increase purchases, than making a purchase should be mandatory to enter it.

2. Decide on Where to Host & Promote

Where you decide to host your contest may have a big impact on it. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have strict guidelines for contests and you will have to abide by those guidelines if you want to host your contest on those sites.

You may opt to host the contest on your own site and just promote it on social media, which means you will have different guidelines to follow than if you were completely hosting it on a social platform and entries were contingent on that platform (sharing a post on the platform, for example).

Make sure you have your legal counsel check your contest plan to make sure everything is legal and you are following all the rules and — most importantly — you’re not leaving yourself open to legal action.

The more platforms you use to run your contest, the more complexity you will bring to it. To make things easier, you can have a single point of entry (Facebook or a page on your website, for example) and just use other platforms for promotional purposes.

3. Decide How People Will Enter

Some common entry requirements include:

Submit an email address along with other contact information.

Require an action such as “liking” or “following” your page, commenting on or sharing a particular post.

Ask people to cast a vote for something using polling tools on the social media platform or on your website.

Create and submit user generated content that gets judged.

Direct submissions, especially when you use a customized form for the contest, are the easiest to track and require the least amount of effort. Requiring an action on a social media platform like commenting or sharing can also be easy. Voting is another type of entry that is fairly easy to track, although it’s best to use a custom form for it.

Having people create and send content to you is the entry type with the most engagement and it can even give you some marketing assets that can be used later on, however you will want to be extra careful with this type of entry. You’ll need to make things like ownership rights extra clear in the contest guidelines and you’ll want to be able to vet all the user made content before it is posted somewhere so you can catch anything negative before it is posted.

If you need a tool to track new “likes” on a page, you can try:





4. Create the Theme and the Name (the fun stuff!)

Now we get to the really fun part; coming up with a theme and a name for your contest. The contest should have its own sub-brand to your actual brand and its own branding devices.

An example using our own name might be The WizMotions All-Star Animation Challenge. The All-Star Animation Challenge would then be its own mini-brand under the WizMotions brand for the duration of the contest. This comes in especially handy when you run regular contests using the same format.

Shorter names are often better and can help when you’re promoting your contest in social media posts since space is limited in those posts on platforms like Twitter and Instagram and others.

5. Set the Timeline

Pick the date you will make the final announcement and work backward to ascertain when any drawing or judging involved with begin and end. Go back more and decide when the contest will be closed for entries, when it will be open for entries, when promotion for it will start and any other dates that you have to figure out.

You have to give yourself the necessary time to handle all of these steps, design any creative pieces you’ll require and get approval from your legal team, etc.

6. Pick the Prizes (more fun!)

You may have something in mind already for a fantastic prize, but hold off until you have everything else in place so you don’t get locked onto the prize element and rush through everything else.

As we’ve mentioned above, you have to make sure the prize is directly connected to your overall goal. If you offer something that is appealing to too broad an audience, like a car, a bunch of money or a general trip, you will likely attract a lot of entrants, but the majority of them may not be potential customer leads.

Rather, like the aforementioned altimeter and variometer for the hang gliding place, try to pick prizes that have some connection to your business, your brand and the values you espouse. It also helps to think of things from a storytelling angle so whoever wins your prize can become a living testimonial.

Imagine if the person who won the altimeter and the variometer actually went on to take lessons and really get into hang gliding? That’s a cool little promotional video story right there.

Connect with us for a FREE consultation.

Book a time and date that works for you and we will be happy to discuss options for your very own video.
An explainer video will take your business to the next level.

Click here to book a free consultation.

7. Draft a Promotional Calendar

Consulting the contest calendar you’ve created, plan your social media posts and whatever other promotional materials you will be using (like an animated explainer video, for example) and when it will all be published. Even if you don’t end up following your promotional calendar exactly, you want to avoid promoting it without any type of plan in place.

You’ll need promotional material for the following six phases of your contest:



Final call for entries

Closed for entries

Winner announcements

Post-contest promotion of winners

8. Develop a Promotional Strategy

Start with a bang to get as many entrants as possible when you launch. You want maximum engagement, so have a pre-launch promotional strategy that lets people know when your contest is about to drop.

Your strategy should include paid ads, organic promotion, content on your website, social media posts and other content and don’t forget the awesome animation video, which every contest should have (according to us). Your budget need not be huge, but you do get what you pay for, so invest what you can.

9. Put a Management and Crisis Plan in Place

Online contests run twenty-four-seven, so you should have some way of monitoring activity for it even on the evenings and weekends. You could try limiting the contest hours to your business hours, but that’s problematic online.

Many an unprepared social media marketing team has been unprepared by the engagement a contest can generate since they usually come with a big jump in audience engagement. It pays to be prepared in advance.

Having a backup plan for if things go awry can also be helpful for, well if things go awry. Rather than trying to improvise your way through it, you’ll be able to look at your crisis plan, which should be written down, and know exactly what to do.

10. Finalize Your Rules, and Give it to the Lawyers

Get your legal counsel to look everything over once you’ve finalized it to make sure it’s all legal and nothing can come back to bite you. You want them to give you the thumbs up for all your rules, procedures and prizes.

If you run your contest nationally or internationally, keep in mind that different regions and countries have different regulations and you’ll need to be in compliance with regulations everywhere you want to run the contest.

11. Document Everything for Learning Purposes

Take notes, gather data and figure out your ROI so you can tell whether or not you’ve reached your goals. Then, next time you run a contest you’ll be even more prepared.

As previously mentioned, an animated video is a great way to promote a contest. Click here to schedule an appointment with WizMotions to see how we can help you make the perfect contest promotional video.

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