You want to create a buzz around your business. Social media platforms have the power to help you reach new audiences and grow your business.

And social media contests for small businesses generate demand by getting people excited about your brand, increasing the rate they’re talking about you and sharing your content.

This is how you get started.

Do giveaways work on social media? 

Yes. Giveaways do work on social media  — if your goal is to generate more social media engagement and drive traffic. 

Nearly 65% of survey respondents consider social media giveaways and contests to be effective for increasing followers, and approximately 34% of new customers are acquired through contests. 

In fact, a recent study by EasyPromos shows that Facebook giveaways generate 1,000% more interactions than other Facebook posts, while Instagram accounts that hold contests grow an average of 70% faster than other Instagram accounts.

Why social media contests are effective 

Social media contests invite engagement and interaction. They can also offer an exciting opportunity for contest participants. While the average contest prize costs a company about $369 — not a huge marketing investment — a $300 to $400 prize can be a big deal for an individual. 

When someone enters a contest on social media, over 62% of them will specifically share contest details with a friend to encourage them to enter the contest as well. In the marketing industry, we call this “word-of-mouth advertising” and it accounts for approximately 13% of all customer sales. This is because people are 90% more likely to buy from a brand recommended by a friend. 

Contests can also help you generate leads, increase brand visibility, and engage your audience. And these benefits will continue well after your contest ends.

Roughly 1 in 3 contest participants say that they’re open to receiving promotional information about the brand that held the contest. That means that social media giveaways even offer you an avenue for growing your email list

Elements of an effective social media contest

For a social media contest to be effective, it has to excite participants and connect to your brand in a logical way, while following the rules of the platform.

To make sure your social media contest is effective, do the following:

Know the rules

Whether you choose to run your contest on one or multiple channels, it’s important to read the social media platform’s rules for running a contest before you get started. 

Facebook, for example, has recently implemented rigorous rules for running contests on its platform. Meanwhile, other platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, and TikTok each have slightly different rules and regulations for running contests.

Keep it on-brand

Tie your contest in with your brand as much as possible. This includes both the type of contest you run and the prize. 

For example, it might be strange for a car dealership to run a contest inviting people to try on a new set of headphones or to give away jewelry. On the other hand, it would make sense for a dealership to invite people to take a test drive and post about it, or to offer a new car as a contest prize. 

Remember, one goal of running a social media contest is to increase awareness of your brand. The more you can say about your brand while running the contest, the more effective this marketing strategy will be.  

Make it exciting

Generate demand by making your contest as enticing as possible.

This can include anything from using an eye-catching graphic, creating a challenge that has to be shared, encouraging engagements by offering to increase the prize as the number of contestants increases, or offering a unique or valuable prize that will excite your target market. 

How to run a social media contest 

Don’t be nervous. Follow these four steps to create a strong contest that engages your audience and draws in new leads:

  • Set goals 
  • Determine the contest details
  • Decide where to run it
  • Promote it

Step 1: Set goals for your social media contest

The first step to running a social media contest is to set SMART goals and determine the key performance indicators (KPIs) you plan to track throughout the contest. 

Having a specific, measurable goal as you head into your social media contest allows you to evaluate its success when the contest is over. This data-first strategy makes it easier to improve your marketing efforts and helps future contests have more success. 

Some ideas for goals to set include:

  • Number of contestants entered
  • Number of likes on your posts
  • Number of shares on your posts
  • Number of clicks through to your website 

If you plan to run your social media contest on multiple channels, track successes for each channel so that you can decide where to invest your time and money in the future.

Step 2: Determine contest details

The next step is to determine specific details for your social media contest. 

As you brainstorm potential contest ideas, keep in mind the elements of effective contests from above  —  following the rules, keeping it on-brand, and making it exciting.

You’ll also want to think about the criteria for winning the contest. Do you want to evaluate each contest entry, or does everyone who enters get their name put into a drawing?

Finally, you’ll want to pick a prize for your contest. The goal is for your prize to be enticing enough to draw people into your contest, without costing more than you’ll make in revenue. Set a budget. Then, brainstorm different on-brand contest prizes that will interest your target audience.

Step 3: Decide where to run your social media contest

Once you’ve decided the type of contest you’re going to run, you can determine which social media platform to use. 

One effective strategy is to run your contest simultaneously on multiple social media channels. Many brands  —  around 45%  —  like running contests on both Facebook and Instagram at the same time.

Having your contest on multiple channels can increase the amount of exposure it gets. However, you also run the risk of having the same person enter into the contest multiple times, which can be hard to keep track of on the back end. 

Some contests also run better on certain platforms over other platforms.

For example, Instagram relies heavily on images, so image-heavy contests will perform better there than text-heavy contests.

Step 4: Promote your social media contest

You can either let your social media contest spread organically or your can pay to advertise it.

Approximately half of all brands choose to invest money to publicize their events. On average, paid promotions for contests cost about $0.18/click

But even if you’re not willing to pay for advertisements, you can find creative ways to promote your social media event.

For example, require participants to share your content on their social media page, which would increase your contest’s visibility. 

Email marketing also offers a viable way to promote your contest to your current audience. Since people who enter contests will share it on their social media page almost 95% of the time, you stand a good chance of having your contest reach more people, just by engaging with your current leads.

Another way to promote your social media contest is to create a unique hashtag for use when contestants discuss your contest. This can encourage word-of-mouth promotion and improve brand recognition simultaneously. 

How long you should run a social media contest 

The duration of your social media contest will partly depend on how often you run contests. As a general rule of thumb, the most successful contests last anywhere from 25-60 days. However, the average social media contest only lasts about 7 days.

One reason for this discrepancy is that many brands choose to use contests as a frequent advertising tool. About 33% of brands choose to run a giveaway once a month, while 29% of brands run giveaways less than once a month but several times a year. For these brands, a short contest makes sense. 

If you run one to two contests per year, it makes sense to have a longer contest period. This will give your campaign the time it needs to generate buzz. 

Effective social media contest ideas 

Here are some great social media contest ideas, broken down by which channel they’d best perform on.

Facebook contest ideas

Facebook content does best when it has images or videos. But unlike many other social media platforms, it still relies heavily on text. This means that text-based challenges run well on Facebook. 

One example of a text-based contest is a fill-in-the-blank challenge. In this challenge, you create a sentence, leaving a blank for customers to fill in. For example, a fill-in-the-blank challenge might have a sentence like: “One thing I’m looking forward to this summer is _______.”

A wordplay Facebook contest is another fun one. You might ask people how many words they can make using just the letters in your brand’s name. Or you might see who can generate the best poem with your brand name, with each line of the poem starting with a different letter of your brand’s name. 

Instagram contest ideas

Instagram is a channel that focuses largely on images, though it sometimes pairs those images with lengthy captions. So, it’s no surprise that some of the easiest contests to run on Instagram are image-based. 

One challenge that’s always fun is to post an image with no explanation and challenge participants to come up with funny captions. The contest winner is the person who comes up with the best image caption by the time your deadline ends.

Another great Instagram contest idea involves asking contestants to take a picture of themselves with your product and rewarding the person with the most interesting photo. This contest idea has the added benefit of generating a lot of usable product images that you can then repurpose for later marketing efforts.

example of a social media contest on Instagram
Photo contests should match your brand. Like this one from Botanical Interests.

Pinterest contest ideas

Pinterest is unique because it behaves half as a social media platform and half as a search engine. For this reason, it can be difficult to run a standard contest on Pinterest. But this doesn’t mean you should neglect the platform if you have a good contest idea.

One popular Pinterest contest is “pin it to win it.”

With this contest, you share a series of images, and people who want to enter the contest are required to pin their favorite image. This is effective because it’s relatively easy to track who pins your images, and it also serves to get your image on more Pinterest boards. You can make the “pin it to win it” format more engaging by inviting users to create unique Pinterest boards on a topic related to your brand.

Pinterest social media contest took the idea of a “pin it to win it” contest a step further. The brand invited contestants to create a new board designing their dream bedroom using at least five items from, as well as a unique hashtag.

Feedback contests also work well on Pinterest. This involves posting an image of a product you offer, as well as a thought-provoking survey question. Participants enter the contest by answering the question with genuine feedback about your company or product. This can be a great way to combine running a contest with generating customer feedback

YouTube contest ideas

YouTube uses long-form video content. Users from around the globe watch a whopping 1 billion hours of YouTube videos every day, making it a treasure trove for marketers.

The easiest — and most popular — version of a YouTube contest invites participants to subscribe to your channel to enter the contest. This can be great if you’re specifically looking to grow your YouTube audience. 

Another great idea is a “suggest a topic” competition. This version of a contest can help you generate new ideas for YouTube content. The best part is that, since your viewers are suggesting the topics, you know ahead of time that they’ll be interested in the content.

TikTok contest ideas

Although a relatively new platform, TikTok has been taking off in recent years. It specializes in short-form video content, originally with videos no longer than 15 seconds. While their maximum video length has since increased, short and sweet videos are still the bread and butter of this social media platform.

One of the great things about TikTok is that it invites everyone to become a content creator. As a result, one of the best contest types you can host on TikTok invites participants to film some sort of video response to your content.

You might issue a challenge and ask participants to film themselves attempting the challenge. Challenge failures are often just as fun as successes. You can capitalize on that by entering all participants into a sweepstakes, rather than only rewarding the successful attempts. 

Positivity challenges also run well on TikTok.

For example, you might have participants enter by recording a positive message, doing a happy dance, or showing off something that makes them happy. GymShark 66 offers a great example of a positivity challenge that works. They challenge their followers to create three fitness rules for themselves, stick to those rules every day for 66 days, and post their journey. 

example of a social media contest on TikTok
This TikTok video, posted by user FranPittonFit in response to the Gymshark 66 challenge, shows the power of TikTok contests. Because of the contest, this TikTok user talked about the brand on their personal channel, generating free advertising for the company.

Plan your first social media contest today

Running a social media contest can be a great demand generation strategy for marketers. Contests allow you to reach larger audiences, in a mostly organic way, while creating hype around your brand. Best of all, the cost of running a contest is relatively low. 

Start today by determining which channels you want to run a contest on and familiarizing yourself with each platform’s contest rules and guidelines. Then, have some fun brainstorming with your team. Take the social media contest ideas mentioned above as a good source of inspiration to launch your first successful contest.