Social Media Contests: Are You Following the Right Trend?


More than 70% of Americans have either entered a contest or played an online game. Why do you think this is? According to recent research, social media contests and games are an entertaining way to market certain services. While they give the user the notion that they are playing a fun game, these contests can actually work very hard for a company’s product or service by building brand awareness, generating sales leads, and strengthening relationships with customers.


Of course, being that it’s fun, you’re probably saying, “Great! Let’s do it!” While enthusiasm is certainly wonderful when starting a project, it takes a lot more than just excitement to build an online contest. So, let’s slow down a bit and take a look at what it really takes. Like any platform initiative – yes, this is marketing, even though it feels more like entertainment – putting together a social media contest takes planning. 


To break it down, let’s look at it as planning and taking a trip:


Where do you want to go and how will you get there?

Think of the roads you’ll take as the social media platform rules you must follow. Before you set out, make sure you have a clear understanding of each platform’s social engagement rules. We’ll first look at Pinterest, then Twitter, followed by Instagram and Facebook.



Pinterest is like a good pal. “Hey, nothing to worry about, just a few simple rules we’d like you to follow.” Pinterest appears to be the most laid back with their contest rules. The platform actually doesn’t have specific rules for contests, so just make sure you follow a few general guidelines.  


Popular Pinterest promotions:

  • Pin it to win it – Participants simply pin a photo to enter.
  • Board contest – Contestants create a board around a theme you choose. The board with the most likes/repins wins.



Twitter is as equally laid back as Pinterest. Among a few other things, they ask that you “discourage participants from creating multiple accounts to enter your contest and discourage your followers from sending the same tweet multiple times”. You can view Twitter’s full list of guidelines here. 


Popular Twitter promotions:

  • Sweepstakes – Contestants tweet/retweet something to enter a drawing or fill out a form. 
  • Hashtag contest – Create a themed hashtag that asks people to respond with a clever or smart tweet that aligns with your brand or initiative.



Now, onto Instagram. Instagram is another platform that keeps its rules for promotions and contests simple, but as a subsidiary of Facebook, it does take them very seriously. Their rules include “you must not inaccurately tag content or encourage users to inaccurately tag content, acknowledge that the promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Instagram, and accept full responsibility for the lawful operation of your promotion.”  Not too bad, right?  


Popular Instagram promotions:

  • Like or repost to win – Another sweepstakes contest that’s easy to enter. You can have people share a specific photo on their accounts and tag your brand. 
  • Caption this – You post a photo and people can enter by coming up with a creative and hilarious caption. Be sure to filter through any negative comments that may come in along the way.  



Facebook, unlike its social media compadres, has very strict guidelines when it comes to contests. You can view Facebook’s guidelines here. To give you a broad stroke definition, Facebook makes it abundantly clear that “you, and solely you, are responsible for the lawful operation of your promotion.” Facebook even goes as far to say that each participant must agree to a complete “release” of the platform, acknowledging that the promotion is “in no way sponsored, administered by, or associated with Facebook.” Friend connections and personal timelines must not be used, i.e., (ex: “share on your timeline to enter” or “share on your friend’s timeline to get additional entries,” and “tag your friends in this post to enter” are not permitted). Lastly, Facebook mentions “if you use our service to administer your promotion, you do so at your own risk.”  


Popular Facebook promotions: 

  • Sweepstakes/giveaway – The most common; these traditionally generate the most participants. 
  • Photo and/or video contest – Participants simply post photos and/or videos around a specific theme for likes and comments. Whoever gets the most, wins.


What do you need to make this trip happen?

You’ll want to set your SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) in order to learn and build upon your initiative. Setting these goals will provide you with the next-level parameters you must address. 

  • How much should you spend? 
  • How long will the contest/promotion run? (According to the ideal duration for your campaign is either 25 or 60 days)
  • What are you hoping to achieve? Increase brand engagement and your following on social? Build your database or generate awareness of a new product or service?  
  • What will you offer as a “prize” and is it worth the participant’s effort to enter? 


Do not try this at home

More questions may arise during this process than answers, which is why a social media promotion is not something you simply “throw out there.” Planning and executing a successful social media promotion can be a daunting task… unless you’re a pro. Again, like any marketing initiative, it pays – both literally and figuratively – to seek professional help.  

We’re here to help! Have a question? Seeking guidance on any of the above? Contact Ligon Marketing today and we’d be happy to help you plan the perfect social media contest or promotion.