How to Leverage Social Media Contests for Brand Success - Innovate New Albany | New Albany, Ohio

How to Leverage Social Media Contests for Brand Success

pet stars

One tactic that has proven successful for brands is the implementation of social media contests. A social media contest is an excellent way to get your audience to engage with your brand and to kick-start your reach in the community.

The prizes for these contests can range from small products (gift-cards) to massive incentive sweepstakes (i.e. Honda’s “Super Civic Quest” vehicle giveaway) and they can result in a significant growth of your following. If the prize is tailored for your specific audience, people will want to participate and they will be motivated to become brand ambassadors. In return, they will share your message with their friends, who will now become part of your community.

There are many social media outlets that you can use to host a contest. You can choose from Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram, among others. So now let’s talk about how each of these platforms can help you host a successful contest.


Facebook is a great place because of its versatility. People have the ability to share, like, comment, and even play a game. On Facebook, you can create anything from a simple “caption this” contest to big scale sweepstakes.

Another cool thing about Facebook is that they have a tab feature that allows you to build a custom content app directly on your page.

PRO TIP: If you use the tab feature, fan-gate the tab so that people will like the page before they can enter the contest.


Twitter is a good platform because it is easy to get multiple brand impressions. A simple idea for a short spanned contest can be to ask for a simple re-tweet from your audience. You can account for that re-tweet as a contest entry.

When you host a contest on Twitter, you have to craft the tweets very carefully and intentionally. Make sure the tweet is less than 100 characters so people can re-tweet easily, include a link to a landing page or promotion, and create a unique hashtag.

PRO TIP: Use a third party app to monitor your contest by tracking your unique hashtag.


Pinterest is great for visual brands. Before starting a contest on this platform, make sure you have great image assets. You can create a specific board for the campaign and you can also ask contestants to create one. Although remember that the simpler it is to enter, the better.

PRO TIP: Make your contest mobile-friendly to appeal to those users.


Although Instagram works more like regular print media, because of the absence of linking in the posts, it is also one of the platforms that allows you to connect more personally with your audience.

On Instagram, you can like, comment, tag, use unique hashtags, etc. My favorite type of Instagram contest is when you ask your audience members to submit a photo, and then you let everyone choose the winner. The community engagement is amazing when you add a little competition to the mix.

PRO TIP: Make sure you post a contest-related picture at least every other day to remind people to enter. 

Best Practices

As you may have noticed, this year has been a hotbed of contest activity all over social media. This is because now more than ever it is easy for brands to engage their audience and solicit contest entries in a flash; however, it does not mean that your contest can’t fail.

If you are planning to run a contest, remember to include these elements:

  • Offer an enticing prize that’s relevant to your brand and your community.
  • Create an engaging and easy way to enter. Remember the key lies with simplicity.
  • Make it easy for your audience to share the contest with their network.
  • Follow through and give a public recognition for the winner.
  • Cross-promote the contest by sharing information about it in all social media channels.
  • Interact with your audience! Like their entries, leave comments, basically, be present.


  • Open the floor and ask your audience what kind of prize they would like. Start your contest by letting them choose!
  • Offer more entries per share on social platform or referral.
  • Always thank all participants and give them a glimpse of the next contest.
  • Partner with another business to run a contest.

For a sample of social contests in action, check out our Pet Stars Columbus Contest website.
For more tips on how to create successful contests, check out HubSpot’s 
15+ Stats to Know Before Running Your Next Social Media Contest.

*written in collaboration with Andrea Jimenez, Social Media Strategist at The Social Firm

Jeromy Ko is a Brand Strategist at The Social Firm – a full-service digital advertising agency in Columbus, OH. His specialties lie in developing brand strategy, digital advertising and account management.

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