By Steph Jones

Social Media Competitions – The Benefits

January 9th, 2023
11 min read

Social media competitions are constantly a hot topic of conversation. Why? They’re a simple, yet effective way of generating increased reach and engagement for your business, regardless of how well-established your brand or social network is.

There are a number of benefits to running competitions over social media as well as some potential pitfalls. In this post, we’re going to explore these as well as some helpful bits of advice about running competitions.

If done well, they’re a great tool so let’s get started!

A social media competition is a way of raising brand awareness amongst your target audience by offering them the chance to win a prize in return for engaging with your social media account.

Social media competitions are most commonly held on Facebook or Twitter due to the sheer user base and the simplicity of publicising and running them. We’re going to take a closer look at these in more detail and many of the principles carry over to competitions held on virtually any social network.

One important point first:

Types of competitions

A social media competition generally falls into one of two categories. Either a ‘raffle’ style where the entry criteria is very simple and a winner is picked at random or a more formal competition where entries require a little more brain power and a winner is chosen based on their entry. (These two are not mutually exclusive i.e. you could have to think about your entry but the winner is still just picked at random, you’re just less likely to think hard about it!).

Raffle style competitions usually require a post ‘like’ on Facebook or a ‘retweet’ or use of a hashtag on Twitter. Entrants are usually asked to like the Facebook page itself and follow the Twitter account (in a bid to increase these metrics). Because of how easy these competitions are to enter, you will generate lots of engagements, reach and entries but the trade off is that many will just be in it for free stuff.

more formal, actual, competition might require a caption for a chosen picture, to make a suggestion for pizza toppings (for an Italian restaurant) or their favourite holiday destination and why. This requires a little more effort from entrants but can generate more of a spectacle. You are likely to attract less overall entries with this style of competition but the quality of entrant will be higher.

Pro-tip: Avoid competitions when there is a single correct answer, especially if someone can Google it. Use suggestion-based entry criteria or ‘how many badgers [or whatever] are in this picture’ as these can be quite tricky!

What are the benefits of social media competitions?

The major benefit to most companies is brand awareness. Whether you’re measuring that by the number of followers or fans gained or the number of interactions or mentions or simply ‘reach’ – competitions attracts entries! If entry requires a ‘follow’ and a ‘retweet’, you’ll get them. Why? Because people love winning free stuff!

This gives rise to an instant increase in brand awareness and potentially web traffic but remember that new fans and followers are going to see your social content in the future. This means you will have medium and long term benefits by having a larger social sphere of influence contributing to increased reach, engagements, web traffic and sales.

Brand reputation – remember, you’re giving something away for free. Although it’s quite a blatant publicity stunt, there is still a degree of generosity involved (if the prize is any good!). Furthermore, you’ll have a customer for life in your lucky winner! For well-established companies, they are often used as a way of positioning themselves well against competitors, keeping their brand fresh in the minds of consumers.

Which companies should do them?

Firstly, you must be clear what you are trying to achieve by holding a competition. Think about what type of entrants it will attract and if these people fall into your target market. For example, it makes more sense for a BtoC business to hold social media competitions as public consumers are most likely to be entering. Businesses with a broad target market will not only attract more entrants and, therefore, engagement but are likely to be attracting people who might feasibly buy their product or service. It is a lot harder to generate genuine return on your competition if your business has a very narrow target audience; finding enough potential entrants to make it worthwhile could be difficult.

How to run social media competitions

 If you’ve been convinced that a good social media competition is just what your brand needs to build its online presence, let’s look at the basics of running a Facebook and Twitter competition. Remember, the main principles can be applied across all the major platforms but these are the two main ones worth covering in more detail.

So we have a ‘raffle’ where entry is very straight forward and a winner is chosen at random, and a ‘competition’ where a task is set and the winner is who you think has done the best job. These differences do not really affect the running of the competition from the business’s point of view until it comes to picking a winner. The difference matters more to the entrants who either face a ‘box ticking’ exercise by retweeting and following, for example, or doing something a little more creative like entering a witty caption, submitting a photo or making a suggestion for something.

Twitter/X Competitions

The main benefit to running competitions on Twitter/X is the ability to reach a very wide audience relatively quickly. This actually relies on the ability to hashtag effectively. Thousands of people search the hashtag ‘competition’ every day to see if there’s anything they’re interested in so be sure to contain #competition or #win in your relevant tweets. Also, should there be a specific theme to your competitions so people know what to look for, but remember to keep it simple! Make sure your entrants ‘mention’ you in the tweet to ensure you see it but also to generate brand awareness. Make ‘following’ you a necessity allowing you to pick a winner easily and to grow your following!

Twitter competitions generally fall into the ‘raffle’ type competition. This is because Twitter is such a fast-paced platform that you’re unlikely to attract high levels of engagement if entrants have to do too much. 

Facebook Competitions

We all know that Facebook remains the mother of all social media platforms. It’s true that virtually all businesses have members of their target audience on there and competitions are easier to target and promote on Facebook.

Due to the visual nature of the platform, your Facebook competition post should always feature an appealing image. This might be something relating to the competition, your brand or the prize, or a combination! Which ever it is, as usual, make sure it is the right size and format for Facebook!

Using the words “competition time” suffices to draw attention to the post and get you audience to read it. Make sure the entry requirements are clear and simple and there’s not too much text in the post. This is where you tell your audience what the entry criteria are and what they can win.

E.g. Be in with a chance to win one of two smoothie makers by telling us what you’d put in your afternoon smoothie.

Facebook competitions used to comprise simply of “like and share this photo to be in with a chance of winning [insert prize here]”, aptly known as “like and share” competitions. Naturally, due to the raffle nature of the competition and how easy they were to enter, these competitions would attract hundreds or thousands of entries and generate ridiculous reach. On average each person on Facebook has around 150 friends, if 10 people share the page, its reach has increased to 1,500 people, if 10 of these share it, that’s 15,000, if 10 of their friends…. you get the idea.

However! Things are not as simple as they seem; Facebook is keen to ensure that it remains a social platform, one that is driven by user-generated content. They want to prevent people’s news feed from being filled up by what they class as low-quality content provided by advertisers, marketers and businesses at the expense of seeing the updates of our “friends”. Heaven forbid would we want to miss out on photos of a friend from school we haven’t seen for five years “finding themselves” on their gap year in south East Asia.

In simpler terms, organic, social content trumps corporate content and advertising. Always refer to Facebook’s competition rules – see here for more details.

You’ll still come across the old “like and share” model used by a lot of companies even though they are against Facebook’s terms of use. There are many very respectable companies who continue to run these competitions, completely unaware of Facebook’s rules and regulations so be sure to check them out – the link is posted below.

Competition pitfalls – things to know

Now, there are a number of things you need to bear in mind should you look to run a social media competition; most of which follow common sense. Do not underestimate the need to follow correct procedures on social media – there are now countless stories of companies being sued for misrepresentation, false advertising and data protection breaches!

Always be clear from the outset; a) what constitutes an ‘entry’ to the competition and b) how the winner will be selected. You’d we well advised to set out the terms and conditions of the competition on the company website or Facebook page including a definitive start and end date (especially if the prize is of significant value).

With the introduction of GDPR, you need to be explicit about what you intend to do with any data collected in the competition.

Never publicly disclose any information about the winner and do not suggest they provide their contact details or address in the public domain. Always do this in private or direct messages (Facebook and Twitter, respectively) or take the correspondence offline completely.

Facebook now has quite a stringent promotion and competitions policy which you can find here.

If you are a restaurant or a venue that has a TripAdvisor page, do not offer a prize in return for TripAdvisor reviews. This is strictly against TripAdvisor regulations because it is seen as an incentive to leave a review. 

There are still major gaps in the legislation that governs social media and hard and fast rules are not easy to come by. If in doubt, stick by advertising regulations as set by bodies such as the ASA and other legal best practices.

Three ways to boost the success of your competitions:

  1. Make the prize awesome – whilst this seems obvious, great prizes capture the imagination and motivate people to try that little bit harder (especially important when asking entrants to do more than just ‘like’ or ‘retweet’ an update). Great prizes include meals out at a well-known restaurant (perfect for local businesses), vouchers worth more than £100 and trendy goods like iPads.

    Pro tip: If your company is doing a giveaway of one of its products, make sure you don’t do it too often or you’ll devalue your product!

  2. Have more than one winner – this is a real psychological one. If people think there’s more than one chance of winning, they’re much more likely to enter.

  3. Promote your Facebook competition – capitalise on all your extra engagement by putting a promoted post budget behind you competition post. Ensure you target the post at your target audience to maximise your return by attracting genuine potential customers. Pinning your competition post to the top of your Facebook page is also a good idea, as is sharing it over Twitter too.

So here’s the bottom line:

Competitions on social media are a great way to generate brand exposure if well timed and executed. There are a number of potential pitfalls to avoid but providing common sense prevails, they are relatively easy to navigate.

Steph Jones.
Steph Jones

Head of Social

A hands-on Head of Social, with extensive experience across Charity, Retail and eCommerce, both agency side and client side, with brands such as WWF, Virgin Pure and Purity Brewing. Steph considers all facets of the customer journey through social and paid media, as well as creating engaging content in line with the business goals to capture attention and convert audiences.