As a marketer, you’re always looking for new ways to engage more with existing customers and reach new audiences. We all know that when done right, social media contests can be great tools for driving engagement and increasing brand visibility.

Whether you’re gathering user-generated content or just having fun and rewarding your audience, contests have become somewhat of a staple in marketers’ outreach strategies. But before you start handing out prizes, you need to make sure your campaign is set up for success.

A poorly run contest can not only get you in trouble with your audience, but with the social platforms you host them on as well. Here are a few questions you should ask your social team before launching a social media contest to ensure success.

What Does Success Look Like?

Like all social media campaigns, make sure that you’ve clearly defined what it is you’re hoping to achieve through the contest. Do you want to attract new customers, increase newsletter subscribers, or sell a product? Don’t limit yourself to superficial objectives either. For example, it doesn’t make sense to launch a contest to increase your already-large follower base. Instead, focus on ways to kickstart engagement among the group — which will ultimately lead to more followers anyway.

As Social Media Examiner pointed out, you can sometimes meet multiple objectives at the same time. Consider a tweet-to-win contest in which you provide participants with messaging to share ahead of time. For example, “If I win a $500 Visa gift card, I’ll spend it on… #ABCgiveaway @yourcompany.” Not only does this help promote engagement and attract new followers, but it also gives you deeper insight into your audience.

Once you’ve established a clear objective, you’ll need to decide which metrics you’ll use to determine success. Know what metrics you’ll track as well as what numbers you need to reach in order to call the campaign a success. This is something that your entire team will need to sign off on. Figuring out all of this ahead of time will make it much easier for reporting once the contest is finished.

Who? What? Where? When?

Once you’ve finalized the objective for your contest you’ll need to focus on the logistics of it. Deciding upon the theme of your contest is only half the battle; the other half is integrating it into your workflow. How and where do you plan to promote the contest? When will it start and end? Where will you accept entries? Who will track your success metrics? All of these questions need to be answered before you start promoting your contest.

You can also save time by anticipating questions from the public before you launch. For example, know who’s eligible to participate and clearly outline the rules for participation. Additionally, know the duration of the contest, what the prize is, how you’ll get the prize to the winner, and when the winner can expect delivery of said prize. More importantly, understand how the prize provides value by focusing on a reward that aligns with your brand and the needs of your target audience.

A great example of this can be seen in Dove’s King of the Castle campaign, which was built around the brand’s Men+Care product line. Instead of giving away an iPad, Dove teamed up with HGTV’s Jonathan Scott to giveaway a huge home improvement upgrade. The prizes ranged from a moat with a functioning drawbridge to the ultimate backyard treehouse to a top-of-the-line home automation system.

What’s the Best Platform?

Before you announce your contest, be sure that your promotion is safe to run on that social platform. Facebook probably has the most extensive set of rules, although they have recently relaxed a bit. You can now use Likes, posts, and private messages as voting mechanisms, and promotions can be held on Page Timelines.

Twitter offers a similar promotions guide which primarily focuses on preventing spam, duplicate posts, and discourages the creation of multiple accounts. In the same vain, Pinterest is intent on maintaining quality over quantity. The site’s guidelines prevent you from requiring entrants to pin specific items or add a minimum number of Pins.

You might also find that one stands out more than the others based on your target audience contest structure. For example, if you’re looking for simple engagement that involves quick but creative responses, Twitter and Facebook are great options. However, if longer engagement is your goal, you might consider Pinterest. Everything moves fast on Twitter and Facebook since both networks focus on real-time conversations and content tends to have a shorter lifespan as a result.

As you can see, social media contests require extra planning and maintenance from your team, but if executed correctly, they can provide an immediate and lasting return for your brand.

[Image credit: EAWB, mkhmarketing]