How can you come up with a fast and surefire way to generate huge audience engagement on social media?

Put together a social media contest or giveaway!

There’s not much that compares to the excitement customers get when winning something, and it can be a great way for your brand to stand out from the crowd.

Curious how to run a successful social media contest that actually converts? We’ll cover all of the must-follow steps in this article so you can start building an exciting rapport with your online followers.

Why use social media contests

Before we jump into the how, let’s cover the why. Don’t hold social media contests and give away product and prizes just because you see other brands doing it. There are a lot of concrete reasons that these have been proven to work.

1. Grow your following

When you run a social media contest, you can ask someone to like or follow you as a way of gaining entry. This can help to grow your following, increasing the percentage of people that might see your content.

social media contest - grow your following example

The above Instagram post is a great example of a brand working to grow their following by requiring a follow as part of their giveaway entry.

2. Generate brand awareness

When people like, comment on and share your content, social media algorithms recognize that and more people are likely to see it and learn about your business. Plus, many businesses will pair with others for giveaways, introducing you to their audience.

social media contests - brand awareness example

The above example is a great way to increase brand awareness. By partnering with different brands or influencers and requiring each person’s audience to follow all of the giveaway partners, you’re reaching entirely new audiences and increasing awareness of your brand.

3. Increase your email list

One popular method of gaining entries to a contest or giveaway is requesting people sign up and enter their name and email address as a form of entry. As long as you detail what they’re signing up for in your opt-in box and terms and conditions, you can add these entries to your email list.

social media contests - grow your email list example

When you read the description of the above giveaway, there are several different ways to enter, but you get double the chance if you sign up for The Whitening Co’s email list.

This is a great way to increase your lead generation through hosting giveaways, and this example also shows a really good way to be candid about what users are signing up for.

4. Jumpstart your engagement

Social media competitions are a great way to increase buzz around your page and get your followers engaging with your content. s you can see from the examples above, almost any route to running a contest will lead to your brand getting additional exposure and more audience insight. Be ready to use the boost of interest a well-targeted contest will generate and follow up with additional impactful social content.

How to run a social media contest

Now that you understand the benefits that running a social media contest can have for your business, let’s get serious.

There are a few steps that need to be taken each time you get started with a new contest or giveaway, so we’ll run through each one so you know exactly how to get started on your own.

Step 1: Set your goals

You know all about setting SMART goals for social media. Putting together a social media contest isn’t much different.

There are different reasons to host contests, each one leading towards a different type of social media contest or a different form of entry. So what is the goal here?

Determine whether you’re trying to increase social media followers (yes, this is typically a vanity metric, but when you’re aiming for a milestone like the 10,000 Instagram followers to get the swipe up feature in Stories, you need to make things happen), generate more leads or simply increase brand awareness.

Each of those can lead to different types of contests, so you need to start out by knowing what you’re trying to achieve.

Step 2: Determine your contest type

After you know what your goals are, you can base the type of contest on what outcome you’re looking for.

If you want to increase your following, request entrants to follow your page or profile to enter. This is especially popular on Instagram.

If you want to generate more leads and increase your email list, you can request that people sign up or enter their email before entering. These can be done on a landing page and linked from any platform, or you can create a Facebook tab specifically for your contest.

Or if you’re most interested in simply growing your reach and generating brand awareness, you can partner with other companies and both share the giveaway on your profile, or you can ask entrants to tag a friend as a form of entry and spread the word.

You can even have a social media photo contest as a way of gathering user-generated content for future use. Check out these Instagram photo contest to gather inspiration.

There are many types of social media contests to choose from, but they all depend on your audience and your goals.

Step 3: Pinpoint your budget and prizes

You need to know what your marketing department is willing and able to spend on the contest or giveaway.

If you plan on doing these regularly – which is a great strategy to keep your followers excited and engaged – make sure you plan out a budget for the year.

Once you know how much you’re able to spend on the giveaway, you can break it up between ads to promote the contest and money to put behind the prize. Decide if you’re going to give away product, a cash prize or something else altogether.

Just remember that your prize needs to be something relevant to your specific audience so that you’re not attracting entrants that will never convert to customers.

Step 4: Know your audience

First of all, you need to know who your audience is and where they spend their time on social media. Once you understand this, you’re able to determine which platform(s) you should be focusing on with your social media sweepstakes.

Knowing and understanding your audience can also help you determine what type of prize or contest would make the most sense.

What would entice your audience to enter a giveaway? What kinds of actions would they be willing to take?

Remember that your contests should cater to your customers and target audience, not just potential entrants, so everything you do should stay as relevant as possible.

For instance, add labels and familiar language when you’re addressing your target audience. Tech companies might call out for marketers, while clothing companies appeal to “fashionistas.”

Step 5: Test different platforms

Whenever you’re trying out a new strategy, you should always, always, always test it out in many different ways.

In this case, you should be testing out different platforms to see which one generates the largest response to your social media giveaways. While there seem to be never-ending options when it comes to social platforms, there’s always a number one when it comes to strategy performance.

Figure out if Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or another platform will generate the best results, then focus on that platform to lead your future recurring contests.

You can also skip this step if you already know there’s a social media platform that outperforms all of the rest for your business. You want to stick to what you know works, so don’t waste time testing if you’ve seen proven results thus far.

Step 6: Understand contest rules

Each platform has specific rules for contests that you must adhere to in order to remain in compliance. Make sure that you read, understand and follow each of the rules for the platform you’ve chosen.

Here are a few of the most important rules for contests on each platform.


You can check out their full guidelines here, but it’s important to remember that you need to clearly state what the contest or promotion is. Be sure to let your audience know that Facebook is in no way affiliated with or a sponsor of your contest.

And you also cannot use friend connections to increase the reach of your contest, like having people share the post for more entries, or even tagging friends in a post as a form of entry.


The most important concern for Twitter contests is stopping the creation of multiple fake accounts and the dissemination of duplicate tweets across accounts.

This is why their guidelines focus on ensuring users running contests and promotions discourage their entrants from creating multiple accounts and tweeting the exact same thing over and over again.


Instagram is owned by Facebook, so many of their guidelines are similar. For example, you must let your audience know that Instagram is not in any way sponsoring, administering or endorsing your contest.

Furthermore, you cannot inaccurately tag content or encourage your audience to do so, i.e., do not tag users in a photo if they are not in that photo.

Once you’ve chosen your platform, be sure you know the social media contest rules like the back of your hand.

Step 7: Run your contest

We’ve made it! It’s time to start that contest. Announce it on your chosen social media platform, run ads to increase your reach even further and cross-promote it on other platforms, your email newsletter and even your website to create more buzz.

Announce your prizes, set the length of your contest and watch as the entries pour in.

Step 8: Measure your results

Once your contest is over, you’ve announced your winner and sent off their prize, it’s time to dig in and check out concrete results.

How well did your social media contest actually perform?

This goes all the way back to your goal. What were you trying to achieve? You want to measure results based on what your objectives were from the start.

And you can use Sprout Social’s reports to help you measure each one of them.

Check the report specific to the platform you ran your contest on, pull your trends report to measure hashtag use and review how engagement shows the impact of your contest.

Sprout IG Hashtag report

Contests on social media should be all about improving engagement, reach, followers and potential customers, and you want to make sure you’re on the up and up by consistently checking in on your reports and testing new contest types and platforms.

Get help on your next social media contest

Running contests on social media is a great way to get your audience more involved in your online presence, but you want to make sure that you’re seeing results.

Testing different platforms, playing with contest types and alternating prizes are all great ways to see success from your social media contests. You also want to ensure that you’re only promoting your contest and giving away freebies to your target audience.

Follow the above eight steps to create a successful social media contest that converts. Start a free Sprout Social trial and see how Sprout’s features can make running and monitoring the results of your contest even easier.