5 Mistakes Businesses Make When Running A Social Contest

4 Sep 2020 | Marketing, Social Media

Social contests are a great way to build your audience and engage potential customers.

Good social competitions will engage your target audience and capture them in your marketing machine. Unfortunately, many businesses fall short of this goal and as a result, end up running a contest that delivers no strategic value to their business.

In this article, we’ll outline five mistakes businesses make when running a social contest.

1 – Your prize is not very unique

One of the best ways to generate plenty of buzz about your giveaway is to make sure the prizes are unique. We’ve found that the more impressive the reward, the better results you will get from the contest.

Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box and create something bespoke for the campaign. Some examples might include a:

  • Money can’t buy experience.
  • One of a kind collectable.
  • Customised piece of merchandise

Remember, your prize needs to resonate with your target audience. Ideally, your prize would be something that your target would be willing to pay for if they had the opportunity.

2 – You make it too hard to enter the competition

I always find it annoying how many hoops businesses make users jump through to enter their contests.

Sometimes, a user might be required to perform a certain number of social actions to enter the competition (like, share, comment, message and repost!). Or in some cases, they might even make you search their website for an obscure piece of information you have to put in a quiz box to enter the contest. All of these requirements are just a barrier to getting people into their marketing machine.

I think businesses doing things like this do it because they believe it captures a more engaged customer. However, I’d argue that the cost of capturing this audience is too great when you consider that they are probably losing out on droves of other entrants.

Remember, the goal of your competition is to build an audience in your marketing machine, not to give away a grand prize!

Make it as easy as possible for them to enter the competition and give them opportunities to get extra entries by performing more actions.

3 – You don’t incentivise entrants to share the contest with others

The contests that get the best results are ones that get entrants to do a lot of the leg work for promoting the competition to their friends and then they promote to their friends and so on.

To increase the chance of making your campaign viral, you need to think about how you will incentivise entrants to share the contest.

Here are some ideas to incentivise users to share with their friends and family:

  • Extra entries – Whenever an entrant shares the campaign, and someone else signs up, they will get an additional entry into the competition. The more people they refer into the contest, the better the chance the original entrant has at winning the competition.
  • Rewards – Instead of giving an entrant extra entries into the campaign for every person they refer, you can provide them with a gift when they reach referral milestones. For example, they might get a special reward every 5-people they refer to sign up.

4 – You focus on the wrong goal

For many operators, they see running a social contest as a way of increasing their followers. Unfortunately, this provides little strategic value to the business.

It’s no secret that the organic reach of social is declining. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram want you to pay to boost your posts to get traction. According to Hootsuite, only 1 in 19 followers will see your organic posts. By all means work at increasing your followers, so that you can ultimately increase your organic reach, even if it only by a small amount. But we think that having all of your eggs in the one basket is not going to deliver the results you’re hoping for.

As we see it there are three main goals you should measure and rank the success of your competition on, they are:

  1. Social Engagement – How many people followed your channel or reacted/commented on the post. If your campaign doesn’t generate enough buzz on social, then it’s unlikely that you will get the desired results from the campaign.
  2. Email Subscribers – Getting new subscribers to your email database is a great way to build your business. Email marketing is 40x more effective at acquiring new customers than social media, so make sure you combine the two mediums to get great results for your campaign.
  3. Sales / Bookings – This should be the ultimate goal of any campaign you run. If you’re running competitions without this in mind, then you need to take a step back and rethink your strategy.

Make sure you have clear objectives on what you want to achieve from the contest. At the end of it, measure your results against your goals to see how you performed and let that guide you on your future efforts.

5 – You don’t have a strategy for turning entrants into paying customers

If you’re running a contest and you have no strategy for turning the audience you capture into a paying customer then I have to ask, why are you running the competition in the first place?

We know that people have entered the competition because they like the prize you are giving away. They are an engaged audience who have expressed an interest in your product/service. Why wouldn’t you try and sell them something?

Picture this scenario.

You’ve come across a competition online that is giving away a holiday for two nights for a group 5 mates, you enter it right away and share it with your close friends. You and your friend discuss winning the competition and even start dreaming of being on this holiday.

Unfortunately, you don’t win the competition, but you get an email from the business who ran the contest. In the email is a one-time offer for you to consider that is similar to the prize you wanted to win.

Would you be likely to consider paying for this opportunity?

I think you would.


Social contests are a great way to capture a target audience in your marketing machine. In this article, we’ve identified five common mistakes businesses make when starting a competition. A lot comes down to how you plan your campaign and taking a more strategic approach to what you want to get out of running it.

If you’ve got an idea for an upcoming contest and you’d like us to take a look at your plan, don’t hesitate to get in touch to organise a time to chat.

Learn how to take the guesswork out of winning more bookings.

The ”3 Steps to Increasing Your Bookings” guide will step you through the process of launching a marketing machine that will see you winning bookings on autopilot.

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