Should You Run a Social Media Contest?

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There are many benefits to what a social media contest can do for your business; it can grow the number of fans, increase engagement, build awareness, and so on. But some businesses have concerns about organizing a social media contest as they question the returns that they’ll be seeing from it. For example, would the fans you get from a contest still be involved and engaged with your business once the contest ends?

Here is a personal experience. I remembered the first time that I had participated in a social media contest. I remembered that it was on Twitter back in 2009, and we had to tweet using a hashtag in order to win a Macbook. I tweeted for a few days and as luck would have it, failed to win. Who ran the contest? I don’t even remember!

This is what most brands and businesses are doing wrongly; they are giving away wrong prizes and attracting contestants like myself. Ultimately, I only wanted the Macbook and I wasn’t interested in their business at all.

Last year, when I started a women’s apparel company with my girlfriend Jin Lee called Leneys, we only had a low number of fans on Facebook. With less than a thousand customers after a few weeks, there was no way our online-only shop was going to survive. We needed to get the word out about our page and so we decided to launch our very first Facebook contest.

Learning from experience, we knew we had to get our prizes right and so we gave away what was relevant to our audience – our apparels. Since we already had it, it would cost us lower compared to giving away an iPad, iPhone or a Macbook. We also made sure we followed Facebook’s promotional guidelines, such as using a Facebook contest app (we used Binkd), making sure we announced the winners correctly, etc, because we didn’t want to risk having our page deleted.

The results? The contest went viral! With the help of a little Facebook ad to push the contest as well as encouraging help from our friends, we were able grow our fans from less than 500 to over 2500 fans.

We saw an increase in page engagement as we were getting an audience that were relevant and are interested in our page. And we also found that the majority of our winners (eight of them), continue to buy our apparels until today.

If we had given away an iPad, we might end up attracting fans who were not really relevant to our (female apparel) business – such as perhaps a 20 year-old, male tech-enthusiast who was looking to win the iPad.

Long story short, we have nearly 18,000 fans on our page today and we love them because they are active and constantly engaging with us thanks to a little push we made earlier, constant engagement, and the right choices.


So the answer to my question? YESbut you gotta do it right.

A social media contest is a great way to attract different types of users.

Here are a few people you’ll attract:

  1. Users who only want to win the prize.
  2. Those who saw your ads on the contest and followed/like you.
  3. Those who may like your product but didn’t know you were on Facebook.
  4. Those who ignore ads but trust their friends who like/share your contest.

The third and fourth types are the people that you want on your page. Since they tend to ignore ads, they are incredibly tough to reach out to. This is one of the main reasons why contests can be more effective than adverts because they might have friends who would join your contest and share it on their wall, hence making your page visible in their newsfeed. Since they tend to trust their friends and you’re presenting something relevant to them, they will ‘like’ your page and join your contest.

Contests like these tend to work because it eliminates people who aren’t potential customers.  It is designed to target the right demographic and to maximize relevance to your target audience.  The right prize will definitely help

To sum everything up, bad fans from bad prizes will hurt your page, because they are only interested in your prize, they will lower your page engagement by a lot too. My humble two cents? When it comes to building a community, quality is better than quantity.

Don’t forget, a social media contest is like a first date, getting them right is the first step and the second would be to work hard on keeping them.

Aaron Lee
This monthly Social Media Contests column is contributed by Aaron Lee. Aaron is the social media manager at, a comprehensive social media promotion platform that allows businesses to build and manage digital promotions and contests. Aaron is also the founder and writer at +Aaron Lee
Aaron Lee


Grand Master of Customer Delight @PostPlanner. Trying to perfect the art of making cappuccino while running a business. Introvert with awesome hair.
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  1. says

    Excellent advice – or “right on” as we would have said in my youth. :-)

    RELEVANCE, Relevance, Relevance – that is the mantra of those who wish to succeed. (That – and “get recommended”.

  2. says

    Well said!
    I agree completely that selecting the correct prize for your promotion is paramount to meeting your goals, particularly when you have a specific audience you are trying to target. You Mac example is a perfect situation where the prize doesn’t always meet the goals. I wrote a similar article on our blog about the importance of selecting the correct prize before you worry about where you’re going to host it or how you’re going to promote it: is definitely figuring out who your audience is and then finding the right prize for them (for some products with a very broad audience going with a more generic prize may be the right fit but 90% of the time you can likely find something that will resonate with your audience and get them excited about your brand (not just the prize)

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