**Originally published December 6th, 2019. Updated May 27th, 2021**

Regardless of whether you are looking to build an email list or simply grow your follower base, social media contests are a great way to both engage your audience and significantly boost conversions. There are many reasons why you should create and run an online contest: They create excitement around your brand, expand its reach, and again, increase conversions. Contests are so useful because they offer your audience something you already know they want. You can then use that desire and hype around your product to not only achieve your marketing goals but also create a social media sensation that goes viral. Social media giveaways continue to be a favored campaign method, and according to research, Facebook remains the most popular  giveaway platform followed by Instagram

When a social media contest goes viral, users spread it across social media and online platforms like wildfire, where it gains a ton of traction and recognition. If your brand wants to create a viral online contest that converts in 2021, here are few ways to get started.


1. Clearly Define Your Goals

Creating a contest without a clear goal in mind is, frankly, an exercise in futility. You often lose sight of tracking your analytics, which can have a huge impact on your conversions. This is often the result of not narrowing your focus and putting effort into one or two areas that drive results. So ultimately, you end up creating a campaign that’s unorganized and has no defined end goal or next steps. This is a recipe for disaster.

While your brand may have many marketing objectives, try to stick to one or two for your social media contests. Narrowing it down to only a couple of goals enhances your focus and makes it much easier to achieve success. Spreading yourself too thin by trying to accomplish several things with one campaign typically brings lackluster results.

Ask yourself, “What do I want to accomplish with this contest?” Perhaps your goal is to build brand awareness, maybe drive traffic to your website or grow your email list, or even just increase your social media followers. Depending on which one or two goals you deem to be of most value, those goals should affect every step you take going forward. It’s important to build your contest around them in order to achieve or exceed them. To see real results, your goals must clearly be defined.


2. Make The Entry Process Simple And Easy

Think about it. If it’s complicated for users to enter your giveaway, chances are they won’t even bother with it.

So how do you simplify the process? First, start by minimizing the number of fields on your entry form. Recent studies show that complicated entry forms result in 81 percent of users abandoning them. Let’s be honest; people don’t want to waste their time entering their information if the process takes too long or asks for too much. Our suggestion is to use no more than four form fields for your contest entries.

Also, simplify the process by using one-step email signups. Keep it simple and easy. So instead of making users sign up for your contest and your email list individually, you can automatically add them to your list when they submit an entry to your contest. This method allows you to simultaneously increase email subscribers and contest entries, so users are not forced to perform the same action more than once.

Oh, and don’t forget to optimize for mobile! Prioritize making your event easy to enter for mobile users, both in functionality and mobile responsiveness.


3. Ensure The Contest Rules Align With Your Marketing Goals

It’s imperative that you are thinking ahead if you are hoping to make your contest go viral. You’re going to need to proactively think about what actions are needed in order to take it to the next level. Thus, you must plan accordingly.

Start by always create a clean, professional image for your event on social media. For example, research shows that tweets that include images are 150 percent more likely to get shared than those without an image. Combine that element with the idea of giving something away for free, and it’s not difficult to see how your giveaway can quickly go viral, with the right creative and proper incentive. This leads us to our next tip.


4. Select The Right Prize

This may seem like a given, but it’s an often overlooked element of a successful contest. Very few people are going to enter your event if the prize isn’t something they want or value. Viral contests not only go viral because of their entertainment value but also because they present an enticing offer to their audience.

But what if your brand doesn’t know what your audience would want to win? In this case, it’s time to conduct some research. If you haven’t already done so within your organization, create buyer personas of your target market. These will tell you important information about their demographics, buying behaviors, pain points, etc. The more information you collect, the easier it’ll be to discover a desirable prize to build your contest around.

picture of trophy with stars bursting from it's cup


5. Promote!!!

As is the case with nearly any piece of viral content, a social media contest doesn’t go viral by itself. It’s the result of many people working to spread the word and marketing it to the ideal audience. If you are not proactively promoting your giveaway and keeping tabs on its performance, it won’t gain traction or achieve the recognition it may deserve. And this often means you will not see an uptick in conversions.

Strategize your contest’s promotion. Create a plan with a structure that puts it in front of lots of users across several platforms. Utilize your email, social media, website channels to promote your contest, and generate excitement around the campaign.


Final Thoughts

There are many opportunities for brands to take advantage of social media contests to engage with their followers. This opportunity is arguably most apparent when looking to connect with the Millennial and Gen-Z market. A strong case could be made that it’s actually the best way to gain organic visibility, as contests can help exponentially when it comes to earning shares, likes, and impressions. Aside from increasing engagement, social media contests also get your brand in front of more potential customers than more traditional promotional methods.

You just need to come up with a creative social media contest idea and a prize your audience wants, such as free tickets, products, exclusive upgrades, etc. But make sure you give away a truly unique experience to catch your fans’ attention. This way you can outshine your competitors and establish your brand as a credible entity.

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