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Best Practices for Running a Social Contest in 2016

Over the past ten years, I’ve observed many different marketing tactics in action. From direct mail to re-targeting, I’ve seen it all.

There are a wealth of different promotion strategies that would be valuable for your business. However, if you’re looking to build your email list, nothing converts like a social media contest.

Social contests are a simple and engaging way to significantly grow your email subscriber base.

For the last 2 1/2 years, I’ve run growth at Heyo, a social contest app for businesses. In this post, I’ll share three critical steps for running a successful social contest and one real-life example of how a Heyo customer knocked it out of the park.

Step 1 – Pick the Right Prize


Which prize should I offer?

We hear that question a lot, and there is no one, single prize that will work for every contest. However, there are some prizes I’d recommend that you avoid.

Do not give away something generic, like a piece of consumer electronics. This includes an iPad or anything similar. It’s too appealing. If you offer an iPad, you may collect a lot of entries (especially if you promote it well); however, most of those entries will probably be horrible leads for your business. An iPad simply does not pass the “pre-teen test.” I’ll explain.

I have an 11-year-old son, and he’s at the age where he really likes cool new gadgets. He also loves to hoard money. If my son would like to win your prize, then it’s not a good prize. This includes the following:

  • An iPad
  • A $50 Amazon gift card
  • A digital camera
  • Anything similar

Instead, make sure you select a prize that is both relevant and compelling to your fans. That way, your contest entries are more likely to be solid leads for your business. Here are some prize ideas from different verticals to give you a little inspiration:

  • Real estate: a $100 gift card to Pottery Barn
  • Restaurant: a reservation for two + free dinner on your busiest night
  • Information marketer: an autographed copy of your book + bundle of relevant tools
  • Travel agents: a “staycation” package with tickets for local events and a gift certificate to a local restaurant
  • Clothing boutique: a trendy new outfit from the latest Spring lineup

Deciding on a relevant prize will take more time and creativity than offering a free iPad, but it will be worth it when you start collecting high-quality leads for your business.

Step 2 – Make Your Contest Mobile-Friendly

mobile friendly

Based on research we did at Heyo during 2015, over 60% of contest entrants are now coming from mobile and tablet, on average. That’s not surprising when you consider that U.S. adults are now spending more time every day browsing the internet from mobile phones than they are from computers. Your social contest must be mobile responsive or you’ll miss out on half of your potential new leads.

There are several social contest platforms that offer mobile versions of campaigns, including Heyo. Look for a platform with mobile-responsive templates. That way you don’t have to lift a finger.

Step 3 –  Enlist Your Fans to Promote Your Social Contest


According to Global Web Index, three of the top reasons people use social media are to:

  • Stay in touch with friends
  • Share content with others
  • Share their opinion

Simply put, people want to connect and share content via social media platforms, so you should include prominent share options on your social media contest page to make it easy for them to do so. If just one out every five entrants shares your social contest, then you’ll pick up a lot of new impressions and leads based on virality alone.

Future of Social

Every business has different preferred social networks, but I’d recommend including share options for Facebook and Twitter at the very least.

PRO TIP: Make sure that your metadata is set up properly for your social contest page. If you miss this step, then when entrants share your contest it may look funky, since social platforms use that metadata to set up the post. Most social campaign platforms will give you an easy way to set up your contest page metadata.

Step 4 – Check Out What Worked


The Prepared Pantry, a specialty grocery store located in Idaho, ran a smart sweepstakes that converted extremely well. The store offered a top-of-the-line panini maker, along with two specialty bread mixes, as a prize. To enter, fans simply had to enter their name and email address. They were also prompted to Like the Prepared Pantry Facebook Page, and share the contest on Facebook and Twitter.

With 4,392 impressions and 1,972 entries, this social media contest was a big success for The Prepared Pantry. Every savvy marketer knows that a landing page conversion rate of 10-20% is amazing. With a whopping 44.8% conversion rate, this contest knocked it out of the park.  Let’s break down how The Prepared Pantry did as it relates to my three steps:

  • Prize: The Prepared Pantry is a speciality grocery store that focuses on foodies. They know their audience and picked a prize to suit them by giving away a specialty panini press and two artisan bread mixes. CHECK.
  • Mobile-Friendly: They used Heyo as their contest platform so their social contest page was mobile-responsive with no additional effort. CHECK.
  • Enlisting Fans: They prompted fans to share the contest page on Facebook and Twitter. Click here to see how that went for them. CHECK.

Summary and Checklist

As I said up front, social contests are the best way to build your email list and can also provide a lot of great engagement.

If you’re planning to run a social contest, I’d recommend following this short checklist to stay organized:

  1. Write down your goals. What is your ideal outcome? More email leads? Something else? Doing this helps you stay focused and make decisions that help you accomplish your goal.
  2. Jot down a few notes about your target customer. Is it a college-aged woman? A retired person? Where are they? What are they most passionate about? Knowing this helps you select your prize and promote the contest.
  3. Select a contest platform. There are many great, affordable options available. Not surprisingly, I’m a fan of Heyo. It uses a highly visual designer, is easy to use, and is backed with great customer support. You can also compare social contest apps.
  4. Build and launch your contest. This is the fun part! If you’re feeling stuck, you can watch this video to get some design tips.
  5. Promote your contest. Use every organic channel you can. You can also consider well-targeted, paid promotion.
  6. Analyze results. Examine your results. Are you happy with how your social contest performed? If not, break down the result into pieces. Not enough impressions? You need to work on your promotion strategy. Did it not convert well? Improve your contest page design or try a different prize. Remember, smart marketers test!

Christopher Riegger

Chris Riegger is the founder of Growth Fruit, a growth consultancy for SaaS companies. He believes that great product leads and smart marketing follows. He writes about his experience at

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