Thinking about running your very first contest on social media?  Thinking about the details that need to be included? The guidelines?  The approved promotional posts? Have no fear!  It’s easier than you think.   All it takes is a little research (and some creative thinking on your end).

Step one: What type of contest you would like to run?

What are you looking for your followers to do?  If you are trying to increase engagement – a simple photo contest will do just that.  If you want to gain more followers – try a sweepstakes campaign.

Photo Contests

Contests are a great way to see what your followers will share and who they will share it with, especially if it’s personal.  We all know that people love to talk about themselves and share the things going on in their lives – so base your photo contest on that!  Do you sell pet supplies?  Try a pet photo contest.  Do you offer home improvement products?  Try a contest that requires followers to post a photo of a project they are working on.  Make it personal, but try to link it back to your business.

Sweepstakes Campaign

Sweepstakes are a surefire way to gain new followers.  If someone is not following you, they will want a task that is quick and easy.  You can encourage them to like your page before entering, but be sure to make it simple!  Include daily winners to make the campaign more exciting and more attractive to non-followers.  This creates a sense of excitement and prolongs the campaign engagement.

Both of these options are not only fun for your fans, but also beneficial to you!  If you are looking to photos for your business, you can use the photo contest to get them quickly.  If your company is active in the community, your sweepstakes winners can choose the charities where they would like to donate.

Step two: What are the rules and how long will the contest run?

Here’s where you need to think about exactly how “picky” you want (or need) to be.

When running a photo contest – are you going to allow digitally edited photos?  Will you allow text, filters, collages, etc.?  Honestly, the contest will run smoother if photos with these types of edits are not eligible to win.  Now, that doesn’t mean you won’t receive any like this; so you will have to filter out those photos.  But you can always reach out to those entrants and ask for another photo!  Let them know why their photo is not eligible, and you’d be happy to enter another one if they’d like to re-enter.

With a sweepstakes, your rules will be more complex.  If you’re going to give out more than one prize, you need to include the information about each winner in your rules.  If they are able to donate a match to a charity, mention whether or not that charity needs to be a 501(c)(3).  Are you giving out daily prizes?  Include what each daily winner will receive and what time that entry needs to be received by the day before.  Can they win more than once?  Make sure you make it clear that if they already won a daily prize, they can or cannot win again.

All contest rules will require you to include when and how you will contact the winner.  The best way to ensure you have the contact information you need for each potential winner is to include it in the rules – all entries must include name, address, phone number, etc.  Whatever you need, tell them it’s required for entry.

Step three: How will you choose the winner(s)?

This step is crucial, but the decision can be made very easily.

Photo Contest:

I’ve run a contest where the winners were chosen by the public and one where the winners were chosen by an internal committee.  Both have been successful.  The choice is yours.  If you’re looking to use the winning photos for something specific, you may want to have an internal committee choose the winner so the outcome is true to the contest rules.  If the contest is just for fun, let the public choose!  This is a great way to organically promote your page.  People want to win, so they will share their photo from your page with their friends.  It’s a win-win!


The only way to choose winners for a sweepstakes drawing is randomly.  How you do the random selection is up to you, and depends on the size of the sweepstakes.  If your audience is small, you may be able to use the “choose from a hat” method.  If you have a larger audience, you’ll want to use a tool to help you do the choosing – excel has a random pick feature that you can use.  Just make sure you have every entry in that spreadsheet!

Step 4: How will you promote posts on your social media pages?

Do you have a budget for the contest?  Do you need to get these posts approved?

The budget is the easy part.  Depending on the reach you are looking for, you can set aside $100 for promoted posts during your contest and see great success.  This is because as the people who see your sponsored posts enter the contest, they are likely to share it with their friends (mostly because they are looking for likes on their photo, but hey, a share is a share!).

If you need to get your promoted posts approved, that can be the tricky part. As marketers and social media content developers, we like to use crazy grammar and sometimes make up our own words.  Find out if your posts need to be approved by your compliance department, and if they do, work with them to understand just what caliber of silliness they are going to allow.  And if you run your own business, go wild with your creative writing!

And that’s it!  The most important thing to remember: make the process easy for your entrants.  The simpler the contest, the more entries you will receive; and therefore, the more success you will see!  The best thing about running a social media contest?  You’re not the only one!  So take advantage of researching some other contests that haven been done and how the process was created.  This will make the time you spend developing your contest less stressful and a lot more fun.

Let us know what successful contests you’ve ran at your FI in the comments below!