The Art of Crafting Engaging Social Media Contests

One way businesses work to increase brand loyalty is by engaging with their fans on social media by hosting a contest! There are two different goals for social media contests:

  1. Increase fan base – usually by hosting a sweepstakes contest where fans have to simply “click to enter” and fill out a form. This is an easy way for a business to gain more customer information, and it will increase the amount of likes or followers. The problem arises with brand loyalty and will they continue to come back to your brand page once the contest is over?
  2. Engage and reward existing fans – done by doing types of contests with a higher barrier of entry, such as photo or video submissions. By asking customers to take an extra step beyond filling out a form, fans who do are more engaged with the brand. Brands, on the other hand, can learn what the fans are truly interested in and, in turn, reward them by continuing to do things they like. This approach seems to increase brand loyalty as fans that are engaged with the brand have more of a vested interest in it and, therefore, will be more likely to continue to come back.

So which platform is best for hosting engaging social media contests? Each one of them can do it well in a slightly different way.


Facebook is the most common, and probably, easiest way to host a contest. Brands can decide if the contest will be hosted on the page or through a third party contest app. Both allow for fan engagement and are simple to use, but an app has a barrier to entry as consumers will have to accept a Facebook permission request. If a brand hosts the contest on a Facebook page, there are certain page guidelines on what is allowed.

Dove Real BeautyOne example of a great Facebook contest is Dove’s “Real Beauty Should Be Shared” contest. Dove launched a Facebook contest in May 2013 as part of the “Real Beauty” campaign. They asked participants to submit a photo of a friend and explain what makes them beautiful.

The engagement level was high because of the heartwarming element, and the brand got to interact with the fans in a very personal way. Fans were able to move past the brand and show their loved ones how much they cared about them.


Engaging fans with a contest is made simple on Twitter through the use of a hashtag or a call to action. Fans can upload a photo, reply back, retweet or favorite the tweet to enter a contest. Also, Twitter has some easy to follow contest guidelines for brands.

One example of a fun Twitter contest is Syfy’s Sharknado 2 contest. While it’s a little out of this world, the Syfy film went viral very quickly during the original broadcast on July 11, 2013. Thousands were tweeting about Sharknado, and it had three of the Top 10 trending topics: #sharknado, #syfy and #tarareid. Less than a week later, Syfy announced it would produce a sequel. Because of the explosive conversations around the broadcast of the film, the company decided to let the fans determine the new title.

This was a simple way for a brand to interact with its fan base, learn more about them and make them a part of the decision-making process. Fans interested in Syfy’s content were more likely to offer their suggestions. So while this may not have gained Syfy a lot of new fans, it put total control of the contest in the hands of its most loyal ones.


A brand can host a contest on Pinterest where fans can repin an image, upload their own with a hashtag or create a dedicated contest board. These types of contests can really connect a brand to its fans since this platform requires high engagement with the users, and a brand can see what the fans are really interested in. Brands do have certain guidelines that need to be followed on the platform.

Dinner with Chuck E.One example is Chuck E. Cheese’s “Dinner with Chuck E.” contest. Our client, Chuck E. Cheese’s, partnered with a mom blogger and created a “Flat Chuck E.” coloring sheet around Valentine’s Day. They asked fans to download the sheet, color it and take pictures with it while they were out spending time with family. Fans created their own “Dinner with Chuck E.” Pinterest boards and uploaded their photos with the hashtag #FlatChuckE. Then, they just had to comment on the original announcement pin and share the link to their board to enter.

Contests like this are a fun way to really get to know the customers. By allowing the fans to have full control of the creativity of what they are looking for with the brand, companies can really learn a lot about how the fans think.


Sony LovePhoto sharing contests through Instagram are still fairly new. However, it’s a way for fans to be very engaged with the brand. The use of a hashtag is popular in all of the platforms but is key in tracking the number of submissions on Instagram.

An example of a very successful Instagram contest is Sony’s #Sonylove contest. In November of 2012, Sony launched its X Headphones and began an Instagram contest in search of music-inspired photos tagged with the #SonyX hashtag. It was so successful that a month later they decided to do another one. With this one, fans were asked to share a photo that represented “love” to them with the hashtag #Sonylove.

Just like with Pinterest, Instagram contests are completely dependent on user-generated content and allow the fan to determine how they want to participate. This allows for a more creative environment where brands can see what draws fans to that brand.

Contests can be a great way for brands to learn more about the customers and interact with them to increase brand loyalty. However, brands should always maintain a good social media presence and engage with their fans so they stay loyal to the brand all the time, not just during a contest.

One final tip: it’s best to be able to promote the contest on all of the brand’s social media platforms to give it more exposure and encourage the customers to participate. Happy contesting!

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