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Kaitlyn Gillies

Read this before you run a competition on social media

Social Media

April 9, 2018


Giveaways and competitions are commonplace on social media and other online channels today. But just because everyone seems to be doing it, doesn’t mean everyone is doing it right. We’ve summarised the key things you need to know before running your next (or first) online competition.

** Note: Your game is classed as a competition if it requires entrants to win by merit or skill. Giveaways, conversely, allow entrants to win something for free simply by entering and a winner is usually chosen at random. For the purpose of this article, we’ll use these terms interchangeably as most of our tips apply to both. This article does not serve as legal advice and different rules can apply depending where you live so be sure to do your research and double check if you’re unsure. We’ll provide some handy links on this further down.


First thing’s first, let’s cover all the need-to-knows about social media competitions or giveaways. Then we’ll get into the more exciting parts, like how to make your competition successful.
As always, it’s important to remember that social media isn’t a free-for-all. By using any platform, you are agreeing to the terms of service, and breaching these could result in your account being disabled, banned or worse.
This is especially important for brands, as you’re potentially putting your most valuable channels, not to mention your reputation, at stake if you do the wrong thing.
So, enough lecturing – here’s what you need to know.

#1 Use a third-party platform to run your competition

By running your competition purely through any social media platform, you are subject to the rules and regulations of that platform, and have much less control over how to run it. To get the best results and remain in control of the contest’s success, it’s recommended to run the competition on your website or a third party application like Viral Loops. Of course, once this is all set up, you can then utilise social media to promote your contest, just be sure to add a simple disclaimer making it clear your competition is not affiliated with the platform in any way.

#2 Don’t use engagement as your sole entry criteria

Not only are competitions asking users to “like or share to win” prohibited under Facebook’s terms, they also don’t create much value for your audience or your brand. Some alternative ideas that will garner more meaningful engagement are asking users to subscribe to your mailing list through a form or submit user-generated content tagging your brand (more on that later).

#3 But don’t require entrants to make a purchase either.

If entrants are required to make a purchase or spend money with you to participate, this is classed as a lottery or gambling. Unless you’re licensed to do so, this activity is illegal – so avoid it altogether. No excuses.



This is not an exhaustive list, but a good starting point for things to consider before your competition goes ahead.


Make it crystal clear what entrants need to do to win. Not only will this make it easier to get as many entries as possible, but also helps protect you against any entrants who want to challenge you after winners are announced.
Oh, and remember what we said about lotteries being illegal? Make it clear that entrants do not need to purchase anything or pay to participate.


Depending on your prize, you may want to limit your competition to entrants in certain countries only. Regardless of logistical issues, this is a good idea anyway to avoid running into conflicts with differing laws which can vary country-to-country and even state-to-state. Make it clear to entrants which countries whose residents are eligible to enter.


Aside from place of residence, you may need to restrict your entries to people under a certain age or by other legal boundaries. No one wants to be awarding a bottle of champers to a 16 year old!


Okay, sounds dramatic we know, but employees of certain organisations cannot accept gifts over a certain value, as it may be considered a bribe. If your a B2B brand especially, it doesn’t hurt to phone your winner and double check if they are able to accept their prize before announcing the winner publicly. In some cases, they might just need to get approval, and if they can’t accept, you will need to redraw.


Be sure to outline when the competition opens, when entries close, when the winner/s will be drawn, and when the will receive their prize. Be exact with dates and times so there are no grey areas.


Let your entrants know how they will be notified. If you plan to announce the winner publicly, it’s a good idea to contact them personally first, to ensure they can accept and are happy for their name to be made public. Some people may not be comfortable with this, especially if the prize is of a high value. You should never force the winner to have their name publicly announced in order to be awarded the prize, but announcing a winner is also important so other entrants know the competition was legitimate. A good compromise could be to only make public the winner’s first name and state of residence or similar so they are not too easily identifiable.


No one wants to put all the effort into a competition or giveaway for the winner to wind up disappointed in their prize. Make sure it is very clear exactly what the winner will get and ensure you are not misleading anyone with the prize description. Keep in mind, different state legislations have different requirements.


Don’t leave your winner hanging waiting weeks to get their prize. Set clear expectations around when and how they will receive it. Will it be by mail? Delivery? Pick-up? Carrier pigeon? Let them know.


Now, this is where the difference between a competition or giveaway really matters. Will your winner be chosen by skill or merit? If so, how will they be judged? What constitutes a winning entry? Or will they be chosen at random? Make sure entrants know the judging criteria.


We can’t stress how important it is to respect your entrants’ data. If you are collecting their information through a form, make it clear how and where this will be used. Are you collecting it so you can contact them if they win? Are they subscribing to an email list by entering? Are you selling their info… You know what, no, just don’t do that. Ever!


If your competition requires an entry that wins on skill or merit, what is the entrant creating? Maybe they’re submitting some form of user-generated content, a piece of creative writing, a design, a mixtape… you get the picture. Will this artefact be used beyond the competition? Most of the time, the purpose of entries like this is to give your brand content or a design you can use for yourself, and most of the time, your winners will love the exposure. Just make sure they are made aware of how their entry will be used, how they will be credited and who owns any intellectual property rights over their creative works. If you do get entrants to sign over their design or creation to be owned by your brand if they win, make sure this permission is given on entry.
✍️ Psst… Need a hand drafting your Terms & Conditions or other legal copy? ✍️
Chat to our pals at Wordfetti.
If you’ve considered all these areas and written them into your Terms and Conditions you are off to a flying start my friend. But remember, different rules and legislations apply state-to-state. If you’re based in Australia, you can start with the links below:



Okay, so now you know all the mandatories, it’s time to discuss ways to promote your competition and make it a success.
Before we can determine the best strategy for your contest, let’s think about what you’re trying to achieve and what your goals are.
Do you want to…
· Grow your following?
· Build your email list?
· Attract new customers?
· Source user-generated content?
Knowing your goal will not only ensure your competition actually generates results, but will also help you deliver something that is actually engaging for your audience.
“Like this post”, “share on your timeline”, YAWN. We’ve all seen these stock standard giveaways. Not only are they against Facebook’s terms, they’re also boring for your audience and don’t help consumers build any relationship with your brand.
Instead, think deeper about what you want to achieve, beyond vanity metrics and then execute it.
Each of the goals mentioned above requires a different strategy, so we’ll delve into each of them a little below.


One of the biggest problems with asking people to follow your account to enter a competition or giveaway, is that the follows usually aren’t from people genuinely interested in your brand. This means that after the curtains close, participants (especially those who didn’t win) will largely end up unfollowing, and you’re back to square one.
If you want to grow your following, don’t just ask for follows, but use your giveaway or competition to actually make people WANT to stay up to date with your brand. This can be acheived by using your social channels to give updates on the progress of the competition or supplying information needed to enter. Here are a few ideas you could try:
  • Structure your giveaway or competition to have a weekly winner announced only on Instagram, Facebook or whichever platform you’d like to build your following on. This way participants will want to follow you to keep up to date throughout the competition and it doubles as a promotion tactic to get new entrants in.
  • Plant “easter eggs” throughout your social media content that entrants have to find in order to enter. It could be a codeword, a hint or a clue. This also makes your competition more interactive and fun!


If you’re looking to grow your mailing list, competitions are a great way to do so.
Using your website, a landing page or a competition app, you can set up an online form to capture entrants’ details. You’ll want to integrate this with your email platform so entrants are automatically added as email subscribers.
Just be sure to let entrants know how their details will be used in your Terms and Conditions, no one likes unsolicited emails. We also highly recommend enabling a double opt-in on the email list you’re building so you have a record that all subscribers definitely want to be getting your emails.
To encourage these opt-ins, make sure entrants know what value they will get by subscribing and therefore entering your competition. Just being able to enter isn’t enough to keep peeps around long-term, you need to give them more, especially for those who don’t end up winning a prize!
– Will they receive teaser updates about the competition progress to their inbox?
– Is it regular discounts for your online store?
– Will they get notifications about sales, before anyone else?
– Could it be VIP access to events?
– Will you send them freebie templates or resources?
– Something else??
And if they STILL unsubscribe after the contest ends? Don’t worry, the best email lists have a balance of quality and quantity. Having subscribers who aren’t fully engaged with your brand will only dilute your open rates and make it more difficult to determine what’s working in your email strategy. Bye Felicia! Hello highly engaged audience!


So we know we said you can’t force entrants to make a purchase, but that doesn’t mean you can’t leverage your competition to increase sales or bring in new customers who haven’t shopped with you before. In this case, you need to think strategically about the prize you choose to give away.
There are two main options here; (1) give away a sample that is so good winners will want to purchase more, or (2) give away a discount code or store credit.
Option one is perfect if you’re about to launch a product that is brand spanking new, or if you sell something considered a high risk purchase. Think about it, no one wants to buy something if they fear they might be disappointed, and when you’ve never bought something before, this fear is higher than ever. By giving the product away, your potential customers get to try it without any risk of wasting their precious dollars. If your product/service is amazing and they love it, then hopefully they will convert into a loyal customer and refer their friends too!
Option two is perfect if you have a high cost or luxury product that is very desirable but not always affordable or accessible. By offering a discount or credit as your prize, old customers are encouraged to come back and new customers get the opportunity to see the value of your product and hopefully convert to repeat purchasers.
Just be sure that the prize is in the form of a store credit, voucher, gift card or similar so the prize can’t be misconstrued as a cash prize. You are not a lottery, remember!


If gaining rich content is your goal, ask entrants to share an image, video or other post on relevant social channels tagging your brand’s handle. This generates so much more credibility for your brand than simply getting users to engage with your brand’s own posts.
Remember the benefit of a viral competition isn’t just to get awareness or purchase intent from those who enter, it’s to also get this from their followers, and their followers’ followers, and their followers’ followers’ followers… Okay, you get the point.
Think about it, anyone can share a post on Facebook with their friends to enter a competition, but it’s such a throw away action that their friends see right through it. Even if their friends do want to enter, they’re not genuinely connecting with your brand.
Conversely, when users go to the effort of actually creating content to enter your competition, they need to go to the effort to research your brand and learn what it’s all about to get their entry noticed. This builds a much stronger relationship with your entrants that goes beyond the competition itself, and actually into becoming an advocate of your brand, or even a customer! Oh, and their friends love it too, win-win.
So, those are our top tips. Have you ever run a competition on social media before? Is there something you would do differently next time? Tell us!


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