Social media contests are one of the greatest and most effective ways to increase engagement and get your name out there. Knowing the best social media giveaway ideas is not always quite so easy, however, as releasing a rapid-fire series of giveaways could do more to incur costs and lose products than going without. To make sure that a contest is not a bust–and that you are adhering to all of the rules put in place for each platform–I’ve compiled the basic rules of social contests and 23 ideas to increase your followers and engagement without the intensity of a full-scale social media campaign.
Social Media Platform Official Rules about Social Media Contests
Before we get to the ideas, please make note that different social media sites have different rules around what you can and can’t do on their platforms vis a vis social media contests, so always check first before you start planning.
- Adhere to community guidelines
- Contest cannot charge for entry
- Physical gifts or goods cannot be used in contests
- Accept and acknowledge responsibility for everything related to the contest/promotion
- Develop and post official rules
- Detail terms and eligibility requirements
- Ensure complete Instagram release
- Accept responsibility for all contest content
- Adhere to community guidelines in all contest guidelines
- Clearly identify the nature of advertisements
- Contest cannot charge for entry
- Entrants cannot be required to save a specific photo
- Clearly delineate that it is a contest and not from Pinterest
- Contest cannot charge for entry
- Contest must adhere to all local and federal laws
- Contests must have official rules
- Contest owners take all responsibility for the contest
The Ultimate List of 21 Types of Contest for Social Media Ideas
Contests are great ways to increase engagement; by offering an incentive for followers to comment, like, or in some way engage with your posts, you are essentially rewarding your target audience for participating and giving them a small taste of excitement in the process. Although I have listed 21 different types of contests, don’t be afraid to mix and match. More than one contest can be mixed together to create a more exciting and more robust entry process. One note of caution before I dive in: don’t make entering too difficult a process. The more you ask of your target audience on your social media channel, the fewer the number of people who actually take part will be.
1. Share a Photo Contest
Share a photo contests are a great way to bring in audience participation while encouraging the sharing of user-generated content. By asking followers to share a photo and tag the brand in question, you are offering those users the opportunity to represent a brand they utilize or show their skill in a particular area, while giving them a chance to win a prize. This is one of the most common social media contest ideas out there, because it offers a simple and easy way to enter, and allows your audience to feel as though they have contributed to a marketing or artistic campaign.
2. Submit a Video Contest
Submit a video contests are similar to photos, though of course each contest entry is a video rather than a photo. This can feel more daunting than a single photo, but is similarly enticing: users who submit videos (or potential customers who submit videos) have the opportunity to have their name and face represent a brand, show off a skill, or in some way get out there, while driving up your social media engagement numbers.
3. Write a Caption
One of the more fun and entertaining social media contest ideas, write a caption contests typically involve posting an image or video (though images are more common), and encouraging your audience to comment with the ideal caption. A winner is usually selected based on how well it fits, or how thoroughly it makes others laugh. This one may require a bit more leg work, as it means reading through what could very well be thousands of captions, but can be far more engaging for people who’d rather not show their faces, create videos, or use a more visual medium with which to enter.
4. Guess the Answer or Trivia Questions Contest
Trivia or guess the answer contests typically require that you come up with a series of questions (trivia), or a single question that will require far more than a simple Google search can reveal. If a marketing agency, for instance, is doing a giveaway, they might ask a more obscure question about the marketing process than a quick Google search can yield. If a botany company is hosting a contest, they may ask a question about a specific plant or product. Trivia contests can look completely different across brands and look very different based on the niche you serve, so be sure to find the format and size that best fits your brand.
5. Like/Share/Comment to Win
These types of social media contest ideas are great, as they don’t require a new social media post from followers, but instead request engagement of followers, and encourage sharing. This can perform the double duty of increasing engagement and increasing your reach, by being shared with your followers’ followers. These can be completed in a “do more for more entries” format, wherein you require a like for once entry, a share for another, and a comment for another, or the format that requires all three. Note that this particular type of contest does have the potential to violate guidelines for some social media sites, so make sure you quickly check rules and regulations for the social site in question.
6. Tag a Friend to Enter
Similar to a like/comment/share contest, “tag a friend” contests encourage sharing, as those entering will bring a friend into the fold. There is some gray area as to whether these contests violate community rules, so make sure you check in with the social media site of choice prior to posting. That being said, this can help alert existing followers’ friends and closest associates to your online presence, and dramatically increase interest in and engagement with your brand.
7. Collaborative Contests
Collaborative contests involve two or more brands or companies, and can vary in how they are set up. Some follow the like/comment/share format, among each of the brands involved, while others follow a photo contest format. No matter the precise format used, two-brand giveaways and contests can help widen your audience reach, and generate more excitement about a larger prize. Collaborative contests are valuable for the same reason brand partnerships are valuable: you and another brand (or numerous brands) share audiences and resources with one another, while increasing engagement for everyone. In these partnerships, both parties (or numerous parties) can go in on the prize in question, thereby minimizing the cost of the contest, and instill a sense of trust and legitimacy more than a stand-alone contest.
8. Social Scavenger Hunt Contest
Social scavenger hunt contests involve hopping to different social channels to locate a specific image or caption, and posting what you’ve found, usually with a tag. In one instance, the scavenger hunt involved clues linked to actual physical gifts hidden around town and participants were all local companies. These can create engagement on current and past posts, and winnings can be simple gift cards, or more involved winnings for the contest participant(s) who ultimately locate the clues.
9. Social Media Giveaways or Sweepstakes
Giveaways and sweepstakes are usually a combination of one of the contests above, such as a like/share/comment, in which hopefuls are all put into a pool, and lucky winners are drawn using a random number generator. These, too, frequently help brands reach a wider audience through shares, and do far better than accounts that do not utilize any type of giveaway, sweepstakes, or contest.
10. Hashtag Challenge
Hashtag challenges can be used in a number of different ways, but one of the most common uses is as a contest. From challenges that simply encourage a particular behavior to those that result in a contest winner, a hashtag challenge can be one way to encourage engagement, and may even help increase your follower count by creating hashtags that spread quickly, and pop up on new audience’s social channels.
11. Submit an Essay Contest
Essay contests require more work to complete, as they require marketing teams to comb through and read longer-form writing. That being said, essay contests can help marketers learn what customers think about products and services, which can inform future marketing campaigns across social platforms. While most essay contests are associated with schools and academic pursuits, they can be useful to inform brands and can even invite audience collaboration.
12. Seasonal and Holiday-Themed Contests
Seasonal and holiday-themed contests can help get your social media followers in the holiday spirit or get them excited for the season. Holiday contests can involve a prize package specific to the season or holiday, and can even involve something that gets people out and active. An autumn-themed contest can involve encouraging users to do a brand-themed fall bucket list. A Christmas contest can encourage using products in a holiday-related way. The possibilities are endless.
13. Refer a Friend to Win
These contests can be more difficult for social media users who are not sure they have a friend or entity who would like to take part, but can be extremely useful for brand expansion and outreach. Referring a friend typically means sending a friend to social posts using a tag, sending a referral link, or sharing the contest in a post–all of which can boost engagement and increase audience reach.
14. Follow to Win Contest
A follow to win contest is fairly straightforward; typically, the contest announcement encourages followers to follow the account, in order to be entered to win. This is a successful contest idea for brands and companies looking to increase their follower count and grow, rather than those hoping to simply improve the engagement of existing followers.
15. Selfie Contest
Selfie contests require contest entrants to submit a selfie in order to enter into the contest. Selfie contests can be simple, with the winner chosen through a random generator, or can be more complex, wherein a winner is chosen based on how creatively a person can incorporate a product into a selfie. In either case, this type of content post can garner interest and spur user-generated content.
16. Vote to Win
Vote to win contests can be delivered in several different ways. A simple poll can be put up on Stories, and entrants can be tracked to select a winner. Comments can also be used to vote. No matter the precise way that you go about arranging your contest post, the idea is that you gain engagement by encouraging votes.
17. Recipe Contest
While you may initially think of food when you think of a recipe contest, the possibilities are endless! Recipes can mean food, but they can also mean a series of steps for completing a task, or a tutorial for achieving a specific goal. The ideas for contests of this nature just have to focus on actionable steps to be able to call itself a recipe.
18. Direct Message Contests
Direct message contests are contests delivered through direct messages rather than sharing through a direct post. Direct message contests can be used to bring your audience into your brand and products, followed by an entry. One contest, for instance, asked questions about potential customer preferences, and entered those who shared their email addresses.
19. Pet-Related Contest
People love their pets, and furry friend contests can be a great way to bring in engagement and encourage even reticent followers to join in. Whether you are a brand directly related to pets, or your brand seems to be wholly unrelated, this type of contest can drive up engagement rates and get your customer base excited about sharing.
20. Instagram Story Contest
Instagram Story contests can be used for many of the already-mentioned giveaway options, and if you have not yet used Stories for a contest, future contests can benefit from posting to Stories. With quick blurbs available, and only a short attention span required, any Story giveaway can feel like an especially exciting giveaway, and the rapidity with which stories disappear can increase the sense of excitement.
Fill-in-the-blank posts are great because unlike a lot of giveaway posts, they tap into something embedded in a lot of people to complete something or share a piece of themselves. These contests do not necessarily require a creative idea or a great deal of energy, but instead require a simple response that is typically personal in nature and easy enough to answer. These can help other followers see your products in action, or just give them a chance to engage and feel seen.
To make sure all future campaigns are adhering to social media rules, make sure to check with all social terms and conditions, rules, and community guidelines. From there, you can mix and match the social contest ideas identified above to increase the number of current and prospective followers engaging with you, and provide a strong incentive for prospective customers to follow your socials. From putting together a panel of judges to select the best essay to using a random number generator to sort through a slew of first-time and bonus entries, social media and marketing managers can develop a compelling social media marketing campaign using the incentive of potential winning to drive increased sales and stronger engagement.
Looking for more social media marketing advice? You might be interested in these posts:
- 6 Benefits of Running Social Media Contests
- 5 Boards to Create for Your Business on Pinterest
- How Do Advertising Laws Apply to Social Media?
- The 20 Best Social Media & Digital Marketing Conferences You Should Attend (2023/2024)
- How To Grab Attention with Your Social Media Updates
Hero photo by Nicolas Hoizey on Unsplash
Social Media Contest Ideas FAQs
There are a lot of good contest ideas depending on your goal, brand voice, or even your niche. The usual type of contest/giveaway you may see on social media is having your audience share a photo or submit a video and have them encourage their friends to like the post or leave some comments on it. The actual post will serve as their entry to win the prize. This type of contest is the best way to increase your audience engagement. And you’ll mostly see these contests on Instagram, Facebook, or Youtube.
To make a good social media contest, you need to ask yourself first, what do you what to achieve or see after the contest? With that thought in your mind, you’ll have a guideline on how you will run the contest. One of the most critical things though is making sure that the contest you will do won’t violate any Terms and Conditions of the social media platform you will be using.
Social media contests and giveaways are basically games and giveaways being held virtually — specifically through social media platforms. Hence all the activities or ways to win the contest are done virtually as well. Some of the social media contests examples are sharing a photo contest, submitting a video, refer a friend, etc.
Social media giveaways are done to help companies grow their brands, products, and visibility. Once their engagement and awareness increase, their sales increase as well. But in order to achieve these, you need to make sure that the social media giveaways you will be doing actually converts. You need to set your goals and carefully choose the type of contest or giveaway that is aligned with your marketing goals.
The best way to make a giveaway fun is to make it creative and engaging but still in line with your brand image. You can try simple contests that will give value to both your audience and your brand. Don’t focus too much on what you can gain from the contest, but rather the relationship that you can build with your followers.