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by Erica Campbell Byrum as presented at Social Fresh 2014

It’s become very apparent that social media has become an essential component of any company’s marketing efforts. However, with all of the buzz around social media, it’s sometimes tricky to separate the “noise” from establishing and building meaningful relationships with your followers. That’s where social media contests come into play! Contests are a great way to increase excitement and exposure of your company and brand because it allows you to crowdsource loads of content. If you plan on running a social media contest, use this timeline to successfully plan and execute the ultimate contest!

3 Months from Launch Date

Knowing your company’s goals and objectives will help you determine what type of contest to create and will enable you to evaluate success. The more specific, the better. For example, you might run a contest to build your email or mailing list, to increase your fan base, drive traffic to your website, build brand awareness or to gather user generated content. Setting clear goals from the start ensures that you have a purpose behind running the contest.

Creating a Concept

One of the first things you are going to want to consider is if you would like to run a contest or a sweepstakes. A contest is when participants complete a task and are judged in order to receive a prize (Ex: Pinterest or Instagram Contests). A sweepstakes is when participants fill out a simple form and are randomly selected to receive a prize (Ex: Facebook “Like” Contests). Now you can determine the contest entry mechanism and decide what platform you want to run the promotion on.

Each social media platform is great for different purposes. For instance, to specifically increase followers, hold a Facebook “Like” Contest. To increase engagement and repurpose user generated content, hold a Pinterest or an Instagram Contest. Also, take into consideration if you will need any third-party software to help you build and manage it. There are a ton of tools out there to select from like Shortstack, Offerpop, WooBox, Rafflecopter, InLinkz, SnapApp and more.

Create a Clever Hashtag

It is beneficial to create a clever hashtag that is not already in use to go along with your contest. The hashtag should be simple, represent your contest theme and be short enough for Twitter.

Consider Partnership Opportunities

Are there any potential partnership opportunities? For instance, Homes.com and ForRent.com have partnered with influential home entertaining bloggers for home-related monthly Twitter Chats. These type of partnerships will help you gain more exposure for your contest and drive even more engagement.

2 Months from Launch Date


Determine a main graphic for the contest. First, decide on an image that can be used as the graphic in a blog post and in email blasts. You can then create Twitter images, Google+ collage images, and other supporting images later on. The graphic should be simple with minimal text and include the name of the contest, prize, and how to enter on it. Below are the image sizes for each social network.

  • Facebook Cover Photo: 851 x 315 px
  • Twitter Header Image: 1500 x 500 px
  • Twitter Pictures: 800 x 400
  • Pinterest: Any size. A collage works well on Pinterest, or you can create a 500 x infinite px
  • Instagram: 510 x 510 px
  • Google+ Cover Photo: 2120 x 1192 px
  • LinkedIn Cover Photo: 646 x 220 px

Here is an example of a Homes.com contest image for a little inspiration:



How much do you plan on spending for your contest? Your budget should include promotional materials, third-party tools and the prize amount. This is a good time to consider if you want to promote your contests through Facebook or Twitter Ads. It depends on what type of contest you’re running, but it’s beneficial to spend anywhere from $50 to $300 on Facebook Ads and $50 to $200 on Twitter Ads.

Give Away Something Awesome!

Let’s be honest, giving away money is always awesome! However, sometimes it’s fun to think outside the box with a contest gift to give away. In ForRent.com’s recent Decor by Me Pinterest Contest, runner-up winners were given a surprise item from their Pinterest board instead of a cash prize. Sometimes, giving a winner a unique prize will make your brand more memorable to them.

1 Month From Launch Date

Official Rules and Legal

Create rules and judging criteria for your contest. Always be sure to check for up to date laws across each social media channel and consult a professional legal counsel. The rules should be specific and easy for participants to follow. Legal should include who can and can’t participate, contest dates, how to enter, judging and selection of winners, prizes, privacy policy/rights, publicity, general conditions, limitations of liability, disputes, etc. Display the legal rules on your blog post for participants to reference.

3 From Launch Date

Blog Post / Email / PR / Print / Digital

Write a blog post on your website to support the social media contest. Include the name, dates, how to enter, the hashtag, prize, official rules, and any other important information. The blog post link can be included in your status updates or tweets. You can also cross promote through email, public relations, and print/digital media.

Week of Launch

Promoting the Contest

It’s finally here! Now is the time to promote, promote, promote! Create some clever status updates to promote your contest on social media networks. Recruit your employees, friends and family to get internal submissions to give inspiration to entrants. Take advantage of free contest sites where you can post your contest to get even more exposure.

Take Screenshots of Contest

Capture screenshots of how well your contest is going to use them later for a contest recap. For example: stats, comments individuals have made about your contest, and any fun information. Once your followers see how well the contest is doing, they may feel more inclined to get involved.

After the Contest

Notify the Winner

Now that the contest is over, it’s time to pick the winner based on the contest rules. Once a winner is chosen, email the winner the appropriate forms for them to fill out and announce the winner on your social networks and blog. Take the time to publicize the winner and the results of your contest to keep the momentum going.

Reuse Your Contest Assets

The great thing about contests is that you can repurpose the entries for later use. Photos can be used later on for blog posts and status updates, and marketing can be used in blog posts, or as status updates for social networks. Come up with a game plan to repurpose throughout the year.

How Well Did the Contest Go?

  • How many entries and votes did you receive?
  • How many people visited your contest?
  • How many new followers did you gain?
  • How much social media referral traffic to your site was gained?
  • What was the click through rate on links?
  • How much engagement and sharing did you get?
  • Can any new business be attributed to the contest?

Creating a great contest takes some time and preparation, but if you include all of the elements in this timeline, you will surely be successful. Visit the Homes.com and ForRent.com blogs for more contest inspiration! If you’re looking for even more advice, join Erica Campbell Byrum, Director of Social Media with Homes.com and ForRent.com, at Social Fresh East on July 17th from 1:45-2:45 as she discusses ‘Creating Contests: A Winning Method for Crowdsourcing & Engagement’.