How to Run A Killer Contest On Social Media

Killer Contest Strategy that works

Table of Contents

Both marketers and social media platforms alike have a love-hate with contests and giveaways. It’s a great strategy for building lists and likes on social, but is becoming more regulated by the platforms (especially facebook after this crazy debacle):

Since then, have you noticed that FB Insight data has been reduced pretty drastically? You can no longer view purchase behavior or interests… And that’s just skimming the surface of everything that was changed.

But truth be told, Facebook has been cracking down on boosted contests and giveaways for some time. For example, you cannot ask entrants to “get another entry” by sharing or tagging a friend. Sure you can do this, but chances of getting your ads approved are slim.

This is unfortunate, but don’t worry there’s still a way to stay within the good graces of Facebook and still get lots of great leads or likes (whatever your primary goal may be).

The Contest That Killed

Here’s a contest that we ran for one of our newest properties (can you say-exact match domain heaven?):


The goal of this 30-day campaign was of course to get leads. At the time, we used Contest Domination, which we still highly recommend, but there are so many other new contest tools out there that I’ll be testing out very soon. More on that coming up.

For the first week, this campaign was chugging. We weren’t happy with the clicks (which were less than 10%) so we knew something had to change.

We brainstormed all the possibilities:

  • Maybe the prize sucks?
  • Do people already have an embroidery machine?
  • Is the brand not as popular as we would have hoped?
  • Are contests even viable for lead generation?
  • Does Facebook hate us (a definite possibility lol)?

In the end, we didn’t have data-driven answers for any of these possibilities, so we were forced to think even further out of the box.

Here’s what we changed it to:

Instead of 1 winner, we changed it to 5 winners.

Suddenly the grey skies parted way for the sun to shine through.

We were SWIMMING in leads… Just under 100k leads to be exact. How much did we spend for this contest on ads?

A whopping $1500. That’s about $0.02 per lead.

… Incredibly engaged leads btw, with great interest in the subject matter niche of sewing.

There are a few other things we learned after attempting to replicate this contest across our other properties, so…

Follow these Contest and Giveaway Tips


Make sure it’s something that is highly related to the interest of your property.

For example, we ran an identical campaign to a celebrity gossip property and gave away an ipad (because we thought celeb news junkies would like iPads). We were so green back then. :

Yes, celeb news junkies liked iPads, but SO DID THE REST OF THE FUCKING WORLD.

We got leads, but they were trash leads that sunk the IP address into blacklist territory. Not good, and not easy to dig out of…

So, make sure that you choose a prize that is both related to the interest of your brand AND unique enough that they don’t own it yet.

Also, you don’t need to go all out on the prize value.

A $100 prize works just as well and yields the same results as a prize that is $5000 (yes, we did this. We gave away a fregging ATV).


Give yourself at least 30 days to run this campaign.

You’ll need time for the contest and your spend to marinate and get optimized. Anything less than 30 days and your runway is too short. Anything too far off from 30 days will turn people off from signing up b/c it will seem so far away.

Watch Your Stats

… Not just once a day. Watch that shit on the hour or by the minute if you’re getting good lift.

Alert the team if something isn’t working and restrategize as necessary!

Test Different Ads

Test video ads, test static ads, test gifs, test copy, test test test!

Here’s our testing schedule:

Just in case you’re not familiar with the acronyms: CTA = Call to Action

A question I’m often asked is: How long should I wait to move on to the second test?

The rule of thumb is after 2000 goal conversions, but in this case, I would be a little looser with this rule. After becoming more experienced with your spend, you’ll develop an instinct and can easily tell when it’s time to move on to the next test.

If you’re not as experienced with media buying, I would watch your CPG (Cost Per Goal) like a fregging hawk. Before you spend at all, give yourself a goal for the CPL based on your spend.

How to Set Your CPG Budget

  1. What’s your goal?
  2. What’s your budget?
  3. How many goal conversions are you looking for? (whether this is a lead or a like, or a whatever, how many is your goal?)
  4. Ask yourself: is this a realistic goal or a wish? Refactor your goal as necessary.

Let’s put some numbers behind this for example purposes:

  1. Goal: Likes
  2. Budget: $1000
  3. Goal Conversions: 20,000 likes
  4. Is it realistic: kindda sorta, not really… haha! Let’s say 15,000 likes to be a little more on the realistic side

And then it’s just some easy math:

In our case: 1000/15000 = $0.06 per goal (and in this example, my goal is a “like”).

Going back to the test schedule…

Now that you know your CPG, you know the target that the ads should stay under. It might be scary to see your costs rise significantly higher than your CPG. If this is the case, you might be way off on your goal conversions. Refactor the AVG of where your spend is, and give yourself a new CPG.

A healthy rule of thumb: keep your ads delivering under the CPG. If you see the costs rising only slightly higher than your CPG, I would let it go on for another 24 hours to see if it stabilizes, but again, use your instincts and knowledge of your industry because every vertical is different.

Entry or Consolation Bonuses

This is where I was particularly proud of our contest strategy. Think about the user journey to this point:

The point is, there are SEVERAL POINTS of their short journey to say: “No, Fuck you”. Yet, somehow you managed to prove that you’re not an asshole looking to scam them.

YOU DID THE HARD PART! Now get them to take your call to action!

Keep the good times rolling in the form of a bonus. For all contest entrants, we immediately sent them this email:



Like I said, you already did the hard part. NOW RIDE THAT WAVE.

We had an auto-responder series of subscription offers to our OTHER congruent media properties (like DIY Projects), Affiliate offers for sewing and embroidery, and of course, additional offers from Pretty groovy, huh?

The Contest Follow Up

An absolute MUST. Announce the winners on the social media platform. Ask them for photos of their prize. Get them to comment. Email all entrants the winners of the contest. Sound the trumpets, make some fanfare!

Schedule Your Next Move

Now that you have proven to your new subscribers and likers of your brand RUN ANOTHER CONTEST!

It doesn’t have to be another prize. It could be a feature, a mention, anything to get people engaging and talking on your page. Train your audience to engage from the get-go and keep that momentum going.

Just remember email all your new subscribers (or if your goal was ‘likes’, engage with them regularly)! Don’t let your list get cold. Send them content newsletters if you don’t have a suitable offer. Just keep that list nice and warm.

New Contest Platforms On The Block

Contest Domination is what we use, but we’ll be testing out other platforms very soon as well. I will update you on our experiences there. In the meantime, check them out and choose the platform that is best for you:

Vyper – Very cool tools for contests, all centered around lead conversion. This is the platform of choice for my trusted colleagues at Unicorn Innovations, probably the smartest and most ninja PPC agency I’ve met in a while.

DojoMojo – Used by some big e-com names, and there’s a marketplace to tack on additional giveaways with a co-reg stipulation.

Hope this was helpful. Now handle it! 🙌

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