Marketing & Communications

Five Tips for a Stellar Social Media Contest

By Hillary Levitz • May 28, 2013

Hillary Levitz, Naylor Association Solutions

When it comes to social media interaction, gamification is the new norm. Many organizations are using contests and competitions to keep followers interested and engaged. This March, we hopped on the “big college basketball tournament that we legally can’t name” bandwagon and created a bracket-style tournament application of our own.


  • Know your audience. Target your contest towards the people who care and are invested in your product.
  • Be mobile conscious. Consider how the app will appear to mobile users and adapt your design for a smaller screen.
  • Promote your contest on third party media. While your target audience will most likely be fans of your social media, don’t rely on these platforms to reach your entire potential audience.
  • Offer an incentive or prize to participate.
  • Take your time. Give yourself enough time to iron out all the details and get the most out of your contest.

Because Facebook has a lengthy policy about hosting contests and competitions on a company page, we decided to use a Facebook app. We looked at various online applications to help us build our contest such as North Social, Strutta, SnapApp and ShortStack. We chose ShortStack because of its price (free!) and easy-to-use templates. We chose a template originally intended to compare NFL teams and adapted it to our needs. We pitted 16 products (eight print and eight online) against each other in a series of four rounds and asked our social media followers to pick their favorites. We learned a few things along the way and came up with five tips to help your asosciation create a stellar social media contest.

Five Tips To Help Your Association Create a Stellar Social Media Contest:

  1. Choose the correct platform and audience:

    Know who interacts with your brand and where the communication takes place. If most of your fans interact with you on Twitter, make sure your app works best on that platform. Additionally, make sure that your app is targeted towards the correct people. If you want to engage members and other professionals, be sure to not to use internal staff terms.

  2. Make the app mobile friendly:

    Consider how the app will look on mobile devices. More than 751 million people use Facebook Mobile each month, so prioritize ease of use on a mobile device. Look at how your application will appear on a smaller screen. Make sure that links are large enough and far enough apart from each other to make it easy for tablet and smart phone users to click.

  3. Promote outside your comfort zone:

    By only promoting your contest on your media platforms and social media pages, you limit your audience to those who are already invested in your organization. Unless someone retweets or shares a contest update, your efforts will remain within your association circle. Coordinate with industry websites and blogs to feature your contest on those platforms. For example, our blog is featured on By featuring our contest on our own blog we knew that in turn it would be featured on AllTop.One way to further promote your contest is through Pinterest. Blogger Bill Crosby suggests that a grouping of photo posts on Pinterest will help spread the word. Take screen shots of your contest and pin them with captions that encourage users to vote. You may also use hashtags to help your pins reach a larger audience.

  4. Offer an incentive to vote or prize to the winner:

    Offer your fans some sort of incentive to encourage them to vote. A monetary incentive might not always be possible, but there are ways to offer a creative non-monetary incentive. Think about what your company offers and how you could incorporate a related incentive into your online contests.The American Water Works Association recently hosted “Drinking Water Week.” Each day they introduced a fun fact or posed a trivia question related to clean drinking water. To keep followers engaged, AWWA offered promotional items to people who interacted with their posts. By offering a prize to those who connected, AWWA received the engagement they were looking for.

  5. Give yourself enough lead time:

    Give yourself plenty of time to settle on a contest or app idea, decide which elements to include, map out the progression of the contest, and prepare for the finish. Start working on the app far enough ahead of its designated start so you’re not spending time on it at the expense of other responsibilities or scrambling to finish before your start deadline. If you pull other departments or teams into your app’s creation, be mindful of their existing workload and give them plenty of time, too.


While creating a social media contest can be exciting and engaging for users, a poorly managed contest will turn fans off from your association. Take your time and look at each detail before launching your app to the public.

Hillary Levitz is an online marketing specialist with Naylor, LLC.