3 Reasons Contests on Social Media Are Awesome!.. + 3 Reasons I Hate Them.


I am the Promotions Director for two radio stations in Cornwall, ON. My job revolves around developing and executing AMAZING contests and promotions. However, in the past year or so, the contest playing field has drastically changed. Gone are the days of “be the 10th caller through”. Even simple “enter online at our website” contests are showing a decline in entries. Why? Because today, people prefer entering on Facebook!

Earlier today, I ran a Facebook contest that resulted in the most comments of any posts EVER on our Facebook page (over 9,500 comments on one post), over 200 new “likes” to our page, and a post reach of over 14,000 people. This is by far the most engagement any of our contests has ever seen and it was all within 12 hours on Facebook. Sounds great, right?! Well… it can be… but, as the person who has to manage them, it can also be a nightmare.


3 Reasons Contests on Social Media Are Awesome

  1. Non-Contest Players Are More Likely to Play
    When it comes to radio specifically, only 2-5% of your listening audience will actually participate in a contest. The number is so low, I sometimes wonder why Promotions Departments actually exist. Ok, I do know why they exist. Our goal is to not only build contests for our contest playing listeners, but to also execute them in a way that everyone can play along (even if they won’t actually call in to win). How does social media help? A LOT more people play. Why? Because it’s easy. There are minimal steps (ie: just “like” to be in the draw) and because it’s easy to share, word gets around a lot quicker that there’s some great give away happening!
  2. They Are Easy to Execute
    A quick graphic (like the one above) and away you go! Post it and let the fun begin. If the prize is appealing (doesn’t always have to be concert tickets… but something that fits your business and is desirable to your followers), the post will just grow organically which is great for your brand.
  3. They Are Exciting
    The contest we ran today had over 9,500 comments (which equals 9,500 entries). The last 5,000 comments came in between 8:45pm and 9:00pm, when the contest closed. I can assure you, our staff who are admins on that Facebook page probably hate me right now – all of our devices have been lighting up with notifications! But, the good news is that we have several new people on our page and now we have the opportunity to hook them!


3 Reasons Why I Hate Contests on Social Media

  1. They Can Be Tricky to Manage
    You have to be very careful to ensure your contest complies with the rules set out by each individual social media platform. For example, in a contest on Facebook, you can’t ask people to “share this post” for the chance to win. However, they can “like” or “comment” to enter. Also, when you get thousands of comments, it can take hours to sort through and either enter them in to a random draw or decipher who the winner actually is.
  2. They Can Cause Confusion Which Equals Angry People
    One thing I highly recommend… make sure your social media contests are laid our perfectly clear. Identify age restrictions, entry restrictions, and you are required to have your own set of Rules & Regulations. If you don’t clearly layout the guidelines, and trust me – I’ve made this mistake, you’ll be bombarded with questions and people disagreeing with how a winner was selected. This isn’t fun and can also result in negative comments around your brand being posted all over social media… not good!
  3. There’s More Room for Error / You Have No Control
    In my experience, most people don’t thoroughly read Rules & Regs when they enter contests. While there are some days I’d like to say “not my problem – you don’t win”, the reality is that you really have to guide people through and be empathetic. When someone sees an exciting contest on Facebook – they quickly enter and move on with their day and you simply can’t control it. That’s when you end up with a 13-year-old winner although the Rules say you must be 18 and publicly, I have to state that there was a mistake and we must pick another winner… (can you sense that this may have happened today?!?!).


Now, although I have 3 reasons to “hate” contests on social media, I have to say they have proven to be very successful for us in radio land (200 new likes in 12 hours – wahoo!) … it just requires a little patience and a whole lot of trial and error.

Have you ever entered / would you ever enter a contest on Facebook (or other social media sites)? Do you think social media contests are beneficial for businesses trying to increase audience?

3 thoughts on “3 Reasons Contests on Social Media Are Awesome!.. + 3 Reasons I Hate Them.

  1. “Non-Contest Players Are More Likely to Play” – Yes! That’s me! I play them when there are attainable things to win. The problem with such traffic is it’s hard for the players to monitor as well!! Facebook updates and is on high octane updating as you post. I participated in a last comment wins contest and a Movie contest. Won two tickets with the movie contest – it was date night impromptu style which is fun! The contests with last comment can be addictive in nature….

    • “Last Comment Wins” is definitely addictive and a great way to generate a lot of traffic quickly. Of course, depending on what device you’re using, the last comment may not appear to be the last comment – clear as mud?!

      For our “Last Comment” contests, we have to be so specific and say what device and web browser we use to determine who had the last comment. For example, my rules would say the winner is determined on a PC computer using a web browser. So, if someone was looking at the comments on their iPad on the Facebook App, it might appear to be someone else who won.

      It can be tedious and time consuming but when you run a contest on social media and you jump by 200 new followers in less than 12-hours, in my business, it’s totally worth it!

  2. Hey Holly – great to see someone from ‘back home’ in the course. I’m from Williamstown which is not too far away from Cornwall but I’m currently in Austria.
    I have a few question about using SM contests for radio – While you are obviously pumping up your SM audience, how successful has that been in converting them to radio listeners (more specifically the stations you represent). How do you feel SM has positively or negatively impacted your on-air content? Have the stations you represent reduced their call-in content? Has there been a move away from local content towards more generic on-air news, views, or music? When you look at your SM members – how is the quality? In other words, how much participation do you get outside of contests, do those members/fans continue liking the page and contributing or is much of it a one off for the free tickets etc? How many of those new likes come from people living in the broadcast region?
    I look forward to hearing more of your thoughts!

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