contest marketingWays to use Contest Marketing to increase reach AND engagement.

While followers and likes are a good statistic to measure your company’s social reach, it’s engagement that truly leaves an impact on your social media channels. Shares, retweets, clicks, and comments are what drive traffic to your company and generate leads, and contest marketing via social media is one of the most popular ways to increase engagement.

So what is a social media contest? It’s anything from a caption contest to posting a prize winning picture using a company hashtag, but the promotion is always fueled through social channels. Dove Soap is well known for its “Real Beauty” campaign where the company aims to change the conversation about female beauty. It promoted a social contest on Facebook where people were encouraged to post a picture of a friend or family member and caption what they thought made them beautiful. The contest was a huge success—thousands participated—and it helped heighten the popularity of an already popular campaign.

A social media contest is a great way to get your campaign moving, but it could fall flat on its face if you miss some of the key ingredients that have made others so successful. The next time you want to market a contest or campaign, hit these points to make it a viral success.

1. Photo Contests

If social media is a sea of precious metals, the user generated content is the gold. Not only is it free content handed to your by your company’s user base, it’s often better than anything your marketing department can come up with. Customers often know a company even better than its executives (you could argue that customers make the brand, not owners) and a photo contest is a great incentive to generate user-made content. And while the best submissions can win prizes or cash, the photos can be re-used in the future. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

2. Video Contests

On the other side, video contests won’t get the same level of participation but sometimes generate the best content. Doritos’ “Crash the Super Bowl” contest is a great example of this, where fans literally made a Doritos Super Bowl ad for the company (for free).

3. Voting & Polls

This is a great contest marketing tool for media companies, but it can work well for anyone. For example, during a noteworthy trial, the New York Times might post a question on Twitter like, “Do you think he is guilty or innocent?” Polls like these increase engagement and start a conversation, but it’s not limited to serious topics. A smoothie company could simply ask followers to pick a favorite flavor and then promote it with a discount the following week.

4. Puzzles & Games

A highly underrated social media contest is a great puzzle or game to challenge and offer fun to followers. Social media channels don’t host their own, but you can easily make a puzzle online and link to it in a tweet or Facebook post. If there’s a good enough prize on the table, people will flock to try and solve your riddles to win the loot. And as an added bonus, you can create questions with answers that will offer some insight into what your customers care about. Think about it like ethical data collection via contest marketing.