What Makes a Successful Contest?

Running a social promotion is one of the best ways to attract a targeted list of leads for your business. That’s because social promotions are fun, and users find them easy to understand and easy to engage with.

If setup correctly, contests also have a natural element of virality built into them. Meaning that people are rewarded for sharing, and the people that they share with are also rewarded for sharing.

It’s not uncommon for contests to get hundreds or even thousands of targeted entries depending on the type of contest, prize, and the degree to which a contest is optimized.

This guide will walk you through how to increase your chances of success with a social contest so that you can attract and convert more targeted leads.

The Contest Page

One of the most important parts of every contest is the contest page. The contest page is where users will come to learn about your contest, be convinced whether they want to participate or not, and then submit their details in order to enter.

What Makes a Successful Contest?

It’s important that contest page is designed using the same color scheme and branding as your website, blog, or social media pages. This will allow for a smooth transition and more continuity between the contest and your different channels.

Successful contest pages should also make it clear:

  • What prize(s) can be won
  • Who is eligible to win
  • What users need to do to enter

It should also be clear when the contest will be ending. Many successful contests will do this by adding a countdown clock. This helps to create a sense of urgency for users sitting on the fence about entering and can build up suspense leading toward the end of your campaign.

Pro tip: Give away a prize that’s closely related to your product or service. This will ensure that you only attract users who are genuinely interested in your business instead of a generic prize.

If you’re running low on prize ideas, a great place to start is a gift card valid at your business or a themed prize pack combining a number of your products. Prize packs and gift cards increase the number of prospective entrants who might be interested in winning.


Where you host a contest can be almost as important as the contest itself. That’s because a big part of creating a successful contest is considering who will be visiting your contest and where they’ll be coming from.

Social contests have the option to be housed on:

  • Your website
  • Facebook Page
  • Twitter
  • Anywhere you can insert HTML

A popular option is running a contest on both a Facebook page and on a company website. Both can display the same contest, collect entries, and draw a single winner while giving maximum exposure for the campaign.

What Makes a Successful Contest?

Running social contests directly on Facebook also has the added benefit of keeping Facebook users within Facebook when running Facebook Ads. This has been shown to improve conversion rates and overall contest participation.

Increasing Engagement

Preparing a hosting contest page is the first step, but adding features to enhance engagement can be what separates a successful contest from an extremely successful contest.

Contests can be customized to include extra points for:

  • Facebook Likes
  • Facebook Shares
  • Twitter Follow
  • Twitter Share
  • Like on Facebook Business Page
  • Product signups
  • Referrals
  • Video views

What Makes a Successful Contest?

Providing a variety of methods for users to enter and gain additional entries is a sure way to increase the virality of a contest and receive more overall participation.

A different number of entry points can be awarded depending on the size of the ask. For example, you could reward a user 1 extra entry for a Twitter share, but 3 extra entries for registering in one of your upcoming webinars.

You can also set the timeframe for when users can re-enter in the contest. This can be set in intervals of one day, one week, one month, etc.

Allowing users to enter more than once is a great way to build up an active following around your contest from return participants.


With an optimized contest landing page complete with social share options, bonus entries, and a referral feature you might think that you’ve maximized the number of users who will participate in your contest right?

Well you’d be wrong! There’s another tool that can help increase the number of people entering in your contest: a popup.

Popups can be triggered based upon:

  • Loading a page
  • Scrolling
  • A user trying to exit
  • Amount of time on the page
  • Mouse hovers or page interactions

What Makes a Successful Contest?

Contests that use popups as an alternate method for entry are able to get even more participation compared with having a single entry form alone.

Email Automation

The most successful contests take advantage of email marketing by automating follow up emails that provide relevant content and offers. Typically 1 or 2 emails works best, and can be anything from:

  • Follow up offers
  • Notifications of upcoming sales
  • New upcoming contests
  • A special coupon or discount code
  • Access to a free product

Take a look at an example email automated to send after a social contest. After a user enters, they are automatically sent a link to download a free ebook.

What Makes a Successful Contest?

Providing contest participants with useful related content via email is a great way of nurturing them further down your marketing funnel.


There are a lot of components that make up a successful contest. Each plays its own unique role, but combined they can help to create a successful contest.

Those components are:

  • The design and usability of the contest page
  • Where it’s hosted
  • Features to increase engagement
  • Popups
  • Contest follow-up emails

It’s important to begin with a plan of action that takes into account all of these options, combined with a subsequent lead nurturing strategy for turning new leads into sales.