6 Tips On How To Run Successful Online Competitions

Ian HancockSearch Engine Optimisation


The most important lesson that working in marketing has taught me is to never do anything without a goal – not even the smallest of tasks. So with this principle in mind, I know that every marketing strategy I work on should always start with the same question: Why? Why am I writing this article? Why should I schedule an email broadcast for Tuesday, and not for Sunday? Why should I run an online competition – what am I trying to achieve?

Running a competition has become an increasingly popular strategy in today’s digital landscape. Whether you’re trying to engage more with your users, grow your social media community or simply promote a new product, it feels like a contest is the simplest and easiest way to do it. But is this marketing tool so easy to handle?

Of course, an online competition can bring you many positive results; however, if you don’t plan enough or implement it correctly, it can also leave your followers with a bitter taste in their mouth. Therefore, let me ask you this question again: Why do YOU want to run a competition?

1. What is the purpose of your competition?

Based on what you are trying to achieve with your digital marketing strategy, it shouldn’t be hard to define the end goal of your competition. Are you planning to:

– grow an email list

– generate leads which can turn into sales

– earn more social media followers

– improve social or email engagement

– build or enhance brand awareness

– grow website traffic

– promote customer care

– celebrate a milestone

– promote a new collaboration

No matter what your objective is, make sure the whole competition strategy is built around it. Plus, make sure you have all the necessary tools at hand to measure the effectiveness of your competition. Once you decide the end goal, it should be pretty straightforward to determine the way the users can enter your contest.

2. What channels will you use?

The previous decisions that you made about your marketing objective and how users can enter your competition will probably play a big part in deciding which platform to use.

Social media: Is it a competition suitable for Facebook? Or would Twitter be a better choice? Regardless of what platform you decide to use, make sure you stick to just that one. Running a competition on two social media platforms at the same time means that you are actually running two simultaneous contests. The goal will be different, you will target two different categories of people, and you will need to offer two prizes. You will also measure your goals separately. You can’t announce the competition on both platforms, but choose the winner from just one, can you? This strategy goes against everything we’ve learned about ethical marketing.

It goes without saying that social media is a great channel to promote competitions that are run someplace else (email, website, blog, etc.).

Email: Running an email competition can represent the perfect strategy to grow your email list, as well as staying in touch with your existing subscribers. However, it is imperative to be as clear as possible about how people can enter the competition. Do they have to fill in a form? Should they simply reply to your email?
Even more, you need to be explicit that you intend to use their email addresses for marketing purposes after the competition ends.
In the case of email competitions, social media can be of great support to promote them.

Website / Blog: This type of competition can help you get to know your visitors and followers better. You can ask them to leave a comment, telling you more about themselves and their experience with your brand or even ask them to help you improve your services by recommending some changes.

Depending on the channel you choose, your approach should always be different and focused on the result.

3. What is the prize?

How did you come up with the incentive and why? Are you trying to introduce potential customers to your products? Are you trying to convert your followers into customers by offering them a significant discount? Or are you simply promoting a new collaboration?

In general, it’s good to make sure that you’re offering something that will appeal to your target audience. It doesn’t need to be a very high-value item; just make sure the prize will bring some value to your customers, as well as show people that you appreciate the time they took to enter the competition.

4. How will you decide the winner?

Transparency is probably the best ally in ethical marketing. Let the participants know right from the start the process that you will go through to choose the recipient of your prize. Knowing whether you will be selecting a winner at random, or based on an answer to a question will give people the opportunity to choose whether or not they want to participate.

To make things even easier, you can always work with a competition software, such as Rafflecopter. It’s an easy to use tool that will help you run and monitor your giveaways, regardless of their size. Plus, it doesn’t require any coding or I.T. sorcery.

5. Planning to follow-up?

Once you decide who the winner is, the next move will be to contact him/her to congratulate them for their big win; you should also ask for permission to use their name publicly. However, don’t leave it to that. Make sure you take care of the people who didn’t win too. Thank them for making your competition a success and maybe offer them a small discount or incentive for their effort.

Once you’ve announced to everyone that the competition is over, ensure that you make a big deal about it, because this can generate some great social activity and get people interested in what else you have to offer. Ask your winner to send a ‘victory’ photo or video of them celebrating their win.

6. Did you achieve what you planned?

Like with any marketing activity, it’s vital that you are tracking results. After all this effort, take the time to analyze everything involved in the competition: traffic, referrals, the number of participants, etc., so you know how to improve the next competition that you will run.


We always strive to offer our clients the best services, because we like to practice what we preach. We work with them closely every time, to ensure that any competition we run is a success and that everything we learn will be used for their benefit.

We recently ran an email competition for one of our e-commerce clients and here’s how it went:

Competition period: 3rd – 30th September 2016

Competition purpose: Grow their email database by 10%

Channel: Email. We sent two emails, one to let our subscribers know about the competition and the other one, sent two weeks later, to remind people to enter.

Supporting channels: Facebook and Twitter: three posts on each platform, each published in three separate weeks.
We also collaborated with two online magazines and a competition forum.

Prize: A handmade leather bag worth £60, offered by the client. We chose this particular product because we wanted to introduce potential customers to our client’s new products, as well as raise awareness of the kind of items our client sells.

Winner: Chosen randomly using Random.org

Follow-up: We contacted the winner to congratulate them and asked permission on using their name in our correspondence. We also offered a small discount to all participants, thanking them for making this competition a success.

Result: 330 new subscribers (15.8% database growth)