So, if our goal is to cut the crap and give the people what they want so that they love us, what do good contests actually look like?

It depends on your business goals. Do you want to increase engagement with likes and shares? Or awareness with impressions? Or maybe you want to drive traffic to your website?

Certain types of contests can pull double-duty. That is, they can focus on one of the above goals, and also collect user-generated content for your social media calendar, or crowdsource opinions, or gather high-quality leads for your sales team.

Consider the following species of contest, and choose one that supports your objectives.

Giveaways & sweepstakes

Arguably the simplest contest to run is a giveaway.

People are wowed by a desirable prize, and so they perform an action of your choice. The action can be as simple as liking the post or as complicated as producing a video.

Absolut gave away an all-expenses paid Coachella weekend to fans in the UK. This probably felt like a perfect prize, at least until the calls to boycott the festival started.

Still, this UK contest was so successful that Absolut ran an identical giveaway for American residents a month later.

Meanwhile, to reach a slightly more specific demographic, this hunting store gave away a bunch—like really an unusually large number—of plastic geese.

Unfortunately, as you can see below, they broke Facebook’s timeline rule by asking people to share the contest post. Think of it like this: if your goose fullbodies are alluring enough, people will want to share the news on their own without you asking.


Add a twist to your giveaway by stretching it into a multi-day event. Not only will it make winning seem more likely, returning to your Page several times will increase audience retention, so that people will remember all those positive new opinions about your brand.

To celebrate Chipmas, Kettle Brand did giveaways every day for four days. They asked people to comment naming their favourite flavour, and each day a winner was randomly chosen to receive either a case of their favourite flavour, or, on the fourth day, a year’s supply.

Note that while Kettle Brand asks participants to @ a friend (Facebook specifically prohibits this!) they get away with it because it’s written in verse it’s a suggestion, not a requirement.

According to Maxwell PR, the campaign’s creators, the giveaway earned Kettle Brand 340,000 impressions (that’s around 18.9 percent reach, when the average organic reach for a Facebook post is 6.4 percent) and an impressive average engagement rate of 5.1 percent.

Likewise, Rex Specs did a similar holiday countdown. (I have nothing to add here, except that these dogs are very handsome boys.)

Brainy contests

You know what people love in this day and age? Feeling smart.

Trivia, skill-testing questions, puzzles, quizzes. Anything that will make a complicated world feel coherent for one satisfying second.

By combining a prize with that feeling of accomplishment, your contest becomes deeply clickable. (And in some cases maybe you can even skip the prize.)

For instance, National Geographic asked a pretty tough question to feed excitement for the second season of its show Genius. Fans had to pay attention over five days to figure out the clues, which required knowledge of architecture, art history and European history. In return, Nat Geo offered an appropriately lavish—but nerdily specific—reward: a heavily-scheduled week in Spain (guided tour of the Alhambra and private flamenco lessons, anyone?).

Photo contests

Photo contests are popular for good reason. Not only do they boost activity on your Page, with the right agreements in place, you get to tap into a source of user-generated content for your marketing calendar.

Johnson’s Myanmar received a ton of baby pictures—most of which came already came branded in the company’s custom Facebook Frame—in return for some customized tins.

Meanwhile, Kellogg’s ran a contest in 2014 where they asked for customers’ creative Eggo recipes, taking this “versatile canvas” of foods beyond breakfast. We’re classifying this as a photo contest because what other use would the company have for the submitted recipes? (Did they make a cookbook? No, they did not.)

While Kellogg’s certainly got the social activity—and probably the sales, given the size of the cash prize—they were looking for, if we were in charge of this contest today we’d want to solicit photos that could be used in our social feeds down the line. Because what they got wasn’t always, um, pretty.

On the opposite end of the scale, Skies Magazine doesn’t even offer a prize beyond public recognition.

The Canadian publisher knows it can rely on the passion of amateur aviation photographers to provide a steady stream of quality images. Skies holds weekly contests on their Facebook page, and fans vote on their favorite photo. The winner is featured in their free daily e-newsletter.

Creative crowdsourcing contests

If you’ve already convinced people to make the effort to write a word or two, why not ask them to make those words meaningful? Gather insight on your business goals by asking for feedback on a new product name or ideas for improvement. Feed two birds with one scone!

Even if you don’t have any burning questions for your customers (come on, yes you do) asking your audience to think creatively is more fun for them. They want to write a funny caption for that photo, fill in the blanks, or tell you their deepest desire vis-à-vis their scheduling software needs.

And if you can find a way to include a picture of a baby animal, we highly encourage that.

Popularity contests

This is a subspecies of contest which gives the power to the people, rather than relying on to choose the winner. It’s especially useful if the contest is at all creative: people can vote for their favourite submission by Liking the relevant comment, photo, or post.

The advantage here is that it encourages sharing without explicitly requiring it. For instance: if I want that duckling to be named Cage Pooper, I am going to have to tell all my friends to look at that post and vote for my comment that says the duckling should be named Cage Pooper.