Wish your followers shared your posts more? Make it happen with social media contests.

Social media is vital for event promotion, but you can’t just rely on your own accounts to spread the word — you have to get event-goers to share it as well. Contests are the perfect way to motivate word-of-mouth promotion without a huge investment.

But not every social media contest is as successful as it could be — and if you don’t plan ahead, contests could even land you in legal trouble. You need a strategy that will yield the most engagement, without risking your event’s brand in the process.

Here’s how to jumpstart your event marketing with creative social media contest ideas.

Contests as an event promotion strategy

There’s endless competition for space in event-goer’s newsfeeds. Social media algorithms surface only the most relevant content for their users — which can significantly reduce your organic reach as a brand. For your content to rise above the fold, you need to increase your engagement rates (the number of likes and shares you get on a post).

When people like, comment, or tag their friends in your post, it increases engagement. And if followers share your posts, it extends your reach exponentially, because their friends will now see it as well. Social media contests incentivize likes and shares of your content, getting your event in front of more potential attendees.

What’s more, contests are a cost-effective strategy to break through the noise on social media. You can give away free tickets, VIP upgrades, or sponsors’ products to incentivize engagement at no or little cost. But with more and more contests popping up, you’ll want to give away a truly unique experience to catch event-goers’ attention.

Creative social media contest ideas

The first step in setting up your social media contest is deciding what behavior you want to incentivize.

You could choose to encourage engagement on social media, entries to collect email addresses, or creative submissions you can use in your marketing. Here are six ways to structure social media contests:

  1. Basic enter-to-win sweepstakes: Sweepstakes are a quick, easy, and familiar way to collect entries and email addresses of potential attendees. Just be sure to indicate that people are opting into communication from you if you plan to email them.
  2. Retweet to win: Ask followers to retweet (RT) a specific tweet to enter to win. To help grow your Twitter account at the same time, state in your tweet that users need to follow and RT you to enter to win.
  3. Hashtag contest – Incentivize some great user-generated content by having your fans post photos to Twitter and/or Instagram with a certain branded hashtag.
  4. Snapchat drawing – Tap into your Snap followers’ artistic sides by asking them to send a themed Snapchat drawing to your account.
  5. Tag a friend – Expand you account reach by asking people to tag the friend they’d bring with them to your event if they won tickets.
  6. Survey – Gain some insight into your potential event attendees by asking them to fill out a short survey, and randomly select a winner from all those who participate.

As for the prize? Free tickets, a VIP experience for two, airline tickets to the event — the sky’s the limit. Be sure to involve your partners and sponsors as you come up with giveaways to improve your contest without increasing your budget.

How to avoid social media contest fails

A poorly structured social media contest can feel like a waste of time and resources. And while contests, as a rule, are fairly low-maintenance, they still require some upfront work that’s well worth the effort. Here are two tips to keep in mind as you plan your contest.

  1. Use tech to support it

If you’re not using social media tools to help you schedule and publish your posts, it’s definitely time to start doing so. Not only can social media tools help save you time and money, they also take the headache out of having and maintaining a social presence.

Contests generate lots of questions and comments on social media (which is what you want!), but you can’t be online twenty-four hours a day. The right tool can make it easier to manage.

  1. Have legal Terms & Conditions

Each social platform has different rules regarding contests. Facebook, for example, doesn’t allow you to require that people share content to their walls. So be sure to read up on the current rules for each social platform as you craft your giveaway.

It’s also important to know the local legal regulations for giveaways, such as minimum age requirements and CAPTCHA guidelines. In general, it’s best practice to develop rules that clearly indicate the structure of your contest, including entry dates, requirements, and how/when a winner will be chosen and contacted. You’ll also want to keep in mind the cash value of your prize, as the taxes a winner would have to pay on the giveaway could make the whole package less tempting.

Be sure to link to these rules every time you promote your contest. And most importantly, run it all by your legal team long before you start your contest!

Want more marketing ideas?

Of course, contests are just one way to build buzz about your event. Ramp up your marketing with the 10 Best Ways to Promote Your Event Online.

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