Want your business and products in front of more consumers during the holiday season? Looking for ways to stretch your marketing budget?
In this article, you’ll discover 10 ideas for cost-effective social media contests to run during the holidays. You’ll also learn some best practices for successfully running giveaways.
10 Ideas for Seasonal Holiday Giveaways and Contests
From attracting new followers to driving awareness of seasonal specials, giveaways offer tons of options for reaching your marketing goals. Looking for a social media contest idea? Let’s look at a few ideas for running a successful social media contest that engages your target audience.
#1: Boost Brand Awareness With a Tag Campaign
One of the biggest perks of giveaways is that they can easily reach beyond your brand’s existing followers, especially if the prize is notable. That makes contests ideal for boosting brand awareness and growing your audience on platforms like Instagram.
You can certainly run a brand awareness-focused giveaway at any time of year. But by using a holiday or seasonal theme, you can drive interest in your products while reaching more potential customers during a key shopping period.
To run a seasonal giveaway that drives brand awareness, center it around a themed prize like a Christmas or Thanksgiving gift pack. Then ask your audience to enter by following your account and tagging a friend. Ideally, tagged friends will also want to enter the giveaway, which results in more followers and greater brand awareness.
In the Instagram post below, @nadamoo hosts a springtime giveaway highlighting one of the ice cream brand’s seasonal products. In partnership with cookie maker @sweetlorens, the brand invites followers to enter by following both accounts, liking the post, and tagging a friend.
If you want to keep the giveaway relatively simple, you might allow each user to enter once. But if you have bigger goals to reach, you may want to give users options for multiple entries. For example, you can allow one entry for each tag—like @nadamoo did in the example above—which could increase impressions and follows significantly.
#2: Create Momentum With a Multi-Day Social Media Giveaway
During busy holiday seasons, even the most exciting giveaways can get buried on the timeline. To make sure your contest gets the results you anticipate, it’s helpful to start teasing it in advance. Consider announcing it ahead of time so followers know to keep an eye on your account.
To get even more impressive results, consider planning a multi-day event instead of a one-off contest. By inviting people to check back for new giveaway opportunities over multiple days, you can create serious momentum. This approach also creates a series of touchpoints, which may lead to conversions.
Multi-day giveaways can work particularly well during major shopping holidays like Christmas. You might use a multi-day giveaway as a sort of countdown to the holidays or the shopping season—driving awareness of your brand’s gifts while giving a select few away to lucky winners.
In the Facebook post below, @GetRocketbook launches a Thanksgiving-themed contest lasting for just over a week. On each of the 8 days, the notebook brand plans to give away a new prize, giving followers and potential customers plenty of reasons to check back and engage with the brand’s social media content.
#3: Get Ongoing Engagement From Recurring Social Media Contests
Multi-day giveaways are ideal for leveraging major holidays. But what if you want to improve engagement and increase brand awareness on an ongoing basis? With recurring contests, you can give your audience something to look forward to as you celebrate each season.
To make the most of recurring contests, consider mapping out an entire year of giveaways. Use seasonal themes to make each one relevant and use a similar timeframe—such as launching on the first of each month—so your audience knows what to expect.
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With this approach, you can continue to build momentum throughout the year. If you use tactics like asking people to follow your account and tag friends, you may be able to achieve steady growth and engagement from month to month.
In the Instagram post below, @bellisa.jewellery announces a generous prize for the brand’s September giveaway. Since it’s part of a recurring series of giveaways and allows multiple entries throughout the month, this contest allows the jewelry brand to drive engagement on an ongoing basis.
#4: Make the Most of Lesser-Known Holidays
If major holidays tend to be the most lucrative for your brand, it may be tempting to plan all of your contests around them. But in many cases, giveaways on minor holidays can also generate great results, especially if there’s less competition from other brands.
Think about planning a seasonal social media contest during your business’ slowest time of year so you can attract new customers. Or plan a contest around one of the hundreds of daily themed holidays that fit your brand.
In the Instagram post below, @toms_of_maine shares a giveaway in celebration of B Corp Month, an important holiday for businesses that value social and environmental transparency and accountability. The prize package includes items from several B Corp–certified brands, which is a great way to give the contest more visibility.
#5: Encourage Your Audience to Create Content to Win Prizes
When your main goal is attracting new customers or improving brand awareness, asking for tags and follows makes sense. But if you want to increase loyalty or convert new customers, you’ll probably want to run a different kind of contest.
Instead, ask your audience to share user-generated content (UGC) with a certain theme. You might run a video contest and ask people to share a video of themselves using your product. Or run a photo contest in which you ask them to post a photo of something they created that’s relevant to the campaign.
When people post contest entries to their own social profiles, they’ll automatically increase awareness of your brand and campaign among their own followers. In many cases, you can repurpose UGC to get even more value from it. See best practices for collecting UGC below.
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In the @PopTartsUS tweet below, the breakfast pastry brand invites followers to enter a Fourth of July–themed giveaway. The catch? Instead of asking participants to follow or tag the brand, @PopTartsUS challenges followers to create a flag using Pop-Tarts.
#6: Offer a Huge Prize for Loyal Customers
If you give your audience a relatively simple UGC assignment, you may get tons of entries. When you want volume, that’s the ideal result. But when you want a smaller number of entries from a more dedicated customer base, consider making the contest harder to enter.
To make sure the giveaway is worthwhile for customers to enter, scale up the prize accordingly. Choose something that captures your audience’s attention and that adequately rewards loyal customers.
On Facebook, @wholefoodsmarket hosted a summer-themed giveaway. The potential prize was huge, with 200 winners. But the giveaway hinged on the weather. If it rained across at least 50% of the continental U.S., the retailer would to carry out the giveaway—to help participants redo their summer.
#7: Start a Hashtag Challenge
Looking for ways to make your holiday contest more fun? Create a hashtag challenge that inspires your audience to create themed content. The more popular your hashtag challenge becomes, the more visibility your contest—and your brand—will get.
The Independence Day-themed @PopTarts contest above uses a unique hashtag (#PopTartsFlagEntry) to generate awareness. Since participants also have to tag their creations when they submit, the hashtag is also useful for finding and organizing entries.
#8: Collaborate With a Complementary Brand
Have a relatively small giveaway budget that won’t allow for much scaling? There are plenty of other ways to get the word out about your campaign and encourage your target audience to enter your social media contest.
With co-branded giveaways, you can partner with a fellow business owner or a brand that has complementary products. Together, you can build prize packages that are more valuable and more exciting than you’d be able to offer independently.
If both brands actively promote the giveaway, you can get tons of traction—essentially encouraging one brand’s audience to follow the other’s account. If the two brands make complementary products, then there’s a good chance that their audiences are already a good fit for one another.
In the Instagram post below, @califiafarms and @tatesbakeshop partner on a giveaway to celebrate National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day. Along with asking participants to follow both accounts, the brands use Instagram’s collaborative tool to post the giveaway to both accounts to boost reach.
#9: Partner With an Influencer
Brands certainly aren’t the only accounts you can partner with to run giveaways. Influencers can also host contests on your brand’s behalf, which can be ideal for reaching a larger audience without ads during a key holiday season.
#10: Run Contests Across Social Channels
The more popular your contest becomes, the more complicated it gets to track entries. On the one hand, you may want to keep giveaways to a single channel to simplify them as much as possible. But on the other hand, you may want to run giveaways across channels so you can achieve bigger goals.
In the TikTok video below, @proactiv hosts a summer-themed giveaway. Instead of asking participants to follow the brand on TikTok only, the cross-channel giveaway also requires people to follow the brand on Instagram.
If you’re on the fence, consider a third option: running recurring giveaways that rotate through your social profiles. By hosting an Instagram contest one week and a Twitter contest the next week, you can keep entries separate while still engaging as much of your audience as possible.
How to Plan Successful Social Media Contests
Social media contests give brands a lot of room to get creative. But even if you plan to test a new idea, it’s still smart to follow best practices. That way, you can ensure that your contest follows platform policies and you get the best possible results.
Clarify the Eligibility Requirements
In most cases, not just anyone can enter your giveaway. For example, you may need to restrict entries to people older than 18 or residents of certain cities, regions, or countries. Before launching a giveaway, check with your organization’s legal team. Then outline the eligibility requirements in all social media posts that promote the giveaway.
Avoid Prohibited Activities
For Twitter giveaways, hashtag challenges are relatively common. On Instagram, tag campaigns are typical. But these contest entry guidelines won’t work on every social network.
Each social channel has its own set of prohibited activities—actions you can’t require users to take as part of their giveaway entries. Take some time to review each platform’s contest rules to make sure you don’t go against the guidelines and risk getting a strike against your account.
For example, Instagram doesn’t allow brands to ask users to tag themselves in a photo or other content if they aren’t actually in it. Facebook prohibits tag campaigns and shares to other users’ timelines. Twitter discourages brands from asking users to share the same tweet, since duplicate content goes against the Twitter Rules.
Include Required Disclaimers
Are you planning to post your giveaway on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and other channels? Before you cross-post or copy and paste the caption across channels, double-check that you’re including the correct disclaimers.
Many social networks require that you add a disclaimer clarifying that the giveaway isn’t sponsored or administered by the network. For an example, check out the @nadamoo post above, which states, “Not affiliated with @instagram.”
Link Out to a Landing Page
Contests should be fun to enter. Ideally, any posts about them should get participants excited to join. But when you have tons of requirements, disclaimers, and terms to cover in the caption, giveaway posts can quickly become much less fun to read. All of this language might even deter some people from entering.
It’s never a good idea to skip contest requirements to make your posts look nicer. But you don’t always have to include the full terms in the post caption. If you create an independent landing page that details the terms, you can link out to it and encourage participants to click through to read more.
Use Unique Hashtags
Hashtags can be incredibly helpful for collecting contest entries. Since you can do a hashtag search with platforms like Twitter and Instagram, you don’t need a third-party tool to use this method.
But if the contest hashtag you use is common or if it’s already been used for another purpose, you might have trouble separating entries from unrelated content. Before announcing your giveaway, double-check that the hashtag you’ve picked is unique.
Plan Ahead for UGC Collection and Reuse
Social media contests can generate tons of high-quality UGC for your brand. But just because a customer tagged your brand in a UGC post doesn’t necessarily mean you have permission to repurpose the post.
If you plan to share UGC on your website or your social channels, make sure to outline the terms in the giveaway guidelines. It’s helpful to check with your legal team to get the language right or ask contest participants for permission directly.
Social media contests are ideal for reaching ambitious marketing goals without investing in advertising. With a giveaway that’s tailored to the holiday, your brand, and your audience, you can increase brand awareness, grow your audience, generate more UGC, boost loyalty, and reach other goals.
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