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5 Steps to Create a Successful Social Media Contest

Traci Browne
Jun 01, 2015

Social media contests are fun for those playing along and can expose your event to your attendees’ social network. Get a big enough number of attendees participating and you may just find your event hashtag trending on Twitter and Instagram! A trending event has the power to attract a very wide audience.

New potential attendees are exposed to your event, but you also draw the attention of the media. Sponsors and exhibitors will see your event is not just relevant but notably so. Coming up with a creative, fun social media contest is only half the battle. The more carefully you plan your contest, the better chance you have of it being a trending success.

Let’s focus on the most often overlooked pieces of your contest:

1. Create a timeline for exactly when each component of the contest will be implemented.

You want to create a timeline that covers the announcement of your contest through to awarding a winner and beyond, if needed. Your timeline should include check-in intervals in which you will evaluate how things are progressing. Making minor changes and fixes early on can save the entire plan from failing.

2. Make your contest simple and get everyone excited about playing along.

Don’t just announce your contest; market your contest! Get attendees excited to participate. Your contest should be simple enough for everyone to join in, even if they are not social media wizards. Have staff available on site to assist attendees in setting up accounts on the social media platforms they are using, and teach them how to play along.

3. Assign a cheerleader or two.

Your role during the contest is to provide feedback and fuel your players’ excitement. You could assign this task to someone back in the office and/or someone at the show. A simple, “what a fantastic picture! Thank you for playing,” or “great job, you’re racking up the points!” will encourage players to go for the gold.

4. Have a clear policy in place as to what is appropriate and what isn’t.

What if someone posts an inappropriate picture as part of your contest? Appropriate is not subjective. Not in this case. Clearly define what kind of photos will be deleted (and post these policies on your show website). Your plan should include who handles reviewing content and how often they check the content. You don’t have control over what people post on your event’s hashtag, but you do have control over what appears on your own channels. Having this policy in place will help you sell your strategy to management and avoid embarrassment.

5. Stretch your contest’s marketing value.

If you’ve planned well, you probably have a lot of attendee-generated content as a result of your contest. Some of that content is going to be marketing gold. What better way to show potential future attendees what a great time everyone has at your event? What better way to encapsulate bits of knowledge people gained than showcasing attendees’ tweets?

Follow these five simple but often overlooked steps and you are almost guaranteed to improve participation in your next social media contest.

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