ImageCan anyone remember what it’s like to hold a contest for a brand without integrating some sort of social media aspect into the mix anymore? I guess the best example of this pre-dates the internet, where if you wanted to guess how many jellybeans were inside of a jar for a chance to win big money, you had to write your answer down and mail it in to a P.O. Box number. This was part of the same time where companies had to shell out thousands on advertising to reach the widest possible audience through newspapers, magazines, and TV and radio spots, but it always left brands wondering… did we truly reach our demographic?

Even if they did, there was no way brands could connect and interact with the wide range of contestants that submitted entries for any given contest. Social media platforms have changed the way that brands hold contests because they’re predominantly based online and participation is heavily reliant on sites like Facebook and Twitter. All it takes now is to hit “like” on Facebook once and enter in your email address for a chance to win and there’s that. Or so it would seem. Savvy brands know better today when it comes to holding online contests – the key here is all about engagement and keeping the customer interested long after they’ve followed your brand on Twitter and liked you on Facebook.

1) Once They’ve Liked You or Entered In, Start Talking

New fans and new likes means a rise in insights, but don’t feel content to ride off of the initial first wave that comes in for your brand’s page for the contest forever. Start engaging your customers and fans by asking them questions and encouraging answers. Respond back or like some of the replies back if you’re on Facebook. If you’re on Twitter, follow your fans especially the ones you engage in conversation multiple times with – don’t be a Twitter follower elitist. Answer any and all questions asked and do it thoughtfully, with a constant encouragement that if applicants have more questions they are free to ask away. Bring in an even wider audience by paying for Facebook advertising - for as little as $10 each day, your brand and its contest can reach an even bigger audience than you thought would be possible.

2) Create a Hashtag

By creating a hashtag for your contest and encouraging fans and entry applicants alike to use it when tweeting or on Instagram or Tumblr, this helps better track down who is discussing your brand and what they’re saying. It’s also a lot of fun to use, especially if it’s a particularly catchy or clever hashtag, and if you integrate a piece of your brand’s name in said hashtag it helps widen the net of who sees it and in turn, shares it with a group of online influencers.

3) Build Your Contest Link Back Into Your Website

This is a little less social media concerned but still a good practice to take into consideration for your contest. Instead of sticking the URL for your contest on a third party website, build it into your main site to better bring in more visitors and traffic. This is a little something I’m currently doing with a business contest my company MyCorporation is holding – we redirect entries to a special company contest URL in order to enter. Once you have the contest link built in, include everything else necessary as well like rules and regulations for the contest, an FAQ section, contact emails to reach out to for further questioning, and of course, all of your social media buttons.