[CHEATSHEET] How to Run a Successful Online Contest

Cover image for how to run online contests

Step 1: Define your objective for your Online Contest

First things first, what exactly do you want to achieve with your online contest? Without a solid definition of your goals, you won’t be able to execute, promote, or measure your online contest very well.

It could be one or more of the following, but keep in mind not to pick too many. Try to choose 1 primary objective and 1-2 secondary objectives from this list:

  • Grow your email list/generate opt-ins
  • Increase brand awareness
  • Boost social engagement
  • Promote your products
  • Get opinions/feedback
  • Capture rich audience data & insights

Step 2: Pick an Online Contest

There are loads of contest types that you can choose from, depending on your goals and objectives.

  • Basic Contest opt-in
  • Quiz Contest
  • Video Quiz Contest
  • Feedback Contest
  • Vote-to-Enter Contest
  • Refer-a-Friend Contest
  • Extra Entry Points Contest
  • Educational Quiz Contest
Create a Video Quiz Contest with this Template

Video Quiz Contest

Encourage your audience to watch a promotional video by inserting a quiz contest into it. By adding the ‘contest element’ to your video, you can turn visitors/viewers into contacts for your email distribution lists.

The Vote to Enter Contest is a great way to crowdsource your audience's opinions. Use this template to get feedback on new, existing or upcoming products or just to engage your audience.

Vote-to-Enter Contest

Each question is followed by immediate feedback, therefore you will be educating the participant about each topic or point. Try it here.

Refer-a-Friend Contest

Reward your followers for sharing the contest with their friends, who will then share it with their friends – creating a ripple-effect for your contest promotion.

Extra Entry Points Contest

The point is to get more information about the participants and in exchange, they will be increasing the chance of winning the prize. Basic information like name and email will qualify them to enter, but providing extra information like phone number and address will increase the chances of winning.

Template for creating an educational quiz contest

Educational Quiz Contest

Teach your audience about your company, products, or area of expertise with this quiz contest. Each question is followed by immediate feedback, thereby educating the participant about each topic or point.

Step 3: Choose your Online Contest reward model

Your prize/giveaway is the primary driver for people to participate in your contest. So make sure that you choose the reward model carefully. Here are a few things to consider:

Prize value:

This needs to be appropriate concerning what you’re asking for in return. So if you’re asking for people to spend 10 minutes answering a few questions, then your prize should be worth it.

The number of winners:

Would you pick just one winner or multiple winners? Perhaps you want to reward everyone who participates in the contest with a guaranteed prize?

Qualifying criteria:

What does a person have to do for a chance to win? Take a quiz? Watch a video and answer a question? Or perhaps just comment on your post? Make sure to be clear in communicating the qualifying criteria.

Here are a few ideas for prize/giveaways:

  • Your own products or services
  • Gift cards or vouchers
  • Discounts
  • Free consultations or evaluations

Step 4: Rules, terms and legal stuff

It’s super important to be clear about the rules and terms of the contest. While every country has its own set of rules and laws when it comes to contests, here are the most common ones that you need to be defined:

  • Eligibility requirements
  • The contest time frame
  • The prize and return policy
  • Judging criteria
  • Winner notice details
  • Winner response deadline
  • Use of personal data
  • Subscription to email and/or SMS list

Step 5: Plan Online Contest promotion

A good promotion plan is critical for the success of your online contest. People won’t find your online contest on their own unless you do the effort to reach them. Here are the different ways you can promote your online contest:

Your website or blog:

Place a banner or pop-up on your website or blog, with clear CTA’s, and a direct link to your contest landing page.

Email/SMS campaign:

Send an email to your existing subscribers. If you have a database of phone numbers, consider sending them an SMS campaign with a link to your contest landing page.

Employee signatures:

Believe it or not, this actually works pretty well for mid-large sized companies. Make a small banner linking to your contest and add your colleagues to place it under their email signature for the duration of your contest.

Your social media pages:

how to promote an online contest on social media
An example promo for a contest, as seen in a user’s newsfeed on Facebook. Notice how the title asks a question, enticing the user to click on it. Also, the prize is clearly mentioned with an image as well.

This one’s a no-brainer. You should certainly promote your contest on your social media pages. You might also consider creating a custom hashtag and tell participants to make posts or comment on social media and include your custom hashtag.

Social media ads:

Doing social media ads is highly recommended for you, as social media platforms like Facebook have very low organic reach rates. So you might make a post on your page and it may not reach more than 2-5% of your followers. Consider setting a budget aside for paid promotion on social media.

Influencers/brand advocates:

You can reach out to influencers in your industry, and encourage them to share your online contest with their networks. If you have a set of popular bloggers or brand advocates on file, try and get them to help promote your online contest. These kinds of tactics can be free, but may also require a small budget to offer an incentive to your influencers or brand advocates.

Distributor partnerships:

If your product is sold through distributorships, you should try and get in touch with them to promote your online contest through their channels. The cost of doing this depends on your relationships and agreements with the distributors.

Step 6: Launch and measure your Online Contest

Pick and customize a template

Once you’ve figured out what kind of online contest you want to make and chosen a template to customize, you’ll need to start customizing it with your content and visual brand identity.

Prepare your content

You should consider the followings:

  • Your logo
  • Prize image and description
  • An attention-grabbing title: Keep it short, to-the-point, and click-worthy. Questions work really well, for example: “Can you get 5 questions right? The element of mystery works well too, for example: “Discover your perfect summer getaway and win it!” Mentioning the value of the prize is also a good idea “Enter our contest and win a handbag worth $300”.
  • Contest introduction: Copy that sells and promotes the contest well.
  • Contest opt-in form: Requires input fields for participants to fill in.
  • Content: This depends on what kind of content you want to make. For example, if you’re making a quiz contest and you will need a set of questions and answer options.
  • Other imagery and media: You might want to use other imagery, videos, or gifs to support the look and feel of your contest.
  • Thank you message: A message that says thank you to the user once for the participation in your contest.
  • Follow up email or SMS: Any follow-up content you might want to send the participants once someone opts-in to the contest. This could be promotional content, helpful blog posts, and links to e-books, or something else.

Publish Online Contest landing page

Figure out your promotion plan and prepare all your promotional content. You might want to use a mix of promotional copy, imagery, and banners or videos. Get it organized, prepared, and launch your contest.

Promote your contest

Figure out your promotion plan and prepare all your promotional content. You might want to use a mix of promotional copy, imagery, and banners or videos. Get it organized, prepared, and launch your contest.

Define and measure metrics

Dot.vu data and analytics tools
Here is a snapshot of the performance measurement, click-mapping and source analytics tools on dot.vu

Choose the metrics that matter to you. Here are a few examples of metrics you could use, based on various objectives:

  • Metrics for objective “Grow your email list/generate opt-ins”
    • Contest form completion rate or conversion rate
    • Email contacts captures
    • Number of people who opted-in to receive emails/SMS content from you
  • Metrics for objective “Increase brand awareness”
    • Amount of traffic to your contest landing page, website or blog
    • New vs. Returning visitors
    • Amount of time spent on your contest
  • Metrics for objective “Boost social engagement”
    • Impressions & Reach
    • Views & clicks for each social media platform
    • Traffic coming through social media platform
  • Metrics for objective “Promote your products”
    • Clicks to your products
    • Traffic to your product or pricing pages or to your webshop
    • New purchases that happened
  • Metrics for objective “Get opinions/feedback”
    • Number of qualified respondents 
    • Quality of the opinions and feedback
  • Metrics for objective “Capture rich audience data & insights”
    • Quality of lead-qualifying data
    • Ability to segment participants based on data captured about them
    • Quality of business insights gathered from contest

Learn & repeat!

The most successful contests are based on a culture of constant learning.

Consider the followings:

  • What value did your contest create?
  • Did it meet your objective(s)?
  • Did it yield a good return-on-investment?
  • Which aspects of your contest did you think were successful?
  • What would you do differently next time? For example:
    • Would you want to spend more time planning in advance?
    • Use another prize? Increase or decrease prize value?
    • Promote your contest in a different way?
    • Follow up with participants immediately?

The key is to learn from your successes and mistakes and make the next one even better!


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