It’s not the prize but the thrill, honey! Thoughts on organizing customer competitions on social media

Have you ever dreamt of winning these Finnair intercontinental flight tickets and eagerly filled in your e-mail address to participate in the draw? Maybe you even spent some minutes browsing their website to find out whether you would pick Osaka or Singapore for your imaginary prize trip. Or maybe a chance to get a branded backpack or a designer dress has caught your eye? If yes, then you are not alone, customer competitions on social media are extremely popular.


Getting more engagement on social media is desirable. Brand pages should get more followers, more likes, more comments and shares. How to achieve this? One way is to create interesting and engaging content but with the amount of information we are bombarded on social media, it is very tough to get through. Offering a reward makes people more interested. The more likes, shares and comments, the more reach your content gets. Additionally, such competitions remind and inform our customers about what we have to offer to them. They may not win the prize but will remember the thing and may purchase it on the next salary day. Usually the social media channels also have the option of promoting the posts so that even people who are not the followers see the competition. With more engagement we can increase the reach and additionally, a fun and interesting competition may also elicit positive word of mouth.

The question is, however, who are the people we are engaging? In the positive case scenario, the people participating in the draw are also engaged with or at least interested in the brand. This is, unfortunately not always the case. I have hosted online competitions for international beauty brands on Facebook and Instagram for over three years. In those years I have learned to know a bunch of people who have dedicated their social media presence to participating in different competitions. You can imagine the sense of disappointment and even a hint of betrayal when I checked the profile of a person who had just won my lucky draw. The person had written how excited she would be to get a set of face packs and I felt happy to grant her little wish. From the comments she seemed a real beauty buff who appreciated the product. On her Facebook profile I however discovered that in one day she had participated in competitions to win more than 15 different products that included: an electric fireplace, a maki set from a sushi restaurant, cotton socks, and, dishwasher tablets. On one other occasion, the winner I picked on Instagram turned out to be an elderly man who had no idea what product he had won. He asked me whether his granddaughters would enjoy the prize.

blog_marianne_dube_bild_2.pngAnother issue with organizing social media competitions is their somewhat low trustworthiness. Facebook has some rules about raffles but other media such has Instagram have no rules. People talk about brands never announcing their winners or people never receiving their prizes. Because of this, some people may even start badmouthing a brand. Coming back to the purpose of such customer competitions – getting more engagement, positive word of mouth and informing people about the brand- this negative publicity would not help the cause. The challenge is to make the competition authentic, positive and engaging the right audience.

Here are some points of advice on organizing customer engaging competitions on social media:

1. Design the competition so that it is informative and shows the prizes in a desirable way. It doesn’t have to be an expensive prize. I have seen 10 000 customers competing for a pair of Nokia rubber boots. Invest in a good image and give some information about the prize. Plant the idea of your offering into the customers mind.

2. Make the competition rules very clear. Check with the media what are you allowed to do. You can’t force people to share anything on Facebook but you can hint that sharing doubles your chances. State the prize, the dates and what is required for participation. Tell also when are you going to announce the winner.

3. Be transparent and keep the deadlines. Pick the winner when you promised to do it and make all the announcements. This will make your competition authentic. Announce the winner’s name. The first name and the first letter of the surname is good, adhere to the laws concerning personal information.

4. Be fair. Don’t pick your friend as a winner. People actually check out who the winner is. Avoid picking a spammer who has written 30 comments.

5. Clear communication with the winner. Make the delivery dates clear and send the prize as soon as possible. If there is a delay, inform the recipient. A happy winner will spread tons of positive word of mouth!

Organizing customer competitions on social media can be fun and beneficial for your brand. Doing such raffles and games will however make you acquainted with the gamblers of social media who may not have any interest in what you are offering. The key is to take the customer interest with a pinch of salt and make your competition as authentic and reliable as possible!

Marianne Dube

Information Specialist, Doctoral Student


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