Always work backward.

What do I mean by that? Working backward from your marketing goal will help you determine the how, what, where, and when of running your sweepstakes, contests, or giveaways.

Do not run a sweepstakes because:

  • you need a quick way to rack up social followers.
  • everyone else is doing it.
  • you don’t know what else to do.

Social Followers

Hosting a Facebook, X (Twitter), or Instagram giveaway will quickly give you followers and engagement. After a giveaway, your following will be divided into three categories:

  • loyal customers,
  • prospects,
  • and contestants.

What trips marketers up is that contestants and prospects overlap. Many contestants initially follow to win a prize, but in the process, they discover a new product or service and turn into customers. You cannot assume all contestants are ‘prize pigs.’

I will admit, and frankly, I’m ashamed they’re even a part of the community, but a small portion of contestants are only out to win, and worse yet, some at any cost. The critical thing to remember is that most contestants are ‘regular’ people who love to enter social media contests because it’s fun. They follow the rules, share the excitement, and can become the best brand ambassadors. As no one wins everything they enter, they are consumers. Treat them as such.

It’s called SOCIAL media for a reason. It’s all about connection. Like and reply to contest entrants’ comments to make people feel listened to and/or seen. When you’re engaging, you can also see who your detractors are, along with your cheerleaders.

Everyone else is too

Don’t fall into the trap of creating a sweepstakes ‘just because’. This is especially tempting when a calendar holiday or event comes around, and suddenly, there are hundreds of #MothersDay promotions, #12DaysofChristmas giveaways, or food day contests on #NationalChocolateChipDay.

Making yourself busy so you have something to report to your boss, or jumping on the seasonal bandwagon will do nothing to increase sales. (After all, that is the objective of every marketing activity.)

Like every other promotion or activity, giveaways should be built into your annual marketing plan. Your product or service may lend itself well to a themed event, and if not, how can you put your spin on it?

It’s easy to see how a golf course could host a #FathersDay giveaway for a round of golf or a lesson, but how about a tire company poking fun at #DoughnutDay hosting a contest?

What should you do?

Backstep #1

Social sweeps should never be created because it’s something to do. All online promotions should be created to help you reach your goals. Start by figuring out what those goals are:

  • Are you seeking brand recognition?
  • Are you launching a new product or service?
  • Do you want to increase website traffic?
  • Do you want to garner newsletter sign-ups?

Backstep #2

Once you know what your goal is, you can calculate your budget. Your budget will determine how much can be spent on prizes, graphics, advertising, boosting, viral marketing, the length of the promotion, etc.

The combination of the goal, your budget, and your target market will determine the platform (or platforms) a contest will be run on.

Backstep #3

Now select the platform your sweepstakes will be run on. The most popular platform is Facebook, followed by Twitter, Instagram, and lastly Pinterest. Some companies have used Vine, and a few have used Periscope or Snapchat.


If you are new to hosting giveaways or a small business, I recommend you start with Facebook because it’s the easiest to manage the entries, rules, promotions, and winners.

Again, back to the budget, you can use an app such as EasyPromos, StackSocial, OfferPop, Maven Social, Strutta, or even Rafflecopter as they will make contest management easy.

If that isn’t in your budget, you can host a Facebook Timeline contest (follow their Page Guidelines) and use an app such as Woobox to select a winner.


I love giveaways on Twitter as they are quick and easy to both set up and enter. Beware of the lazy and ‘spammy’ Twitter contests. Instead, use the platform to engage with your entrants in almost a conversational style. When running a Twitter giveaway, ensure you:

  • create a webpage with proper rules,
  • create a contest graphic that can be pinned to the top of your feed,
  • create a contest hashtag that is easy for you to track.

I like using TweetDraw to select winners, but it does have its pitfalls.

If you are comfortable with the platform, consider hosting a Twitter party. Not only are they fun, but they spark conversations and sometimes the best suggestions for your brand.


Instagram is the best platform for image-based sweepstakes. They say a picture is worth 1000 words. If your brand lends itself to images (make-up, clothing, food, etc.), you may already have a large following to engage with. A contest should only enhance your current Instagram marketing plan. Select both an image and prize that stays true to your brand.

If not, or your account is new, a sweepstakes is a great way to highlight your product or service. Use your imagination. Are you a lawn service? Get people to submit pictures of their yards. Are you a restaurant? Get people to submit their best recipes. Ensure you also have them regram the initial contest post to further viral your message.

Similar to Twitter, create a unique hashtag for your giveaway, and like Facebook, use Woobox to select a winner.

Going Forward

Like a road trip, you need a destination to map out a route and arrive successfully. Now that you know you need a goal for your social promotions, what will your next social sweepstakes, contest, or giveaway be?

NOTE: This post was originally written for Neal Schaffer’s social media marketing blog