How online contests can improve your company’s marketing

Digital MarketingMarketingMarketing Tips

Why do you need it?

I think we can all agree that we are well into the age of technology. How can your brand get attention in an age when our attention spans are getting shorter? How do you get your business noticed online when thousands of new websites are launched every day around the world? The answer is simple: user generated content. People love topics that revolve around them. They love to share what they have done, what they have found, and the things they enjoy.

By creating an online contest, you give people the chance to interact with your brand. By extension, you have people creating content on your website or on social media that Google connects to your business. Google gives priority to pages that contain quality content. If a lot of people are going to your website and are interacting with it for a while, this lowers your bounce rate. When you allow people to add user generated content, they are also adding keywords that Google will recognise. The more you do to get people interacting, the higher you will rank on Google organic searches. This means more traffic and more business, which is the goal at the end of the day.

How it creates buzz

Social media has taken the world by storm. You will be hard-pressed to find a person under the age of 50 who isn’t on some kind of social media. This includes Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, and the list goes on. The idea is to tap into that online social interaction as organically as possible. People are desensitised to traditional advertising methods. They turn it off as soon as they recognise something as a sales pitch. This is where the online contest comes in. When done correctly, it can be something fun and interactive that gets people talking about your brand. Your potential customer relies more on what their friends say about your brand than about what you say about your brand, so it’s important to make sure they are saying goods things.

Different kinds of contests

There are many different contests that you can choose from. But you need to think about the end goal and decide which contest is best to achieve that goal. For example, a photo-based contest to increase interaction on Pinterest is a great idea if you are a photographer, but if you’re a life coach then a better contest would be one that generates testimonials (like an essay or video entry contest).

Types of contests


  • Photo caption contest ideas – Post a funny or thought-provoking picture and ask people to add a caption to it
  • Selfie contest ideas – Get people to post selfies of themselves with your product
  • Cutest pet contest – Ask people to post photos of their pet doing something cute, admirable, or funny
  • Drawing/painting contest ideas – Have people draw or paint something related to your product, such as people creating book art for a novel you are having published
  • Holiday decorating contest – Keep people engaged over the holidays by getting them to post images of something holiday related with your product. If you sell lights, it can be a house decoration contest during the festive season where people decorate their house with lights and post a photo of it
  • Share a photo contest – This is a more generic photo contest. People send a photo of anything with your product featured in it


  • Video contest ideas – Get people to post videos of them using your product or explaining why they think people should use your product/service
  • Create a jingle contest – Have people send a video of them singing a jingle they have created for your product or brand. It can be with or without background music that they have created


  • Share your best tips contest – Get people to share their tips on how best to use your product
  • Recipe contest ideas – This works well if you are in a food-based industry
  • Mother’s/Father’s Day story contest – Generate some heart warming content to get people to feel something related to your product or brand


  • Sweepstakes – This is like a type of lottery. Contestants are required to perform an action that will enter them into the contest. At the end of the competition, a random participant is chosen
  • Like or tag a friend to win contest – Post something on social media and require people to like and/or share it with their friends to be entered into the contest
  • Fill in the blank contest – Write a post on social media and leave a word or section blank, putting an underline in its place. Then get people to add what they think should go in the blank space
  • Trivia contest ideas – You could ask trivia about your product or any topic that is related to your product or brand
  • Product-a-day giveaway – This can be a week-long promotion that requires people to share or like something every day to be entered into the draw for that day
  • Name a new product contest – If you are launching a new product then this is a great idea to generate interest and create awareness
  • Vote for your favourite item contest – This can be used as a kind of interactive user survey


  • Win an afternoon/session with an influencer contest – Partnering with a popular influencer can reach a lot of new people very quickly. Your target audience will be more likely to use the referral since they trust the influencer, especially if they might meet the influencer
  • Win a gift card contest – Rather than a specific prize, the participant can choose anything they want

How it works

Determine the goals of your contest

In order to easily measure the results at the end of the contest, it’s best to use something measurable to achieve the goal. Measurable data would include captured emails, Facebook likes, retweets, photo/essay/video submissions, website traffic, or sales. Since people will be more focused on winning than buying, sales data would be a secondary source to measure.  Ultimately, the purpose of a contest is to increase brand awareness, not sales.

Outline the contest parameters

You need to consider the following parameters:

  • Content – What type of content will users be submitting? E.g. Text, image, or video
  • User data – What participant information will you set as the minimum entry requirements?
  • Time frame – How long will the contest run for?
  • Prizes – What will the participant win if they are chosen and does your target market value this prize?
  • Guidelines – Make sure to cover yourself legally when setting out the rules for the contest

Optimise your content for search

An added bonus to an online contest is that users create fresh content for you. This has the potential to increase your SEO score with search engines like Google. That’s why it’s imperative that your contest is based on your main website. You can always allow people to share their content to external platforms like social media. Establish the keywords you want Google to recognise and implement them into your contest.

Promote your contest

Once your contest is ready, you need to promote it. Possible promotion channels are email, banner ads, blog posts, forums, social media, etc. When promoting your contest, be careful not to spam your clients. The long-term goal is to get people to trust your brand (spamming will have the opposite effect).

Choose the winner

Decide how the winner will be chosen. The are many ways to choose the winner including:

  • Random selection – This can be done by a member of your staff if you would like to control the process or it can be done by an external entity like org
  • Statistics based – Using measurable data to decide the winner, such as the number of shares or votes an entry receives
  • Celebrity judges – You can partner with an industry expert, someone considered to be important in your industry or an influencer with a large following

Notify and promote the winner

Use the winner announcement as another way to create buzz around your brand or product. You could write a blog post or do a video interview with the winner. These can then be shared on your social media platforms.

Why it’s important to measure the results

Measuring the results of your contest will give you insight on:

  • The people who visited the promotion, how many actively participated, and how much time did they spend engaging
  • How did people prefer to share the content and how much of each type of sharing was done
  • How many new email subscribers did you acquire
  • What was the click through rate on links that you shared

Using this data, you can tweak your marketing campaign to better reach existing or new clients. If you don’t gain knowledge through the contest that will benefit the future marketing of your brand, then you are not using the contest to its full potential.

Find out how we can assist you by assessing your current marketing strategy and advising the best way forward.

Further reading