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25 Proven Social Media Contest Ideas to Promote Your Online Business

18 min read

Social media contests are a proven strategy for growing engagement on your business’s owned social channels. Nice! The real challenge is picking the right contest to motivate your audience to participate. A sweepstake? A photo contest? Maybe a simple “Repost to Win” giveaway would do the trick. And what would spark interest on Instagram? Is there a contest type that performs better on Facebook?

To answer these questions, we rounded up 25 contest promotion ideas for online businesses. With the right preparation, you’ll be able to shake up your audience and get more engaged eyes to your store. But before we dive into those ideas, let’s go over some basics for running a successful contest.

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How to Run a Successful Online Contest

Here are a few things to consider before you launch your contest. These three steps will help you craft a more profitable contest with results you can learn from and perfect over time.

A target goal of social media contests

Going into the online contest, you need to have a clear benchmark for success so you can gauge whether or not the contest went well. Your goal might be something like:

  • 10% more Facebook likes
  • XX new followers on Instagram
  • XX new email subscribers

Set this goal before the contest begins so you can build the contest around it via entry format, submission, etc.

Prize and winner selection process

Outline what your prize will be (and make sure it’s something your contest participants will be excited about) before the contest begins. Limited edition items, gift cards, or a large collection of products work well, as these have high value to entrants.

Then, outline how the prize winner will be chosen. If your contest is a sweepstakes, sites like Rafflecopter or Random.org can help ensure you’re choosing a completely random winner (and can help keep your contest fair).

Promoting a business

Think about how you’ll spread the word about your contest once it’s live. Social media and email will help you reach your existing following, but how can you reach beyond your normal crowd? Some contests have sharing aspects built in but consider additional promotional aspects, such as:

Once you have these three basic steps outlined, you can start getting more specific about the contest itself. Here are some ideas for contests you might try this year with your online store.

25 Social Media Contest Ideas to Promote Your Online Business

1. Photo caption contest ideas

Have participants create a creative or funny caption for a photo you post, and then pick your favorite as the winner. Ideally, the photo will relate back to your store or products to keep the contest relevant. Pro tip: you can ask to caption short videos for your contest as well.

Shopkins’s contest for the most creative caption

2. Video contest ideas

Leverage user-generated content by having participants create a short video as a contest entry. The video might showcase a person using your product, sharing why they deserve to win your contest, or talking about why they love your brand. These stories can be great ways to get testimonials for your brand while incentivizing contest participants.

3. Essay contest ideas

Ask participants to write an essay about why they admire your company and/or products. You’ll find some great customer stories and quotes within these essays you can leverage later, too.

4. Sweepstakes

Sweepstakes work well for getting new people to opt-in to your email list, like/follow/share your social media accounts, or check out items from your store and comment on a particular blog post. Oftentimes, participants can earn more entries the more actions like these they complete. From there, a random winner or the one with the most votes is selected at the contest’s end.

Luster offered bonus prizes in addition to their sweepstakes

5. Share your best tips contest

Let users share how they use your products with a contest geared toward participants sharing their best tips. This is a fun and easy way for your audience to learn hacks and tips about using your products — and creates a dialogue on social media. Ask participants to share their best tip for using your products, then choose the top liked tip or a random winner.

6. Selfie contest ideas

Let users enter your contest by taking a “selfie” with your product. This helps add real-life context to what you’re selling — and shows that you already have lots of customers who love your products. From here, you can randomly select a winner or let your audience vote on their favorite selfie.

Suki Hairdressing offers a contest for their clients as a way to improve customer loyalty

7. Instagram contests ideas

An online competition ideas that always works. Create a contest that encourages people to share photos featuring your product or business on Instagram with a custom hashtag, and draw weekly or monthly winners. This helps build brand awareness and shows your product being loved by happy customers.

Instagram contest ideas can vary depending on the content you want your participants to post. For example, you can ask your followers to post an Instagram story with a product review, create a post using your business’s custom filter or mask, share their story in comments, or repost a photo of your product. Pro tip: Remind participants that if their profiles are private, you won’t be able to see their entries.

A scavenger hunt is another great option for Instagram. For example, come up with several puzzles or tasks that are posted on Stories and/or in your feed. For example: “Answer a question on Stories,” or “Find [insert #] differences on two similar pictures.” Participants need to complete each task to enter, and the first follower to complete all tasks is crowned the winner.

8. Share a photo contest

This more generic photo-sharing contest that encourages contest participants to share a photo as an entry. It could be a photo of their favorite outfit featuring an item from your store, or a photo of your pets enjoying their favorite treats. The idea is to feature the product…but with the user’s personal twist. Encourage participants to be as creative as possible, and you can repurpose that user-generated content later to post on your social channels.

FacePaint runs their annual contest for Halloween makeup photos

9. Facebook contest ideas

Almost any type of contest can be modified to fit any social media platform. However, some contest ideas may be better suited for Facebook. Here are some good Facebook contest ideas:

  • A Q&A contest: publish a post with a question and the first person to comment with the correct answer wins. This works great for fast, one-day contests.
  • Vote for a Product: Let your followers vote for their favorite product or your next new product, then choose a winner at random from the followers who voted. This type of contest earns double points because it also provides you with valuable data — like what product to order, what to create next, or what to invest in.
  • Take a Quiz and Share Your Result: for this contest, you’ll need to come up with a quiz (try any quiz maker online), and then choose a winner from those who share their results on their Facebook page.

You can also use Facebook features to increase engagement on your page during your contest. For example, if you want to increase audience size for your next Facebook Live, use that Live session to announce the winner of a contest. Keep that in mind when considering Facebook contest ideas.

10. Drawing/painting contest ideas

Encourage your audience to get artsy with a drawing or painting contest. Have them create an artistic representation of their favorite product from your store, and then open up voting to see which one your audience likes best.

You can also partner with artists and ask them to choose a winner based on their skills. And you can even have two winners to encourage more participation: one based on skills and execution and another based on the number of likes/shares.

11. Cutest pet contest

Ideal for pet-centric online stores, cutest pet contest are a great way to get participants to share photos of their furry friends and to encourage voting, sharing, and promotion of your store. Plus, it’s a simple way to learn more about your animal customers!

Tukabear contest

An entry for Tukabear contest

12. Recipe contest ideas

Especially around the holidays, a recipe contest is a great way to get people sharing their favorite foods and tips for dishes. If you have a food-related online store, see if you can tie the recipe contest into your products and encourage entrants to create something new with your products.

Pro tip: you can create recipe contests during the holidays tied to popular seasonal dishes or flavors.

13. Fill in the blank contest

Ad libs and fill in the blank contests can help drive people to your online store by testing people’s knowledge. Ask a question like: “The Ecwid blog first posted on  ________ date?” to make people search out the answer within your website. You can randomly select a correct answer or give it to the first correct response.

GodrejLocks’ contest for their Twitter followers

14. Trivia contest ideas

Test your audience’s knowledge with trivia questions about your brand. Again, you can drive store visits by asking highly specific questions about your brand’s history, your products, or by using snippets of product photos.

15. Product-a-day giveaway

“Repost” and “Tag a Friend” giveaways are pretty common these days. If you want to attract more participation, try something different with a more tempting reward. For example, a week-long, product-a-day giveaway. Each day, you can award a surprise product to a random contest participant who shares your Facebook status or comments on a particular post.

16. Name a new product contest

Let your audience get involved with naming your products by challenging them to name a new product you’re releasing. Encourage puns, a play on words, or a deep knowledge of your brand. You can let people vote on the name they like best, or you can self-select the name you think is best.

Name It contests also help to increase followers’ engagement

17. Curated Pinterest board contest

If your audience is one of avid Pinterest users, leverage this social network and create a contest around it. To enter your contest, participants can create a curated Pinterest board featuring products from your store and other related pins for a theme you designate, like “fall weddings” or “bikini weather.”

Great British Chefs’ Christmas-themed contest

18. Build a lookbook contest

Challenge your participants you create a lookbook around your products. This might even become a marketing asset you feature for your store. Just remember: This is a big undertaking, so be sure the prize is proportionate–it needs to be worth it!

19. Mother’s day story contest

Have people share a story about their moms in honor of Mother’s Day, and talk about why they think their Mom deserves a prize package on her special day. Then, randomly select a winner from the submissions.



20. Father’s day story contest

Same as Mother’s Day–but with dads. Encourage people to celebrate their families and tell stories about their loved ones. This is a great way to earn organic shares on social media!

21. Win an afternoon/session with an influencer contest

If you’re partnering with an influencer for a contest, your prize might be an in-person session with that influencer for whatever his or her specialty may be. Maybe it’s a decorating session, a makeover, a closet revamp–you name it. A chance to get one-on-one time with an expert influencer can drive participation in a big way.

Bloggers and entrepreneurs Elsie and Emma from A Beautiful Mess did this successfully: Their contest included a grand prize that was an in-person decorating session where they helped one lucky winner re-style a room in their home (in person!)

22. Win a gift card contest

Rather than designating a specific item for your contest, add some mass appeal by making your prize a gift card. This can attract more participation, as it lets the winner select whatever he or she wants.

23. Vote for your favorite item contest

Find out which items your audience really likes by creating a contest in which people vote for their favorite items from your store. At the same time, anyone who participates is entered to win in a random prize drawing. Think of it as a type of interactive user survey!

24. Holiday decorating contest

Get in the holiday spirit by encouraging contest participants to decorate holiday items — but with a branded twist. Entries might be carved or painted Jack-O-Lanterns with your logo, cookies iced with your products, or ugly Christmas sweaters that bear your brand name.

Encourage your customers to be creative with their entries

25. Create a jingle contest

Go old-school and create a contest where participants have to create a jingle for your brand. You’ll get some free advertising–and you might find your next marketing hire!

What’s Next: Use Contests to Promote Your Online Store

If a contest sounds like a good fit for your online store, here are the next steps you need to take to get the ball rolling.

  1. Choose 1-3 online contests ideas that you want to run throughout the next 12 months to drive sales.
  2. Outline your target goals for the contests (whether it’s to drive sales, to grow your audience, or otherwise.)
  3. Outline your prizes for your contests, and get a plan in place for how you’ll select your winner.
  4. Get a strategy in place for marketing your contests, and start pulling together the pieces (and potential partners you’ll need) to make them successful.

With some planning and strategy in place, you can implement a few smart contests throughout the year to boost your online sales and grow your audience in a way you could never have dreamed before.

Just remember: Don’t overdo it, and make your contests worthwhile for the participants. They shouldn’t bankrupt your business, but they shouldn’t be underwhelming for the audience, either. Introducing two or three new virtual competition ideas during the year is a good way to get started and can keep your promotional budget in check.

Your turn: What’s the most successful contest you’ve ever run? We’d love to hear about it!


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About the author

Lina is a content creator at Ecwid. She writes to inspire and educate readers on all things commerce. She loves to travel and runs marathons.

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