Why Social Media Contests Don't Work the Way You Want

We're sure you've all read a blog on using contests to grow your social media.  This is one of the suggestions that you see most often.  They boost engagement!  They gain you new followers!  They go viral! 

We're just going to come right out and say it: WE DISAGREE.

The struggle with social media contests is what we've dubbed the "Contest Grannies."  Technically, these people are not all grandmothers, but it's often the grandmothers of the group that catch your eye in the contest comments. These people are also referred to as Prize Hunters, and are fraudulently entering contests and doctoring voting results to win prizes.  

Picture this: You're running a contest promotion for your hip & quirky brand that sells mustache wax to young hipsters, and you decide to give away a t-shirt to someone who follows the usual like/tag/comment protocol.  Up pops some random Grandma looking lady, who comments, "my niece would love this!" She tags 3 people, who then comment and tag people, and so on, seemingly successful in spreading the word.  And yet... in the back of your mind, you're left wondering who the heck this person is who thinks your product is for her niece who started it all.  It's likely, she's a Prize Hunter.

Just another source of fake followers. 

So, what if your demographic is Grannies?  Whether or not these people fall into your target demographic, these are likely to be fraudulent entries made by Faceboook accounts created just for the purpose of entering contests.  So even if you do see some additional likes and traffic from your contest, it's not likely that this is traffic that is in any way useful to your brand. 

Although you'll likely find some genuine responses to your contest buried in among the Prize Hunters, you may find that number is pretty small.  And it's likely that the number of followers you've gained isn't worth the value of the product you've given away, your prize may now be selling on eBay instead of in the hands of an appreciative fan, and your money could have been better spent elsewhere. 

Need help running a contest?  Fill out our Quote Request Form and get started!

How to Make Contests Work for Your Brand

1. Skip Facebook for your giveaway
Unfortunately Facebook's handy search functionality gives these Prize Hunters ample opportunity to locate contests from brands they've never heard of and enter them as much as possible. 

2. On Instagram, skip the obvious hashtags. 
Avoiding hashtags like #contest and #giveaway can help you avoid prize hunters on Instagram.  Instead focus on hashtags that are very specific to your target market, so that people you want to reach will be tempted to enter your contest.

3. Make your contest more complicated than Like/Comment/Tag
Host a photo or video contest that requires content specifically aimed at your target market (in our example, asking guys to share photos of their magnificent mustaches).  

4. Make your more contest juried, instead of vote-to-win. 
The more difficult a contest is to fake win, the less likely it is that Prize Hunters will overwhelm your entries.  Using a jury (even if it's made up of you and your neighbor) eliminates the risk of voting fraud and gives you a chance to check up on the potential winners to make sure they really do have a mustache. 

5. Pick a prize that's only useful to your target audience. 
Even better, pick something that can't really be sold on eBay.  For example, your mustache wax company could partner with a local Seattle Barber and offer a free shave.  

Need help running a contest?  Fill out our Quote Request Form and get started with a social media contest that eliminates the Contest Grannies. 




Thanks for this great advice! I see your points.


Great advice! I see your points.

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