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Best practices for prize draw competitions

Author's avatar By Chris Soames 07 Apr, 2014
Essential Essential topic

Prize draw options, tools and legal compliance to help create  an effective prize draws

Online prize draws are an increasingly common tactic used by marketers to encourage engagement and also to increase leads, particularly in key sales periods. I think this is largely due to the simplicity of devising and setting them up using social media campaign tools  and their popularity on social networks which facilitate sharing.

I'm finding that I am often being asked about best practice for planning and running online prize draws. While I think the best approach differs in detail by audience and compliance needed for each brand and industry there are some general best practices we can summarise. In this post I have outlined a process I follow and included some of the tools you can utilise too.

Set-up and Planning

Key to any successful marketing activity is planning, I have outlined an approach to that below, please use / ignore as you feel relevant!


  • Remember, KISS - Keep It Simple Stupid
  • Have a clear goal / outcome;
    • Drive Facebook fans from X to Y
    • Increase traffic to the main website from X to Y
    • Create a suite of user generated content
  • Plan related activity to drive awareness of the prize draw (see below)
  • KPI’s to match the activity and content type set by week (daily if a short window)
  • Ensure you are abiding by the codes of practice and laws relevant to your industry - if you're based in the UK these are managed through the Gambling Commission which has this guidance on prize draw / competition laws. You also should check out the ASA / CAP code guidance on sales promotion: competitions.

By deciding on the type of prize draw you wish to run you will determine the goals it relates to, naturally this can work the other way round as well.

The prize

This is completely dependant on budget available balanced against the potential rewards of the data / leads you collect and is specific to your audience too. It helps if it's a stand-out prize, but that doesn't necessarily mean a stand-out cost - witness the number of free iPad offers still doing the rounds amongst B2B prize draws.

Of course, ensuring your prize links back to your customer personas is crucial if you are to attract the right types of leads.

Selection of Mechanic Types

  • Quizzes

This becomes a competition as a level of skill is involved so please ensure you check back to the relevant law first. In this context, a quiz is a series of questions that respondents are then placed in a ballot to potentially win. Facebook can be a good place to run quizzes, though it originally required a Facebook app which doesn’t always help with generating traffic. But competitions can now be run on the page - see Facebook's new competition rules if you're not aware of them.

We would recommend a quiz is hosted on a specific landing page within your website and then utilise channels to drive traffic to that hub.


  • Results can become a shareable asset (if made funny or allow the user to 'show off').
  • A great source of research, if questions are structured appropriately.
  • Users are more engaged with the brand due to higher bar of entry.
  • Insights can be utilised to drive relevant follow-up communications.


    • Entry count lower than other forms of prize draws.
    • Take a little more imagination to create.
    • Restricted to certain software.
  • Enter for the chance to win

The most common type of prize draw with a very simple entry mechanic which generally results in a high volume of entries. This could easily be run in social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest etc. Equally hosting this on your own website is valid, you can use customer data differently when collected on your own site (email etc). Entries can be filling in a form, utilising a specific hashtag etc, you then need to choose at random a winner.


  • High conversion from visit / impression to entry.
  • Easy to setup and configure.
  • Simple / quick for consumers - couple of actions and done.


  • Un-engaged audience, questions data for follow up comms.
  • Prize quality has to be high to generate cut through.
  • Story, Picture or Video Contest

These types of prize draws require a larger amount of effort on the side of the consumer, and you! Rewarding consumers for their content is something that has become way more common the rise of social networks. There are now multiple ways to do this, utilising channels such as Twitter, Youtube, Instagram, Vine, Pinterest and Facebook is an obvious cheap route to starting such a contest.

You would need to ensure an identifier such as a hashtag can be utilised to group entries. Another route is to build the functionality into your website, and utilise the social channels as amplifiers. Either way such contests have to be creative, entertaining and easy to enter for pick up.

Expecting a few hundred entries over thousands is wise (depending on your promotional activity). How you utilise the content to attract engagement and further entries is key to the success, how can you take current entries to spark conversation / debate. Equally, making engagement for those that haven’t entered easy is an obvious way to utilise the vast majority of consumers that wouldn’t enter. This can be voting, sharing or commenting mechanics.


  • More engaging for the % that enter.
  • Creates content / ideas for comms + future content for you.


  • High barrier to entry.
  • Require strong ideas / reason to enter.

Ways to extend / differentiate:

  • Add in a sense of voting to arrive at winners.
  • Tier the voting, the top 5 go through to a round two, turning into more of a mini campaign with some longevity.

Tools to aid the running of prize draws

If you are looking  that enable easy to manage prize draws with integrated social features:


Reach or Awareness Considerations

Creating the mechanic is all well and good, but we have to push, or promote such activity if we are to boost awareness and engagement. We have broken down options available to us that are commonly used for such activity by the Paid, Owned and Earned framework below. Not all tactics will be relevant as they are dictated by budget, resource and mechanic type.


Utilising paid media platforms is an easy, though costly way to drive new awareness to the mechanic you have created. The utilisation of paid media can be just to 'kick start' the mechanic or you may plan to run throughout. We would recommend monitoring daily against agreed KPI’s such as Cost Per Click (CPC) or Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) to ensure you spend is effective.

  • Display Advertising (banners / text ads on 3rd party sites) through DoubleClick or similar
    • Ensure you target as best you can (demographic, interests, related sites, re-marketing).
  • Facebook Advertising
    • Consider targeting fans to enter first, especially if you are believe your mechanic will create a big footprint.
  • Twitter Sponsored Tweets.
  • YouTube Advertising - A large, engaged audience, consider creating a mini video to utilise as a pre-roll advert.
  • Pay Per Click advertising
    • Updating current adverts to include one that directs at the competition as a test.
  • Competition / Prize Draw portals


Don’t forget to utilise the channels you already control , the easiest way to get some early traction for your mechanic and a good use of all your other marketing efforts:

  • Homepage amends to give exposure.
  • Updating email templates or sending a dedicated one.
  • Blog / Magazine areas - include blog posts on the mechanic and entries.
  • Facebook / Twitter (other networks) posts, ensure you utilise each networks tools to it’s best advantage, whether that is utilising hashtags or using ones that are relevant and popular.


Last but not least utilising our earned assets to generate awareness of your mechanic, consider the following tactics;

  • Brand ambassador promotion
  • PR
    • Consider what elements of your mechanic are PR’able, maybe charity mechanics, or never done before.
  • Blogger outreach, incentivise relevant blogegrs to publish / promote your mechanic.

Engagement Considerations

  • Reacting

Mechanics tend to create content, even if that is as simple as a comment. Ensure that you react to any conversations triggered by your mechanic in an on-brand, conversational way. It can be as simple as, 'top entry, thanks! Our fingers are crossed for you'. The footprint a simple a conversation can make is remarkable and will attract new entries.

  • Continuing the conversation

Utilising the content garnered from your mechanic you can spark conversation or intrigue daily to ensure you are not constantly saying the same thing 'please enter'… A simple thing such as:

Yesterdays top entry (in our opinion, not that, that matters in the final result) has to be XXYY, what do you think, and have you entered yet?!

The final point in any mechanic is obviously the awarding of the prize, ensuring that you utilise this opportunity to create more content to engage a wider audience is key and also gives you a platform for future mechanics to say that people do win, it is real, not that consumers are skeptical at all ;-).


Once we the mechanic is complete and we have earned the attention of a new audience, plus re-engaged an old one, we can start to consider the best or most relevant way to incorporate sales messages.

With Social Networks if we have garnered enough engagement through the mechanic your sales post will likely be visible to a higher % of audience. Email would be another route to re-engage with a sales message, consider giving all entries a unique offer, this will encourage further engagement with future mechanics.

Reporting / Insight Requirements

You should always ensure you are constantly evolving your marketing tactics through insights and learnings. As part of each mechanic we would recommend you create feedback to the business and consider the following stats (depending on quiz type). Ensure that all reporting requirements are considered when setting up your mechanic.



Author's avatar

By Chris Soames

Chris Soames is a Smart Insights blogger and consultant, he has worked in digital marketing for over 6 years with the last few years managing international web strategies for a leading travel brand. Now the Commercial Director at First 10, an Integrated marketing agency, he helps clients get clarity on their marketing strategy and create campaigns engineered to engage with their consumers to help drive sell-through. Most of all, Chris enjoys working with talented people who want to create great (& commercial) things not just tick boxes.

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