The temps are hot, but these contests are hotter. After a year of being cooped up inside with nothing worthwhile to share online, fans and customers are ready to share their lives again. This also includes sharing your brand, products, or services if you’re doing something right.
But sometimes, even doing everything right simply isn’t enough to keep sales strong over the summer.
If you’re looking to beat the summer sales slump, consider sponsoring a contest on social media. A social media contest can help build brand awareness, earn social media engagement, and even drive sales. Did you know that, on average, 34% of new customers are acquired through contests? That’s why we’ve put together our favorite summer-themed contest ideas to help you get started.
(As a quick note, this blog post was originally written in 2019. We’ve updated it for 2021. All updates are in bold.)
General Social Media Contest Best Practices
Before we dive into specific contest examples, let’s take the time to outline a few core social media contest best practices.
Determine if You’re Running A Sweepstake or a Contest
Don’t launch anything until you determine the legal structure of your contest or sweepstake. We’re not lawyers, and this does not count as legal advice, but there are several differences between contests and sweepstakes that you should keep in mind.
What’s a Sweepstake?
If you want to randomly select a winner from a pool of entries, it’s a sweepstake. The keynote is that you can’t require a purchase as a means of entry.
If you require a purchase AND it’s a random drawing, then you’ve created a lottery and it’s illegal in most situations.
What’s a Contest?
If you want to hand select a winner from a pool of entries, then you’re running a contest. The key distinction in a contest is there has to be some “skill” involved. Whether it’s the best picture, story, video (based on your criteria), doesn’t matter. There has to be something clear that sets the winner apart from the pack.
Follow the Rules of the Platform
Instagram. Facebook. Twitter. They all have their own rules for what they allow contest-wise on their platforms. For example, on Facebook, you can have people like a post as a means of entry, but you can’t ask them to share a post or tag a friend as a means of entry.
You can check out more of the rules here.
Get Your Official Rules in Order
Before you run a contest, be sure to get some official rules in order. Rules are there to protect both you AND your participants. They don’t have to be long, drawn out contracts, but they should cover key information including:
- Who is sponsoring the contest or sweepstake
- Who is able to enter (think age/geography/etc.)
- Means of entry
- Winner selection process
- Other protective language
Be Prepared for Uncle Sam’s IRS Obligations
If you’re planning to give away a prize that’s valued at over $599, you need to be prepared to 1099 your winners. It’s not us, it’s the Internal Revenue Service. Keep in mind that the taxation of the award is based on the total value, whether it’s in cash, gift cards, merchandise, or trips.
Promote, Promote, Promote
The more individuals that know about your contest, the more entries you’ll likely receive. To that end, you should include some paid promotion as part of your contest efforts. Create social media posts advertising the contests, prizes, and the means of entries. Then pay to show those posts to your ideal contest-participating audience.
Alternatively, if you have a SocialToaster advocacy marketing program, you can tap the awesome sharing power of your advocates to build contest awareness and participation without having to boost a post, like Avocados from Mexico did during this year’s Big Game.
Now that we’ve got the basics covered, let’s shed some sunlight on our favorite summertime social media contest ideas.
5 8 Types of Summer Contests
While there are a near-infinite number of summer-themed social media contests you could concoct, most of those ideas are going to fall into five content-type buckets.
Remember, for a promotion to be deemed a contest, there has to be some sort of judgment criteria involved. You’re asking participants to submit something so that you can determine a winner.
Here are the most common contests:
Submit an Image
Whether it’s a selfie or a sunset-shot, many social media contests revolve around the submission of a photo – appropriately tagged of course.
Photo submission contests are a fun way to get your audience engaged. It’s also one of the most compelling ways to leverage your audience to create user-generated content (UGC).
Learn more about the holy grail of marketing that is UGC here.
Tell a Story
This could be a longer essay-type entry or a simple post response.
Whether it’s a poem about their favorite summer hangout or a personal story they’ve had with your brand this summer, having your participants leverage the power of the written word to enter/win a contest can provide you with some powerful content.
Like and Comment
Look, after the year we all had in 2020, we’re all just trying to make it through 2021 with as few complications as possible, so why make your contest more complicated than necessary? Like and comment contests are super simple, effective, and don’t take a ton of brain or manpower to create and execute. Just post a pic with a caption explaining what prizes are involved and then tell them to like the photo and tag a friend. Remind them that they can comment multiple times for additional entries. Easy peezy, lemon squeezy. The best part? You’ll get tons of new eyes on your page and likely new followers as well!
While long-form storytelling can be a powerful tool, short-form is equally as powerful. Did you hear about the saddest six-word story ever told? For sale: Baby shoes, never worn. Short and powerful. Of course, a caption contest is designed to be fun and light. We just wanted to give an example of how powerful a good short story can be. Post a photo and ask your followers and fans to caption the photo. The best caption (whatever that means to you. Maybe you’re feeling morbid) will win something special!
Do you have an exciting new product coming out, a totally wicked colorway about to be released, or maybe just a random jar in your office filled with stale jelly beans? Guessing challenges invite your audience to get involved and guess what is coming up. Asking your audience to guess what new product will be released next or which colorway is about to drop is also a great way to see what your audience wants. Maybe they guess right, or maybe there was never any right answer (unless we’re talking about jars of jelly beans).
Shoot a Video
Though arguably one of the most time-consuming methods of entry, you can ask your audience to submit a video as their means of contest entry. Just be sure you give them clear direction on what should (or should not) be included in the video – remember, it takes a lot of time to shoot and edit video.
We wrote the above in 2019, and thankfully things have changed for the better. If you’re worried that you won’t attract any participants if you ask them to shoot a video? Don’t sweat. Thanks to Reels and TikToks, your customers can easily and quickly create high-quality videos that are entertaining, informative, and super shareable. Not only are Reels and TikToks making video editing accessible to people of all skill levels, but they dramatically improve your engagement and follower count. Hootsuite conducted an experiment to see if incorporating more Reels into their content plan would do anything– and it absolutely did! They saw an increase in followers and overall engagement.
From sand castles to summer grill setups, spark a creative idea in your audience by taking the focus away from the media they’re submitting and putting it instead on the content of their submission. Encourage them to create. Bonus points if what you’re asking them to create ties into your brand.
Cool Summer Contest Prizes
No contest is complete without some epic prizing. A strong prize can make all the difference between hosting a contest dud or a contest stud.
This summer, dare to offer more than just gift cards
Local Event Prizing
Partner with a local event to offer your contest winners and unbelievable experience. Free tickets, VIP access, or early access can usually be obtained for local events. Work with your local events to leverage these assets and create a unique moment for your contest winners.
Tickets to Sporting Events
Similar to local events, consider partnering with a local sports affiliation to award a pair of tickets to your contest winners. One small note, most of the time you can’t use a local sports team branding/name in your promotions without getting permission from that team (usually in the form of sponsorship).
Instead, you can always stand by the old adage of being generic in your prize messaging.
Capitalize on the warm summer weather by creating an awesome outdoor package for your target audience to enjoy. Think kayaking, zip lining, canoeing, or surfing depending on your brand and your target audience.
Who doesn’t enjoy a nice picnic? Create a fun summer memory for your contest entrants by putting together a picnic basket complete with all the makings of a great day out.
Your basket can include cutlery, food, beverages, dessert, and more. If you’re including alcohol in the prize, be sure to check your state regulatory laws and include language in the official rules that the winner must be 21 years or older.
More Summer Prizing Ideas
Rapid fire prizing ideas coming your way:
- Summer clothing
- Amusement park tickets/experiences
- Summer makeovers
- Beach kits (towels, sunscreen, koozies, umbrellas, chairs, floats, etc.)
- Nights out
You get the picture.
Don’t let summer slow your business down. Work with your target audience to create a summer-themed contest that they can’t wait to participate in. Then, be sure to follow up that contest with marketing communications that drive that contest participant further towards becoming a paying customer.