4 Awesome Types of Successful Twitter Contests

Using Twitter professionally for the past 3 years, I’ve seen my share of contests that were organized by both the bigger brands and smaller businesses.In fact, if you were to search with the phrase ‘RT to win’ on Twitter, you’ll find many interesting contests being held on a daily basis.

4 Types of Twitter Contests

A Twitter contest is not only a great way to build buzz and increase brand engagement, but it also generates new followers and grows your brand presence.

There are even some who would suggest that Twitter contests are more effective at building engagement than any other online (paid) investments.

Clearly then, as Twitter grows its influence in social media, so too would the importance of Twitter contests.

There are several different types of Twitter contests.

1. Creative answer

In a ‘creative answer’ format, users are usually asked to answer a question from the organizers using a hashtag. The answers need to be as creative as possible, and the winners will be chosen by the organizers.

This format has been tried and tested in offline media over the years, where contestants usually have to write a creative answer within a certain amount of words (50 words, 100 words, 200 words, and so on). Twitter contest organizers have easily adapted this format, seeing that Tweets are already subjected to character limitations.

Here is one example:Back in 2010, KFC held a ‘creative answer’ Twitter contest. Winners were presented with a $20,000 scholarship by KFC. The applicants had to explain, in 140 characters or less, why they deserved to win and include the hashtag #KFCScholar in their tweets.To make this more relevant with the concept of advertising, we need to take a peek behind this $20,000 scholarship.

First let’s understand that the cost of this contest is the amount of scholarship. That’s $20,000. Then, throughout the contest, it was found that there were over 2,800 participants. So the average cost to gain 1 participant (or to gain 1 engagement) is $7.14! That’s not a bad amount to dish out in order to get 1 person to talk with your brand.

Amanda Russell (@arlp111) was the winner of the contest by tweeting “#KFCScholar Hey Colonel! Your scholarship’s the secret ingredient missing from my recipe for success! Got the grades, drive, just need cash”.

Essentially, from Amanda’s perspective, she is being paid $142.86 per character by KFC. I’m sure other participants were not shy about joining this contest because they were given a chance to get paid for tweeting 140 characters @ $142.86 per character.

Twitter Contests KFC

2. Sweepstakes

A sweepstakes is a contest where winners are chosen at random or through a ‘lucky’ draw. Sweepstakes can come in several different forms as well, namely:

1. Retweet to win

One of the most popular contests on Twitter. As the name suggests, participants are required to Retweet to stand a chance of winning. After the duration of the contest has ended, winners will be picked at random. It is one of the simplest contests to set up.

There are two ways that organizers can do this:

a. Manually

Organizers simply post a tweet on Twitter asking users to Retweet if they were to join the contest.

There are several downfalls of this, and one of the most critical ones is the organizers won’t be able to provide much information about the contest with the 140 character limitation on Twitter. Some organizers will have use their blogs, websites, or set up a new landing page to give more details about the contest such as the rules, the duration, and the prizes.It will be tough to pick winners too as organizers have to manually copy and paste the participants or use software like random.org to pick random winners.

Here is a contest held by the National Lottery @tnluk, their tweet have been retweeted over 3000+ times.

Twitter contest National Lottery

Another issue with retweet to win contests is that an entrant does not agree by any rules before retweeting or specifically agree to enter the contest and be bound by their terms. This can have many legal implications.

b. Application

Alternatively, businesses who want to organize a Twitter contest (inclusive but not limited to ‘RT to win’) can also use an application. Binkd, an easy-to-use platform for promotions, recently just launched a free Twitter contest application that allows businesses to set up a branded Twitter contest efficiently. Using the application, users can set up a landing page with their company logo, give more information about the prizes, and more information about the contest. The winner of the contest will be picked automatically after the contest has ended.  By providing a dedicated entry form the legal implications of a manual contest is removed.

c. Follow to win

To get more followers, some businesses will ask participants to follow them to be included in the contest. All they need to do is to follow or retweet and follow. Winners will be randomly drawn after the contest has ended. Here is a contest held by @hairdazzle on Twitter.

Again, this bears the same legal implications as a manual Twitter contest.

Twitter contest hair dazzle Cosmopolitan

3. Photo Contest

A picture is worth more than 140 characters on Twitter. For this type of contest, users will have to send in a photo and they will stand a chance to win a prize, usually in a form of a small gift or a voucher. Like the ‘creative answer’ contest, the winner or winners will be picked by the organizers. Here is an example of a contest: @LaTasca, a Spanish Tapas restaurant in the UK, recently gave away a £50 La Tasca voucher for the customers who have sent a Twitpic of their tapas.

Twitter contest La Tasca

KFC, who have had great success with their creative answer contest back in 2010, decided to innovate their contest format last year and chose instead to organize a photo contest. The contest prize was another $20,000. In this contest, users had to tweet a photo showing an example of their commitment toward education and how they are enriching their communities. The winner was Daniel Galuppo, who shared a photo of his trip to Vietnam, where he photographed orphans so that they can have a photo of themselves to keep.

4. Question & Answer

A question and answer contest is very straight-forward. Organizers of the contest post a question on Twitter and the winners would be selected based on either the fastest time it is answered by a participant, the most accurate answer, or through sweepstakes (if the organizer loses control of the contest and has no other way of selecting the winner)

While this is not the most innovative type of contest, if it is done frequently enough, it would help in ensuring that users continuously visit your Twitter account to check for random questions.

Twitter is a great platform to easily set up a contest, but there are also potential for users to abuse the contest such as creating several Twitter accounts to get higher chance of winning a contest. Hashtags could also be abused to make your contest look like spam.

As a tip, mentions of your account should be required in the tweet used for entering the contest. Twitter’s search does not guarantee that it will return every tweet with your search term, including hashtags, only mentions are all guaranteed to be returned .

A good contest needs to be prepared for everything and have clear boundaries, such as allowing users to join/retweet only once a day.

If your company is new in organizing a Twitter contest, it is highly recommended that you use an application instead because it will help in creating a strong foundation for your contest (which would help to ‘be prepared for everything’).

If you have missed it above, the Binkd free Twitter contest platform would definitely help you to build a quick and complete contest.

What about you?

What kind of Twitter contest do you enjoy entering the most? What Twitter contests have impressed you?

Have you run a Twitter contest that you would like to share.

Love to hear your stories.

Guest Author: Aaron Lee is the social media manager for Binkd.

More Reading:

  • 8 Great Twitter Tools That Will Get You Tweeting Like A Pro
  • How to Get Targeted Twitter Followers
  • The Marketing Secret About Twitter that Most People Don’t Know
  • How To Write A Mind Blowing Headline For Twitter So People Will Read Your Blog
  • 30 Terrific Twitter Facts and Figures
  • Do Shared Links Last Longer on Twitter or Facebook
  • How to Increase Your Blog Traffic by 55% with One Button
  • Is it Better to Share on Google, Facebook or Twitter?
  • Image by 91st Customs™ 2012


    • http://www.profiletree.com/ ProfileTree

      We are one brand that believes that engagement on Twitter can bring more success than other channels…have seen many contents – normally follow + RT to win….but did wonder about T&C, Legal – as never seem to be mentioned! Never heard of binkd – looks excellent..will definitely be trying them out in the near future! Thanks for the tip!

    • http://www.brittanybotti.com/ Brittany Botti

      The NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson does a great job of using Twitter for contests…every week after a race he gives away his hat from the race to the 48th person to retweet the message. Another variation of #2.

    • http://www.brittanybotti.com/ Brittany Botti

      The NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson does a great job of using Twitter for contests…every week after a race he gives away his hat from the race to the 48th person to retweet the message. Another variation of #2.

      • http://jeffbullas.com Jeff Bullas

        Thanks Brittany for that great real life case study!

      • http://jeffbullas.com Jeff Bullas

        Thanks Brittany for that great real life case study!

    • http://www.commun.it SharelOmer

      This are great examples! Running contest/campaigns over twitter can be very powerful and get many engagements and buzz…

      It’s not trivial to monitor all the engagements, especially if the win is based on # of RTs which is hard to measure..but there are great tools out there to help you manage twitter campaigns and make sure you don’t miss the winners and engaged members…

      Love this post, thank you for sharing, will use this as example for running campaigns over twitter.

      Go @AskAaronLee:twitter and @jeffbullas ! thank you for sharing :)  

      • http://jeffbullas.com Jeff Bullas

        Thanks Sharel for dropping into my blog and glad you found it useful

        • http://www.commun.it SharelOmer

          :) Sure Jeff.. happy to read and share the vibe.

    • http://www.MediaWizardz.com/ David Alberico

      Awesome article! These contests are wonderful for brand engagement and increasing presence, and we have all seen numerous contest begin held in our feeds.  I am curious to know if any businesses have had a negative effect using a contest in these ways.  For example, if KFC had only gotten 500 participants they would have been paying $40.00 per participate. (now I am sure that KFC budgeted the $20,000 scholarship based around strict analytics so they would have had a good idea of what kind of response they would get) but I am sure some smaller businesses trying to boost brand engagement didn’t have such great results.  These would be a great case study for educating some smaller businesses.  

      • http://jeffbullas.com Jeff Bullas

        Thanks David for dropping in. I wonder if anyone as a smaller business owner or marketer has a success or failure from a Twitter contest?

    • http://twitter.com/montabe_com montabe.com

      Regarding No. 3 (Photo Contests), that’s what I was built for. 

      The best thing about running a photo contest on Twitter is that you can also use it to drive brand awareness on the back end by aggregating all the entries.

      Say you run a contest that asks for entries that show your product in use (ala what Field Notes does on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/groups/fieldnotes/). A resulting gallery can work great for social proof purposes.

      The important thing to keep in mind is that given the impermanence of Twitter search (which results dropping off in a week or less), you need to have a way of keeping the entries around if you run a contest for any period longer than that.

      • http://jeffbullas.com Jeff Bullas

        Thanks for that input into the conversation and the insights.

    • CMPvideo

      Thanks for info… researching marketing ideas for my customers.

    • http://twitter.com/Dulaney_Solar Harry

      Great article and information! :-) 

    • http://twitter.com/Dulaney_Solar Harry

      Great article and information! :-) 

    • Anonymous

      Great Point Aaron Lee, I always learn something reading your tweets/blog keep up the drive, Iam a supporter of your work!!!!

    • http://jeffbullas.com Jeff Bullas

      Thanks Christina for your comments and glad to hear you found the content “valuable” and golden!

    • http://twitter.com/beeliked BeeLiked

      Great article! What do you think of my blog Post on ‘Twitter Competitions for bars and restaurants’? http://bit.ly/Q4qUEC

    • amanda

      great advice!

    • Maria

      In the past I have held a trivia contest via FB and could
      track it with e-mail alerts. For instance I would ask “For a $10
      iTunes card be the 6th person to correctly list 6 Mountain Line bus routes with
      their route numbers.” Then people could respond. If they tried
      to delete their response to change their place in respondents then I could
      catch it with the e-mail alerts that would also be stamped with the exact time.

      With Twitter I can’t track if someone chooses to delete
      their answers. I would like to keep the question and answer format and we
      want to use Twitter because we’ll be promoting our new Live Twitter Bus Tracker

      Any ideas for me?

    • http://moodsandminds.wordpress.com/ Abhijit

      Your Articles are always useful and practical to apply in real life.Thank you jeff.And continue the good work

      U Just Got Teched

    • Charlie Solano

      These tips really helped me to get more follower for my project of Mylife.com refunds thansk for this usefull share.

    • http://twitter.com/ARInayat Abdulrahman Inayat

      Thanks very much! :)

      I know I’m a bit late to respond to such a long written article!

      The ideas is up to the sky this what we’ll believe in specially as marketers!

      but let’s talk logically if we choose randomly how we pick the winner!

      and the participants will ask HOW!

      so I think we need an app to organize these contests like Binked!

      What do you think ? and do you know more apps that help us to make an organized contest ?

      thanks :)

    • susan king

      I hope your still answering questions ? I enter sweeps, contest, and giveaways every day, most of the day. I get retweets all the time from people I don’t know. Say I share a contest by twitter, then somebody retweets my tweet. Do I need to do anything ? I’ve been looking at their Twitter page to make sure it isn’t a weirdo and then I will follow them. But I don’t know if I’m skipping a step with the retweets. I’d hate to be missing out on more entries because I’m not doing something. Would you please help me ?

    • gcrossEXTR

      but someone could have used curse words and said terrible things while still tweeting the most about your company, right?