giveaway ideas Sweepstakes and Contests

12+ Winning Giveaway Ideas for Small Businesses to Boost Sales15 minutes

November 11, 2022 10 min read
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12+ Winning Giveaway Ideas for Small Businesses to Boost Sales15 minutes

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Social media giveaways are a great way to boost engagement with your target audience — as well as to learn more about what motivates your customers to connect with your brand. Small businesses seeking to mix up their marketing can use giveaways to reach a range of business goals, from sales and engagement to brand awareness. 

Giveaways, however, can fail if they aren’t properly structured. Simply handing out free stuff to your customers won’t help your business grow. In fact, running a giveaway poorly can actually cost your company money. 

Avoid the risk of a poorly-run giveaway with these social media ideas and strategies designed to increase engagement for your small business. In this guide, we’ll outline the ins and outs of social media giveaways, give examples of ways you could structure your next giveaway, and demonstrate how the right giveaway can lead to measurable business outcomes. 

Social Media Giveaways

First, what is a social media giveaway? When we talk about a social media giveaway, we’re describing a promotional tactic in which a brand or influencer asks their social media followers to perform certain actions to participate in a contest and potentially win a free prize. Actions could include things like: 

  • Following a specific social media account (or multiple accounts)
  • Sharing a social media post with their followers
  • Commenting on a social media post
  • Tagging friends in a post
  • Signing up for an email list 
  • Liking a photo or post from your account

Social media giveaways can provide amazing results for your business, but they also take some planning to capture their full benefits. So, let’s back up a minute: before you determine what you want your followers to do, as well as what your ideal business outcome is. 

Determining a specific, defined business goal will allow you to determine whether your promotion is successful once it ends. Goals could include: 

  • Increase your website traffic 
  • Grow your email marketing list
  • Add social media followers on a specific channel
  • ​Find brand ambassadors on social media platforms
  • Increase brand recognition  

Make sure your goal is measurable, timely, and specific. Then, set the rules of your giveaway to help achieve the outcome. The prize you’re offering needs to match the relative effort you want your followers to make on your behalf. 

Read more: The Advanced Guide To Sweepstakes

Also, be aware of the constraints of holding your giveaway on different social media networks. Each social media platform has different rules for running online contests. Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook all publish clear guidelines; read those carefully before you get too far into planning. If you don’t follow the rules, it’s likely that the platform will delete your campaign — and, you could also risk being banned or having future posts penalized by the algorithm.

With this background, here are a few giveaway ideas to inspire your next contest post on social media.

Twitter: Tweet to Enter/Win

According to a combined study from Twitter and Research Now, 93% of people who follow small businesses on Twitter plan to purchase from those businesses. Twitter is a great place to grow brand awareness and increase audience engagement. 

A popular format for a Twitter giveaway is the tweet to enter/win format. Ask participants to retweet your post to be entered for a chance to win the prize. It’s an extremely easy way for users to spread your social media posts and build brand awareness. Some brands use a variation on “retweet to enter” by asking users to like, retweet, and follow. These three actions lead to more meaningful metrics for your brand. 

Alternatively, you can allow participants to enter to win by tweeting a specific hashtag. Twitter estimates that businesses that use hashtags get a 50% increase in engagement compared to businesses that don’t use hashtags. Make sure you use a unique hashtag that’s easy to remember.

Instagram: Photo Contest

An Instagram giveaway is an extremely effective way to increase engagement, especially because it can take many forms. One estimate found that “an Instagram contest or giveaway can help you grow your followers 70% faster in three months than if you didn’t host a contest at all.” 

Instagram contests can take many forms, but one of the most effective options is a photo contest. Ask users to post their most creative photos with products from your business that they love. Or, ask users to share their photos with a specific product — great if you’re trying to drum up interest during a new product launch or practice cross-selling. 

This type of contest leads to a lot of user-generated content (UGC): content that’s created and posted by unpaid contributors, fans, and followers. Reposting user-generated content puts your customers at the center of your marketing. It’s also a great way to connect with your customers through authentic storytelling and build a stronger bond. Plus, it enables you to capitalize on word-of-mouth marketing. 

Instagram: Like, Comment, Follow

In this Instagram giveaway contest, similar to the Twitter example, your brand asks participants to like, comment, and follow a post to enter to win. Make the rules clear: for example, specify that someone must like the first three posts on your page, comment on your favorite product, or follow these accounts to be entered to win. Here’s an example of this type of giveaway from a beauty brand and its partners.

YouTube: Video Contest

YouTube has some detailed rules that you need to know before you set up your video contest; make sure you read those for the latest guidelines. 

With those guardrails in mind, YouTube is a channel that can inspire a lot of creativity from your followers. There are a few ways to engage your audience with a YouTube giveaway.

  • Host a live giveaway. Film yourself drawing a random winner from your list of subscribers. Announce how people can enter days in advance, whether it’s by following your channel, commenting on a video, or something else. Then, share the winners in a live drawing. 
  • Collaborate with another brand. Create a video with another brand on YouTube to share how viewers can enter to win the sweepstakes. However, you have to ensure that the ways to enter the contest generates genuine engagement.
  • Ask for user-generated content. Ask your audience to reply to your video with a video of their own. Get them to use an official contest hashtag so you can track submissions. After you’ve chosen a winner, you can continue to post submitted videos to your YouTube channel.
  • Video voting. One of the best ways to engage your audience is to get them involved in ways that allow them to affect the outcome. Give them the power to decide who wins by determining the winner through votes.

Like Instagram, you can also ask participants to film a video with a specific product, creating testimonials that you can then use to boost sales. Here’s an example of a YouTube giveaway video showcasing the winners of an editing challenge:

Facebook: Story Contest

Facebook Stories are Facebook’s version of Snapchat: short, user-generated photo and video collections that can be viewed up to two times and disappear after 24 hours. As such, when hosting a giveaway on Facebook, it’s best to use one of the other features on this platform that could lead to more meaningful, long-term engagement. 

Engage users on Facebook by asking them to take a certain action: liking the post or even producing a video. Note that Facebook has banned brands from requesting certain actions from their followers. You are not allowed to require users to share a post on their timeline, tag their friends, or share a post on a friend’s timeline in order to enter the giveaway. 

Because Facebook is so popular, it can be difficult to make your competition stand out from other posts on a user’s timeline. Try some of these ideas to gain attention. 

  1. Add a countdown timer to your giveaway. Make your sweepstakes a multi-day event to make winning seem more likely and increase audience attention. For instance, Kettle Brand chips offered giveaways over four days, asking people to comment with their favorite flavor. Each day, a winner was randomly chosen with a grand prize on the fourth day. 
  1. Host a quiz or ask a trivia question. People love to feel smart. Ask a trivia question and choose a winner of your giveaway from the right answers in the comments. You can do this with skill-testing questions, too – just ask someone to demonstrate their talent using one of your products to enter to win. For instance, hardware stores can challenge your followers to demonstrate their wood-working expertise for a chance to win a new drill. 
  2. Photo contests. Like Instagram, Facebook is great for sharing photos. Ask your followers to vote on their favorite UGC and to produce their own to be entered to win a prize (like a gift card). 

Facebook is also a great place to ask for testimonials and product reviews. This type of content can help boost your SEO ratings. Be careful not to look like you’re bribing people to write good reviews, however, as that can damage your brand reputation.

Website/Platform Giveaways

Social media isn’t the only outlet for hosting a raffle or giveaway. In fact, using your website to host sweepstakes is a good way to increase your website traffic, promote your products or services, and increase conversions. 

When should you run a giveaway on your website vs on social media? The answer has to do with your business goal. Using social media to run your sweepstakes helps you build an online presence, as well as generate follows, likes, and shares. But, those metrics don’t always translate to sales. If you’re seeking to boost your revenue, it’s a good idea to host your giveaway on your website to capture the most benefit from your event. Likewise, website-based giveaways allow you to set goals like building your email list, growing your loyalty program, and other business benefits outside of social media marketing. 

[Read more: Where to run a giveaway? Facebook vs. Your Website, featuring Shoptiques]  

There are plenty of plugins and apps you can integrate into your website that offer the bonus of hosting a contest and promoting it through your social media. It’s the best of both worlds, making the entire administrative effort of setting up and tracking the giveaway easy. 

Here are some examples of sweepstakes you can host through your website to help you build a loyal follower base and increase revenue. 

Online Quizzes

Ask website visitors to participate in an online quiz for a chance to win. It’s a fun way to increase engagement and gain new insights into your target audience. 

Quizzes are typically designed as personality tests, scored knowledge tests, or multiple choice assessments. These different formats net different results for your brand. A personality test, for instance, can help you develop richer customer profiles by asking in-depth questions. Scored knowledge tests help you understand how much a participant understands about your products and industry. And, a multiple-choice test can help inform your product development and customer service. 

Likewise, small businesses can increase their exposure by reading the “most answered” or “most viewed” results. Check results to see who took your quiz and when, their scores, performance, and more. 

Brand Trivia

Brand trivia is a great opportunity to provide your target audience with additional knowledge about your goods and services. Host this giveaway on your website or social media channels to test followers and customers on how well they know your company. Bonus points for anyone who can attest to some of your legacy products, founder’s story, or past partnerships with other brands. Reward the right answers with prizes and discounts. 

Name the Product

Give one lucky winner the chance to name a new product. This gives your local business a way to understand how well your target market recognizes your store and your brand. There are two ways to structure this contest: you could either ask users to submit photos, videos, or other content and let the winner choose the name. Or, you could ask users to submit their names, ask their social network to vote for their idea, and give away a prize to the person whose suggestion is the most popular. 

Make sure when you host this contest you set clear naming parameters and guidelines. Let the saga of Boaty McBoatface be a cautionary tale. 

Treasure Hunt

A treasure hunt can bring website visitors deeper into your website. Challenge participants to find answers to trivia questions on your product pages, blog, or social media networks. 

The National Federation of Independent Business hosted a giveaway that combined trivia and treasure hunting. Participants could visit the website or the organization’s Facebook page to read the Daily Trivia Question for that day. Answers to the trivia question could be found in content and articles on their website. Then, users were asked to email their answers to a specific email address to be entered to win a random draw for gift cards. 

This setup is a good way to make sure your content is really being digested by website visitors. It also captures email addresses for future marketing efforts. 

Themed Giveaways

Themed giveaways capitalize on holidays and events to promote a seasonal service or product. This approach gives local businesses a natural reason to reach out to potential customers, using prizes to engage people and build brand awareness. 

There are dozens of opportunities for themed giveaways throughout the year. For instance, JewelScent, a candle and jewelry company, used St. Patrick’s Day as an opportunity for a themed giveaway around “luck of the Irish”. People were asked to join the company’s email for a chance to win — four winners had the chance to win any JewelScent candle of their choice. The giveaway was promoted by JewelScent on their website. It was also sent out to their email list and posted on their Facebook page. 

In total, the entire promotion had 27,555 entries; 3,085 people clicked through to JewelScent’s website for an 11% click-through rate.

[Read more about the case study here: The Growth Series – Finding the Pot O’ Gold

Themed giveaways are a fun, easy way for a small business to create a marketing opportunity. Choose a theme that pairs well with a holiday, a product, or a brand event, such as the ten-year anniversary of your business. Reward creativity appropriately with meaningful incentives; JewelScent gave all participants a surprise 15% off their next purchase to acknowledge their entry. 

Slogan Contest

A slogan contest challenges participants to come up with your company’s next great ad campaign or tagline. An example of this giveaway is the slogan contest for the 2021 UN Biodiversity Conference, COP15. The UN asked for the public to come up with slogans of no more than 15 words that encapsulated the theme, “Ecological Civilization: Building a Shared Future for All Life on Earth”. Winners were given Award of Excellence certificates as well as having their slogans featured in marketing for the event.

Slogan contests are a great marketing tool for new businesses. They can help you understand what your target audience is looking for, how they understand your value proposition, and what makes your business unique. Slogan contests are a great way to identify potential customers from those who take the time to write submissions. 

Create Your Own Logo Contest

Like a slogan contest, logo contests challenge your target audience to design a logo: the visual representation of your brand. Logos are symbols that provide visual shortcuts to your brand’s values, products, and services. The best logos generate intense loyalty and instant recognition, like the Nike Swoosh or Air Jordan Jumpman.

Logo contests online can attract dozens, if not hundreds of entries. You could ask participants to vote on their favorite logo and present a few options from qualified designers. Or, you could ask entries to design their own logo and pick a winner yourself. 

Logo contests tend to involve a lot of work on behalf of your target audience, since they need to tap into their creative design skillset. As a result, make sure your prizes match the level of effort. And, like name-the-product giveaways, make sure you set clear parameters to make sure the image representing your entire brand identity isn’t doing your company a disservice. 

Conclusion

There are tons of ways to host business giveaways on social media, your website, and via email. Make sure the method you choose, your incentives, and your promotions meet your business goals and platform rules. A sweepstakes contest is one of the most likely ways to help your small business stand out in today’s crowded media landscape. 

Local businesses seeking to engage customers should give participants clear directions, deadlines, and motivation to make it as easy as possible for everyone to enter, share, and win your giveaway. To learn more about hosting sweepstakes, check out our advanced guide

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