First, a quick recap on contests as a type of social media marketing. Engagement is high: viewers spend two and a half minutes on a contest app.
When was the last time you stopped scrolling for that long? Contest posts get 64 times as many comments and 3.5 times as many likes as a typical post.
They also see rapid growth: almost two-thirds of participants share contest promotions with at least one other person. That volume means great brand awareness for you, even if engagement isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
But contests require prizes, and well-thought-out ones at that. Perhaps intuitively, ‘better’ contest prizes lead to more successful contests.
In this article, we will learn all about picking the right prize. We’ll run through 15 great prize ideas for your next successful contest.
But before that, we’ll take you through why understanding your target audience matters, the different categories of prizes you might consider, and how to choose the right one.
On that note, if you’ve passed the launch stage and you’re trying to work out how to get more entries, read this useful guide.
Understanding Your Target Audience
Good marketing depends on your understanding and matching up of your product with the appropriate people – a group we refer to as the target audience.
I’ll assume you thoroughly understand your product, the problems it solves, and all of its features – so that’s half the puzzle solved. The other half is the audience.
You need to know them, note down some customer personas, and should be able to articulate the three to five main problems they face that might lead them to buy your product.
It should come as no surprise, then, that the prize you offer for a contest should indicate that you know both your brand and customer base well.
Do you know your customer base? Here are a few areas and features to learn about the people you want to buy from you.
- Demographics, like age, gender, and physical location. Probably the simplest segmentation you can make, but a powerful one. You wouldn’t want to be offering the prize of a pub crawl along the local watering holes to a segment over 50 or 60!
- Interests and hobbies. What do your customers like to do after work and on weekends? Are they sporty? Do they like to taste wines? Do woodworking?
- Online behavior, like social media platform usage and website visits. Where do they hang out on the web? What podcasts do they listen to? What email lists do they subscribe to? Which influencers do they like?
- Values and beliefs. What do they stand for? Are they environmentally conscious? Are they into ethical fashion or ‘green’ products and services?
- Level of spending power/income. This might be tricky to quantify, but it’s still important. Can they spend money on your product or service? Are they bargain hunters?
- Profession or industry. What line of work do they come from? Are they tech-savvy, or are they more hands-on professionals?
- Needs and wants. What do they need from you? Really, what is the problem your industry, in general, or brand, in particular, can solve for them? This info can inform the specific landing page variation you show to a certain audience segment.
- Brand affinity/loyalty. Are they likely loyal customers or more inclined to switch brands for every purchase?
One great tip from Influencer Marketing Hub is to survey some of your customers to answer some of the questions from above.
And, if it needed reinforcement, Hubspot here suggests building buyer personas.
Types of Social Media Giveaway Prizes
The prize you choose to give away has an outsize effect on the success of your sweepstakes. Viewers will react differently depending on the prize’s value, relevance, and overall desirability.
Here, we’ll discuss four different categories of prizes you might choose from: physical ones, prizes based on experiences, monetary prizes, and a slightly more creative category we’ll call customized prizes.
Physical prizes allow people to win tangible items to use and keep. Generic physical prizes include branded merchandise: t-shirts, mugs, hats, etc. Branding everyday items and garments is a tried-and-trusted technique.
But beware of a finding reported by GreenBook, which stated that a meaningful minority (16%) of people surveyed found items personalized with their name/details came across as ‘creepy’.
Then there are prizes like gadgets and electronics. These might come in the form of a special edition product, a new product just released, or gadgets and gear related to what you sell.
Tech is an attractive prize for a few reasons:
- It’s expensive, and people may not always want to / be able to buy it themselves.
- People love trying out the latest and greatest products.
- Tech and related gadgets and appliances often make life easier and bring convenience, something anyone can relate to.
Experiential prizes include trips, classes, event tickets (sports, concerts, etc.), and other activities. They’re a natural fit if you’re a business that sells products related to experiences – such as a travel agency, music venue, cruise company, or hotel.
Here are a few examples of experiential prizes for specific industries or businesses.
- Car dealership – Tickets to a racing event, an advanced driving course, or a weekend car rental. A track day at the local circuit is also a cool prize. Who doesn’t want to drive a car fast around a race track?
- Retail store – Tickets to an event related to the product, a gift card for services related to the product, or even tickets to a nearby amusement/theme park. A shopping spree is always going to be an appealing prize!
- Food and beverage company – Cooking classes, dinner at a restaurant, VIP passes for food festivals or wine tastings.
- Hotel – A weekend staycation package: food, accommodation, and a locally-guided tour for two, for example.
- Restaurant – A cooking class, a gift card for the restaurant, or a VIP dinner experience.
- Online education provider – Free courses, webinars, or other online educational experiences.
- Ecommerce store – Gift cards for specific products or services, a shopping spree for your store, or an opportunity to try something new.
Experiential prizes are interesting – they’re typically desirable but not something people splurge on regularly.
Offering as prizes unique experiences related to your brand, business offering, or industry will go a long way to generating hype around your giveaway idea.
ITA Group puts it well here: “[…] experiences are more memorable than, say, how you paid your heating bill with a cash bonus.”
Monetary prizes tend to be the most sought-after, and probably because it’s incredibly flexible – people can use them however they see fit.
Let’s take a look at the various forms of monetary prizes that giveaways have used:
- Cash – offering a cash prize is the most straightforward. It’s popular but expensive for you and your cash flow situation and may not have the same ‘wow’ factor as more creative prizes.
- Cash equivalents – things like gift cards or vouchers that can be spent just like cash. Gift cards from specific stores/brands may be more attractive to people, as they can only use the prize in a certain way (think of it as an exclusive discount).
- PayPal – offering PayPal transfers is another popular option. It’s fast and convenient since you don’t have to worry about mailing physical cards or vouchers. Plus, people always love getting money sent directly.
- Cryptocurrency – Exercise caution here. The crypto arena is fraught with controversy and fraud. Often, a business will spin up its own cryptocurrency token and attribute a value to it when there is none. Try to give away better-known tokens (like BTC or ETH) which at least have an exchange value for the time being.
- Incentives – if you’re doing a giveaway for your business or product, you might consider offering incentives like discounts or freebies instead of cash prizes. This way, the effect on your cash flow is limited, but the winner still feels like they’re getting something valuable.
The downsides of monetary prizes you should consider include the following:
- Cash prizes have a direct effect on your cash flow.
- Cash equivalents like gift cards may not be attractive to people if they’re too specific and limited in their use.
- Cryptocurrency is unregulated and often comes with more risk than reward.
- Monetary prizes are a step or two removed from your actual product or offering, so they may prove to be less memorable. In other words, the long-term positive marketing effects may be limited relative to physical or experiential prizes.
A customized prize itself could be physical, experiential, or even monetary. What sets them apart is that they are personalized to the individual recipient.
The point of a customized prize is to make the recipient feel special and appreciated. Let’s look at examples of customized prizes within the categories above.
1. Physical – customizing a physical prize can be as simple as adding the recipient’s name. You could print or embroider the recipient’s name on a t-shirt, cap, or hoodie. You could print their name and a custom photo onto a mug.
An electronic customized prize might be something like a custom Bluetooth speaker with the recipient’s name engraved.
If you’re putting together a gift package, you could tailor the contents of it to their individual interests. Hobbies, media consumption, work, etc., could influence the selection of the actual prize.
2. Experiential – you could offer tickets to an exclusive event or destination, which has been informed by the preferences of the giveaway winner. For example, if the winner is a fan of classic cars, you could arrange a day of driving vintage cars.
Or, if the winner loves surfing, you could organize a trip to Maui for them. Dancing? How about a dance class led by a local expert? You could also base it around an annual event, like Halloween.
3. Monetary – the simplest variation of a customized monetary prize might be a gift card to a store the winner has indicated they’d love to shop at. Do they love movies? You could give them movie tickets or a movie theater gift card. Or perhaps a subscription service like Netflix or Hulu.
PayPal transfers and cryptocurrency can also be personalized by including messages of appreciation for the recipient with each transfer.
In cryptocurrency, you might even consider gifting the winner an NFT customized to the individual somehow. Again, exercise caution with cryptocurrency – many people have been burned dealing with technical instruments they don’t fully understand.
Choosing The Right Prize
Should you use your own product? Should the prize help people? What makes a great prize?
With all that said about the prizes you should be considering, you’re probably wondering what aspects to consider to choose the prize for the giveaway.
In this section, we’ll discuss the considerations you should make for prize selection, including the budget vs prize value tradeoff, the prize value vs participation tradeoff, and whether or not you should include a unique, customized touch.
[This research paper serves as a case study into how prizes should be allocated within the constraints of the giveaway.]
Consider the Budget and Prize Value
The first thing to consider is your budget. But how do you know what your budget should be for a giveaway?
Marketing budgets are tricky, and they’re subjective. One method is to allocate a marketing budget as a percentage of your annual revenue; for example, 20% of your revenue should be spent on marketing.
Within that, you’ll need to allocate spending on the various channels: paid media, email marketing, traditional media, influencers, giveaways, etc.
Another simpler method is the value method: what value would you like to gain from running this giveaway?
You can estimate this based on how many purchases will likely result from increased traffic. Let’s run an example:
- Suppose your organic social posts average about 1,000 impressions (1,000 people see each one), they have a 10% engagement rate (10% or 100 people click through to your website), and your site has a 1% conversion rate (1% or one visitor in every 100 will make a purchase).
- What’s the average profit from a single purchase on your website? Suppose you sell smartphones and make a $100 profit per sale.
- Therefore, if you spent $100 on a marketing channel, you would ideally like that to result in one sale, so the profit covers the costs.
Suppose you consider giving away a smartphone as the prize, which will cost you $1,000. That means you’ll need ten sales from the giveaway to break even.
Will you get ten sales? Well, at a 1% conversion rate and a 10% engagement rate, your giveaway needs 10 * 100 * 10 = 10,000 impressions. Is that likely? For sure.
Remember – giveaways largely rely on virality, and when it works, the exponential growth of one person referring multiple people means huge numbers of impressions.
Balance Prize Value With Participation Effort Level
We’ve said it before and will say it again: humans are lazy.
If your giveaway requires a lot of effort – maybe it’s a photo contest or requires participants to create user-generated content (UGC) and post it on social media with a hashtag – then you should consider offering more valuable prizes.
So yes, that means you can get high participation and engagement whether the prize value is low or high.
But it also means that if the prize value is low, the participation requirements should be less onerous, and if the prize is of high value, you can afford to have the entrants jump through more hoops because there’s more on the line.
What do you want to get out of the giveaway? If you simply want to do some awareness marketing, not spend a lot, and not have to sift through entries and content afterwards to product marketing content, then a low-value prize is probably fine.
People will come across the giveaway, see that the prize is, for example, a $25 Amazon gift card, and that entry requires two simple referrals; they’ll likely do it.
But if you intend, for example, to gather heaps of high-quality user-generated content to repurpose as social proof for your website and social media channels, you’ll need to up the ante.
Consider giving away a personalized weekend for two, a free year’s subscription to your service, or a VIP dining experience.
Add a Unique Touch to Make it More Appealing
Consider making the giveaway unique to make it more appealing. What creative twist can you add to the prize (for example, providing hotel accommodation for an outdoor adventure getaway or guaranteeing a celebrity meet-and-greet for the chosen winner)?
You could also flesh out what participants will gain from entering the giveaway. Just like you would market your product or service, highlight the benefits the prize will bring the winner.
Lastly, if the budget allows, consider collaborations to increase the overall prize value and create an even more attractive giveaway for potential entrants.
Like with money and commodities, scarcity and uniqueness create value (or at least perceived value). So if your prize is clearly one-of-a-kind, participants are more likely to be excited by it.
20 Creative Prize Ideas for Your Next Giveaway
By now, you know all about prizes: their categories, choosing their value and allocating them correctly to your target audience.
Let’s look at 20 awesome prize ideas of the best prizes you could consider – it’s why you’re here, after all!
Tickets to a Racing Event
If your target audience is car lovers, tickets to a major racing event could be the perfect prize. It would be up to you how many tickets you’d provide and for what kind of event; Formula 1 or NASCAR, perhaps?
A Spa Day
If you’ve ever had a massage or any other spa treatment, you’ll know the positive and relaxing physiological effects they can bring. And you typically see that people rarely treat themselves to spa treatments. Go on, make their day.
A Track Day
A track day is a fantastic way to experience the thrill of driving and famous circuits. If your target audience contains motorheads, mechanically inclined people, or racing fans, the opportunity to drive a sports car or supercar will be too appealing to overlook.
E-commerce Gift Cards
The obvious one is Amazon. But maybe you know of one or two smaller e-commerce websites whose products or services match your brand or industry better?
A gift card or coupon from a smaller online store allows you to keep the prize on-brand but gives the winner the final choice of what they’ll get.
A Shopping Spree
A shopping spree, either in-store or online, is an awesome prize and again allows you to choose the store that best fits your brand and keeps the prize on-brand. It also leaves the final choice completely in the hands of the winner.
Amusement Park Tickets
Amusement park tickets make for awesome prizes, especially if your target audience is young families or still kids at heart. And there’s no shortage of parks; Disney World, Universal Studios, and Six Flags are all popular choices.
Young families are also often financially constrained, so getting their kids out of the house for some adrenaline-fuelled activity will be welcomed.
A Weekend Away for Two
This is a super popular prize for an Instagram giveaway. You get to post visuals of a beautiful getaway spot, helping to market it, and as part of the entry requirements, you’ll likely require people to repost or engage with your post.
A 3-Night Safari
Here’s a great prize for travel enthusiasts. It’s exclusive, offers the chance to see some of nature’s most fascinating creatures up close, and allows the winner to take amazing photos – another opportunity for you to gather user-generated content.
A VIP Dining Experience
Here’s a great date night prize. A good idea would be to use this as a prize in the lead-up to Valentine’s Day, Father’s Day, or Mother’s Day – when couples are more likely to seek romantic date ideas.
Tickets to a Food and Wine Festival
Food and wine festivals are incredibly popular. They’re also excellent opportunities to network, learn about new trends in food or cooking, and sample a range of delicious eats and sips.
People who aren’t foodies or wine connoisseurs don’t often attend these events, so you’d be helping to expand someone’s horizons!
This is a rather broad prize, but there’s no shortage of options. You could give away an oven, washing machine, fridge-freezer, dishwasher, air fryer, or even something smaller like a coffee maker or vacuum cleaner – all things people use daily.
Help someone to start that home makeover they’ve been dreaming about.
If you have a pet-friendly audience, this could be the perfect prize. You can get incredibly creative with what you give away; think fun games, toys for active play, chewables, treats, etc.
With life already expensive and pets proving costly, pet accessories go a long way.
Babies and kids, like pets, are expensive. They need toys, and as they grow, you constantly need to update those toys!
A stuffed animal is a great prize for the younger target audience and can easily be incorporated into any brand.
Sports Equipment or Training Sessions
Sports and fitness are on the rise. “New year, new me” and all that. Not a day goes by on social media when you don’t come across a fitness influencer touting the benefits of waking up at 3 am for a 15-mile run.
You could try to inspire people into fitness yourself by offering as a prize a pair of running shoes, a sports watch, or a month’s subscription to a gym or HIIT outlet.
Home and Garden Furniture
Furniture is expensive, a luxury item, so people typically don’t purchase it regularly. If you have the budget and your prize pool is large enough, why not offer some high-end furniture?
Personal Tech or Gadgets
Tech and gadgets are topical prizes around two specific dates. The first is the period containing Black Friday and Cyber Monday around November, largely associated with tech.
The other period is when college starts around September, and millions of young people are looking for back-to-school deals and accessories. Think of power banks, smartphone cases, earphones, laptops, and tablets.
The tried-and-tested classic. Have your brand printed or embroidered onto various garments or items, like t-shirts, mugs, hats, etc. Maybe the prize is a whole pack of branded merchandise.
Useful clothing and home-type items for the winner and effective marketing for your brand whenever the winner chooses to use or wear the prizes! Everybody loves a bit of swag.
A Backpack or Fanny Pack
Personal storage is a grand prize. A good backpack or fanny pack is extremely useful in all situations: college students on campus, a multi-day hike, a day trip in the mountains, weekend errands, traveling a new city or country, etc.
Throw on your logo; this is a good prize to get your name out there and be seen in the street!
Home Office Accessories
With the rise of remote work, people invest more in their home offices. If your target audience is digitally inclined and part of this trend, consider providing some nice office accessories like a standing desk or ergonomic chairs as prizes for your promotional campaign.
Other options include ergonomic keyboard and mouse pads, desk fans, and desktop monitors.
A Food Hamper
Who doesn’t appreciate a gift basket of delicious snacks and cooking ingredients? For a foodie or someone who loves a good cup of tea or coffee, there are many products to choose from.
Use this prize to bring attention to suppliers and restaurants in your local region. Especially good if your brand is in some way related to food, beverages, or culinary experiences.
Ready to Run Your First Contest? Try ViralSweep!
With all that info about prizes, your next giveaway will surely be a winner! In this article, we looked at how to understand your target audience, the types of prizes you can give away, and how to choose an appropriate prize, and then we ran through 20 prize ideas to get your creative juices flowing.
While you’re deciding on which top-end event you’ll give away tickets for, take a moment to think about how you’ll host the giveaway or contest idea that you have.
You’ll need a tool to manage the contest, collate the entries, and potentially select the winner. ViralSweep is the perfect platform for doing just that.
Host your next giveaway idea confidently and stand the best chance of achieving that exponential growth you’ve been dreaming of with ViralSweep’s range of apps. Check them out here.