Trending: Social Media Contests on the Decline

Think back half a decade ago: 2012. Do you remember what Facebook looked like back then? Do you remember visiting businesses’ Fan Pages to Like them…and to see what Like-ing them got you?

Social media contests used to be all the rage. It was a fast and (relatively) easy way to build up your social media following (mostly on Facebook, but also on the platforms you used to promote your contest, like Twitter), engage your fans and followers in more authentic conversations and, hopefully, win over some new customers and clients in the process.

Today, we just don’t see social media contests that much. Wonder why? Here are some likely reasons:

Facebook Changed

With the shift from a page full of posts to Timeline, Facebook changed more than just the platform’s layout. Timeline removed “tabs,” which functioned like separate web pages within your business’ Facebook Fan Page, and that made it impossible to direct Facebook users directly to your contest page.

On top of that, Facebook changed its algorithm. Whereas the number of likes alone used to be a major ranking factor to get you in your fans’ newsfeeds, the new algorithm favors posts from other personal profiles, significantly reducing business/brand posts. To get seen, businesses have had to invest more in ads and promoted posts.

Contests Just Didn’t “Get It Done”

In the midst of the social media contest craze, nearly every business was offering freebies or discounts in an attempt to capture more Likes, followers and overall web visibility. But for a number of businesses, contests just did not perform or didn’t make sense.

Consumers love free stuff and discounts, and they have no problems sacrificing choice or number of options for low-risk products or services—like a hair cutting and styling, teeth whitening or air duct cleaning. However, consumers will not compromise their ability to exercise full control over their choice of provider and/or quality of products or services that come with serious financial consequences, like plumbing, legal and medical services.

Social Media Contests Are Declining, Not Dead

Social media contests are not as popular as they were in the early 2010s, but they’re not completely gone or without merit. Contests run on social media platforms can work for some businesses to quickly raise awareness of new products or services, jumpstart long-term promotional campaigns and/or build email lists for new leads.

The keys to making a social media contest work for you are:

  1. Finding the right platform

Facebook used to be the only social media platform on which a contest was possible. But today, any social media channel can be used to promote a contest, and everything can drive traffic to your website and be funneled into your integrated email marketing strategy. You just have to find which social media channel(s) your target audience tunes into the most.


  1. Defining your goals

You’re not giving away free stuff or discounting your products/services just because. It’s got to do something for you…what is it? Do you want email addresses? Do you want authentic engagement with your faithful following on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.? Do you want to drive people to your actual location? Whatever kind of traffic or engagement you want to increase, make that an integral part of the contest.


  1. Finding the right “carrot”

Of course, your contest has to offer something people really want, but you can’t give them what they want to the detriment of your profitability. You need to find that “sweet spot” between a giveaway that may sting but provide ample returns and a giveaway that just plain hurts your bottom line.

If you’d like to explore the possibility of a social media contest or other fast interest-building campaign, talk to your marketing expert at