17 Tips for Successful Contests


Are you planning a contest?

Want to make sure it’s a success?

An easy-to-follow checklist of tips and best practices will help you launch  contests your audience will love.

In this article I’ll share 17 tips to make your contest a success.

Discover seventeen tips for running successful contests on .

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#1: Review ’s Terms of Service

periodically changes its rules and regulations about contests and other promotions. Be sure to check the Guidelines page before you launch your contest.

Check ’s TOS before every contest you run.

#2: Set a S.M.A.R.T. Goal

A S.M.A.R.T. goal is one that’s specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. Make sure you clearlydefine your contest’s goals before you start planning. Do you want to promote a new product? Grow your email list? Perhaps you’re looking to gather a bunch of user-generated content such as photos and videos.

To set your contest up for success, focus on one or two attainable goals.

#3: Choose the Contest Type

Consider running caption, photo-vote, video-vote, and sweepstakes contests, which are always popular on . Sweepstakes are the easiest to enter and the key to driving lots of entries is to pick the right prize.

Del Mar Fans & Lighting’s straightforward giveaway requires entrants to simply vote on which lighting product they prefer. Once they vote, they’re entered. When the contest ends, a company rep will choose a winner at random.

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Remember, you need to develop a contest that will help you reach your goals. Try a photo- or video-vote contest if your goal is to collect user-generated content.

#4: Select the Right Software

Figure out what software you need to run and manage your contest. Look for software with built-in voter verification features, so everything is on the up and up.

If you want to collect email addresses or other contact information, use third-party software that will help you organize all of the data you collect.

If you’d to increase engagement, run a timeline contest. Choose a comment/ importer tool that allows you to collect a user ID number and name from everyone who engages with your post.

Whatever type of contest you choose, remember you can use the information you collect for future marketing efforts. 

#5: Set a Time Frame

Decide how long your contest will run and let your audience know.

Companies offering valuable prizes, a trip to Paris for two, tend to let contests run for longer periods of time than those offering smaller or local prizes, a meal or a one-night stay in a hotel. Some companies even do a weekly or monthly giveaway.

Palmer’s Canada recently ran a “Celebrate the New Year Giveaway,” during the month of January. At the top of the rules document, the contest period is listed, right down to the time zone.

Include the time period when your contest will run. Don’t forget to designate a time zone.

How long your contest runs is up to you. Just make sure you share the time frame in all of your promotions.

#6: Create Rules

Write a description of how the winner will be chosen, such as randomly or by community vote.

For example, BroadStreet Publishing hosted a 21 Days of Love Valentine’s Day giveaway. In the rules they state that “a winner will be chosen at random,” among other considerations.

Make sure your contest includes rules that spell out how you’ll choose a winner.

Consider including a rule that says voting is only part of the process, and a judge or panel of judges will determine the final winner. Make sure to include a line stating that if you suspect fraud, you have the right to determine the winner.

#7: Determine Who Can Enter

Are you a local business hoping to increase foot traffic to your store or restaurant? Consider limiting entries to people who live within a 50-mile radius of your business. You can also specify age ranges and even gender in your contest rules.

KLIM, a company that makes technical outdoor apparel, is looking for women to model its clothing. In the contest rules, they specify that they want family-friendly images and “No duck face selfies.”

Make sure to spell out who can enter your contest.

If you decide to limit who can enter, be sure it makes sense for your business.

#8: Pick a Relevant Prize

Choose a prize that will be enticing to your ideal customer rather than one that will be generically appealing. If you offer a GoPro camera or an iPad, you’ll get lots of entries. However, the people who are attracted to your prize might not necessarily be attracted to your brand.

Do you own a restaurant? Offer a meal for two. Do you have an automotive service shop? Offer a complimentary oil change. You get the idea.

Globe, a company that makes fire-fighting equipment, is offering a pair of boots to its winner.

A prize that appeals to your ideal customer is better than an expensive prize that’s unrelated to your business.

Choose your prize wisely. This is where many brands go astray.

#9: Feature a Photo of the Prize

It’s essential to choose a compelling image. You want to grab the attention of the easily distracted Internet users you want to fill out your form and enter your contest. is offering a motorcycle as a prize for a current contest. Anyone who loves to ride will definitely want to enter.

Include a photo with a description of your prize to get people excited about your contest.

You have eight seconds to make an impression. Capture your audience with a catchy image.

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#10: Choose a Custom Hashtag

Come up with a unique hashtag that reflects your brand and your contest. Then use it to extend the reach of your contest across multiple social networks.

Tools will help you find trends in hashtags related to your industry.

Star Olives encourages entrants to use #STAROlives and #HowdoYOUolive on both and .

Create a unique hashtag so your customers are able to track your contest on various social media platforms.

Hashtags are gaining more ground on , now that it’s integrated with Instagram. However, limit hashtags to one or two, because the more you use, the less engagement you’ll get.

#11: Design Your Contest Images

Your contest’s design needs to reflect your brand. Be sure to incorporate your logos, colors, and art on your contest page, and make sure the theme is consistent.

For instance, DoubleTree Resort Lancaster has a fun, snowy image for their Winterfest contest.

Your contest’s design should reflect your brand, as well as the tone of your giveaway.

There are plenty of free or inexpensive easy-to-use tools, such as Canva and PicMonkey, for creating designer-quality images, even on a limited budget.

#12: Make Your Contest Mobile-friendly

Some contest software works seamlessly on mobile devices, others not so much. Since most people access via mobile, be sure your contest includes a mobile-responsive smart URL. That way, the contest imagery and form look good on both mobile and desktop.

Since most users access the platform via mobile, make sure your contest looks good and functions properly on mobile.

Be sure to test your contest on a variety of smartphones and tablets before you hit Publish.

#13: Limit Form Fields to Three

When deciding what people need to fill out to enter your contest, think about the two or three pieces of information that will be most useful for your future marketing efforts (i.e., name, email address, and age). Limit your form to this information.

For their Oscar contest, Me Gusta Leer Mexico only asks for each entrant’s name, email address, and pick for best picture.

The fewer form fields you include, the more ly people are to enter your contest.

The more information you request, the more ly people will skip your form altogether. Keep entry requirements short and simple.

#14: Make Your Contest Easy to Share

If you use third-party software to host your contest, make sure your software has built-in features to make the contest entry form easy to share.

The Mississippi Gift Company recently ran a contest for a Peter’s Pottery Lamp worth $250. When entrants finished filling out the form, they were shown a message that offered extra chances to win if entrants shared the form with a friend.

When you motivate people to share your contest by giving them additional entries, your contest will have better reach.

Make your contest easy for people to share with friends on all social media, not just .

#15: Promote Everywhere

While it would nice to be able to publish your contest and have it get ridiculous reach immediately, it doesn’t always work that way. The success of your contest depends on how well you promote it, using both free and paid options.

advertising gives you a lot of bang for your buck, and allows you to really tailor your ads to your target audience.

There are plenty of free options as well. Place announcements or ads on your website and blog, update all of your social media profiles, email your existing lists, and write blog posts to get the word out about your contest.

Additionally, list a link to your promotion on giveaway sites Contestgirl and Online-Sweepstakes.

#16: Notify the Winner and Reward all Entrants

Once you’ve notified the grand-prize winner, consider how to make everyone else a winner, too. Email all entrants to thank them for taking the time to fill out your form, and give them a special reward.

Lifesize, a teleconferencing business, offered a major prize (a retro gaming console), as well as a sweet pair of socks to everyone who entered their contest. Win-win!

Consider offering everyone who enters your contest a prize or discount.

It doesn’t even have to be a physical prize. Even a special discount to all those who enter will be seen as goodwill from your company.

#17: Run Another Contest

Each time you run a contest, you learn a little bit more about your followers and fans, as well as what motivates them to engage with you and share your contest. Use this information to fine-tune your efforts for the next time you host a contest.

Last year’s Star Fine Foods’ “How do you O-live” giveaway was so successful they ran an almost identical one for 2015-2016.

Fine-tune and re-run and social media contests, and they’re ly to be even more successful.

Repetition is key to brand awareness. If you find a formula that works well for your customers, consider repeating the contest or some version of it throughout the year.

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In Conclusion

contests are a great way to get to know your audience, and increase loyalty and reach. Know the contest guidelines and create contests that your target audience will love. Successful contests will help you leverage the power of even more.

What do you think? Do you run contests? What tips do you recommend? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Seventeen things you can do to run successful contests.

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An unly portrait of W.A.S.P America


© Buck Ellison 2020, courtesy Loose Joints.

Buck Ellison’s first monograph delves into the visual ambiguity afforded by the ultra-wealthy

In 2020, Oxfam released its annual report ahead of the World Economic Forum, revealing that collectively the world’s 2,153 billionaires have more wealth than 60 per cent of the planet’s population. Meanwhile, other estimates suggested people would take over 1.

4 trillion photographs that same year – a figure, which COVID-19 will ly impact, but you get the idea.

“We live in this over-photographed world, yet there is a whole class of people, the ultra-wealthy, who, for the most part, disclose only what they want,” says Buck Ellison, ahead of the release of his first monograph Living Trust. “The rest of their lives are completely opaque to us”. 

The Sackler family is a perfect example.

The Sacklers are one of the wealthiest families in the US with an estimated fortune of $13 billion; until recently, they were best-known for their philanthropic activities — a wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is named after them.

A large part of that fortune, however, derives from Purdue Pharma, the purveyor of OxyContin, which the company developed in 1996.

 The long-lasting narcotic, which is formidably addictive, fed, and continues to feed the US’ opioid crisis, however, the Sackler’s connection to the privately-owned company remained obscure for decades — until it didn’t. “They have a team: they have lawyers and accountants, they have foundations,” says Ellison, “they presented an image to the public that they wanted people to see — however, there was more going on there”.

From Living Trust © Buck Ellison 2020, courtesy Loose Joints.

“We live in this over-photographed world, yet there is a whole class of people, the ultra-wealthy, who, for the most part, disclose only what they want”

Buck Ellison From Living Trust © Buck Ellison 2020, courtesy Loose Joints.

Living Trust employs the kind of manicured imagery associated with the ultra-wealthy, recasting it in a new light: as a symbol of the artificiality, self-censorship, and bias, inherent in how this group represent themselves.

Eight chapters, loosely referencing aspects of the lives of W.A.S.

Ps— white wealthy, Americans — divide the publication: Daughters; Still Life; College Preparatory Schools – San Francisco Bay Area, California; Sierra — Gymnastics Routine; Protestant Suite; The Prince Family, Holland, Michigan; Performance Fleece; and Modesty.

The photographs, which comprise the various sections, are meticulously researched; many are staged — populated by paid models and actors cast from LA’s infinite pools of ‘talent’. “You have this enormous apparatus available to you,” explains Buck, “and it became important to me, conceptually too, for the relationship to be transactional: I was hiring their expertise”.

A series of young girls playing lacrosse — all white, many with long, braided hair — transition into a sequence of lurid still lives — spirals of tangerine peel on a blue background; fennels scattered across pages. Later, images of raw seafood — tiers of fish and bursts of octopi — progress into photographs of a moneyed, white American family. The list goes on.

From Living Trust © Buck Ellison 2020, courtesy Loose Joints. From Living Trust © Buck Ellison 2020, courtesy Loose Joints.

An even darker strand of inquiry weaves through the work exploring the fact that in a world where the realms of public and private increasingly blend, enough money can act to enforce the division between them.

“Privacy is a luxury; it can be expensive to get and maintain, but we know it’s out there,” writes the American poet Lucy Ives, in one of the two essays that punctuate the book.

“One of the ways we know this is on account of the photographic images that we know we do not have.”

The section ‘The Prince Family, Holland, Michigan’ explores this. It comprises a series of images devoted to the current, and deeply unpopular, US Secretary of Education, Betsey DeVos, and her brother Erik Prince — the founder of the world’s most infamous private security company, Blackwater.

“She is a Thatcher-esque figure, from a billionaire family, and her brother is a war criminal,” says Ellison, “the family has contributed insane amounts of money to shadowing Republican politics”.

In 2017, during her confirmation hearing, DeVos, who also positions herself as a billionaire philanthropist, reluctantly revealed that collectively, over the years, her family had ly contributed around $200 million to the Republican party.

During her time in office, DeVos has worked to dismantle the public school system, her brother, meanwhile, is implicated in the Nisour Square massacre of 2007, during which employees of Blackwater killed 17 Iraqi civilians and injured 20 while escorting a US embassy convoy.

From Living Trust © Buck Ellison 2020, courtesy Loose Joints.

“Privacy is a luxury; it can be expensive to get and maintain, but we know it’s out there. One of the ways we know this is on account of the photographic images that we know we do not have”

Lucy Ives From Living Trust © Buck Ellison 2020, courtesy Loose Joints.

However, despite their notoriety, when Ellison searched online for childhood and family images of DeVos he found very little. Determined to visualise the recent history of the family, the photographer delved deep into their backgrounds, casting actors to portray them.

In one image, titled The Prince Children, Holland, Michigan, 1975 (2019),  four blond children — three girls, one of who plays a 19-year-old DeVos, and one boy — inhabit a 1970s-era living room, modestly decorated with mahogany furnishings, books, and two unexceptional paintings, to reflect the strict Calvinism of DeVos’ family growing up. Another image, Erik with Kitty, Blackwater Training Center, Moyock, North Carolina, 1998 (2019) depicts an adult Erik Prince sporting khaki shirt and trousers, with a small kitten nestled into his bulletproof vest. In another, Dick and Betsy, The Ritz-Carlton, Dallas, Texas, 1984, a grown-up, and pregnant, DeVos is pictured growling down a telephone.

In some respects, the images, which run through the book, are light and humorous. However, they also signify that visual ambiguity is possible for those who can afford it — a frightening reality with myriad negative implications.

As Ives so aptly describes it, “these are strategic images. Ellison’s photographs demonstrate the expensive and increasingly fugitive privacy that attends contemporary democratic society.

And they show that the display of luxury, far from being a dead giveaway for the location and machinations of power, is a bluff.”

Living Trust by Buck Ellison is published by Loose Joints.

From Living Trust © Buck Ellison 2020, courtesy Loose Joints. From Living Trust © Buck Ellison 2020, courtesy Loose Joints. From Living Trust © Buck Ellison 2020, courtesy Loose Joints.




Official Rules

1.1       To enter all you need to do is go to our Best Health Magazine Live Session on November 16, 2017 at 3:00 pm (EST) and answer a question. This giveaway closes on November 16, 2017 at 3:10pm (EST).

1.2       Only one (1) entry per person will be accepted for the duration of this giveaway

1.3       No purchase is necessary to enter and to win.

2.1       This giveaway is open to Canadian residents who, at the time of participation, have reached the age of majority according to the law of the province or territory in which they reside.

Employees of Reader’s Digest Association (Canada) ULC (RD), their respective parent companies, subsidiaries, affiliates, partners, dealers, advertising and promotion agencies and their immediate families (parents, children, siblings, spouse) or members of the same household (whether related or not) of such employees/officers/directors are not eligible to enter. Odds of winning depend on the number of entries received.

2.2       This giveaway is void outside of Canada.

    • Go to Best Health Magazine and answer the following question: What is your favorite St.Ives product?
    • All entry requirements specified on Live Session must be followed in order to be entered for a chance to win the prize offered.

On November 16, 2017, at 3:10:01 p.m. (EST) at the Reader’s Digest office in Toronto, Ontario, two (2) qualifying winners will be determined ranking of entry. For this giveaway, the 2nd person and the 4th person to answer the question mentioned in sub-section 3.1.1 will be selected as the qualifying winners.

The winners will receive a St.Ives Prize Packages each, valued at $21.82. The prize package will include:

  • Three St.Ives Clease & Hydrate Aloe Vera Hydrating Facial Cleansing Wipes
  • One St.Ives Oatmeal Scrub & Mask
  • One St. Ives Oatmeal and Shea Butter Hand & Body Wash
  • One Face towel


The prizes are non-transferable, and must be accepted as awarded with no cash substitutions. RD reserves the right to substitute the prizes for ones of equal value. The prizes are guaranteed to be awarded.

By entering the giveaway, entrants agree to abide by the giveaway rules, and the decisions of RD are final on all matters regarding this giveaway. The qualifying winners will be notified by email, shortly after the giveaway close.

The winners must complete a claim form and will be asked to correctly answer a skill-testing question in order to claim their prize. The winners will receive their prize approximately 30 days from the date their claim form is received at RD.

RD reserves the right to give away unclaimed prizes to the next eligible winner or to a recognized Canadian charitable organization.

5.1       RD is not responsible for lost, late, invalid, or misdirected entries, which will be disqualified. Proof of submission will not be deemed to be proof of receipt. All entries become the sole property of RD and will not be acknowledged or returned.

In the event an insufficient number of entries are received, RD reserves the right to cancel the giveaway and shall be under no obligation to award the prize. Entries not satisfying these Official Rules will be automatically disqualified. All entrants must have a valid email address.

In case of dispute as to identity of entrant, entry will be declared made by the authorized account holder of the email address submitted at time of entry. ‘Authorized Account Holder’ is defined as the natural person who is assigned an email address by an Internal access provider, online service provider, or other organization (e.g.

, business, educational, institution, etc.) responsible for assigning email addresses or the domain associated with the submitted email address.

5.2       RD reserves the right to refuse submissions deemed inappropriate or offensive in any way.

5.3       Participation in the giveaway and acceptance of prize constitute the winner’s permission for RD to use his/her name, photograph, biographical information, and film and/or any statements made by winner regarding the giveaway (if applicable) without notice or additional compensation.

By participating, entrants and the winners agree to release and hold harmless RD, and their respective parent companies, subsidiaries, affiliates, partners, representatives, agents, employees, officers and directors, from any and all liability, for loss, harm, damage, injury, cost or expense whatsoever including without limitation, property damage, personal injury and/or death which may occur in connection with, preparation for, travel to, or participation in giveaway, or possession, acceptance and/or use or misuse of prize or participation in any giveaway-related activity and for any claims publicity rights, defamation, invasion of privacy, copyright infringement, trademark infringement or any other intellectual property-related cause of action. Entrants who do not comply with these Official Rules, or attempt to interfere with this prize draw in any way shall be disqualified.

5.4       Any attempted form of entry other than as set forth above is prohibited.

RD is not responsible for technical, hardware, software, telephone, or other communication malfunctions, errors or failures of any kind, lost or unavailable network connections, website, Internet, or ISP availability, unauthorized human intervention, traffic congestion, incomplete or inaccurate capture of entry information (regardless of cause) or failed, incomplete, garbled, jumbled or delayed computer transmissions which may limit one’s ability to enter the giveaway, including any injury or damage to participant’s or any other person’s computer relating to or resulting from participating in this giveaway or downloading or uploading any materials in this giveaway. RD reserves the right to cancel, terminate, modify, extend or suspend this prize draw should virus, bugs, non-authorized human intervention, fraud, or other causes beyond its control corrupt or affect the administration, security, fairness or proper conduct of the prize draw. In such case, RD will select the winner from all eligible entries received. RD reserves the right to disqualify any individual it finds to be tampering with the entry process or the operation of the prize draw or website. RD may prohibit an entrant from participating in the prize draw or winning a prize if it determines that said entrant is attempting to undermine the legitimate operation of the prize draw by cheating, hacking, deception, or other unfair playing practices (including the use of automated quick entry programs) or intending to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any other entrants or RD employees.

5.6       Caution: any attempt by an entrant to deliberately damage any website or undermine the legitimate operation of the prize draw may be a violation of criminal and civil laws and should such an attempt be made, the sponsor reserves the right to seek damages from any such person to the fullest extent permitted by law.

This giveaway complies with all Canadian laws. Information concerning this giveaway will be available online at Or you can write to: ‘St.Ives Live Giveaway‘ at The Reader’s Digest Association (Canada) ULC, c/o Prize Award Office, 1125 Stanley Street, Montréal, Québec H3B 5H5. This giveaway is owned, operated and administered by The Reader’s Digest Association (Canada) ULC.