Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Navigating Twitter contests in a world of shifting brand identities

By Rachael Samuels at Sprout Social

No matter how marketing fads shift, Twitter contests rarely fail to drive marketing engagement. Sprout Social research has shown that engagement on Twitter has remained consistently high as the world weathers COVID-19, and a contest is still one of the best ways to build buzz around your brand, attract new audiences and reward loyal followers.

But running a Twitter contest is not the same as it was in 2010. It also isn’t just about Tweeting out a prize and counting the number of Retweets. You have to follow certain guidelines, avoid entry rules that are too easy to game, come up with brilliant contest ideas and much more.

Know the rules

Before you begin, you want to make sure you don’t break the rules when running a Twitter contest. Refer to Twitter rules, but bear in mind there may be other laws and regulations to comply with depending on where your business is located or which industry you’re in, so keep your legal team in the loop and do your research.

Best practices

To ensure your Twitter competitions are always a success, brands must:

1. Know your purpose

Today’s consumers increasingly want to feel personally engaged with a brand. Indeed, the 2020 Sprout Social Index found that consumers rated brands’ engagement with their audience as a top factor (61%) when asked what makes a brand’s social presence best in class.  Assess whether your competition aligns with your brand’s core principles and whether it truly brings value to your audience, introduces your audience to your ecosystem of services and products in a natural way, and truly shows where you fit in your customers’ lives.

2. Define your goal from the start

As with every other social media contest, Twitter competitions also begin with a clearly-defined goal. What’s the main purpose of this contest? What do you wish to gain out of it? This should be highly specific and measurable so you understand the impact of your Twitter contest.

3. Choose a contest type

Choosing the type of Twitter contest to run is arguably the trickiest step. There are four main types of Twitter competitions you can run based on your unique goal: “Retweet and follow,” which is great for increasing awareness and impressions; “comment to enter,” which is great to drive engagement; “Sweepstakes,”  which drives visitors to a specific landing page on your website; and “user-generated content entries,” such as photo contests and question and answer. While these may be some of the more common options, do your best to add your own twist to contest style and type, or make something new! The brands that do contests best on Twitter think outside of the box and get creative with submission options and rules. 

4. Clearly define the rules for entry

Specify clearly defined rules in your post to avoid any disputes later on. If you have a lot of specific terms and conditions that won’t fit into a single Tweet, you could also add “*T&C’s apply” at the end of your Tweet, and provide participants with a link to a landing page that explains more about your contest. 

5. Post at the right time 

It’s important to make sure you’re not shouting into a social abyss. Sprout research found that prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the peak of Twitter activity was on Wednesday and Friday at 9 a.m. With Twitter’s continued popularity through the pandemic, the best time to post hasn’t shifted by much but Friday from 7-9 a.m. is the clear frontrunner, with 9 a.m. still showing as the peak. With more folks taking their leisure time online, you have to meet them at the times that make the most sense for them.  

6. Manage and measure results

For contests that involve responses from the participants, you’ll have to keep track of all the replies to your Tweet. This can be overwhelming, especially if you get thousands of responses and use the native app to sort through responses. Using a social media management software, not only can you track responses, you can even understand audience sentiment around the contest and streamline the measurement of other performance metrics. It’s critical to have an understanding of how your contest is being received – remember those goals you set?

Break through the noise

When it comes to marketing on Twitter, contests are one of the best ways to drive engagement and win over your target audience. However, long gone are the days where “Retweet to win” is really going to engage anybody. Only when you begin to truly understand your audience, their motivations, and the value your brand can bring into their daily life will they feel ready to enter into a contest. For this reason, it’s also crucial to measure the success of your contest and its impact on your overall marketing performance. This will provide you with valuable insights to fuel your future marketing strategies.