Want to increase your social media following? Want some free stuff? If you have a business on social media we’d bet you answered yes to the first question. If you’re human, you probably answered yes to the second question.

Carrying out a giveaway on Facebook or Instagram is a quick and effective tool for increasing awareness, engagement, and your following. In this case, we’re talking about sweepstakes over contests, which are games of skill. A sweepstake is a game of chance since a winner is picked at random. There is no form or payment, purchase or transaction to enter — And like winning free stuff, a free entry is naturally enticing.

1) Keep it OBVIOUS and consistent

Make sure you mention your giveaway at the start of your social media post, so your audience knows instantly that they can win a prize. Consistency can help too, both in copywriting, style, and scheduling. Using the same giveaway title to start each post and including a unique hashtag is important. You have a rare opportunity here to use ALL CAPS on social media to announce it’s a giveaway, like in our example below.

A cohesive visual style or consistent branding can also help with recognition. Keeping to a schedule, such as the same day each week or the start of every month, will help people remember to check back in if they missed the post organically.

2) Include a budget for media production: Photos, videos and graphic design

Quality content will help your brand stand out and combining it with your giveaway can only benefit it. By creating original content or putting in the effort to source existing content ensures your brand’s aesthetic and quality stays consistent. The more attention you attract, the more you increase your post’s engagement. Plus, your followers notice quality content. It makes them feel like you care. If it isn’t in your budget to create original content for the post, there’s no shame in repurposing existing content to fit the giveaway’s theme.

This is especially relevant if your prize is of significant value since quality photo and video will entice people to engage — and maximum exposure is the end goal, after all.

3) Graphic animation or video: Preferred by Facebook and followers

Facebook and Instagram have been pushing video increasingly over the last few years. This preference means video ads have better rates and video posts get more exposure. On top of Facebook and Instagram’s preference for it, video is a clear favourite for social media users.

With a larger budget, you can create a short video or series of videos to feature with your giveaway. If you’re looking to spend less but still receive some benefits of video, you can produce short graphic animations or slideshows, which still count as video in Facebook’s eyes.

4) Keep it relevant

We mean this both for the prize and the post. Tie the post to the seasons, holidays, weather, current events, etc. Also look to relate the post image and copy to the prize. For example, our Save-On-Foods post below includes a photo of a road trip and the prize was a pack of CLIF energy bars. Posted May 1st, people are starting to think of getting outside, camping and exploring B.C., making it a relevant pairing.

For the prize, make sure it’s something your audience will value. With your existing followers entering, your own products or services are the obvious choice, as well as something that can compliment it. An irrelevant prize won’t benefit your followers or your goals. A common giveaway prize is an iPad; the people who enter your contest might only be interested in winning a free iPad. They won’t be future consumers of your brand or followers on your account.

Keep it relevant to your audience’s location. If your FB or Instagram page has fans from multiple countries, consider not targeting them. In Canada, this could mean excluding Quebec due to their strict rules on sweepstakes and giveaways. This helps you avoid people entering who can’t win and the chance of people being misled or disappointed.

5) Get creative with your audience

Utilize this opportunity to start a conversation with your audience. At this point, you already have people’s attention, make them engage with you. Ask them questions, hear their opinions, listen to their stories. By getting people to talk to you, you’re creating a relationship between your audience and your brand. Developing an emotional connection between your company and your audience means they’ll be choosing you over your competitors.

For Kernels Popcorn, we used a photo of a classic family movie with the prize, asking people to comment with their favourite, go-to movie. People are simultaneously engaged with the post and viewing the product in a relatable situation. Even if they don’t win, people are picturing movie night with Kernels Popcorn.

6) Boost your post for the double whammy

While boosting increases the overall spend, it can also increase the overall prize value. The boost will ensure people outside your current following see it, attracting more followers to your brand.

7) Identify your goals

For long-term success, always identify your goals when hosting a giveaway, especially when part of a campaign. Do you want to increase the reach and awareness of your brand, leading to more likes/follows? Do you want to drive your social following to signup for a newsletter? Do you want to promote a new product or service, like the patriotic Triple O poutine burger below?

8) Don’t be afraid to experiment

It may take some testing to see what appeals to your audience. What prize will you offer and what form of entry will you use? What type of visual content and copy will you include in your giveaway post? It can be easy to assume what works best, but it’s important to assess the analytics and see what works over time, then adjust accordingly. Your audience might surprise you.

Even if your prize budget is small, giveaways are an effective way to promote your online presence. And if done right, it’ll get your audience thinking beyond the prize and about how product or service fits into their lives.