Learn the 5 Most Skipped Steps When Running a Sweepstakes

The 5 Most Skipped Steps When Running a Sweepstakes

Are you thinking of running a sweepstakes?

When I was 20, my dad gave me a tape set Jack Canfield. Jack started the talk stating almost all of what he was about to teach that day, the audience most likely already knew. They had probably already been to many similar motivational, inspiration and life-changing courses, workshops and seminars. However, most of them were not taking any of the recommended actions they had previously learned.


This post will be similar. I am going to discuss five very common-sense steps that need to be taken when creating and managing online or social sweepstakes. These are the five most skipped steps in the execution process.


They do not feel important. They aren’t always obvious. They seem counter-intuitive.

The problem is, the consequences of skipping any of these steps, depending on the giveaway, could be monumental, making your clever and creative sweepstakes a complete dud.


“WHY are you running a sweepstakes?”

It’s important to understand WHY you are choosing to host a giveaway as part of your marketing plan. Without a clear end goal, you will not know how to design the sweepstake or even where to host it.

What is your objective? A few common ones are:

  • branding,
  • social followers,
  • newsletter subscribers,
  • product launch.

NEVER run a sweepstakes because:

  • you need a quick way to rack up social followers.
  • everyone else is doing it.
  • you don’t know what else to do.

Knowing the WHY will start the ball rolling:

Do you want to strengthen your brand? Are you launching a new product or service? Is your goal to increase social followers across one or more channels?

I recommend using a contest app such as Woobox, EasyPromosApp or Rafflecopter because they have all the tools you need built in from specific promotional templates to social sharing, and boilerplate rules to random drawings. The contest can then be hosted on any website, blog or social channel.

When it comes to increasing social followers, you can either use an app as described above or run one directly on the timeline. To select a winner you can use a contest app like Woobox or a service such as CommentPicker.

Remember, just like driving a car. If you don’t know where B is, any road will get you there.


BEFORE going live, VET the sweepstakes, either on a secret webpage or a draft social post.

Send it around the office or to colleagues to preview it with a fresh set of eyes. Even better, those not in the same department or field as their varied perspectives may spot a problem you don’t.

I cannot tell you the number of times a day I see contests with problems or errors. Incomplete fields and incorrect images when social sharing are the most common errors, but I frequently see:

  • non-existent rules,
  • dropdowns missing critical information,
  • and fields that won’t accept standard formats.

It’s very important to ensure ALL pieces of the sweepstakes and/or contest app are correctly completed. At a minimum, each social sweepstakes should outline:

  • eligibility (who can enter),
  • what steps need to be taken to enter (like, comment, etc.)
  • the number of entries allowed per person or household,
  • when the contest ends (time, time zone, and date),
  • the social channel disclaimer (can be found within each social channel’s promotional guidelines),
  • along with any special requirements (the prize needs to be picked up).

Even better, if you also include a short link to a landing page on your website that hosts long-form official rules.

READ: Why Social Media Contests Must ALWAYS Have Official Rules

AFTER the sweepstakes is over, VET the potential winners before declaring them the official winner. Always draw one name along with several backups.

Depending on the type of giveaway, Google their name, and review their social feeds. In my books, the social account doesn’t have to be public, but they must have a picture, a bio, and posts. If anything is blank and zeroed out, it most likely is a duplicate entry account or a bot.

Also, access their feed. I am OK if they like to enter sweepstakes as a hob. Those are the people that will organically viral market your sweepstakes. However, I am not keen on any inappropriate or hateful language, images or video. You want to ensure the winner is ‘brand appropriate’.

READ: Could an Axe Murderer Claim the Grand Prize in Your Sweepstakes?


“If you don’t enter your own contest, how will you know if there are any problems?”

The reason I recommend marketers ENTER the contests they create and manage is; it’s your opportunity to put yourself in the entrant’s shoes. If you find it difficult or confusing to enter, John Q Public will give up at the first stumbling block.

The reason most marketers do not enter their own giveaways is they are ineligible to win.


It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enter after it goes live. Yes, you may have vetted the sweepstakes before launch, but there is nothing like a live test to reveal any entry blocks, errors or problems.

Test enter on both PCs and mobile phones, tablets, and MACs. See how it performs under several different circumstances as you do not know what platform your entrants will use. Plus, similar to vetting, get your colleagues and co-workers to enter too. If they have any negative feedback, you can fix the problem right away. Better you hear about the problem from the person in the next cubicle than entrants complaining all over your social media feeds.

These are the top three errors I see are:

  1. no text,
  2. wrong image,
  3. no image.

ONE: This is the number one error I see. The Twitter sharing option is left blank. The app auto-fills in the entrant’s referral link, but that is it. As an entrant, there is no point in my tweeting this out or sharing it anywhere as it means nothing. There are no marketing messages enticing my followers to enter. There are no account tags for the sponsor to track. There are no hashtags for tracking or searching.

TWO: This is the second most pervasive error I see. The Facebook sharing option has the wrong image. Depending on the app chosen, some have standard images used for sweepstakes shares and others have nothing. (See the next mistake!) You can place any image you wish here. I recommend an image of the prize or a graphic created to specifically promote the sweepstakes.

THREE: This is the third and final most pervasive error I see. The Facebook sharing option has no image. Back to the previous example, there is nothing to entice anyone to enter from the social shares.


“Can you make our sweepstakes go viral?


And neither can you.

There are a myriad of subtle factors that make any marketing campaign VIRAL. However, you can make it a success and garner quality results if you follow a few steps:

  • pre-announce your sweepstakes,
  • build-in online and social influencers and bloggers to attract attention to the sweepstakes,
  • reach out to your customers online, via email, use social media ads, etc.

If you schedule sweepstakes into your annual marketing plan you have the advanced timeline to announce upcoming promotions. This builds in anticipation and your subscribers and followers will be looking for their chance to win. Once the sweepstakes is launched, it will have an immediate boost as you already did the groundwork. Build social sharing into your promotion and the ball will get rolling, quickly.

READ: What Would You Do If Your Contest Went Viral?


“Who won?”

This is one of the most frequent questions sponsors get when a contest is over.


Far too many sponsor’s end a promotion with no follow-up or zero follow-through. In a day and age where content is king, and companies are sometimes left struggling for quaily shareable content, why would you let this opportunity pass you ?

Use the end of the sweepstakes as an opportunity to announce the winner, and encourage entrants to continue following you with the promise of future giveaways. The proverbial carrot. Tell followers what they to do to be ready to win the next prize. For example:

  • Subscribe to your newsletter for an exclusive giveaway.
  • Select SEE FIRST on Facebook so they never miss a winning opportunity.
  • Ensure they TURN ON Instagram Notifications so they see all your posts.

READ: Do You Have a Back-End Social Media Marketing Plan?


Like diet and exercise, for social media contests to be successful, consistency is key. Running a sweepstakes should never be a one-off. It should be part of your overall marketing plan, blended with all other types of posts and activities:

  • Ideas (recipes, outfits, designs, etc.),
  • Sales, discounts and coupons,
  • Offline events (trade shows, festivals, grand openings, etc.).

A varied feed will keep followers, fans and customers interested and engaged while they wait for your next giveaway.

Are you running a sweepstakes? Do you have a sweepstakes marketing process in place?

Are you running a sweepstakes in the future? Make sure your sweepstakes is successful. Check out the 5 steps people forget when they run a sweepstakes.

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