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5 guaranteed ways to make a mess of your Twitter contest



Everybody loves to get something for free. You’ve probably snapped up a free sample of chocolate or got excited about the free newspaper on the way to work. Maybe you even took advantage of our new SocialBro Free! (hint hint). Getting something for nothing is great and Twitter contests are perfect for this. They’re fun, engaging and have potential to massively increase your follower count. Plus, they make your brand look super generous. Here are 5 things you must never do, unless you're trying to mess up your Twitter contest.

1. Forget about the rules.

I don’t need to clarify things, my followers will figure it out. How hard can it be? Rules are boring anyway.”

This will not work well for you, trust us. Your followers need structure. Think of them like an adorable puppy you just brought home: they might seem sweet and harmless, but if you let them loose in your bedroom whilst you’re at work... you are coming home to shredded pillows. Let your followers know exactly how to participate, as letting them run wild can lead to strange and unpleasant things.



  • Tweet your handle: If they don’t, their entry may get lost in the search. Lost Tweets lead to unhappy people and unhappy people are not afraid to air their views online.
  • Set restrictions: How many times can participants enter? Do they need to include a word or a phrase? Figure this out and make it very clear to avoid confusion and spamming (we’ll deal with that later).
  • Use a hashtag: Distinguish contest Tweets from everyday chirping (and spread brand awareness!) by creating a simple hashtag. Keep it short and sweet, so they have plenty of characters left to play with.
  • Clearly display your T&Cs: Or you could find yourself in legal trouble, much like Petplan did when they failed to make the terms and conditions of their contest clear and thus breached the UK Advertising Standards Authority code.


2. Don’t bother setting objectives.

We’re just giving stuff away because we can. There’s no real value to this.

Define your purpose: Are you spreading brand awareness? Trying to build your followers? Generating buzz for a new product or range? Global jewelry store Pandora recently held a competition inviting people to Tweet photos of their rings using the tags #MyRingsMyStyle, as a build up towards a giant launch party for a new range of jewelry. What do you want to achieve? Once you’ve figured this out, you can choose the right sort of contest for your brand.


  •  Identify benchmarks: Write down what you want to achieve: increased conversion rates, more email subscribers, more followers. This will help you evaluate the worth of your contest, and give you solid data to show your boss if it all works out as planned!
  • Consider using Twitter ads: You’ll get 10 times the amount of entrants if you use some strategic ads alongside your contest. Food for thought.
  • Grow your subscribers: Use the contest to build your mailing list. If your contest requires tweeps to go to an external link and enter information, include an email opt-in, as typically one-third of entrants are willing to hear more from you.

3. Spam ALL of Twitter!

The way to get my competition as widely recognized as possible is to spam, spam, spam! Who cares who you annoy, all publicity is good publicity right?



Wrong, so wrong. A Twitter competition gone bad makes you look silly and leaves dozens, maybe even hundreds, of dissatisfied tweeps. Avoid getting yourself and your followers in hot water by being clear about what they should not do. What turns a contest into a spam session?

  • Jumping on irrelevant trends: No. Don’t do it.
  • Make your entrants to RT something over and over and over...: Again, no.
  • Multiple accounts are not cool: This could get all of your follower’s accounts suspended. In fact, all three of these points violate Twitter guidelines and could lead to suspension. Make it clear these tactics are not allowed and will void their entry. That should put an end to any potential Twitter violations.

4. Offer a totally stupid, irrelevant prize! Why not?

Free pony with every RT!

Finally, the most important bit: THE PRIZE! Make sure it’s something your followers (and their followers) would actually want, and that you can realistically provide. You don’t need to offer glitzy, over-the-top prizes to encourage entrants, your prize should suit the tone of your company. If you’re a beauty business, offering samples of your new eyeshadow collection will go down a treat. Or perhaps you’re an alcoholic beverage company offering festival tickets where your product is sold. Relevance is important.


  • Don’t be stingy: Giving the prize to a friend/co-worker/relative might seem like a great idea to save you money, but BEWARE! Not only is it fraudulent, but disgruntled losers are very good at finding these things out. Be honest and make your winner authentic.

  • You cannot fake it 'til you make it: Don’t say there is a prize if there isn’t, or you’ll end up with a storm of angry Tweeps, akin to a wasps’ nest landing on your head.

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5. Go out with a barely audible fizzle...

If my contest runs indefinitely, my brand will constantly be exposed!


Twitter contests are not like those furniture stores that always seem to have sales on. They do need to end at some stage. Simple things like defining the length of your contest and making sure your followers know when the cut-off point is for entries will ensure your contest ends on the right note. Research suggests the best length of time for a competition is between 25 and 60 days for a campaign contest. If you want to do smaller prize blasts to promote a new product, or as part of a weekly promotion like #FreeTeaFriday, be clear about the time limit.



  • Announce your winner publicly: Chances are your participants will be watching your social profiles like hawks awaiting the winner announcement. Be timely with it and make sure your winner knows how to claim their prize. Nobody likes to be told they’ve won a prize they must DM to claim and then never hear back.

  • Maximize your potential by following up: Now is a chance to get some awesome feedback you can proudly display on your testimonial page. Or photos of your winner with their prize to share on social.

Have you seen any terrible Twitter contests lately? Want to share an experience of your own? Comment and tell us all about it.