With every scroll of my timeline, I seem to come across a social media contest. Maybe I’m following a few too many brands… I can understand why I’m being served up so many contests, though – they can generate real value for a business.

However, if you don’t execute a contest in the right way, you can end up out of pocket. It’s so dispiriting to see a contest struggle to garner interest, which happens when users are either not made aware of it or they deem that the prize is not worth winning.

First things first, then, you’ve got to offer up something is of value to your target market – don’t be shocked if your prize of a handbag doesn’t yield many entrants from your male-dominated following.

There’s much more to executing a successful social media contest than just tempting users with a tantalising prize, however. Social Media Examiner highlights what is required to generate value from a social media contest:

1. Elevate your contest’s appeal

Stating the obvious a bit here, but you want your contest to be as attractive as possible to your target audience. With this in mind, address your target audience directly. If you’re a fashion brand, say, call out to the “fashionistas”, or if you’re a marketing agency like us, call out to the “marketers”.

Go one further and tie your contest to an event relevant to your target market. For instance, if you’re a betting company, you might want to promote your contest in conjunction with the weekend’s big sporting event. It’s all in the name of making your contest more timely, appealing and relevant.

2. Incentivise social sharing

To prevent your contest from becoming a damp squib, you’ll need to incentivise social sharing, i.e. making it in users’ interest to spread the reach of your contest. The most common way to incentivise social sharing is to give entrants an increased chance of winning if they share the contest, tweet about it, or like the brand’s social media page.

Entrants’ desire to win is strongest at the point they enter the contest in the first place – this is when you should make your plea to get them to increase their chance of winning.

If you want, you can give entrants an extra entry for every time refer a friend, or ask them to submit a photo to enter the contest. There are no limitations on the ways to get your contest some serious timeline time…

3. Pay for contest entrants

The idea of paying for people to enter your free giveaway is ludicrous – but you’re not paying for their entry as much as paying to get it in front of a large chunk of your target audience.

If your brand’s serious about social media marketing, you’ll already be spending some of your budget on paid social ads. Alongside paying to promote your content, why not pay to promote your contest?

If it manages to draw hundreds of entrants, having reached thousands of your target audience, it will pay for itself in the long run.

4. Turn entrants into customers

The chief criticism of social media contests is that entrants only have eyes on the prize – the brand responsible for the contest is by the by. It’s a fair argument – that’s why it’s crucial that you go about trying to turn entrants into customers.

The most obvious way of trying to achieve this is to send an auto-response email – with a coupon inside it – as soon as someone converts on your social media contest. However, at this point, entrants still believe (on some level) that they’re going to win your product through the contest.

A drip campaign might prove more effective, then, nurturing prospects towards a final sale with educational emails, and down the line, subtle sales pitches.

While a contest might be over in a matter of hours or days, it can – and should – provide value for your brand long after the prize has been given out.