Contest Strategy

1: Determine the Goals

There are a variety of goals that you can set. However, it’s best to use something that’s measurable so you can clearly determine which campaigns worked and which didn’t.

Items that can be measured include:

  • Email addresses captured
  • Facebook Likes
  • Tweets
  • Photo submissions
  • Video submissions
  • Visitors
  • Unique visitors
  • Time on site

It’s good to focus on the long term. Look at your ugc campaigns as a way to create relationships with users.

2: Outline the Parameters


The first parameter of content-based contests is to promote original content creation and submission as a requirement to entry. To begin, try to relate the content to your business. That way, all submissions cater to the interests of potential customers. Further, determine the type of content you want to collect. For your particular use, UGC content comes in two basic forms: Images or Videos. If you decide to go with video, keep it simple for participants. Or, if you want images, request that entrants submit either a picture pertaining to your campaign theme.

User Data

You also need to outline the personal information that users need to submit to enter the contest. Common requirements range from name and email to address and demographic data. Through the Cell Journalist platform users will submit content through the upload page which allows administrators to capture information like the title, description, username, email address, and location information. The Cell Journalist platform also allows you to create custom entry fields. 

Time Frame

Set the start and end dates for your contest. There’s no solid rule in terms of contest length, but, on a meta-level, longer contests can promote procrastination, resulting in fewer entries and loss of excitement. Conversely, shorter contests can result in lower quality entries as participants have less time to prepare. We've found that contest lasting one to three weeks perform better. It’s long enough to allow for solid content creation, yet short enough keep people’s attention.


Your prize, other than recognition, is the primary incentive for participation. So you need to offer something that your user base will value.

Contest/Campaign Guidelines

Very few people, with the possible exception of technocrats and lawyers, are fond of rules. As a result, marketers often overlook contest guidelines. However, to avoid legal issues, make sure you familiarize yourself with applicable contest laws. Consult an attorney if necessary.

3: Promote

Contests are great fun for marketers because they lend themselves to multiple forms of promotion, from email to social media.

As with any marketing event, you need a go-to-market plan to effectively push your contest. Below is a list of channels and opportunities you could consider:

  • Email – Email out your existing user base with the prize in the subject line, i.e., “Your Chance to Win an iPad Mini.” Including the prize will help your open rate.
  • Newsletter – If you have a newsletter, time your launch to coincide with your newsletter schedule. If your newsletter uses HTML, you can use it to push out pictures of your prize. The visuals may help drive engagement.
  • Banner Ads – Place banners on your site that drive users to the contest entry page.
  • Website Post –  Write a post to announce your contest.
  • Social Media – If your company has a robust following on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, social media can serve as an extremely efficient way to push your contest. Further, if you encourage sharing,  your readers will promote your offering to their friends.
  • On Air -  During morning, midday, and night broadcasts be sure to promote your campaign. Generating excitement on air can generate big increases in user submissions.
  • Team Outreach – Get all members of your team on board and have them promote the campaign on their social profiles.

4: Choose the Winner

There are a variety of methods that you can use to determine your winner (The Cell Journalist platform has 3 winner selection types). The “safest” method is to have someone on your staff choose, usually based on the perceived quality of the entry. That way, your company will have control over the process.

However, if you’re willing to adopt more risk, you can use the winner selection to help promote your company. For example, tie the winning selection to a specific social activity, i.e. Likes (Facebook) Retweets (Twitter) Essentially, you incentive entrants to share their entry with their social graph.

Through the Cell Journalist voting feature, you could open the contest to popular vote. Again, entrants are incentivized to recruit friends to interact with your brand, this time through the voting process.

5: Notify and Promote the Winner

Look at winner notification as way to create more buzz around your brand, as well as additional content. Rather than just emailing the winner, consider writing a post about him or her and/or doing a video interview with the winner and placing it on your website. In the interview, you can talk with the winner about their entry and how they plan to use their prize, if appropriate. In addition, use your social channels to push out the news. Tweet about it and place a snippet on your Facebook page that links back to your site.