While video, photo, and essay contests are the most inherently social promotion apps you can run for your fans, not all contests perform equally. We’ve analyzed the entry rates of thousands of contests run on the Wildfire social media management platform, and extracted some of the most successful practices for optimizing your entry and share rates, as well as 3 things you definitely shouldn’t do!
To improve your contest entry rate:

1. Tell users how easy it is!
Sometimes, a simple statement about how easy it is to participate in your contest is all the push a user needs to feel confidence to proceed. As an example, use clear, called out text that says “It’s easy to enter! Simply upload a photo that depicts the way you enjoy your morning coffee.” Then provide an example of the type of photo you’re expecting in your contest, included as part of the design of your contest.

2. When you’re asking users to provide a written entry, keep it simple.
Unless your goal is to get little to no response rate, don't ask entrants to write a 500 word statement about an issue or your brand. A better example of a “simple” essay request would be, “Let 2011 be the year you actually get it done! Share your resolution with SwimOutlet.com for a chance to be one of four random winners".  A contest like this is successful because asking for a simple resolution is much more manageable for a user than being asked to write an essay about his or her diet and health philosophy. The less time and effort it takes to enter your contest, the more entries you’ll get.


3. Ask questions that are aspirational.
If you’re searching for ideas of what kind of questions to ask, we’ve found that aspirational questions tend to inspire users to submit their entries. Typically, aspirational questions can be answered almost instantly— “What would you do if you were debt-free?” or “If you won a free round-trip ticket to anywhere on the planet, where would you want to go?” Most users can imagine answers to these questions as soon as they read them, which leads to higher entry rates over essay questions that require complex analysis.

4. Remember that not all photos are created equal.
Everyone knows that when creating a photo contest, not all types of photo requests will result in the same entry rates, but there are some very clear outliers that tend to be significantly more successful. Two such outliers are pets and kids. Now that you know this, doesn’t it seem obvious? Think about all the people you know who either have pets or kids...don’t they all just love to share photos with you? Capitalize on that!

What not to do with your contests!

1. Don't ask people to write an essay about your product.

We know a lot of brands like to do this, but if you’re looking for a well performing contest, don’t! An example of a recent poorly performing promotion asked users to submit a response in 100 words or less that explained their health or fitness resolution for the New Year AND how the brand’s product (specifically) would help the users reach their goals. The analytics behind the contest revealed that it received 577 views...but only 3 resulted in entries! While asking for the resolution might have been a great and easy question for many users to answer on its own, adding the requirement that users also discuss the brand’s product resulted in a very low entry rate, despite the analytics showing a very high view rate.

2. Don’t ask your entrants to get too outlandish with their responses.
This goes hand in hand with keeping it simple, but even with a short essay question and request for a 3-4 sentence response, asking users to “tell us what you were doing when the world as we know it blinked out of existence, assuming you were one of the survivors,” usually doesn’t go over so well. The particular example noted (company specific details have been omitted) showed 503 views for the contest...and 0 entries!

3. Don’t ask entrants to post items that they may not want to share with the public.

It may sound like a no-brainer, but we’ve seen several examples of contests asking for some pretty private and potentially embarrassing information! We recently saw a promotion for a sports cream that you apply to your body before training to prevent chafing. The promotion asked users to submit a video explaining how they would use the cream for themselves. To many, this might be an embarrassing video, explaining to all your friends how you prefer to prevent chafing! Why not ask participants to enter a video showing them performing their favorite sport? Performing a sport is something users can be proud of…talking about chafing? Not so much.

Now that you’ve thought about some best practices for your contests to ensure optimal entry rates, its time to launch your Wildfire powered promotions! As always, we’re here to help, so if you have any questions or ideas you’d like to share, let us know in the comments!