Contests and Giveaways : How to Use to Get User-Generated Content

Contests and Giveaways : How to Use to Get User-Generated Content

Today, brands can find it challenging to stand out from competitors in terms of quality and creative content delivery. However, there are effective ways to increase audience engagement. Amongst them is getting user-generated content (UGC) through launching contests and giveaways. GoPro, Lululemon, and Apple actively use this strategy. Why not try to introduce this method into the social media of your company?


UGC: Why It Is So Important for Business

Marketers and analysts have predicted that by 2020, more than 50% of content will have been generated by clients. Indeed, we take pictures with a Mercedes in the background, with a can of Coca Cola, or publish a photo in Mango clothes with the appropriate hashtags. Brands, in their turn, are successfully using this material.

User-generated content includes photos, videos, memes, reviews, and comments on forums/social networks that are somehow related to the company. Brands use this content for marketing purposes by publishing it on their websites, social media profiles, printed ads, and more.

UGC is of great value to consumers. It is sincere and, in most cases, truthful. It serves as a guide for other users and dispels doubts when choosing and buying products because 88% of buyers trust online reviews to the same extent as they trust recommendations of people they know.

Besides, the user-generated content is a portion of a current view from the outside. By posting product reviews, customers can highlight exciting details and use original wording. It is difficult for in-house marketers to achieve this effect, so, user-generated content can become a source for marketing insights.

Top-10 Brands That Are Actively Using UGC on Instagram:

Review of the Kleiner Perkins research group

How can you invite users to generate original content? Offer bonuses and carry out contests, giveaways, and challenges.

What Are Contests and Giveaways?

Contests are an advertising tool used by companies to increase their brand awareness on the Internet, improve their image, enlarge their audience, and increase sales. Depending on the size of the organization, its niche, and profits, a gift in a competition can be either a bookmark from a bookstore or an all-inclusive vacation to a tropical country.

Why Are Contests Used?

With the growth of social network users and the regularly changing algorithms of Google (read more in the article Google Algorithms That Affect SEO), it’s essential to focus on quality content for almost any company. Creating quality content is time-consuming and often costly for business founders. Are you one of these companies? Then it is definitely worth introducing your company to UGC contests. They make it possible to:

  • Playfully promote creative content;
  • Increase the engagement of the target audience;
  • Increase the number of subscribers;
  • Positively influence search engine rankings and increase CTR in organic SERPs; read related article Why Is Click-Through-Rate Important?; and
  • Receive free content that can be in the future used on the brand profiles on social networks, as well as on a website and in emails.

One of the main advantages of contests is that they have a quick effect (in 7-10 days, a profile can “grow” to 100 thousand subscribers) and low cost because the price of a giveaway or other types of contests is measured by the value of the prize and the time spent on managing the process.

SeoQuake Tip: Give away your company’s products or services. It is an effective way to generate interest in a brand among people and significantly increase sales.

How to Create a UGC Contest and Get Free Content for a Website or Profile

There are many ways to run online contests. The most effective way to engage users is to let them create the content themselves, and then you can determine the winner. In the best-case scenario, you already have social media profiles with a live audience or a website with decent positions in the search results. Start building a brand reputation in communication channels and strengthen brand awareness, as well as develop long-term relationships with audiences and customers through contests.

To conduct an effective contest and get business benefits, take the following steps.

Step 1. Define the objectives of the contest

For example, if you want to build an email base, increase activity in your Facebook group, stimulate the creation of photo or video content with your brand’s products, get new subscribers or visitors to your site, etc. Do you intend to use sales as a target for your promotional contest? Internet users are more interested in winning than making a purchase.

We do not recommend running a contest limited to people who can make a purchase or book a room at your eco-hotel within a specific time frame. Look at organizing a competition in terms of an effective way to build long-term relationships with users who may become your customers in the future.

Step 2. Describe the terms of the contest

If your goal is to collect UGC content, you need to decide on the type of content you want to receive. It can be presented in three formats: text, image, or video.

1. Text: Run a blog contest inviting users to write an essay about your brand’s products or services. With what do they associate your company? Or ask them to write about their experience with your product.

2. Photo: Describe the conditions for presenting products from an unusual angle. For example, take a picture of beauty products based on coconut oil on the beach, photograph a pearl necklace on dark sand or interesting tectonic structures.

Lush Cosmetics

3. Video: Offer to present the product in an original video format, with a soundtrack and exciting editing.

Super Goop

Aerie, a brand of comfortable apparel and lingerie, has even helped create user-generated content with the participation of their loyal customers #AerieREAL.


You can also organize an art competition. Ask users to draw your products and compete for a prize among the participants.

  • Personal data. You also need to inform users of what data (including personal data: email address, phone number, etc.) they need to provide to participate in the contest. It is good practice to collect email addresses for further mailing (no spam!).
  • Time limit. Set start and end dates for the competition. There is no consensus on the optimal time frame. However, longer contests (more than a month) may reduce the interest of participants. Conversely, too short contests guarantee a small number of applications and a low quality of work, since participants have less time to prepare content and fulfill all conditions. We recommend limiting the contest period to two weeks. This time is enough to generate creative content, fulfill all the conditions of the contest, and, at the same time, keep the interest of people.
  • Winning. The prize you choose is the main incentive for the participants. It is important to select it based on the interests of the target audience and the concept of your blog or social media profile. If a company organizes the contest, choose your product or service as a prize to further promote it.

In the post, indicate the rules for participation, the start and end date of the event (preferably with the exact time), and the way a winner is determined. Also, note if there will be a live broadcast at the end of the event.

The most common terms of contests are:

  1. Like a post or article of the contest;
  2. Subscribe to company profiles on Instagram or Facebook;
  3. Leave a comment under the post;
  4. Post a picture to your profile or in stories with the use of a specific hashtag or with a company tag; and
  5. Create original user-generated content.

Go Pro

Step 3. Clarify the rules of the social network

If you are planning to run a contest on a social network, check the rules of this platform. Otherwise, you can endanger not only the competition itself but also the company’s presence on Instagram, Facebook, etc.

Here are the links with detailed information on the rules and taboos on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Step 4. Optimize your content for search

If the goal of the contest is to increase traffic to your site, make sure the content is search-engine-friendly. Publish your terms on your main site, not just on a third-party domain or secondary landing page that you also use. The ability to share terms or content for engaging in social media can increase a site’s credibility and ranking in search engines. Include keywords in the text with the terms of the contest and use meta tags (though this is not suitable for social networks).

Read more in the articles Meta Tags for SEO and How to Do Keyword Research.

Contest Promotion

Tell a broad audience about the contest. You can promote it both with targeted advertising and also talking about the contest in an email newsletter. Be sure to use a catchy beginning: “Your Chance to Win Apple iPad Pro”.

This will increase the interest in the photography contest for the prize you intend to present. Write about it on a blog on the site or submit a giveaway to banner ads on the main website and third-party resources.

Use forums: a giveaway forum is an effective platform for advertising a contest, as well as contest directories, for example, Giveaway Frenzy or Online-Sweepstakes.

How to Select Contest Winners

  1. Manual selection. Participants are assigned with numbers. They are recorded on pieces of paper and put into a container, then they are mixed, and one or more winners are selected. Another way to manually determine the winner is to select a random comment under a post or article (this is more often used on social networks).
  2. Automated selection, or selection through using services. Based on the specified data (subscribing to a profile, liking a post, reposting the terms of the contest to one’s page, etc.), or getting a randomizer to determine the winner.

We recommend choosing automated platforms. Such a contest is considered to be simpler and more transparent. The following are the most popular subscriber tracking services among businesses and personal brands.



Social networks: any.

Authorization: not obligatory.

Options: games and lotteries, selection of a winner by names, phone numbers, numbers, etc.

Proof of honesty: certificate of eCOGRA, analysis of TST Global, and other certificates.

Price: free and paid functions are available.

RANDOM.ORG generates random numbers employing atmospheric noise, which ensures a more honest result compared to traditional random numbers generators.



Social networks:

Options: giveaways; images of prizes can be added.

Proof of honesty:

Price: there are 4 available plans, from free to premium (at the cost of $84/month); there is a free trial period for 7 days.

This is a service with easy-to-use features that can be used by both individuals and branding agencies.



Social networks: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.

Options: the whole process of creating a contest, from the action-gate function (for collecting email addresses, phone numbers, etc.) to detailed analytics.

Proof of honesty:

Price: from $99/month; a free trial version is available.

Shortstack is an all-inclusive tool. It provides users with plenty of functions ensuring successful campaigns.

Fanpage Karma

Fanpage Karma

Social networks: Facebook 

Possibilities: contest campaign analytics, determining winners of Facebook promotions and contests, custom reports, data collection, and competitor monitoring.

What is checked:

Proof of honesty:

Price: starting at ~$69/month; a free trial version is available.

This is a tool with advanced features for conducting advertising campaigns and giveaways in one click.



Social networks:

Options: the creation of campaigns, choosing a way to display a competition, setting up “bonus actions,” etc.

Proof of honesty: 

Price: from $149/month.

Vyper is a referral marketing platform. It allows you to conduct several types of contests on social networks, including virus contests/giveaways and UGC. 

It provides the possibility to set bonus actions. You can reward people for sharing contest terms, tags under posts on a company page, or commenting on posts.

A successful contest strategy is to attract opinion leaders to participate as judges. So, you will not only increase the number of participants but also attract the target audience to the site or profile. It is essential to choose influencers who are close to the industry and your business concept.

The Announcement of Winners

Consider the announcement of a winner as an additional way to draw attention to your brand, as well as an occasion to post new content. Write about the winner on the blog or make a video interview with the winner for the YouTube channel. The methods of announcing the prize-winner may differ depending on the size of the company, the number of subscribers, and the prize.

Thank all participants of the competition for their initiative and original ideas. You can also check where they found out about giveaways: from blog posts, social media profiles, etc. This will help you understand which marketing channels you are getting traffic with.

How to Post User-generated Content

Always ask permission to post user-generated content and include author details. Failure to follow this rule can cause negative emotions even amongst the most devoted fans of your brand. In addition, indication of the author’s name allows other customers to check if the content is actually made by someone who is not an employee of the company. And, accordingly, this increases the level of trust in the brand.

Successful Examples of Contests and Advertising Campaigns with UGC

#redcupcontest, Starbucks

Contests are an effective way to collect UGC, and only a few companies use them as successfully as Starbucks. Since the company annually updates the design of its branded cups to “fit” them for the next holiday season, in 2014, its marketers launched the #RedCupContest campaign. Participants had to photograph red and newly-designed cups. In just a few days, the campaign attracted 40,000 participants. In the first two days of the contest, every 14 seconds, people uploaded to Instagram photos of the brand cups.


#shareacoke, Coca Cola

Coca Cola’s Share a Coke advertising campaign strengthened and refreshed the brand’s relationship with customers. The company has released personalized bottles of the drink using a variety of names and nicknames. Whole sentences could be composed of them. Customers could even order Coca-Cola with their names or with the text of birthday greetings, after which they took pictures with the products and published photos with the hashtag #shareacoke. This is a great example of how an idea can go viral, reinforce a love for a company, and generate a lot of revenue.



The monthly contest challenge of Over, an image editor, is a great way to encourage users to create original content. This format also raises the awareness of the audience about the tools and functions of the graphic editor.



The contest started after the video of the influencer on Facebook. Internet marketer Market Smith created one video a day using software. Soon, other team members joined the expert, launching a massive campaign. 1,700 users participated in the video contest; they later became ambassadors. This campaign highlights how opinion leaders influence marketing strategy and trends.

Title Competition for Chaguaramas Amusement Park

In the summer of 2016, the Chaguaramas Amusement Park was preparing for its grand opening. Despite the approaching date, the park did not have an official name.

Its marketers and PR managers launched a competition on Facebook. Participants needed to come up with a name for the location. The organizers promised a free admission ticket to the park for the winner’s family of four. The company also chose a $10,000 cash prize as its reward.

3,457 people participated in the contest. It attracted potential visitors and increased awareness of the amusement park.

How Brands Use UGC

Adobe: Show Your Creativity

The company has launched a campaign with the hashtag #adobe_perspective, under which designers, photographers and content creators from around the world share multimedia content created or processed in Adobe software. In turn, the company uses the best work on its social media profiles.


Wayfair: Show Your Home

#WayfairAtHome is the hashtag for customers, under which users share photos of their living spaces filled with products from an online furniture store.


Ideas of Prizes for Contests

The key to running a contest that attracts attention and stimulates action is the prize. A good prize should:

  • Be relevant to the audience. Focus on users who might be interested in the brand or are already interested in your products.
  • Correspond to the number of readers. Typically, the more users follow you, the more valuable the prize should be.
  • Compensates for the waste of time and energy (financially as well). If you are posting difficult terms (creating video content or painting a picture), also make sure that the payoff matches the effort.
  • Be associated with your company. We have already written about contests and that it is important to choose a prize that is related to the products or services of your company. It will attract the attention of new users and increase sales and brand awareness on the web.

Examples of Prizes for E-commerce

Your products. What is a giveaway if you don’t give your audience a reason to think and dream about your company’s products? By offering your own products, you generate interest in the brand and increase the effectiveness of the contest campaign.

New arrivals. By organizing a competition with new products as a prize, you will create a buzz around fresh products and find users who want to pre-order.

Limited collection or another limited offer. Do you have a limited collection of lingerie? Or unusual services that are difficult to sign up for due to the high workload of the specialist? This type of prize is especially beneficial for brands with an established customer base. In addition, users like to feel special: receive a limited offer, be a member of a private club, etc.

A custom gift. Unique custom-made prizes increase the exclusivity and value of the winnings. Invite the winner to participate in the creation of their own gift, independently choosing embroidery, colors, or graphic designs to order.

Purchase certificate. It doesn’t matter if you run a travel agency or make clothes, choosing a certificate as a prize in a contest encourages users to familiarize themselves with the company’s product or services. It is an effective way to increase brand awareness, promote products, and increase sales.

Now you know what a contest is, how to run a contest and giveaway on a social network or website, which prize is best to choose, and what you need to do to sum up the results correctly and transparently.

The content obtained in this way can be used in promotional emails, company profiles on social media, and even on the packaging of the goods themselves. This is a profitable solution for companies, which requires minimal investment and provides a large number of fresh ideas. Use the guidelines in this article to start increasing your audience and build brand loyalty today.

About author
Since 2017, Mary has been actively engaged in marketing and SEO. She closely works as a freelancer with IT companies that focuses on the American markets. Years of work in copywriting led her to online marketing and its constituents such as SEO.