Consumers love to win stuff. Brands love exposure. Contests are a winning event all around.

If it's done right, a Twitter contest can lead to long-term loyalty from its participants (even if they don't win). If it's done wrong, even the winner can walk away annoyed at a brand's over-tweeting, over-promoting or overly-complicated contest.

The tips I've included below should get you well on your way to a successful contest that's interesting to participants and valuable to your business.

Follow the Official Rules

Before you do anything, you should check out what Twitter has to say about Twitter contests. Here's a link to the official rules of Twitter Contests according to Twitter.

Clearly State Your Own Rules

I know, rules are the least fun part of contests, but they are also the only thing standing between your contest budget and sheer chaos. Contest rules and loopholes can lead to unhappy contestants and even crazy legal predicaments.

Make sure you've covered every scenario for your contestants so they know exactly how and what they can (and cannot) win. Here are some things you may want to cover in your own official rules:

  • How many times can someone enter?
  • Who is eligible or ineligible?
  • Will winners be chosen at random, by best answer or something else?
  • If you're doing several giveaways, can contestants win more than once?

Create a Contest Landing Page

Nothing is more frustrating than having a brand tweet about a contest that no one can find the details on. A custom landing page for your contest can solve the issue of followers searching endlessly on your site for contest details. A page devoted to contest details provides your Twitter followers with a central location to find out all the info they need about your contest, and your social media team won't have to field questions via tweets.

Additionally, use the landing page (if possible) to post updates and winners. Tell followers to check back frequently for the status of the contest. If your set up this page with the right conversions, you could potentially drive some substantial new traffic to your site. (I believe I smell another article brewing here.)

Talk it Up Before it Starts

A successful contest requires lots and lots of build up. Start by telling your followers you have an announcement. Build the anticipation about the anticipation. Then, announce the contest at least two or three weeks in advance. And make sure to make some big announcements on launch day.

Partner with other brands on Twitter to increase your reach and encourage your followers to get their followers in on the action as well.

Don't Just Tweet about the Contest

Don't make your followers feel like they want to blaze past your posts on their feed because it's yet another tweet about your contest.

Take your cue from NPR. When they are doing their telethons, they talk about it consistently, but they are talking about it in between regularly scheduled programming with some extra fundraising-focused programming mixed in.

If you're reading the above sentences and thinking “I hate when NPR is fundraising. It's all they can talk about that week." Think about how much worse it would be if it was literally all they talked about.

Don't Retweet, Start a Conversation

Instead of encouraging followers to retweet some of your posts, have them create tweets to tweet at you that include a specific hashtag and/or link. Ask them to answer a question creatively. Have them write the caption to a picture or the tagline to your newest product. Getting them in on your brand's voice will build loyalty and make the contest much more fun for them and even the people following them!

Give Away Relevant Prizes

Yes, iPads are really cool, but will it remind the winner of your brand and your great products for years to come? Probably not.

Give away prizes that highlight the value of your brand. Give them something to remember you by. Consumers want your products, so give them what they want!

Offer Multiple Chances to Win

Keep users engaged longer with multiple chances to win. If you're running a week-long (or longer) contest, consider having daily prizes and then one large “grand prize" winner at the end of the week.

By giving multiple prizes, winners and participants will be tweeting like crazy all week long about your contest, instead of just tweeting a few times or only on the last day.

Clearly Announce the Winner(s)

The end of your contest is really the make it or break it point with building brand loyalty. Get it right and you're building some serious credit with your audience, get it wrong and you may lose a customer forever.

Last year I participated in a contest on Instagram. I faithfully grammed and hashtagged my posts everyday, just like I was supposed to. I even chatted with the brand sponsoring the contest via the comments section a few times. (I was feeling pretty good about my chances of winning.)

Then, when the contest was over, it felt like it all just disappeared. I searched the brand's feeds and hashtags for a clear winner, but never found mention of who won or why. Not long after that, I unfollowed the brand on Instagram. They went from building my loyalty and engaging with me regularly to losing my trust and me as a consumer basically overnight. I wasn't upset that I didn't win. I was upset that it seemed like no one had won and I had given them weeks of free publicity for essentially no reason.

Don't leave this same bad taste with your participants. Tweet often and clearly at and about the winner. Even if they don't win, participants need to know that someone won. Make sure to thank everyone and mention if you think you may run another contest soon.

If your contest came down to a photo-finish, let your followers know who won and why. It just may motivate them to start planning their strategy for your next contest.

Tweet a picture of the winner and their Grand prize

If possible, send out a tweet of your winner with their prize, enjoying their prize or even their prize being shipped out to them. Again, this builds trust with your faithful participants and adds a human element to your contest.