At Disqus, we’re always exploring ways to help publishers foster engagement, increase visibility, and grow. Contests and giveaways present fun opportunities to reach new audiences and boost your brand overall. The goal behind contests is simple: encourage people to do something (whether that’s posting a photo or commenting on a post) and reward that engagement with a prize. Giveaways are similar, but winners are chosen at random. Contests and giveaways can be conducted through your site or through other channels. Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram are especially conducive to such campaigns because of their popularity, ease of spreading content quickly, and interactive nature. The flexibility to design and cater contests and giveaways to fit your needs or budget makes these campaigns an advantageous initiative for small, medium, and large publishers alike. This, coupled with their fun and engaging disposition, are some of the reasons why contests or giveaways can be a beneficial addition to your content strategy.



1. Identify your audience

One big appeal of contests and giveaways is the opportunity to spread awareness of your brand and reach larger audiences. It’s important, however, to design them to attract your ideal audience, rather than just focusing on volume of entrants. You want to catch the attention of people who are engaging because they’re actually interested in your site and find value in it, rather than those who are participating just because they want to win a prize. In theory, your contest or giveaway should cater to those who already are and those who have the potential to become loyal audience members--it doesn’t do you any good to give away a prize to an entrant that will never visit your site again. 

Look at your existing audience to get an idea of the type of people who are interested in your site. Google Analytics provides an array of data that will help you identify who your audience is and determine what channels are most effective for reaching them. You can examine demographics like location to see what countries your audience is from. There’s also information about mobile versus desktop usage, including website browser and mobile operating system, so you get a better idea of how audiences are accessing your content, and where they’ll see your contest. Social insights are particularly useful to understand what platforms are most popular with your consumers; you can track network referrals and users flow to see how audience members interact and respond to your social media which will help guide your contest execution and distribution. 

Age also plays an important role in online behavior. Depending on what age(s) you’re interested in targeting, adapt your contest or giveaway to fit that demographic’s platform tendencies. Amongst older audiences, Facebook is the top platform. Younger generations use Facebook as well, but other platforms like Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat closely rival, or exceed Facebook usage. For 18 to 29 year olds in the US, 67% use Instagram and 62% use Snapchat. 47% of 30 to 49 year olds use Instagram and 25% use Snapchat. These values decrease even further for those ages 50 to 64, with 23% on Instagram and 9% on Snapchat. 

Overall, researching your audience to determine what devices they use, where they’re from, and what platforms they frequent will direct your contest strategy. For instance, if your audience consists of mostly older adults in the U.S. using desktop computers, a Facebook giveaway will probably be more successful than an Instagram photo contest. 


2. Define your goals

What are you hoping to achieve from your contest or giveaway? Contests can increase exposure for your site overall, and they can create buzz for a new product release to an upcoming article or blog post. They can also be employed to reward loyal consumers and show your appreciation for their dedication to your site. Like your target audience, your goals will influence how you design your contest or giveaway and what channels you use. If you’re looking for to increase your reach, campaigns that incentivize sharing like tagging other users in a post is a good approach. For promoting a new product, on the other hand, photo competitions might be a better option, allowing you to communicate the release and showcase how real people find value in the product.



3. Design your contest / giveaway

There are various ways to coordinate your contest or giveaway, giving you the ability to customize it to fit your needs. Once you’ve identified your audience and goals, you can begin planning! How will you conduct your contest? What channels will you use? How long will it last? Thoughtfully thinking through and answering these questions will serve as the roadmap to successful execution. 

Choosing the prize

Select a prize that will incentivize audiences to participate. You want the prize to be desirable so people will be excited about the prospect of winning and therefore motivated to engage. Deciding how much to spend is totally up to your discretion--there’s options to fit all budgets:

  • A shoutout or feature on your site / social media (this one’s free, woohoo!)
  • Your own products or brand “swag” (t-shirts, stickers, water bottles)
  • Your own services (a discounted subscription fee, exclusive access to content)
  • Money or gift cards
  • Experiences (vacations, tickets to a movie, concert, or sporting event)


There are several different approaches you can take when structuring your contest or giveaway depending on your goals, what you want entrants to do, and what channels you’re using. You can conduct your contest on site using calls to action such as “subscribe to our newsletter” or  “comment below.” Social media platforms are another outlet with built in features like polls that can be quickly created. You can also utilize emails to send out surveys and polls or collect submissions (“email us your best photo”). Rafflecopter is a useful tool for giveaways to easily design and integrate them to your site or social media. 

Below are some examples of different kinds of contests and giveaways you can run. For the most part, they’re conducive to various channels so you choose what works best for you! If you’re conducting a contest on Facebook or Instagram, however, make sure you comply with these important rules for Facebook and these for Instagram. 

Photo / video contests - Solicit participants to post a photo or video and tag your account or use a specified hashtag. You can provide the content for them to post or you can encourage them to post their own (like a photo of them using your product).  

Comment contests / giveaways - Readers must comment on a post to win. Winners can be chosen at random or you can pick the funniest, most creative, etc. comment. A good way to promote sharing is to require people to tag others in the post. 

Vote / Answer to win - Call on people to provide feedback in a poll, survey, or quiz. Anything from a Flavor Vote to a trivia question works!

Caption competitions - Provide content that needs a caption and accept submissions through your own site/account or have participants post to their social media. The best caption wins a prize. 

Like, share, or subscribe to win - Ask readers to like or share your post or subscribe to your site. This approach works well to promote a particular piece of content, like a new article.


The duration of the contest needs to match the scale of the prize. If your prize is something small, like a sticker, people may not feel inclined to enter if they have to wait a week for the results. End the contest after a day or two to give people a sense of instant gratification that will encourage participation. If the prize is very valuable, like a major discount or a vacation, people will be willing to wait longer for the results, so you can leave the contest open for a few days to a few weeks to maximize submissions. 


4. Spread the word! 

Building excitement and informing people of your contest is essential, so distribute it to as many channels as possible. If you’re doing a photo or video competition, open the contest to people on various social platforms and accept entries from Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok, etc. to increase your reach. If your contest is more platform specific, like a ‘vote to win’ poll on Facebook, utilize other outlets to inform people what’s going on and direct them to Facebook: send out an email, include a lightbox on your site, post an announcement on other social platforms. If the contest is open for an extended period of time (more than a week, for instance), continue posting updates and promoting the campaign to propagate it to new audiences and remind anyone who forgot. Visuals like GIFs can help convey excitement and digital countdowns are also a fun and visually appealing way to create hype.


One of the best things about contests is that by simply participating, your audience will do a lot of the work to create media buzz. Word of your competition will spread naturally as more and more people participate and share your content or post their own. This communication will help capture the attention of new audiences by tapping into participants’ social networks, which will also help build credibility because people who aren’t familiar with your brand will see that trusted friends and family are promoting you. While some of the distribution will take care of itself, you should still invest in a strong initial campaign push to help get the ball rolling. 

And with that, you’re ready to conduct your own contest or giveaway. Get creative and have fun! 🎉