How to Boost Your Hashtag Campaign

Giveaways & Sweepstakes Contests

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Hashtag campaigns can significantly boost your brand’s message. By using your hashtag your fans help spread your campaign to their own followers. With a bit of luck and skill, your hashtag can snowball and go viral.

For this to happen, though, you have to give people a good reason to pick up your hashtag. This is where rewards come in.

There are plenty of prizes, both material and nonmaterial, that you can offer as an incentive. But first, let’s look at the different ways you can combine your hashtag campaign with a giveaway.

Part 1: Types of Giveaway Contests

Before starting your campaign you have to decide how you want to pick your winners from the crowd.

The Hat Method — May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favour

The hat method is utterly simple: people throw their names into the virtual hat, and you pick the winners out of it. It’s a straightforward sweepstakes or raffle system. It’s completely luck-based and works well when you’re not asking users to get creative.

Don’t use the Hat Method when people have to create something to enter into the competition. Many will ask themselves why to put the effort into their entry if the rewards are not merit-based.

This kind of giveaway works best on social networks where profiles are generally public, e.g. Twitter, Instagram etc. You can modify your campaign for Facebook by asking people to post their entries to your official Facebook page. Just keep in mind that this requires a little more effort by the users.

Joe Fresh hashtag & giveaway contest ©
#freshselfiecontest promo images from Joe Fresh website.

In 2015, U.S. fashion retail brand Joe Fresh organised a selfie contest in its stores. Shoppers who hashtagged their selfie with #freshselfiecontest on Instagram were eligible to win a $ 1,000 shopping spree. The effort behind the selfies is negligible for users, so the Hat Method works well in this case.

Use the campaign to build your follower base by requiring users to follow your account on top of using the hashtag.

Works best on: Instagram, Twitter, Vine, Facebook (with modifications)
User Effort: low
Brand Effort: low, use one of the many sweepstakes apps available to pick your winner

The Competition Method — Turn It into a Game

You can turn your giveaway into a game, speaking to the competitive side in people. The basis is: whoever is first or fastest, wins. And you get to come up with creative campaign ideas.

Volkswagen Spain based their #Polowers campaign on this principle. They created the catchy hashtag, a combination of “Polo” and “followers”, and organised a #Polowers Twitter race. A tweet using the hashtag would put users first on a virtual racetrack. The person whose tweet was the frontmost the moment the race ended won a VW Polo.

Volkswagen Spain hit 150k tweets in 8 hours and beat Justin Bieber on the trending topics list.

Works best on: Twitter
User Effort: medium, they just need to pay attention and be fast
Brand Effort: potentially high, you might need to develop an interactive microsite for the competition, set up a game etc.

The UGC Method — Ask for Photos, Videos, Creative Answers

Asking for user-generated content is a fun method for both brand and users. It creates a meaningful connection between the two and leads to more engagement. Users get show off their creative side. Their content spreads the hashtag. And brands get a bucketload of content without having to create it themselves.

The type of content that you combine with your hashtag is up to you. You can create photo or video challenges on Instagram or ask for creative answers to a question you pose. KFC once ran a college scholarship contest on Twitter, based on creative answers. The best answer won $ 20,000.

Don’t ask for anything too complicated to keep the contest attractive for many people. If you like, make it a requirement for users to follow your account. This way you can grow your own follower base through the campaign.

At the end of the campaign, notify the winner publicly and share their content to give it a wider reach. They’ll be grateful for the exposure, and it’s great content for you.

Show off the competition entries on a beautifully designed social media wall. Get started now!

Works best on: Instagram, Twitter, Vine, Snapchat
User Effort: medium to high, depending on the content you ask for (e.g. photos are easier to create than video content)
Brand Effort: medium, you have to come up with an idea and manually look through all submissions to pick a winner (though that might even be fun)

The Kindergarten Method — Everyone’s a Winner

I call this the kindergarten method because, like in kindergarten, you get a participation trophy. 😉 Everyone who uses your hashtag wins something.

Marc Jacobs gave people a chance to pay with a tweet in their pop up store and Knorr Brazil turned people’s family recipes into beautiful infographics.

Works best on: hashtag-friendly networks like Twitter and Instagram
User Effort: low
Brand Effort: potentially high, depending on the goods you’re delivering in exchange for the use of your hashtag, look for ways you can automate the process

Part 2: 10 Rewards That Work

Now that you’ve picked the right method for your giveaway campaign, you have to decide what you’re going to offer as incentives. Here are some ideas for prizes that will get people posting away. Rewards don’t necessarily have to be material — very often, benefits that aren’t physical can be incentive enough. However, even nonmaterial prizes might cost you something: time, effort or some expenses.

Keep in mind that prizes should be proportionate to the effort involved in entering the competition. The better your hashtag campaign and your incentive work together, the more successful your campaign will be. Consider offering multiple prizes to make people feel it’s more likely they could win.

1. Cold Hard Cash

Cash prizes are impersonal. But it can work when the wad of cash is connected to something emotive and cohesive with your brand. KFC’s college scholarship campaign is proof of that.

2. Product Prizes

If you have a product this is a no-brainer: give away your product. Or, if you offer a service, give away a product related to your service. Prizes relevant to your business make for better rewards.

You don’t remember who ran the nth raffle for an iPad that you entered because you really wanted an iPad. You want to attract potential brand ambassadors, not just prize hunters. But, for a travel agency, giving away a camera to document travels with can make sense.

3. Vouchers or Gift Cards

Vouchers and gift cards are a way to keep the reward relevant to your own business without limiting the winner. Don’t hand out random vouchers for things or stores that have nothing to do with your business.

Discounts can make sense if your product is extremely expensive and a sizeable discount will make a big difference. However, a discount for your own products or services may make you look cheap. People might wonder why you’re running a giveaway campaign but not giving away whole products.

4. Early Access

Conversely, you might not have to pay for the reward at all. Trendsetters will be perfectly happy to get premium access to something new, even if they have to pay full price for the product.

The H&M x Isabel Marant billboard ads let passersby make previously hidden garments visible with a tweet using the right hashtag. In the process, they also unlocked a code that allowed them to pre-order the items from H&M.

5. Humour

Don’t underestimate people’s willingness to take part in a hashtag campaign just for the fun of it. KFC’s #littlemoneybigfun campaign was a parody on the #richkidsofinstagram hashtag. There was no reward other than the fun of posting your parody and looking at everyone else’s creative ideas.

6. A Unique Experience

While technically a material incentive, these rewards are more about the experience create. Your fans get to do or have something special that is uniquely connected to your brand. It can be a celebrity meet and greets, being one of the first test drivers of a brand new car, or a party sponsored by Heineken.

7. Attention from a Brand You Love

Your biggest fans and brand ambassadors will be more than happy to just get some attention from you. They don’t even need your free beer to get excited!

Getting a mention or a RT of their winning post will make them love you even more. Another option is to just do something nice for them, like Knorr turning their fans family recipes into infographics. The pay-off here is long-term, as you’re creating a connection with your fans.

8. Real-Life Interaction

Hive Active Heating/British Gas set up a bus stop at Manchester Piccadilly Station to advertise its smartphone-controlled home heating system. By tweeting the hashtag #tweettoheat commuters could activate a 90-second blast of warm air.

Causing real-life interaction with a hashtag works because everyone likes instant gratification. Everybody enjoys seeing the clear connection between cause and effect. We’re no different than the rat that pushes the button to get a treat or the monkey showing off for a banana.

In fact, we’re all just cute little Corgis doing tricks for treats.

9. 15 Minutes of Fame

Give user-generated content the attention it deserves by showing it off on a bigger scale and giving the creator their 15 minutes of fame.

Beloved ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s asked fans to express the joys of eating ice cream under the hashtag #CaptureEuphoria. They then thanked 25 select fans by prominently posting their images as ads on billboards, bus shelters etc. in the winners’ own local neighbourhoods. That must have felt so great for the winners, to see their photos displayed for their communities to see.

10. Being a Part of Something Bigger

One of the best rewards can be the feeling of having been part of something bigger or doing something for a good cause. That’s why more than 36,000 people helped create NASA’s global selfie, and why MINDDRIVE’s tweet-powered car worked.

Ready to start your hashtag campaign?

You should now be ready to take this on yourself. Just pick your hashtag, pick a method and your reward. Let our examples guide you when coming up with your own incentives and creative campaigns. Display the entries in your giveaway contest on a social media wall and make sure to drop us a line to show off your campaign! We can’t wait to see it!