Twitter has become one of the most cost-effective ways to drive eyeballs to your brand or contest, and there are significantly fewer rules and guidelines to adhere to when running a Twitter contest compared to Facebook.

The flip side is that you have far less control over the targeting of your audience. You really have to rely on the law of averages to build a following. But with a better understanding of what Twitter is and how it can add value, you can get around some of those laws and make the averages work in your favour.

The Tweet

Unlike a Facebook post, a tweet doesn’t have the benefit of a visual to grab someone’s attention – all the more reason to choose the words you use very carefully. You need a dead-simple premise and you need to be able to deliver it in an interesting way.

A good way to manage the length and focus of your tweets is to publish a web page or blog post to house your contest information and rules (rules should be drafted by an attorney if possible, to avoid legal liability).

Here are two tweets offering the same thing:

Check out our Jamaica contest – you could win an all-expense-paid trip to Sandals in Montego Bay.

Need a break from winter? Here’s your chance to win one.

Which is more interesting? Which you think would cut through the 340 million tweets sent every day (according to a 2012 Media Bistro survey)? We’d argue the second one because it’s benefit-driven. It focuses on ‘what’s in it for people’ versus ‘what are we offering.’

The Retweet

The genius of Twitter’s platform is retweeting (RT). This is when someone following you exposes their followers to your tweet and credits you as the original author.

Anyone anywhere can RT any tweet, but getting retweeted by someone with a large following can prove incredibly valuable for driving awareness. The larger the follower list, the more potentially valuable that RT is.

Something to consider before running a Twitter contest is to follow key opinion leaders in the target audience you’d like to attract. For example, if you’re hoping to attract moms, research the most popular mommy bloggers. Most bloggers will return the favour and follow you if you follow them – especially if what you’re offering can add value for their subscribers.

The Hashtag

Hashtagging a word or phrase (putting # in front of it – ie: #JamaicanGetaway) is a way to curate the conversation taking place about your contest. You can search Twitter by hashtag, and any tweet that contains the hashtag you created will come up. You’ll be able to follow what people are saying and thinking about your contest, and you give contestants a place to go for updates.

A good way to introduce your contest hashtag is to make it part of the registration process:

What’s your favourite part of island life? Tell us at #JamaicanContest and we might send you there.

You can then follow anyone who tweets to that hashtag, assume they’ll follow you back because they initiated the dialogue, and add them to the contest.


Anyone can unfollow anyone else (the act of deleting someone from a feed), and that’s the last thing you want to happen after a contest has run its course. A good way of preventing that is demonstrating the value of your feed over the duration of the Twitter contest. Sticking to a schedule of contest event and milestones tweets, along with more general tweets about your brand, product or service can help reduce churn.

This is best done with a well-planned content calendar. If that’s something you’re thinking about adding to your Twitter contest (or any social media contest), ISM Contest Marketing can guide you through the process of setting one up in a way that makes the most sense for you.