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How to Run a Hashtag Contest (Step-by-Step)

Last Updated on November 13, 2020 by Stacey Corrin

Are you looking for an easy way to grow your social media followers and engage your existing audience?

Running a hashtag contest is one of the best ways to grow your followers, boost your reach, and drive brand awareness. Plus, if you combine hashtags with the power of user-generated content (UGC), you can quickly make your giveaway go viral.

In this article, we’ll show you how to run a hashtag contest (with UGC) to boost your audience and ultimately grow your business.

What Is a Hashtag Contest?

A hashtag contest is a type of giveaway brands run on social media that asks users to post content using a specific hashtag. In exchange for that post, participants are entered into a prize draw.

a hashtag contest is contest posted on social media using a specific hashtag

Most businesses ask people to post user-generated content (UGC), which can be anything from a simple message mentioning the brand to a photo, video, review, or even a recipe. Yet the post only qualifies as an entry if it includes the giveaway hashtag.

You might be thinking, why does UGC work?

The answer is pretty simple. UGC works because it uses real content to promote a brand or product instead of brand-generated content. People relate to content from real users more because it’s genuine and authentic.

For example, which of these scenarios would you respond to?

  1. A brand’s advertisement telling you to try this now!
  2. A friend reaching out and saying, “Hey, I love this, and think you would like it too!”

Most people would pick the second option, and that’s how UGC works.

Where hashtags enter the equation, is to help spread the message.

Since hashtags categorize social media content, they make it easier for people to find the content that interests them. In turn, it helps you reach an audience that’s more likely to enter your contest.

How to Run Your UGC Hashtag Contest

Now that you know what a hashtag contest is let’s look at how to plan, create, and run one to grow your business.

1. Decide Where to Run Your Hashtag Contest

The first step is to decide on which platform you’d like to run your hashtag contest. You can create this type of contest on almost any social media network, including:

  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Pinterest
  • YouTube

However, you’ll find that hashtag contests are more popular on Instagram and Twitter due to the frequent use of hashtags on those platforms.

You can also run this type of contest on your business website, which is probably the best place to start. This is because when you run any type of contest on social media, you’re limited by the tools, reach, and rules of those platforms.

For instance, it’s harder to keep track of who enters your contest, and there isn’t an easy way to confirm if each participant qualifies, aside from manually checking every entry.

Whereas if you run a hashtag giveaway on your WordPress website, you can use a contest builder like RafflePress, to manage everything for you in one place.

RafflePress is the best WordPress giveaway plugin.

It includes an easy drag and drop giveaway builder, viral giveaway entry methods, and powerful tools to manage your contest entries all from within your WordPress website. Plus, it includes viral refer-a-friend entries to skyrocket your contest’s reach on social media.

choose entry actions for your hashtag contest

When planning your contest, consider which platform is the best place to get the results you need.

2. Plan Your Hashtag Contest Goals

After choosing where to run your giveaway, you should plan out your goals. Your goals are what you want to achieve from running a giveaway.

For example, you might want to launch a contest to…

Setting the right goals will help you measure your giveaways’ success when it’s over. So, pick some that align with your overall business and marketing objectives. Then it’ll be much easier to get the results you’re looking for.

3. Choose a Highly Relevant Giveaway Prize

After picking your contest goals, think about the prize you’ll offer to the lucky winner. While most people love getting free stuff, they won’t make an effort to enter if your prize isn’t good enough.

To run a hashtag contest that generates excitement, attracts new followers, and gets lots of entries, pick a high-quality prize that attracts attention. 

Some popular prizes include:

  • Amazon gift cards
  • Free products or services
  • Large cash prizes

You can also find some good giveaway prize ideas in this roundup.

chose a relevant hashtag contest prize

You’ll also want to ensure that your prize is relevant to your brand and target audience. Otherwise, the new audience you attract with your contest won’t stick around and engage with you when the contest is over.

4. Pick Memorable Giveaway Hashtags

Now that you know what prize you’ll offer, think about the giveaway hashtags you’ll use to increase the reach of your contest.

If you create hashtags that are too long or complicated, they’ll be too hard for users to remember, so keep your hashtag short, simple, and easy to spell.

A good rule of thumb when picking hashtags is to choose a few generic giveaway hashtags and combine them with one that’s specific to your brand. 

An excellent example of a specific giveaway hashtag is this one from ChildFund. They teamed up with a popular author for their #MyScariestMonster contest, which gives kids the chance to see their scary stories published online.

ChildFund hashtag contest with giveaway hashtag

Since the above hashtag is easy to read, spell, and remember, it generates tons of engagement and entries.

5. Write Your Rules and Guidelines

The next step in learning how to run a hashtag contest is to put your rules and guidelines in place. This will help keep your giveaway fair for all participants and compliant with the platforms you use.

Since you’re running a giveaway that depends on hashtags, one of the first rules should be that users must include a specific hashtag in the posts they share.

You should also include the following guidelines:

  • Any age limits for entering
  • If the contest is limited to a specific country
  • Giveaway start and end dates
  • Any other entry methods
  • How you’ll pick a winner

Using the example from ChildFund, here’s how they set out their rules.

ChildFund hashtag contest rules

Once you’ve finished planning your contest, it’s time to start building your giveaway. We’ll look at how to do that next.

6. Create Your Hashtag Contest with RafflePress

As mentioned earlier, the easiest way to create a hashtag contest is to run it from your business website. This enables you to keep all the crucial information like your rules and entry methods, and a complete list of qualified participants all in a single place.

For WordPress business websites, the best tool for the job is the RafflePress WordPress plugin. RafflePress makes it super-easy to create a giveaway in WordPress. Plus, it gives you everything you need to meet your contest goals.

So, if you’d like to know how to set up a hashtag contest, here’s how to do it with RafflePress.

Step 1: Create a New Giveaway

First, click here to get started with RafflePress and download the plugin to your computer. Then follow this step-by-step guide to install and activate a WordPress plugin if you need help.

After that, head to your WordPress admin area. Then hover your mouse over the RafflePress icon and click Add New to create a new giveaway.

click Add New to create an online contest

Step 2: Choose a Giveaway Template

After clicking Add New, you’ll see a screen where you can give your contest a name and choose a giveaway template.

RafflePress offers various templates made to help you reach specific goals such as Refer-a-Friend, Grow Your Email List, and more.

For this tutorial, we’ll use the Classic Giveaway template. This template gives you the ability to create any contest using the RafflePress drag and drop builder.

Choose the Classic Giveaway Template to get started building your contest

To choose the Classic Giveaway template, hover your mouse over it and click Use This Template.

Step 3: Add Your Contest Prize Details

On the next screen, you’ll see the RafflePress giveaway builder, where you can add your contest prize details.

First, click the pencil icon under the Giveaway Prize Details heading.

Click the pencil to enter the contest prize details

This will reveal several options on the right-hand side of the builder. In that area, you can enter the name of your prize and include a description.

You can also add an image of your prize by clicking the Select Image button and uploading a photo from your computer or WordPress media library.

Enter your prize details and click save to store your giveaway settings.

When you’re happy with those settings, click the Done Editing button.

On the left-hand side of your screen, you can enter your contest duration under the Start and End Time heading. It’s also possible to add more than one prize by clicking the Add Another Prize button.

You should click the Save button in the top-right corner of your screen periodically to preserve your settings.

Step 4: Choose Your Contest Entry Methods

RafflePress is an excellent choice for running a hashtag contest because it offers many ways for people to enter. 

For your giveaway, you can require users to enter by uploading an image (to gather UGC). You can also include the option to Refer a Friend, which asks them to share a message on social media or via email with your giveaway hashtag. 

But you don’t need to stop there. To further increase your reach and results, you can offer bonus entries such as following you on Twitter, joining your email list, etc. to earn extra giveaway entries.

Most people will take all the actions they possibly can to increase their chances of winning.

To add your entry methods to your giveaway widget, first, click the Actions tab. On this page, the entry actions are grouped by goal, including:

  • Get More Subscribers
  • More Social Engagement
  • Get More Traffic
choose entry actions for your hashtag contest

Click any action on this list to add it to your giveaway. 

Once you’ve chosen an action, click it in the giveaway builder to set the options. The options include changing the action title, value (how many entries the action is worth), if the action is mandatory, and so on.

configure your entry actions

The most important action should be worth the most entries.

When you’re done, remember to click the Save button to store your changes.

Step 5: Design Your Contest

The next step is to customize how your giveaway looks in the Design tab. On this page, you can choose 2 different layouts (display image then header, or header then image), and several fonts and button colors.

Choose design options for your hashtag contest

If you plan to create a standalone page for your contest, you can also change the page background color or upload a custom background image.

Once you’re happy with your giveaway design, click Save.

Step 6: Configure Your Giveaway Settings

Now click the Settings tab to view the different settings available. Here you can configure your giveaway’s General settings, Giveaway Rules, Email Verification, Success Tracking, and more.

The most important section to configure is the Giveaway Rules. This enables you to display your rules, terms, and conditions for all participants to see, and RafflePress makes it easy to get started.

Easily generate contest rules in seconds

With the Rules Generator Template, you can quickly create a basic set of giveaway rules. Clicking the +Generate Rules button launches a window where you can enter the sponsor name, email, address, eligibility, and more. After that, click Generate Rules again to add the rules to your giveaway.

You can check out our documentation for details on all the RafflePress settings.

When you’re happy with your contest settings, click Save.

Step 7: Publish Your Contest in WordPress

After creating your contest, it’s time to make it live on your WordPress website.

Click the publish button to publish your hashtag contest

First, click the Publish tab at the top of the builder, then choose from one of the 3 publishing options available:

  1. RafflePress WordPress Block: Embed the giveaway widget in your WordPress post or page (WordPress block editor).
  2. WordPress Shortcode: Embed the giveaway in the classic WordPress editor, sidebar widgets, or inside your WordPress theme.
  3. Giveaway Landing Page: Create a distraction-free landing page on your website for your giveaway.

Creating a dedicated landing page for your hashtag contest is the best way to get more entries. The page will have nothing to distract users, making it more likely they’ll sign up to enter.

With that in mind, let’s choose the Giveaway Landing Page option.

Publish as a giveaway landing page

If you haven’t already done so, you’ll see a message asking you to “click here” to set up your landing page permalink.

Clicking the message takes you to the general settings page. Scroll down to the Page Permalink section and enter a short phrase separated by dashes such as hashtag-contest. 

landing page permalink

Then save your changes and click the View button to see how your giveaway page looks. 

Preview your hashtag contest landing page

Great work! You now have an awesome landing page for your giveaway!

7. Promote Your Hashtag UGC Contest

The next stage in your plan is to promote it to spread the word and secure plenty of entries.

While there are many ways to promote a contest, the easiest way is to share it on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter and ask people to tag a friend in the comments. 

You can also promote your hashtag giveaway by:

You should start promoting your contest at least 2 weeks before it goes live to ensure you generate plenty of anticipation, excitement, and entries from day 1.

For even more contest promotion ideas, you can check out this article.

8. Pick and Announce the Winner

When your contest is over, you’ll need to choose the winner. One of the easiest ways to pick a giveaway winner is by random draw, but if you’re collecting UGC as part of your contest requirements, you might wish to judge each entry personally. 

That said, RafflePress makes picking a random winner insanely easy.

When your giveaway is over, navigate to RafflePress » Giveaways and click the Needs Winners link on the right-hand side.

choose winner

This will show you all the people who entered your contest and how many entries they have. To choose a winner randomly, click the Pick Winner button, enter your options, and click Choose Winners Now

pick a giveaway winner

You’ll see the winner highlighted at the top of your list, so you can easily click to email them the great news.

email the winner

9. Follow Up After the Contest

After choosing your hashtag contest winner, it’s a good idea to follow up with the people who didn’t win. Following up with all of your participants will help you form better relationships with them, and mention your contest once more. 

You can follow up after your contest by posting a giveaway winner announcement on social media and tagging the winner.

Announce the hashtag contest winner on social media

Alternatively, you can send an email to announce the winner. You should also thank everyone for participating and invite them to take part in future contests.

10. Measure Your Results

The final step in learning how to run a hashtag contest is to measure and analyze your results. This helps you see how well your giveaway performed and what you could have done better.

The easiest way to get the information you need to optimize your next contest is with MonsterInsights. MonsterInsights is the best Google Analytics plugin for WordPress.

MonsterInsights overview report

With MonsterInsights, you can easily track visits to your giveaway landing page, website visits, referral traffic, and more. Even better, you can see the data in actionable reports from within your WordPress dashboard. 

Now, with the right data, you can see which promotion strategies drove the most traffic and entries to your hashtag contest. And you can use that to make your next contest much more of a success. 

That’s it!

We hope this article helped you learn how to run a hashtag contest the easy way. 

Creating any type of contest in WordPress with RafflePress is super-easy. You can grow your social media followers, engagement, subscribers, and traffic with a viral giveaway in no time.

What are you waiting for?

Get started with RafflePress today.

And please follow us on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook for more great tips to grow your business. 

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