Dear Social Media Geeks,
In 2015, I decided that my New Year Resolution’s would be to conduct a year long experiment on the chances of winning an online contest. I would spend 6 hours a week online entering contests in order to see how brands are using social media to their advantage and to record how likely and regularly I can win.
I had no clue how easy it would be.
After 365 days, 312 hours and 55,800 tweets later, I had won $16,066 in prizing!
Here’s a brief overview of how I did it:
Where to Start
I found out early on that if I entered a lot of contests that required retweeting or sharing posts that I ended up spamming friends. In order to avoid angering them, I created separate accounts specifically for contests. I realized that spending 6 hours a week on social media after work is a lot of time too, especially between the hours of 7-10pm (EST). So if you plan on giving this a try, prepare yourself for a lot of time spent alone online. It’s good to remember that contests are only applicable to certain countries, so checking the rules & regulations to find out if you are eligible to participate is a must. Trust me, it’s no fun winning when you can’t claim the prize.
Which Platforms to Use
The three main sites I used were Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
Twitter had the most contests to enter, with the easiest (and by easy I mean lazy) ways to enter. All I had to do was press the retweet button. Twitter also has these events called “parties”. Twitter parties are an hour long chat with a brand or brand host that ask you a series of questions. All you have to do is answer each question using the hashtag they provide. The host will award a prize randomly during or at the end of a chat for active participates. I found that the largest prizes, which included large electronics, furniture and even trips, came from Twitter parties.
With Instagram, brands are just starting to use it to run contests. Since there aren’t many contests being run, it’s less saturated, which means that not many people are actively participating. This was great for me, since it gave me a more likely chance of winning because less people entered the draws. The downside was that the contests were few and far between.
My least favourite platform to use was Facebook. Since there are so many people that use the Facebook platform, the odds of you winning a contest are really diminished due to the amount of people that are entering each giveaway. I still gave it a shot, but overall, Twitter became my platform of choice.
Following The Right Brands & People
So knowing who to follow is a little bit trickier and does become a matter of trial and error. I would look up search terms like “RT to win” or hashtags such as #contest, #win, or #giveaway and would follow brands that had contests and giveaways running. I started to notice that there were certain people that would enter every contest. Now these intense contesters are the people you want to follow, because it makes finding contests and giveaways a lot easier since their retweets or shares will show up in your
Facebook, Instagram or Twitter feeds. Also following people that host Twitter parties, such as @Listen2Lena or @FoodBloggersCA (both Canadian hosts) are key to knowing about great giveaways coming up. Again, it’s all about finding the contests, and after a while you start to notice the companies that do more giveaways, so you become more aware of which social media brands to keep a close eye on.
What About Taxes?
Since most giveaways that a person enters are random draws, it’s categorized as a lottery. In the US, lottery winnings of $600 or less are not reported to the IRS but winnings in excess of $5,000 are subject to a 25 percent federal withholding tax.
One huge benefit to winning prizes in Canada is that lottery prize winnings are generally not taxed and according to the CRA are “not taxable as either a capital gain or income” (S3-F9-C1 Lottery Schemes 1.16). There are exceptions though if it’s a workplace related or if the prize was in relation to skill or merit, so stick to random draws and you’ll be fine.
Brands – In It To Win Too
Many brands run these contests and promotions as a means to increase brand recognition, generate website traffic and gain social media followers. A lot of questions that were asked, especially during Twitter “Parties”, were about my life and interests. By entering the contests and actively participating by answering questions, I was giving information freely to a company in order for them to create more accurate buyer personas. For the cost of anywhere between $50 – $500, companies are able to gleam an unbelievable amount of information from people interested in their products, and in exchange you get the chance to win a prize.
It’s all about the quantity of contests entered over quality. Once in a while you might win a larger prize, but if you really want to reap the winnings, entering everything from small prizes of CD’s & Books to event tickets and electronics. There’s the saying; “If you don’t enter, you have no chance of winning”and it’s true. It took me 3 weeks until I won my first prize, and it snowballed from there. Will I do it again this year? Probably not. It takes a lot of patience and determination to win that much. On the other hand, winning is addictive, and its a fun hobby, so I’ll probably keep entering for the fun of it.
**Just for clarification – Everything I won was either used by myself, or given to friends that could use it. This is different from creating a bot to enter and win contests because I got to choose every contest I entered into, thus eliminating the possibility of winning things I didn’t need.