Cat in Fall

(This blog post was originally written on October 15, 2015, and has been updated to be even better!)
Ah fall! The leaves are changing color, there’s a crispness in the air, and a pumpkin spice latte can be purchased on just about every street corner. As the days get shorter and those of us to the North start to bundle up, it’s impossible to forget that several major holidays are right around the corner.
Social media is full of the holiday spirit, and your practice should be no exception. ‘Tis the season to host special holiday promotions, and with festive holidays like Halloween and Christmas approaching, a photo contest or two is a great way to celebrate.
If your practice has been thinking about running a contest for a holiday, but you’re unsure of where to start, here are some steps to get you on your way to ho-ho-hosting a holiday promotion!

1. Create goals

The first rule of marketing is never do anything without an explicit goal in mind. Your practice is not holding a contest just for the sake of holding a contest. Take a moment to try and figure out what goals you want to achieve with this promotion. Those goals can be as simple as rewarding your clients or gaining more social media followers, or can be more complicated, such as reaching new pet owners, promoting specific treatments, or increasing visits to your practice.
Understanding your goals will help you design the type of contest best suited to meet those goals and measure how successful the contest is.
[Related Reading: 7 Questions to Consider Before You Run a Veterinary Facebook Contest]

2. Choose a social platform

Every social platform is different, which means the type of contest you can run on each of them is also different. Instagram might be the ideal platform for a more image based contest, while Facebook might be your best bet for reaching the most people.
Once you’ve decided what social platform you want to use, read up on the rules for that platform. Each platform has different rules, and they do tend to change from time to time, so we recommend double checking the rules every time you run a contest. To make things a little easier, we’ve put together a small summary of the rules for the most popular social networks, but you should also review them for yourself, to ensure the social networks didn’t sneak any changes in since this post was written!
Additionally, make sure you are familiar with the laws and regulations of your country and state/province regarding contests. We strongly recommend researching these laws before hosting any promotions to ensure that your contest is legal.

Twitter

Here are the Twitter promotion guidelines. For Twitter, avoid and discourage multiple entries by individual accounts, as these may viewed as spam. Ask users to mention your practice in their tweets so that you’ll see them, or to use a specific contest hashtag.

Facebook

The rules for Facebook promotions can be found under section E of the Facebook Page Guidelines. To create a Facebook promotion, you must include official rules and have terms and eligibility requirements. Additionally, you must state that your promotion is in no way sponsored by Facebook, and that all participants release Facebook from liability. Finally, you cannot use your personal Facebook Timeline to administer a promotion, and you cannot require people to share a post or tag their friends as a submission to the contest. This is probably the rule we seen broken most often. Don’t ask people to tag their friends in the comments to enter the contest – this is in direct violation of Facebook’s rules.

Instagram

Instagram’s promotion guidelines are very similar to Facebook’s, including the requirement of official rules, terms of eligibility, and acknowledgement that Instagram does not endorse/sponsor your contest. Additionally, you cannot encourage people to inaccurately tag any content. In essence, this means don’t encourage people to tag themselves in a photo that they do not appear in.

3. Decide on details

Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the rules and know what social platform you’ll be using, it’s time to get into the nitty gritty details. In order to run the contest, you’re going to need to decide:

  • How people are going to submit entries: Submissions can be made by commenting on your post, sending you a photo via direct message, liking the post, using your contest hashtag on a relevant photo, etc. Keep in mind that the more effort is required to enter the contest (e.g., finding and sharing a picture of their pet vs. simply liking a picture), the fewer entrants you will likely receive.
  • What the prize is and how many winners there will be: The prize could be something as small as a bag of specialty dog food or as big as a free appointment at your practice. The bigger the prize, the more entrants your contest will likely attract.
  • How long the contest will run for and what the end date and time will be.
  • How the winner will be decided: Will it be by random draw or based on merit?
  • How you will reach out to contestants: This is important to decide ahead of time because if you wish to contact them by email, you will need to collect addresses with submissions.
  • How the prize will be distributed: Do winners need to come in to claim their prize or will you be sending it to them? Do they need to claim their prize within a specific period of time?
  • The rules of eligibility: Is there an age limit or geographical limit for entrants? Is there a limit to how many entries they can make?

4. Create terms and conditions

You’ll notice that both Facebook and Instagram require rules and terms and conditions. You can state the rules of your contest directly in the post, or, if you prefer, you can state the basic rules in the post and link to the full terms and conditions on your website. The important thing is that your contest rules need to outline some relevant information, including:

  • How to submit.
  • The contest start and end dates, and when voting, if any, will occur.
  • How winners will be selected.
  • What the prize is and how it can be claimed. You may also want to state that any additional costs not specifically listed as part of the prize are the sole responsibility of the winner, and to clarify that your prize cannot be exchanged for cash.
  • Rules of eligibility (including age and location).
  • A statement indicating that Facebook/Instagram is not affiliated with the contest and that all participants release Facebook/Instagram from liability.
  • For contests requiring the entrants to submit personal information, such as an email address, make sure to include that those participants are granting you permission to use that information for whatever purposes you intend.
  • For contests with photo submissions, you should include a section stating that participants give you full rights to their photos.
  • Any information necessary for adhering to local laws

This may seem like a lot, but you only need to create these rules once, and then it will be a breeze to adjust them for each contest you host afterwards. If you’re not sure how these rules should read, take a look at the terms and conditions that other businesses have drawn up for ideas.

5. Create a fun graphic

Rather than using a basic photo to promote your contest, you want to capture attention quickly and let people know in a single glance what your social post is all about. A graphic is a good way to ensure that pet owners scrolling through their feed know right away that you’re hosting a contest. You can also use the image to showcase entrants from previous years (if you have any). You can easily create an attractive graphic with a tool like Canva, which is what we used to make the above image. A graphic is also easy for your followers to share with their friends, and can be added to the banner of your practice website.

6. Promote!

Once you’ve put together your contest and created an attractive image, it’s time to start promoting. In addition to the social platform that you’re hosting the contest on, you can mention your contest on other platforms as well, and encourage people from all your social channels and your website to enter your contest. The more entrants you have, the better your chances of achieving your goals and the more effective your promotion will be.

Some Contest Ideas

Ok! Enough of the organizing and details. Let’s get to the fun part! Here is a list of fun contest ideas you can use for the upcoming holidays. Feel free to use any or all of these:

  • Thanksgiving/Halloween/Christmas/Holiday/Cold Weather Wear Photo Contest
    • Any photo with a pet dressed up in a cute costume
  • Share:
    • What you’re thankful for
    • your best holiday pet safety tip
    • your best holiday dog/cat treat recipe
    • what gift you’re giving your pet for the Holidays
    • your best cold weather pet safety tip
  • 12 Days of Holiday Giveaways
    • Collect likes and give away a small prize every day for the holiday season

There you have it! With a little bit of goal-setting and planning, you can host a contest for every holiday of the year. Go nuts! Contests are both a great marketing opportunity and a ton of fun for you and your followers!

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