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How to Run a Contest Using Twitter

Here’s a great way to run a contest on twitter and get more twitter followers doing it.

First, offer something on your blog or website. Whether it’s an ebook or some electronic gadget, make it worth people’s time to take action like subscribing to your blog or tweeting your contest out to their twitter followers.

Outline how your visitors can win whatever it is you’re giving away. Something like the following (I’ll use my twitter account as an example):

  1. Follow @BillBolmeier on twitter.
  2. Simply tweet: “Just entered to win a Big Special Free Prize. Follow @BillBolmeier and retweet this special link.”

Reminder: Keep your tweet under the 140 characters allowed by twitter.

twitter contest 250 How to Run a Contest Using Twitter

What This Does

If you’re a Seth Godin follower or know of the whole “sneezing”, “sneezers” and “viral marketing” stuff, this is it in action.

If you’re on twitter and have followers, your followers are your potential “sneezers”.

What Do You Get Out of This?

First – Twitter followers. Because the first step of the contest is to follow you or your business on twitter, you’ll potentially gain new followers, who become new customers, who become raving fans.

Second – People are intrigued from all the tweets about your contest at your blog or website, specially since the Big Special Free Prize you’re giving away is something awesome – let’s see, like an HD Video Cam or something just as cool.

Third – They retweet in step #2, telling (“sneezing”) everyone about the competition and what they can win, which drives them to your blog post about the contest.

Since a tweet is a one time event and is eventually lost in the sea of tweets, you’ll want to think about how often you should tweet your contest using your own twitter account(s). If it’s a three day contest, then tweeting 1-3 times a day will help you keep it on people’s radar.

Tracking Your Contest on Twitter

One way to track your contest tweets is with is a service that allows you to create a special link to your blog post or website page describing your contest. is a URL shortener that creates a unique URL to your contest page. offers statistics that include how many times and when people click on your link.

You can use twitter search to track who is retweeting your contest by searching for that link or something unique about your contest tweet like a unique #hashtag.

Contest Duration

Keeping the contest short and active over a couple or few days might work fine as far as gathering up everyone who is tweeting and retweeting your contest.

However, for the ultimate control of your contest tweets and retweets, it might work better for you to have tweeters browse to a custom landing page so they can tweet your contest from there.

That way, you’ll be sure to track every tweet sent and who is tweeting from the landing page. You’ll have to get someone to code this for you if you can’t do something like this yourself.

If you do it this way, with a landing page, make sure you only gather their twitter name, show them the tweet that will be sent, and allow them to click a send button. Keep it simple so it works and don’t complicate things by requiring your sneezers to provide extra data.

Other Tracking Alternatives

Another way to track tweets and retweets is to use Bing Social, which indexes tweets in real-time and search results for your unique link or hashtag will update automatically.

Topsy is yet another way to do real-time search for your contest tweets.

Another tool is Postpone, which will “strip search” through your timeline looking for what you want to find – your contest tweets.

The “Sneezing” Result

Your twitter followers will retweet to their followers, and those followers will retweet to their followers, and so on.

Are you hearing all that sneezing yet? Your “sneezers” are helping you with your marketing.

How do you find the sneezers? Do you think that offering people discounts will help you get at the sneezers?

Actually, I think the sneezers find you. They find you because you hang out where they hang out. If you’re launching a product that doesn’t have a natural hive of sneezers, that’s really hard, but generally you’re clever enough to find the right nexus. Starbucks didn’t open the first shops in rural South Dakota, even though storefronts are cheap there. Apple opens their stores using similar thinking. Software guys realize that a post to Slashdot is worth more than ten ads in Time magazine…

Seth Godin

That’s it. Now start sneezing. If you hold a twitter contest, let us know about it in the comments below and how it went. And make sure the prize is the best you can possibly give away. You got a make it juicy for people to respond.

After the contest is over, follow thru by providing the best and fastest delivery of the prize. Ask the winner to tweet that they received the prize and who it’s from. Usually, they follow through when it’s something that is real, great, and trustworthy.

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

No Debt Plan April 6, 2009 at 2:22 pm

FYI your link to retweetradar links to “” instead.

No Debt Plan’s last blog post..State Tax Refund Delays


Bill April 6, 2009 at 5:03 pm

@No Debt Plan – DOH!! Thanks. I guess retreats were on my mind.


Sports N Such June 23, 2009 at 4:16 am

Thanks for the information Bill. I wondered how this type of marketing could be so successful and you outlined it nicely.


Justin October 29, 2009 at 6:16 pm

Hey great writeup. While we've yet to have a contest or giveaway of the Shoemoney size, Tweets Win has hosted over 85 contest or giveaways so far. Tweets Win is a free service that has a following that's slowly growing. Each twitter contest run can get itself in front of thousands of people instantly.

My site's still in it's early beta stages, I'm still gathering feedback and would love to hear any thoughts.

Be sure to check out if you want to find or submit your own Twitter Contest! It's free!


tweetswin October 29, 2009 at 11:16 pm

Hey great writeup. While we've yet to have a contest or giveaway of the Shoemoney size, Tweets Win has hosted over 85 contest or giveaways so far. Tweets Win is a free service that has a following that's slowly growing. Each twitter contest run can get itself in front of thousands of people instantly.

My site's still in it's early beta stages, I'm still gathering feedback and would love to hear any thoughts.

Be sure to check out if you want to find or submit your own Twitter Contest! It's free!


Phil Stevens July 22, 2010 at 3:05 pm

Thanks for this. I was looking for a way to run a contest on twitter. This helps a lot.


B2B Technology Marketing November 10, 2010 at 9:45 am

Thanks for the helpful advice. We have a couple of contests pending/ in planning for clients and have been a little concerned by the apparent simplicity of doing it. Seems it is that simple though…

Wonder of anyone here has any thought on as we are thinking of doing it that way?


Bill Bolmeier November 10, 2010 at 3:18 pm

B2B Technology Marketing: Thanks for stoppin’ by. I have not heard of, I’ll have to check it out. Good luck with your contest.


Lorenz December 20, 2010 at 3:12 pm

Great advice, thank you! I’m planning a competition on my blog and thought about how to include a viral element in it.


Bill Bolmeier December 21, 2010 at 3:39 am

Thanks for stoppin’ by Lorenz and good luck with your competition.


Greg May 10, 2012 at 4:53 am

Nice Advice…. Im about to launch a competition to generate more followers. Thanks for your tip regarding service that allows you to create a special link and track your blog post or website page which describes your contest. my link here


andrew July 22, 2012 at 3:11 pm

the piece was really helpful! i never thought to look into that. figured it was just like a tiny.url or whatever. but i’m stoked to know they offer stats to help track a contest like this.

i was actually just thinking of running a facebook contest that would lead to a free form instead of just “hey like my page”. then you could have contestants enter their email for a chance to win, and choose any of 2 or 3 prizes. then it’s more interactive and potentially appealing to more people. maybe i could run this thru twitter to gain followers. i like this form idea to capture emails for future use as a mailing list. then it’d be easier to build momentum for contests or new product launches in the future and they’d grow faster, instead of having to generate all that buzz again from scratch…

i’ll be using another form to get people involved in helping me make my final decision on the name and potential price point for a new product idea.

what i’d really like to learn how to do is something like this:
click here to help name our store and enter for your chance to win free product x (or whatever the offer).
next, share this on facebook and/or twitter to earn more chances to win! everyone that clicks thru from your tweet gets you another entry in the drawing!

i’m looking into whether can do that for me, or if that would have to be coded by a pro…

twitter is probably faster and easier, but does anybody have experience or any idea on how to do this with facebook? like how to track who shares and re-shares a post about your contest, vs just ‘liking’ your biz or fan page?

thanks everyone! and thanks bill, for the blog! super helpful!


Matthew Woodward August 30, 2012 at 3:18 am

Great tips, i put a landing page together for a contest yesterday using the @anywhere tweet box which makes things easier ^^


Jorge September 1, 2012 at 11:21 am

Hi, we’ve created a tool to automate twitter competitions and generate a easy to use widget to use in your site or blog. You can create campaigns for a specific time frame. Try it and let me know if you like it. Thank you.


Arther October 7, 2012 at 11:47 pm

Thanks for the great post. I was looking all around for help. GLAD i found you!


krisyt Sue November 29, 2012 at 2:00 am

Thank you for this informative and easy to read guide to getting more twitter followers. This article was not only helpful but it is a great reference! A lot of people know who to use twitter in the most basic sense, however after they read this list they should be on their ways to becoming experts on how to get more followers.Thank you!


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