Using Twitter professionally for the past 3 years, I’ve seen my share of contests that were organized by both the bigger brands and smaller businesses.In fact, if you were to search with the phrase ‘RT to win’ on Twitter, you’ll find many interesting contests being held on a daily basis.

4 Types of Twitter Contests

A Twitter contest is not only a great way to build buzz and increase brand engagement, but it also generates new followers and grows your brand presence.

There are even some who would suggest that Twitter contests are more effective at building engagement than any other online (paid) investments.

Clearly then, as Twitter grows its influence in social media, so too would the importance of Twitter contests.

There are several different types of Twitter contests.
1. Creative answer

In a ‘creative answer’ format, users are usually asked to answer a question from the organizers using a hashtag. The answers need to be as creative as possible, and the winners will be chosen by the organizers.

This format has been tried and tested in offline media over the years, where contestants usually have to write a creative answer within a certain amount of words (50 words, 100 words, 200 words, and so on). Twitter contest organizers have easily adapted this format, seeing that Tweets are already subjected to character limitations.

Here is one example:Back in 2010, KFC held a ‘creative answer’ Twitter contest. Winners were presented with a $20,000 scholarship by KFC. The applicants had to explain, in 140 characters or less, why they deserved to win and include the hashtag #KFCScholar in their tweets.To make this more relevant with the concept of advertising, we need to take a peek behind this $20,000 scholarship.

First let’s understand that the cost of this contest is the amount of scholarship. That’s $20,000. Then, throughout the contest, it was found that there were over 2,800 participants. So the average cost to gain 1 participant (or to gain 1 engagement) is $7.14! That’s not a bad amount to dish out in order to get 1 person to talk with your brand.

Amanda Russell (@arlp111) was the winner of the contest by tweeting “#KFCScholar Hey Colonel! Your scholarship’s the secret ingredient missing from my recipe for success! Got the grades, drive, just need cash”.

Essentially, from Amanda’s perspective, she is being paid $142.86 per character by KFC. I’m sure other participants were not shy about joining this contest because they were given a chance to get paid for tweeting 140 characters @ $142.86 per character.

Twitter Contests KFC
2. Sweepstakes

A sweepstakes is a contest where winners are chosen at random or through a ‘lucky’ draw. Sweepstakes can come in several different forms as well, namely:

1. Retweet to win

One of the most popular contests on Twitter. As the name suggests, participants are required to Retweet to stand a chance of winning. After the duration of the contest has ended, winners will be picked at random. It is one of the simplest contests to set up.

There are two ways that organizers can do this:
a. Manually

Organizers simply post a tweet on Twitter asking users to Retweet if they were to join the contest.

There are several downfalls of this, and one of the most critical ones is the organizers won’t be able to provide much information about the contest with the 140 character limitation on Twitter. Some organizers will have use their blogs, websites, or set up a new landing page to give more details about the contest such as the rules, the duration, and the prizes.It will be tough to pick winners too as organizers have to manually copy and paste the participants or use software like to pick random winners.

Here is a contest held by the National Lottery @tnluk, their tweet have been retweeted over 3000+ times.

Another issue with retweet to win contests is that an entrant does not agree by any rules before retweeting or specifically agree to enter the contest and be bound by their terms. This can have many legal implications.
b. Application

Alternatively, businesses who want to organize a Twitter contest (inclusive but not limited to ‘RT to win’) can also use an application. Binkd, an easy-to-use platform for promotions, recently just launched a free Twitter contest application that allows businesses to set up a branded Twitter contest efficiently. Using the application, users can set up a landing page with their company logo, give more information about the prizes, and more information about the contest. The winner of the contest will be picked automatically after the contest has ended.  By providing a dedicated entry form the legal implications of a manual contest is removed.
c. Follow to win

To get more followers, some businesses will ask participants to follow them to be included in the contest. All they need to do is to follow or retweet and follow. Winners will be randomly drawn after the contest has ended. Here is a contest held by @hairdazzle on Twitter.

Again, this bears the same legal implications as a manual Twitter contest.

Twitter contest hair dazzle Cosmopolitan
3. Photo Contest

A picture is worth more than 140 characters on Twitter. For this type of contest, users will have to send in a photo and they will stand a chance to win a prize, usually in a form of a small gift or a voucher. Like the ‘creative answer’ contest, the winner or winners will be picked by the organizers. Here is an example of a contest: @LaTasca, a Spanish Tapas restaurant in the UK, recently gave away a £50 La Tasca voucher for the customers who have sent a Twitpic of their tapas.

KFC, who have had great success with their creative answer contest back in 2010, decided to innovate their contest format last year and chose instead to organize a photo contest. The contest prize was another $20,000. In this contest, users had to tweet a photo showing an example of their commitment toward education and how they are enriching their communities. The winner was Daniel Galuppo, who shared a photo of his trip to Vietnam, where he photographed orphans so that they can have a photo of themselves to keep.
4. Question & Answer

A question and answer contest is very straight-forward. Organizers of the contest post a question on Twitter and the winners would be selected based on either the fastest time it is answered by a participant, the most accurate answer, or through sweepstakes (if the organizer loses control of the contest and has no other way of selecting the winner)

While this is not the most innovative type of contest, if it is done frequently enough, it would help in ensuring that users continuously visit your Twitter account to check for random questions.

Twitter is a great platform to easily set up a contest, but there are also potential for users to abuse the contest such as creating several Twitter accounts to get higher chance of winning a contest. Hashtags could also be abused to make your contest look like spam.

As a tip, mentions of your account should be required in the tweet used for entering the contest. Twitter’s search does not guarantee that it will return every tweet with your search term, including hashtags, only mentions are all guaranteed to be returned .

A good contest needs to be prepared for everything and have clear boundaries, such as allowing users to join/retweet only once a day.

If your company is new in organizing a Twitter contest, it is highly recommended that you use an application instead because it will help in creating a strong foundation for your contest (which would help to ‘be prepared for everything’).


Whether you’re a beginner or advanced level nature photographer, submitting your work to the scrutiny of others can be a little scary. All your hard work may pay off with selection for an award or you may feel the sting of rejection by having your work returned to you without any recognition. Just remember that win or lose, the photography itself will provide you with limitless hours of outdoor enjoyment and anything you may or may not get from a photo contest is just icing on the cake. I had the honor of being a WildBird magazine contest judge for five years and I learned a lot during that time about successfully entering a photography contest. In this brief article I’d like to share some of what I learned about photography contests and hopefully inspire you to enter some of your best photos in a contest in the near future.

How to Enter

Entering your photos in a contest is fun, exciting and a little nerve-racking. Remember that once you have submitted your hard earned work to the contest, you are then at the mercy of a panel of judges. At this point, you have no control over what will happen. However, I would like to help you before you get to this point with the part you do have control over-the entry.

The absolute, number one tip for successfully entering a photography contest that I can offer is follow all the contest rules!! Every contest I have ever judged or entered myself has had a different set of very specific rules. As an experienced contest judge, I can tell you that the contest guidelines are not arbitrary. Some rules may not make sense to you when you enter, but I can guarantee you they are important to the judges and are in place for a reason. Follow them to the letter and you will already be one step ahead of some of your competition.

Next, you will find that almost every photography contest has a variety of different categories to enter. I think a great way to be successful is to consider all the categories closely. Try to anticipate which ones will have the most entries and which will have the fewest. If you have the material for a given category and your photos are good enough, you will certainly have a better chance at winning the category with only 50 entries rather than the one with 500. A category with 500 entries may have 10 finalists that are equally good enough to win and the judges are then faced with very tough final choices. However, the category with 50 entries may only have one entry worthy of first place and the judges have but one easy choice.

A great way to get ideas for entering any photography contest is to do a little research ahead of your entry. Look at the winners from previous years’ contests and see what types of images have been successful. Many national nature photography contests are done by magazines or conservation organizations and it is easy to look at back issues or websites to see what type of photographs have won previously. This will give you a rough idea of the level of quality and what subject matter it might take to win. If you want to enter a smaller contest at your local nature center, Audubon chapter or camera club, they too will often keep prints of the photos that have won in previous years. Take a look at the winners and you just may find the inspiration you need to go out and make next years winning photographs.

Another important tip I can offer is that you may find in some contests that less is more. What I mean is that you should not feel compelled to enter the maximum number of photos allowed in every category. Your work will stand out from the rest if you only send your very best. If you truly feel that you have three equally good photos for a category that allows three entries, then by all means submit them. But if you submit two mediocre images along with one excellent one, the lesser quality work may weigh down the best image you’ve submitted. I just want you to understand the positive impression a well-edited entry can have with the judges. Remember you are very often trying to impress and sway a judging panel of experienced photographers and if they only see your absolute best photography you will have a better chance at winning.

One common mistake I have run across concerns the return of your precious original photographs. First, be sure to place all your transparencies between two pieces of cardboard for safe shipping. If you are going to enter slides, many contests require that you only send the original transparencies. This is where following the rules exactly as stated becomes very important. Be sure to include proper postage for the return and have it already applied to a pre-addressed return envelope. Do not expect the contest organizers to return your images at their expense and dont send loose stamps or a few dollars and hope the judges will make a trip to the post office for you. If you want your original work returned, you have to take the responsibility for it and do what is asked so the contest can get it back to you. Just make it easy for them to return your images and it should not be a problem to get your entries back safely.

What to Enter

First and foremost, remember that you dont have to be an advanced or professional photographer to enter or even win a photo contest. In fact, many contests specifically encourage beginners to enter. Judges in any photography contest are often looking for something unique. They search the entries for photographs that catch their eye and that clearly separate themselves from the field. I firmly believe that any level of photographer is capable of making contest-winning photos if they use good photographic technique.

As I mentioned before, follow the rules precisely when you are selecting which photographs to enter. Each category may have simple yet specific requirements about what will be judged in that particular category. If you dont follow this basic guideline, your photo may be returned without ever being considered for the category it was entered in. For example, I know that the WildBird backyard category requires a feeder, water feature, nest box or similar item included in the photograph. You would be amazed by how many entries for the backyard category neglected this simple request every year.

Next, I suggest that you follow my recommendation about being selective in your entry and remember my motto: less is more. Try to enter only those photographs that are technically well done. Look for sharp focus, good composition, excellent color and contrast, beautiful lighting, a pleasing background and an interesting subject in your entry. Remember, these are the basic elements of a photograph and are very often the first things the judges will look for.

A great way to impress any photo contest judge is with a photograph that depicts action! If you can, try to submit photographs that show your subject doing somethinganything. Remember that action photos can be simple. The action does not have to be an incredible mating display, or fight sequence to get noticed. For the WildBird contest, something as simple as an innocent wing stretch, a raised crest or perhaps a bird singing would be enough to catch a judge’s eye. Believe it or not, even a sleeping bird is in action because it is doing something more than standing still. Now this is not to say that beautiful portrait photographs of interesting subjects in gorgeous light will be overlooked. Its just that by showing some simple action in your images you may help to separate your entry from the rest.

If the contest rules permit multiple entries per category, I would also suggest that you try to enter a variety of subjects in that category. It will not do you much good to enter three different poses of the same individual subject in the same category. If you want to send multiple entries to one category, why not submit three different and unique photographs. This way, each one will get individual notice as opposed to three similar photos that compete with and diminish attention from one another.

The excitement and anticipation of seeing the results from entering a photography contest can be wonderful. The thrill of being notified that you have won is even better. But when you do enter, keep in mind that many other people have entered the same contest and that the judges are only allowed to pick a very small number of winners. To avoid disappointment, be realistic about your expectations when entering and remember that you are really doing it for fun. Most importantly, enjoy your time in the outdoors making the images you want to submit for a contest because photographing all that nature has to offer is the real prize.

Brian Small NPN 128