We ran a social media competition. This is what we found.

We are NOT “social media gurus” so we will keep it simple. In this article we want to give you an idea of what happened when we ran a competition – quiz on facebook and twitter last December. Keep in mind that what worked or not worked for us, might work for you or not.

First things first. For those of you who don’t know us, let us introduce ourselves. We are Academous!

  • We are building an online platform that will help University Researchers and PhD students in Universities of the EU and OECD member countries find participants locally for our user studies and online surveys.
  • Our industry is a) Research in b) Higher Education.
  • We have a small presence in social media. 138 followers in Facebook and 176 followers on Twitter.

In December 2017 we decided to do our first competition through our facebook and twitter account. We don’t use other social media yet such as instagram or reddit. Our digital marketing budget was zero (0) dollars, pounds or euros. We wouldn’t advertise it. If we have nothing important to say, we enjoy the silence. Or if you like, as John Cage has said once;

I have nothing to say

and I am saying it

and that is poetry

as I need it

Keep in mind that Higher Education and especially Research in Higher Education is a difficult industry. Also December is a tough month for social media as there is Christmas at the end of it and people spend less time on social media and more with their families. Or they should.

Why we did a social media competition?

  • We wanted to see how many people are actually checking our facebook page when we don’t share the Academous’ posts through our personal facebook account(s).
  • We wanted to increase the number of our facebook account (@academous) followers.
  • We wanted to increase the number of our twitter account (@weareacademous) followers.


Terms and conditions of the competition

Since Academous is going to be deployed in the OECD and EU member countries, we decided to run a competition where:

  • We would publish a name of a Higher Education Institution every every Monday and Friday of the week at noon GMT and ask our followers to guess in which country it is.
  • We would choose a Higher Education Institution with an interesting name. (we were not affiliated with any of the HEIs which appeared during the competition).
  • The competition ran for 3 weeks; from December 4th till December 26th, when we announced the winner of the draw.
  • People would have 2-3 days to guess in which country the HEI is. Every guess, right or wrong, would enter the prize draw. One winner would get a limited edition 8GB usb stick with our logo on it. The usb stick was limited edition because each one is numbered and the number is engraved on it. And we did not make a lot of them. Probably not a big prize but as we said Research and Higher Education are difficult industries anyway.
  • If our followers were answering from different social media channels, that would still count still as one answer and one entry in the prize draw.

Pretty straightforward, huh? So this is what happened.

Facebook Results

It is said that posting images increases the chances for your post to be seen. That is true. But what about colours that are used in images? For our first day -Monday- of the competition we created a white background image with black letters; the post got 50 views. For our second day of the competition we created a black background image with white letters; the post got 56 views. That’s a 12% increase in views.

So for the posts to follow we kept the black background and white letters format. Here are the results; 3rd post -Monday- (74 views), 4th post -Friday- (106 views), 5th post -Monday- (72 views), 6th post  -Friday- (37 views), 7th post – Monday, Christmas Day- (50 views). So when we were right in the middle of the competition we reached our pick; 80% of our facebook followers checked our 4th post. That is an impressive number considering that users are bombarded with content when accessing social media.

We can assume that the number of views fell after a certain point as people are preparing for Christmas and they are on the road in order to spend Christmas with their families. The number of our facebook account followers was increased in December from 131 to 138 followers. The increase is NOT related to the competition but because we invited more people to like our page.

Still it is very encouraging that 80% of our followers on facebook check the Academous facebook page.

Twitter Results

Our competition hashtag, #findmyuni, never trended. And that’s OK. Actually we have never seen a hashtag for a competition trending. We have a small social media presence so we shouldn’t expect that.

Before we started the competition on twitter we had 161 followers. At the end of the competition, on the 26th of December we had 176 followers. That is a 10% increase and it was all organic.

In December our twitter account reached 11.7k impressions, compared to 4.5k impressions in November, and 5.6k impressions in October.


That is a 120% increase in impressions compared to November and 108% increase compared to the October impressions.

Simultaneously, there is a 147% increase in profile visits compared to November and 135% increase in profile visits compared to October. Of course we tweeted 50%  more in December compared to November and 80% more than we did in October.


twitter impressions december2november twitter impressions 2impressions october twitter 2

The boxes marked in red show the days that we posted the name of Universities for the competition. In total we increased the daily impressions by 110% compared to October and by 150% compared to November. What is interesting is the peak marked in green. No retweets are visible anymore concerning the two posts. Our guess is that the post was retweeted by an account that is now deactivated because it was a twitter bot(?).


  • If you want to increase your social media visibility, it is a good idea to design a social media competition.
  • As with all social media techniques, every social media platform works differently. So you need to design your competition accordingly. A lot of competitions on twitter ask the audience to retweet content. We didn’t. A lot of competitions on facebook ask their followers to like the page and share content. We didn’t. Also keep in mind that facebook is changing its algorithm in order to sink clickbait posts.
  • A QA competition is probably not a very engaging competition. People prefer the easy stuff. We don’t.
  • Choose the prize of the competition carefully. You need to give to your followers a gift that has a meaning for them.
  • As your social visibility increases in quantity, your conversion rate will probably decrease (less interactions to impressions or views ratio).
  • If you have a business idea and you are at an early stage it might be good to design a competition. More people will learn about your brand.
  • As with all social media techniques, don’t expect miracles. You should run a competition in social media but don’t forget to add other content in your social media accounts while running the competition.

Will we do it again? The answer is yes. Just be patient. Easter is coming.

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