3 Ideas for TikTok Contests to Drive Engagement with Examples

Released in 2016, TikTok has grown into the sixth-largest social network in the world. That puts it ahead of Snapchat, Pinterest, and Twitter. With 100 million active users in the United States alone, the platform is rapidly rising up the ranks of the most popular social networks.

While its user base mainly consists of Gen-Z, with 16-24 year-olds accounting for 41% of all users, the number of users that are 40 and older is on the rise. This means that small businesses with a younger target market should already have a TikTok presence, while those with an older one should consider developing a TikTok strategy sooner rather than later.

Statistic: Distribution of TikTok users in the United States as of March 2021, by age group | Statista

Another thing that sets TikTok apart from other social networking sites is that you don’t need to have a large following to go viral, allowing you to reach an audience beyond just your followers, provided your content is engaging enough. This makes it an excellent platform for small businesses to share their brand and reach new audiences.

An effective way for small businesses to increase engagement on TikTok is by running a contest. While similar to running a contest on other platforms, running a TikTok contest does require a couple of considerations, including:

  • Understanding what content performs well on TikTok to maximize engagement,
  • Reading TikTok’s Community Guidelines to ensure your contest follows the rules.

Before we dive into the meat and potatoes of TikTok contests let’s see what you can expect in this article:

  1. Planning your TikTok Contest
  2. The difference between TikTok Challenges and Contests
  3. 3 Ideas for TikTok Contests with Examples



Planning your TikTok Contest

While having the right idea for your TikTok contest is vital, you need to plan it out properly to ensure that it has the best chance of success. While the goal here is to drive engagement, you may have others, which you need to make clear before coming up with the contest.

Knowing your goal will allow you to decide on which metrics to track and how to track them. You’ll also need to come up with a hashtag for the contest so you can monitor entries.

To promote your TikTok contest there are a number of options available to you. These include:

  • Partnering with TikTok - this is an expensive option meant primarily for big brands
  • Hiring an influencer - while this too can be pricey depending on their following, micro-influencers are a good option for small businesses to increase their reach
  • Offer a prize enticing enough to spread the word organically

The difference between TikTok Challenges and Contests

One important thing to note is that TikTok contests and TikTok challenges can seem similar but shouldn’t be confused.

A TikTok challenge is an organic trend that isn’t controlled by a brand or business and, due to its viral nature, sees contributions from around the world. One of the biggest examples from 2020 is the Renegade Challenge which required participants to master a 15-step choreographed sequence. It took TikTok by storm, with celebrities from Kourtney Kardashian to Oprah getting in on the fun, generating over 2.5 billion views in the process.

@bigshwangnick

“renegade” dance tutorial ?? #dance #tutorial #foryou #fyp #renegade #DealDropDance #streamingwars #onthecourt #BornToGlow #makemefamous

♬ Hardest Dance Tutorial - nick joseph ?

On the other hand, a TikTok contest is (largely) controlled by a brand or business and will feature a prize, a timeframe, may require a landing page, and rules that outline how participants can enter.

TikTok contests might use the mechanics of TikTok challenges, but it’s very rare for a contest to become a challenge.

While running a TikTok ad campaign can give good results, if you want to cost-effectively drive engagement for your small business with an audience beyond your followers, a TikTok contest is a powerful strategy that can deliver the results you’re after.

Monitoring TikTok trends is a helpful way of understanding what type of content resonates with users. While there are no set rules to follow when coming up with ideas for TikTok contests, there are a couple of things you should keep in mind. These include:

  • Keeping the challenge simple and accessible
  • Encouraging authenticity and creativity

If you don’t understand TikTok analytics, it can be tough to know what kind of contest ideas would perform well on TikTok. As TikTok themselves say, “don’t make ads, make TikToks.” To help, we’ve found X ideas for TikTok contests with examples that you can adapt for your small business.



3 Ideas for TikTok Contests with Examples

1. Get your audience dancing

This type of contest builds on dance challenges, one of the most popular challenge formats on TikTok. A typical dance challenge will require participants to master a sequence of dance moves set to music. Examples of these include the previously mentioned ‘Renegade Challenge’ or the ‘Tootsie Slide Challenge’ started by Drake. When it comes to brands, Chipotle, with its “#GuacDance Challenge,” is a perfect example of a business doing a dance challenge right.

Chipotle “#GuacDance Challenge”

Based on the popularity of these types of challenges, Chipotle launched its’ #GuacDance challenge, which asked participants to create their interpretation of a ‘guacamole dance’ in exchange for a free serving of guacamole.

The challenge, which featured the viral “Guacamole Song” by children’s musician Dr. Jean, received 250,000 video submissions and 430 million video starts over six days. The result was Chipotle’s biggest guacamole day ever, with more than 800,000 sides of guacamole served.

@brentrivera

When guacamole is free @chipotle when you order online/in-app on July 31st? #GuacDance #ad

♬ The Guacamole Song - Dr. Jean

2. Get creative with your brand

TikTok users love showing their creativity and unique take on things. Encouraging them to remix your brand or use your products in exciting ways is a fantastic way to increase engagement with your brand and to showcase your products in user-generated content organically.

Two brands that successfully built on this idea were Crocs and Mercedes Benz. Let's take a look at how they applied this strategy.

Crocs “#ThousandDollarCrocs Challenge”

Crocs was already featuring in viral content before joining TikTok. This was thanks to organically created challenges such as the “Shaving Cream Challenge,” where people stepped into shaving cream-filled Crocs. Another example was the “Crocs Shoe-Throwing Challenge,” where participants show how Crocs always land flat on their sole when thrown up in the air.

Building on this interest around their brand, Crocs joined TikTok and gained over 100,000 followers in a week. To build on this momentum, Crocs decided to launched a competition in partnership with musician Post Malone whose song "I’m Gonna Be" contained the lyrics, "Richard Mille my watch; thousand dollar Crocs.”

Through the #ThousandDollarCrocs challenge, Crocs asked its fans to share what they thought their $1,000 Crocs would look like "by customizing, enhancing, or by just embodying the Come As You Are mentality and letting the world know I’m gonna be whatever I want."

The campaign offered the winner a pair of $1000 Crocs, leading to an 18% increase in TikTok followers in the first 24 hours.

@brittany_broski

y’all can stay mad. Me n Posty stay dressin ? #ThousandDollarCrocs @crocs #sponsored

♬ original sound - Brittany

Mercedes Benz “#MBStar Challenge”

With Gen-Z and millennials making up 40% of car owners on the road, Mercedes Benz knew it needed to increase brand awareness and engagement amongst that demographic. They did this through the #MBStar campaign, which encouraged TikTok users to get creative with Mercedes Benz’s famous star logo for a chance to be featured on their Instagram page.

Running only in the UK and Germany, the campaign had over 70,000 participants and more than 800 million video views. The luxury car brand also gained more than 30,000 new followers.

@mercedesbenz

Join us for the #MBStarChallenge and show us how you let our star shine! #MercedesBenz @laurieelle

♬ Shape like a shining star - Mercedes

3. Encourage self-confidence & positivity

Authenticity is critical on TikTok, and content that speaks to this performs well. Users of the platform value encouraging self-confidence and promoting positivity and will tend to engage more with brands that reflect these values.

Both Ralph Lauren and e.l.f. cosmetics are perfect examples of how authentic content resonates on TikTok and testifies the type of engagement that this strategy can produce.

e.l.f. cosmetics “Eyes Lips Face Challenge”

One of TikTok’s most successful branded hashtag challenges to date is e.l.f. cosmetics’ ‘Eyes Lips Face Challenge’ which has generated over 5 million user-generated videos and more than 6 billion views.

The cosmetics brand commissioned a song called “Eyes. Lips. Face.” specifically for the challenge, a first in TikTok marketing, and asked participants to show their self-confident moves for a chance at winning $250 worth of e.l.f. Cosmetics makeup and skincare products.

Not only did the campaign result in a massive amount of entries, but it also gained organic traction with celebrities such as Lizzo, Kevin Hart, and Jessica Alba jumping on board without payment. Thanks to the song’s popularity on TikTok, e.l.f. released a music video and a full-length version on streaming platforms where it reached #4 on Spotify’s Global Viral Chart.

@jessicaalba

#eyeslipsface my errryday look #honestbeauty #cleanbeauty

♬ Eyes. Lips. Face. (e.l.f.) - iLL Wayno & Holla FyeSixWun

Ralph Lauren “#WinningRL challenge”

Building off its sponsorship of the US Open, Ralph Lauren created the #WinningRL campaign, promoted via a series of sponsored and organic videos starring “Booksmart” actress and tennis enthusiast Diana Silvers.

The challenge asked users to post videos showing how they are “winning in life,” with the three videos with the highest engagement winning Ralph Lauren US Open apparel.

Ralph Lauren went even further than a standard branded hashtag challenge using TikTok’s branded hashtag plus feature. This feature allowed the user to shop its US Open collection directly from the app.

To date, the campaign has amassed over 800 million views.

@lani.baker

What does #WinningRL look like in your day? ??☕️?? @ralphlauren #ad

♬ Clap - TikTok アシスタント

Gymshark “66 Days | Change Your Life Challenge”

Taking advantage of the popularity of fitness content on TikTok, fitness clothing brand Gymshark launched a simple but effective campaign that called for participants to set a personal goal that they would like to achieve in 66 days.

To stand the chance of winning a year’s supply of Gymshark goods participants had to post a picture at the beginning of the challenge and a reply to that picture 66 days later tagged with #gymshark66.

Gymshark partnered with a number of twin TikTok influencers, another popular trend on the platform. This strategy helped them to achieve an overall average engagement rate of 11.11%, with the #gymshark66 hashtag receiving 45.5 million views.

An example of how to effectively utilize influencers on the platform, the campaign also highlights the importance of understanding the strengths of the platform.

@francescapitt0n

Thank you so much for all the support ❤️ I will see you guys in a few days ??? #gymshark66 #gymshark #getfranfit @gymshark

♬ ily (i love you baby) - Surf Mesa

Wrapping Up

From the above examples, it should be clear that the type of content that does well on TikTok is very different from what performs on Facebook or even Instagram. Trends and challenges perform the best, but users also value authenticity. For that reason, if you’re planning on running a TikTok contest, you must adjust your strategy to match the platform.

As a relatively new platform, knowing what works on TikTok can be tricky. However, the ideas for TikTok contests listed above are proven examples of strategies that have been successful on the platform. These ideas are:

  1. Getting your audience dancing
  2. Getting creative with your brand
  3. Encouraging self-confidence and positivity

While it’s impossible to predict what works, using the ideas and examples given above as jumping-off points for your next TikTok contest will greatly increase your chances of creating one that is engaging and successful.


Written by Themba

Themba is a writer and content creator that has worn hats ranging from copywriter to culture journalist. When he is not writing he enjoys nothing more than tending to his cactus collection.