How to use social media to build awareness for your awards program

You know you have an amazing awards program. But how can you let the world know, too? Because, the more entries you have, the greater the pool of entries you can assess or adjudicate and quality of winner(s) to select. So, how can you create awareness for your program that draws top submissions, judges, sponsors and results? 

Program growth starts with building awareness. People need to know about your program to participate in it, and social media is a great tool to use as a microphone to your community. Here are 7 ways you can spread the word about your recognition program.

1. Find your audience.
If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there, does it still make a sound? It’s important to make sure you aren’t sending messages into the ether without an audience. But, where is your audience?

With so many social media channels out there, you don’t want to waste your time in the wrong space. You want to meet your community where they are. For example, if you’re awarding art or architecture or other visual content, Instagram is a great option to showcase their work. If you’re looking to recruit younger participants, according to the Pew Research Center, you might want to consider YouTube, Instagram or SnapChat, the three most popular social platforms for teens.

If you’re not sure where your participants might spend their time scrolling (or watching), check out demographics on typical social media use such as the one shown here from the Pew Research Center.

2. Create a hashtag for virality.
Hashtags are a great way to connect your community around your program. Include these in all your marketing materials and submission success messaging so your entrants can share on social to say, “Look what I’ve entered!” and include the hashtag.

Use your program name and the current year in the hashtag so you can revisit each year’s submissions across social media, and re-share when relevant. It’s also a great way for your participants to look for up-to-date information and announcements about your program, and clever when it comes to search and keyword algorithms for recent and relevant topics.

Tip: Choose your hashtag at least one month before your program opens for entries so you can market it throughout your entire program lifecycle.

Program hashtags.png

3. Cross-promote with your sponsors.
Many programs have sponsors to help fund the program, and in return, your sponsors are looking for ways to promote their product or service as well. Social media is the perfect place for cross-promotion. Promote their role in your program, and ask them to reciprocate by promoting your program on their social media channels for increased visibility across both brands.

4. Highlight your judges.
Judges are an integral part of many awards programs, and they are often well-known, high-profile people in your industry. Make sure you create space on your recognition program marketing website for featuring your judges by providing their bios and other relevant information. Ideas for their bios include a photo, their relevant career information, and links to their work or social media handles.

This content not only adds credibility for your program, but it’s also compelling for your program participants. Be sure to tag your judges and ask them to re-share, and don’t forget your program hashtag!

5. Share important dates – before entries open.
When you first start planning your social media strategy, be sure to note your program’s important dates and plan to share them well ahead of the entries open period. Create multiple posts for sharing and reminding your audience about your program dates. When do entries open? Close? When will judging begin? Let your community know so they can plan in advance on entering your program

6. Provide the details: What’s in it for them?
What will your winners receive? As much as we’d like to think they’re in it for the simple recognition, many entrants will want to know the exact prize, reward or recognition they will receive – and whether it is worth their time to enter in the first place. An external reward is still the biggest motivator for entry into an awards program, whether that is peer adulation, cash monies, and/or recognition in the industry space that comes along with it. Temp your program participants into entering the by sharing links to your awards across social media.


7. Pay to play with sponsored ads.
If you want to get your program in front of more potential participants, social media advertising is a very effective way to target specific users and interests. Think about your participants. What interests them? Where are they? What groups, clubs, or industry associations do they belong to? Answer these questions and you’ll be able to get your program advertisement in front of a highly targeted audience.

For example, if you are running an awards program for architects, you can target users on Facebook who are interested in architecture and follow an industry association like the Architectural Association School of Architecture, or who follow publications such as Architectural Digest.

Read more about building social media into your program: 5 Actionable tips to better integrate social media into your awards program