How to contact winners
Running a prize draw or competition on social media should be easy if promoters follow the platform rules, have a clear set of Terms & Conditions and choose a valid winner. But it’s contacting the winner – and getting a response! – that can be the difficult part. Here are a few pointers on the most reliable ways promoters can get in touch with their lucky winners.
First of all – a reminder. Here in the UK, every prize draw and competition should follow the CAP Code, which is enforced by the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority). The ASA guidance on prize-winners states:
Terms and conditions should be clear on how winners will be contacted. If there are time limits on claiming prizes these should be made clear in the terms and conditions and confirmation of entry communications to avoid unnecessary disappointment. Promoters must take adequate steps to alert winners to the fact they have won
What to say when contacting a winner
- If contacting by email, rather than on social media, use their full name, or Instagram/Twitter username so the email looks personal and genuine.
- Tell them exactly what prize they’ve won, and when they can expect to receive it
- If possible, include a link to the competition details, or the website/social media profile, as a reminder.
- Give a deadline for responding/claiming the prize. In an ideal world this should follow CAP guidelines and be 28 days, but it’s usually less. With date specific prizes, it could be that a response within hours is necessary!
Why it’s better to contact the winner BEFORE announcing their name
- the winner might not be eligible to win (eg. they live outside the UK, or are under 18)
- the winner might not see an announcement until 6 months later, when the promoter has awarded the prize to someone else – CAP Code 8.2 states promoters ‘must avoid causing unnecessary disappointment’
- they might not want the prize any more and turn it down (particularly relevant for events, or holidays on set dates)
Only when the winner has accepted the prize, and the promoter is sure the winner is eligible, should they announce it on a website or social channels. This is why sometimes we might be waiting a long time to hear of a winner – some agencies have to try contacting several winners, allowing the full 28 days each time, before they successfully hear back. That’s why entrants should be patient – and don’t chase a promoter for the winner’s details 24 hours after a competition has closed!
How to contact a winner on Facebook
If running a Facebook competition, promoters should ask people to comment as part of the entry method. Then it’s easy to click Message under the winner’s comment and contact them directly.
If a page didn’t ask for a comment as a condition of entry, and have chosen from post or page likes, they can only message using a personal Facebook account of one of the page admins – and that’s when the message is likely to disappear to the Message requests or Filtered Messages folders, possibly never to be seen!
Most pages will announce a winner in a new post or a new comment, asking the winners themselves to message the page with their details. But asking a winner to message the page first (rather than the page messaging them) isn’t a good idea, because in some situations, people have actually cloned a winner’s Facebook account to claim the prize!
There’s also the risk that two people with the same name entered your competition – this happened to Truprint, who announced Rachel Thompson as their £1500 holiday voucher winner. Two Rachel Thompsons had commented on the post, and both excitedly contacted the promoter, but while the quickest responder received the prize, the second was only offered a £50 consolation voucher. A disappointing situation which could have been avoided if Truprint had contacted the winner privately.
How to contact a winner on Instagram
On Instagram, promoters should contact a winner via Direct Message. If the winner and the brand follow each other the message should show in the regular inbox and trigger a notification. If they’re not mutual followers, it may appear as a message request at the top of the inbox. The problem with these is that there’s no notification or red dot to signify a new message, so it could remain unseen by the winner for weeks! If a DM doesn’t get a response, leaving a comment on their entry asking them to send a Direct Message should be the next option.
How to contact a winner on Twitter
On Twitter, promoters should follow the winner (this notification by itself is sometimes enough for them to know they’ve won!) and send a Direct Message – they could ask them to respond on Twitter, or give an email address for them to contact. When they’ve responded and claimed the prize, the promoter can tag them in a tweet to announce it too.
Contacting winners by phone
People are very nervous about cold callers and might not answer a call from an Unknown or Witheld number! The problem is, many companies won’t leave a voicemail message to let someone know they’ve won a prize. They will try to call a few times, and if there’s no answer they will move on to call a new winner.
Leaving a voicemail is risky – the winner could be out of the country or not notice they have a message. If the winner listens to their voicemail and it’s too late, that would cause disappointment. The best way to handle it is to call a few times, and if there’s no answer then leave a message telling them they’re a potential winner, and asking them to call back before a certain deadline.
Tip for compers – if you miss a call, google the number. If it’s a PR company, brand or prize fulfilment agency, call them back – you’ve got nothing to lose!
Contacting winners by email
There are far too many scam emails sent these days, and lots of people are understandably wary when they spot ‘Congratulations!’ in their inbox.
The best way to ensure an email isn’t dismissed as junk or spam is to use a subject line that references your winner’s name OR the competition/prize/promoter – rather than just ‘Winner’ or ‘Congratulations’.
eg. Congratulations – you’re the SuperLucky prize draw winner! or
Congratulations Gill – you’ve won a KitchenAid mixer!
Add your contact and company details in the signature, and a phone number if possible. If it’s necessary to ask for ID to be scanned and sent across, explain why (eg. because the prize is alcohol or an 18 rated DVD!).
Don’t ask a winner to email!
We see this all the time on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook – a winner is announced in a new post, and the page asks a winner to email their details through to firstname.lastname@example.org. But the promoter has no way of validating that an incoming email is from the same person who won the competition, and sadly scammers have been known to successfully claim prizes this way. It’s best to pass on an email address via a message on social media first.
If there’s no response from the winner
Advice on the ASA website states that promoters must continue trying to contact the winner if their first attempt is unsuccessful.
Promoters must take adequate steps to alert winners to the fact they have won. The ASA has ruled that ringing a winner once… is not sufficient. In social media, announcing the winner once (for example as a public tweet, post, message or responding on a comments feed) is unlikely to be sufficient.
If a message goes unanswered, try contacting publicly by tagging the winner in a tweet, a Facebook comment or a comment on their Instagram post.
If there’s no response to an email, search for the email address by putting it into the search bar on Facebook to see if there’s an account using that email address, and message them.
Promoters and bloggers are also welcome to join my own Competition Winners group on Facebook – if the winner is a member, they can tag them in a post.
Announcing the winner
The CAP Code states that promoters must publish winner’s names on request. This doesn’t need to be public (it can be as a response to an email or private message) – but it’s best practice to announce a social media winner on the platform that the competition was hosted on.
- On Twitter, tag the winner in a tweet
- On Instagram, tag them on the original competition post, or publish a new post announcing the winner and tagging them
- On Facebook, announce it as a comment on the original competition post, or edit it in (eg. include **COMP NOW CLOSED – WINNER WAS JACKIE LUCKY** at the top of the original post), or announce in a new post.
- On a blog giveaway, announce in the Rafflecopter or Gleam widget
If it was a creative competition, it’s a nice idea to share the winning photo, video or tiebreaker entry too.
Read more in my post Do promoters have to publish winners names?