4 Must-Dos For a Successful Pinterest Contest

Four Leaf

Type “Pin It To Win It” in any search engine. See that neverending list of Pinterest contests?

The good news is that brands are experimenting with Pinterest. The tricky news is that since Pinterest does not currently have any guidelines for contests, the way in which these contests are run are let’s just say, quite broad in scope.

To find common trends among all these promotions, I examined 20 different aspects of 100 Pinterest contests. I saw many of these contests through to their end date and found that the quantity and quality of entries were lower than anticipated.

It takes more than luck and Pinterest buzz to create a successful pinning contest. Here are four essentials that will improve the results of your next “Pin It To Win It” contest.

1. Map Out The Contest Goal

You need a clear business goal for your Pinterest contest. Goals might include one of the following:

  • an increase in Pinterest followers
  • more Website or blog traffic
  • feedback on pinners’ preferences (related to your brand)

Once that’s been determined, figure out how you will measure the success of that goal.  What metrics will you use to gauge success? What tools will you use to track these metrics?

This might not be the “fun” part of the contest, but is by far the important part. While Pinterest use is on the rise, your manager’s acceptance of it as a vital marketing tool is probably not. You have a better chance of impressing your boss by saying, “This is what we wanted to get out of our Pinterest contest. We measured this goal through this method. And we got these (hopefully stellar) results.”

2. Require A Follow

One factor I analyze in my Pinterest contest research is, “Does the contest require you follow the company on Pinterest?” Out of the 100 contests I reviewed, want to guess how many do not require an entrant to follow the host company on Pinterest?


That’s right — nearly half do not ask entrants to join their Pinterest boards. Why is that? Do the brands not want to engage with entrants after the contest? Or conversely, do the companies want pinners to “win and run” as I explain in my article on sweepstakes junkies? Neither one is a very sound business practice. So do it right — require the follow — even if gaining followers is not the prime goal of your contest.

3. Establish An Entry Portal

Let’s now think of how you want to gather the entries. Pinterest’s search is emerging. In other words, its search is nowhere nearly as robust as the functionality you might use every day on Twitter or Google. Thus, searching for any hashtags and brand mentions that your contest might require is not a reliable way of gathering entries.

Instead, tell your entrants to send you their submission by either:

  • posting the URL of their entries as a comment on a contest pin on *your* board
  • posting the URL of their entries on a blog post that announces the contest


  • posting the URL to a form that you create through an application like Google Docs

I’ve listed these three methods from least effective to most effective. Adding a comment to a blog post (the second bullet) is slightly better than the first choice because it will give some love to your blog or Website. The third bullet (Google Form) allows you to ask for additional information — including the point I make in the next “must do” — and presents the data in a way that is easy to use and manipulate.

4. Capture Entrants’ Email

Pinterest has no direct message or reply message function like Twitter. Nor does it have a private message feature as you’ve seen on Facebook. So you need a provide a way to contact your winner (or perhaps all entrants).

23 of the 100 contests I analyzed did not factor in way for the brand to contact the winner via messaging or email.

Using the suggested entry portals I mentioned earlier, you can require that entrants put their email address in their comments on your contest pin page or blog post. But know that many people are hesitant to put their email in such public places — especially as in this instance, it will be implicitly connected to their Pinterest page.

An alternative that some companies have used is to tell entrants to send the URL to a branded email address. (You’ll then of course have their email handy.)

However, a Google Form might again be your best bet. It is a private way for entrants to provide their URL, email, and full name (in case they used a screen name on Pinterest).

Here’s a question for YOU: Why might your business benefit from having entrants’ email addresses — besides telling them they’ve won a prize? If you’re thinking what I’m thinking, you’ll know why getting addresses is really a must do.

Ready to use these suggestions? Then take this handy chart below to map out your own Pinterest contest.


If you run (or ran) a Pinterest contest that you’re especially proud of, please let me know in the comments section! I’m always looking for happy endings.

Headline Photo Credit: Flickr CC/cygnus921


3 responses to this post.

  1. […] Type “Pin It To Win It” in any search engine. See that neverending list of Pinterest contests? The good news is that brands are experimenting with Pinterest. The tricky news is that sin…  […]


  2. […] Type “Pin It To Win It” in any search engine. See that neverending list of Pinterest contests? The good news is that brands are experimenting with Pinterest. The tricky news is that sin…  […]


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