Social media has breathed new life into the time-tested promotions of contests and sweepstakes. People like getting stuff for free and social media has made it easier for brands to connect with their audiences through contests, sweepstakes and other giveaways.

Using social media to run contests may be a great opportunity for your brand to rapidly grow the fan base, build awareness and create amazing engagement with your target audience.

Here are three keys to running a successful contest:

1. Have a goal and a target audience. Know what you want to achieve – Is it engagement? Brand awareness? – and make sure the promotion is designed to reach your target audience.

2. Keep it simple. Don’t ask users to do too much. They may not have the time or patience.

3. Have clear instructions. You would think that should go without saying, right? You would be wrong.

A well-planned contest can yield amazing results. That’s what we found after developing and executing two turnkey contests for Irving Oil when it was looking to leverage its new sponsorship with the Boston Red Sox.

The goal was to build brand awareness across New England and increase Facebook page likes. Our solution was developing and executing two campaigns utilizing Facebook’s geo-targeting and demographic targeting capabilities.

The first campaign engaged Facebook users by asking them to like one of three posts offering a chance to win four tickets to an upcoming Red Sox game. The second campaign tested a user’s Red Sox knowledge for a chance to win a “Red Sox DestiNATION” package that also included tickets to a game.

The games were simple and the instructions were clear. The results were remarkable.

The campaign yielded over a million impressions and an organic reach of 46,889 Facebook users. We also saw a click-through-rate of six percent (average is one percent) with an overall CPC of $0.08 (average is $0.58).

The engagement numbers were impressive, as well. Irving Oil was able to increase page likes by 13 percent and the posts generated 6,250 comments and 1,280 post shares. That’s a lot of engagement.

The contest winners had a great time at Fenway Park. They posted pictures on Irving Oil’s Facebook page, generating more comments, likes and shares even after the contests ended.

The contests capitalized on the strong emotional connection between the Red Sox and their fans – even during what turned out to be a losing season for the team. The Red Sox imagery we incorporated into the posts resonated with fans. The trivia questions sparked debate and conversation.

The contests introduced Irving Oil to a larger audience that they continue to engage with ongoing sweepstakes on social media that tie into promotions at their retail locations.

To further align our client with the Boston Red Sox, we developed a new series of social media contests for the 2016 season that has already started.