Amassing large social-media audiences is tricky in crowded online spaces, but sweepstakes and contests can be used as powerful enticements. Done correctly, promotions can quickly and easily generate large followings of the right audience at an acceptable cost.  

At KontrolFreek, we’ve been able to grow our social audiences and email lists quickly and meaningfully by hosting social-media contests and sweepstakes without spending a ton of money. Using these strategies, KontrolFreek has built a huge and passionate social following for a small business, with 319,000 fans on Facebook and 259,000 followers on Twitter, and rising.

Related: How to Create a Successful Twitter Contest

Below is the formula we've found successful to build promotions that have significantly and repeatedly helped grow our social presence, increase community engagement and, most importantly, drive sales. It’s a formula we believe any company can employ to increase their social audience through contests and promotions.

1. Define your objectives. A crucial starting point for any promotion is to determine what you want it to achieve. Do you want to grow Twitter followers, Facebook likes or email captures? Maybe you want to encourage user-generated content, such as photos, or maybe you want a combination of some or all of the above.

Once you’ve identified your desired results, you can construct a strategy to achieve them. A brief is a good way to summarize the promotion and articulate the desired outcomes, strategy and other important details such as timing, budget and partners.

2. Target the audience you want. For the promotion to be meaningful, it’s vital that it correctly targets your audience, ensuring that your brand, messaging and products are relevant. What’s an extra 50,000 Facebook fans if they’re not interested in your products?

Fortunately, targeting has gotten a lot easier in the digital age. You can purchase look-alike traffic from advertisers such as Facebook, or you can enlist your current fans and partners to help you spread the word.

3. Use a social promotion app. There are a number of companies (Sideqik, Offerpop, Woobox, etc.) that plug into various social platforms and make it easy to run a contest across multiple social sites while encouraging social actions (follows, likes, etc.), enabling virality and providing reporting.

Related: What You Don't Know About Sweepstakes and Contests May Hurt You

4. Lower the barriers to entry. Fan videos and photos can be a lot of fun and are ripe for content-marketing opportunities, but these kinds of high-effort actions will significantly lower the number of entries. If you’re seeking the highest level of participation, make the barriers to entry low.

Try a simple sweepstakes with increasing rewards for additional actions. For example, a participant could simply like your Facebook page to be entered, or they could share with friends for additional entries and Pin a product photo or Tweet for even more entries.

5. Offer compelling prizes. High value, hard-to-get prizes generate buzz and encourage fans to enter a contest that they might not enter otherwise. Look for prizes that uniquely appeal to your audience.

For KontrolFreek, this often equates to hot new gaming consoles and games. This will help with your targeting goals and filter out professional “sweepstakers.”

6. Recruit quality partners. Identify and reach out to influencers and personalities in your industry to help you promote the contest. The best partners bring credibility, reach and audience. In return, the contest can provide exposure for them, help them grow their social followings and generate goodwill.

Identifying partners with an audience similar to yours also helps you meet your targeting objectives. Motivating your partners by offering a prize to the highest-performing partner can encourage them to promote more frequently.

7. Encourage virality. Whenever possible, incentivize your audience to share the contest through their own social channels. Most of the top social promotion apps today make sharing simple and easy.

8. Measure, critique and learn. After every promotion, assess your results to see where you were successful and where you fell short. Note your findings and incorporate them into your next promotion.