Social Media & Influencer Marketing

ShortStack: How To Create a #Hashtag Contest on Social Media

If you’re searching for a strategy that can expand your brand’s reach, spark active engagement, and enrich your user-generated content (UGC), a hashtag contest might be the tool you’ve been seeking.

UGC is an often-underestimated goldmine in the world of digital marketing. It refers to any form of content — text, videos, images, reviews, etc., created by people rather than brands. UGC brings numerous benefits to the marketing table, providing an authentic, relatable, and diverse perspective of your brand from the users themselves.

One key advantage of UGC is that it encourages active engagement. Instead of passively absorbing advertisements, users become participants in the brand’s narrative. This not only creates a more interactive experience but it can also foster a stronger connection between your brand and your customers.

Acting as a powerful source of social proof, 79 percent of consumers say their purchasing decisions are highly influenced by user-generated content. In comparison, only 8 percent of people say that celebrity or social media influencer content highly impacts their purchasing decisions—making UGC 9.8x more influential than social influencers.


Creating a hashtag contest is an excellent way to harness the power of UGC. By encouraging your audience to post content related to your brand under a specific hashtag, you can quickly generate a substantial volume of authentic content. ShortStack takes this a step further by offering features that can automate and streamline the contest process, from initial creation to winner selection.


ShortStack is a digital marketing platform that assists businesses in creating contests, landing pages, quizzes, and other interactive content that can drive engagement, gather user data, and foster a deeper relationship between brands and their audiences. With the ability to easily integrate with popular social media networks, ShortStack empowers brands to reach and engage with their audience where they are already active.

How To Create A Hashtag Contest In ShortStack

ShortStack‘s intuitive interface and rich feature set make setting up and running your hashtag contest easy. It allows you to create a dedicated landing page for your contest, where you can establish rules, display user submissions, and highlight winners.

  1. Define a Goal: Clearly define your aim with your hashtag contest. This could be to build brand awareness or generate content for future marketing campaigns.
  2. Create a Hashtag: Create a unique, catchy hashtag that is easy to remember and can set your contest entries apart. Make sure it’s specific enough not to pull in unrelated posts.
  3. Establish Contest Rules: Create rules or terms and conditions for your contest. This is essential to prevent cheating and protect your business. If you’re not comfortable writing these yourself, consider using a template.
  4. Display Your Rules on a Landing Page: Once your rules are ready, display them on a landing page and link that page from your contest promotions. This ensures that participants know the guidelines and what to expect.
  5. View Entries: Set up a system to view your contest entries. Instagram and Twitter allow for hashtag searches, but software like ShortStack can make this process easier by creating a feed that pulls in entries.
  6. Choose a Winner: ShortStack provides a simple and fair system for choosing winners. You specify how many winners you want and let the software do the rest.
  7. Display the Entries: Increase your contest’s exposure by displaying entries in a gallery, either on a landing page or embedded on your website. This can boost your brand’s visibility and allow for additional contest elements like voting or sharing.
  8. Collect Subscribers: Consider including an entry form to collect email subscribers, further increasing your brand reach and potential customer base.

ShortStack’s moderation features allow you to control the user content associated with your brand. This ensures that your hashtag contest stays on-brand and within your established guidelines. ShortStack also allows you to track the success of your contest in real-time, ensuring you have all the data you need to assess and optimize your strategy.

Case Study: Cruise Lines International Association

In a remarkable case study, Cruise Lines International Association demonstrated the immense potential of hashtag contests. The world’s largest cruise industry trade organization used this digital marketing strategy to promote its Plan a Cruise Month initiative to a new audience, bringing in a staggering 106,000 entries. The campaign aimed to encourage a wide array of cruise experiences to a new audience, encompassing adventure seekers, solo travelers, families, and foodies. To bring their vision to life, CLIA partnered with ShortStack, leveraging their expertise to create a dedicated landing page (microsite), which served as the central hub for the contest.

The hashtag contest involved participants posting selfies on Instagram or Twitter using the hashtags #CruiseSmile, or filling out a form on the microsite. This multi-pronged approach to entries and the contest’s ease of entry led to an overwhelming success, far surpassing their target entry count. The contest successfully promoted the cruise line’s diverse offerings and facilitated meaningful engagement, reinforcing the utility of hashtag contests in achieving business goals.

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Douglas Karr

Douglas Karr is CMO of OpenINSIGHTS and the founder of the Martech Zone. Douglas has helped dozens of successful MarTech startups, has assisted in the due diligence of over $5 bil in Martech acquisitions and investments, and continues to assist companies in implementing and automating their sales and marketing strategies. Douglas is an internationally recognized digital transformation and MarTech expert and speaker. Douglas is also a published author of a Dummie's guide and a business leadership book.

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