Social media contests are a great way to promote your company and increase your visibility online. Outside the price of the prize, social media contests are essentially free, which is a great bonus.

Successful contests can create customers for life, and, by engaging your target audience and customer base in an interactive experience, you're creating a memorable bond between your brand and your target audience.

But not all companies have successful experiences with social media contests. For best results, follow these social media contest do's and don'ts for effective marketing.

Five Do's...

1. Choose the right type of contest

Consider what type of contest best suits your interests and your audience. Sweepstakes are easy to enter, but media (photos, video, essay, etc.) contests give you more content for your site and page. There are benefits to each type of contest; the ideal choice depends on what would be most suitable and appealing to your audience.

Also take into consideration the way that the winners are chosen. Should the voting be entirely left up to the public, via likes, retweets, etc.? Should just one person be appointed judge? Should there be a council of judges? Which approach is most appropriate again varies by circumstance and situation. Be wary that open voting can easily lead to cheating, but an exclusive, inaccessible judge or group of judges can make things seem less "real."

2. Set boundaries

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Olivia Lin writes for Fahrenheit Marketing, an online marketing firm based in Austin, TX.

LinkedIn: Olivia Lin