Social Media Challenge Ideas: The Full A-Z Guide To Running Your Own Online Challenge

social media challenge ideas

I grew my email list by over 15,000 using this social media challenge idea… and in today’s all-new AccessAlly tell-all post, I show you how you can too.

Many people have seen the popular 30 Day List Building Challenge that we’ve been running for the past few years… some people say it’s the best training on list building, and even better than many paid trainings they’ve purchased.

That warms my heart.

I’ve also noticed that many people who take the challenge decide they want to start their own “many day challenge” around their topic of expertise.

Maybe it’s a self-love challenge, a meditation challenge, a fitness challenge, or even a bust through your blocks challenge.

I’m all for it – and today I’m going to share with you exactly how we created our challenge, and how you can learn from our mistakes along the way… so that your challenge can help you build your email list with engaged participants and potentially help you sell more of your programs and offerings, too.

Decide On The Purpose Of Your Online Challenge

The first thing I recommend you get clear on is the purpose of your social media challenge. Is it to grow your email list or to grow your social media following?

In my case, it was for list building. You’ll be able to use the tips I’m offering in this post whether you want to grow your social media following or your email list, but how you’ll go about it might differ.

WordPress membership automation
If you plan to use the challenge to grow your email list, then you’ll want to make the content of the challenge mostly email based. In our case, we used our AccessAlly membership plugin for WordPress to build our a members area where people could go back and access previous days of the challenge, too.

You may decide to create a space to host the content of the challenge you’re creating, especially if you use videos to motivate your participants.

But you might also decide that the challenge will take place mainly on social media. If that’s the case, then you can still have a way for your audience to opt-in to an email list and join the challenge officially…

Or, you make the call to action to share the challenge on social media. More on that in a moment.

How many days should your social media challenge be?

This is a big decision, especially if you plan to use the challenge to connect with people and motivate them to sign up for a paid program down the line.

30 Day List Building Challenge

When I set out to create the 30 Day List Building Challenge, I picked 30 days because it was a challenge I was issuing to myself to double my list in 30 days… and I figured that I could make a big push toward my goal in that amount of time.

However, having had thousands of people go through my 30 day challenge, I’ve noticed a trend.

It’s actually really hard for people to “stay on the wagon” of your challenge much longer than 10 days. Yes, some people will happily be able to complete every single day of your challenge… but others will fall behind and feel overwhelmed if your challenge is much longer.

That’s why I recommend putting together a challenge that’s between 7 to 14 days. You could even do a 5 day challenge, because sometimes less is more.

What you don’t want to happen is have a lot of excitement and connection that fizzles out after awhile… especially before the end of the challenge, when you’ll likely be opening up registration for a paid program.

So my advice? Keep it shorter, or be ready to “sell” something sooner rather than at the end of your challenge.

If you've gone through our challenge, you'll notice that we recommend our PopupAlly Pro plugin on Day 7 – since it fits with what we're teaching, but it's also more likely that people will get to day 7 than to day 29.

Click to get the 6 membership site models and case studies

Social Media Challenge Ideas To Spread The Word

One of the benefits of orchestrating an online challenge is that it gets people on board, and usually with their friends, too.

Think about it: when you find something cool, you just want to share it with your friends and family, don’t you?

That’s exactly the type of feeling you want to create for your challenge participants.

This works whether you’re creating a challenge in the B2B space or not, and in fact it works even better when it’s not in the business space because most of the time people are connected with their friends and family on social media… and not everyone has a business.

Social Media Challenge Idea

Build in social sharing as part of the challenge itself. In our 30 Day List Building Challenge, I ask people to join our private Facebook group – and that in itself also gets the word out about the challenge… Every day we have people discovering the group on Facebook, and then signing up for the challenge as a result.

I also ask people to share that they’re participating in the challenge, with some pre-written tweets and Facebook messages, too.

This enables your challenge to pick up speed, and start to grow organically over time.

I’m seeing more people starting Facebook groups to coincide with a challenge or other initiative and my big piece of advice for you is to have a plan to handle that growth. As our group has continued to grow and evolve, it’s become increasingly difficult to manage the overly promotional posts and spam accounts.

The benefit of a Facebook group over a Facebook page is that groups tend to get better engagement than pages do.

Choosing a Hashtag and Social Sharing

Another powerful piece of running a challenge is that you can start to build up a social media campaign, using a hashtag on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

I sometimes get questions from people who aren’t sure what a hashtag is, how you create one, and why you’d want to use one. And trust me, that’s not a silly question at all!

What is a hashtag? A hashtag is basically a short keyword or phrase preceded by the “hashtag” or number sign: #.

It can be used to search, and some of the early uses of hashtags on Twitter were for conference attendees to tag their posts so that other attendees could find them.

For instance, if you were attending Off The Charts Live, you might tweet something like this:

“We’re heading out for drinks at Sambuca tonight at 7pm, anyone from #offthechartslive is welcome to join us!”

So anyone who was following the #OffTheChartsLive hashtag would easily see this message, and feel included to attend. Now, hashtags have evolved a lot since those first few use cases. They’re a little like an SEO keyword, but anyone can create their own.

No one “owns” hashtags, so that means you’ll want to search to see if anyone has used a hashtag you’re thinking of using beforehand… If it’s an acronym, it’s quite possible that other events or businesses might have used it already.

To create a hashtag, just start posting on any social network with it. You’ll notice that on Instagram hashtags are extremely popular, and sometimes people create funny ones that are just meant as inside jokes. Like #pleasedontstopsendingchocolate.

These aren’t being used strategically to start a movement or spread a message, but they’re fun!

All of that being said, using a hashtag for your challenge can pique people’s curiosity and if you’re asking people to share an image on Instagram and use your hashtag, it can create a great mosaic of your challenge participants and help you get more followers on these social networks, too.

Plus, if a hashtag starts to get used a lot, it can “trend” and be shown to more people who will be curious to see what it's all about.

How To Make Your Challenge Evergreen

Now, I highly recommend putting together a challenge that you can re-use at a future date. The first time you run a challenge you’ll always be starting small… and things tend to pick up speed and momentum over time.

Sometimes, by the time people find out about your challenge, it’s just winding down and there are just a few days left. So be prepared to have people asking you when the next time you’ll be running the challenge is going to be.

Better yet, the way you set up your challenge the first time could be in an evergreen fashion.

What do I mean by evergreen? In this case, if you’re using email to run your challenge, you can set up each day or week of your challenge to happen via an autoresponder sequence.

That way, you’re not expected to turn up at your computer each morning of your challenge to hit send on a fresh email. You’ve already set these up ahead of time, and you can even have someone help you set this up.

In our 30 Day List Building Challenge, we unlock each video one day at a time, and we do that through a combination of our AccessAlly plugin and marketing automation tags.

How to create a list building challenge

Your challenge might not need to be that advanced, and you can start with a simple image, written post, or unsecured pages on your website.

The trick is to set up your emails in such a way that you won’t need to re-invent the wheel the next time that you want to run this challenge again, whether it’s live or evergreen.

If you want a “rolling challenge”, like we have, where anyone who joins will get Day 1 and each day based on when they sign up… you’ll want to use an autoresponder sequence and automate the challenge.

Still, if you wanted to run it live – you could use an autoresponder sequence set up, and simply add people to a “waiting list” email and then when the challenge is about to kick-start… add them to your autoresponder list. How you do this will vary based on whether you’re using Aweber or Mailchimp, or Infusionsoft, Ontraport, Drip, ActiveCampaign, or ConvertKit.

Tips For Making Your Challenge Do-Able

Now, you might be thinking that creating your own challenge is going to be a lot of work… and you’d be right.

I spent a lot of time writing all of my content, recording each video, uploading, and then writing each email… It’s practically like trying to create and organize 60% of the content you might send weekly in a year… but in one shot.

Planning a social media challenge

So my biggest tip for making this doable for you is to batch it. Don’t try to write each email or social media post on the day of. Don’t take your photos each day, or record your videos day by day. Instead, set aside some time to plan out your content to make sure it will serve your participants…

Then get a photographer, videographer, or friend to help you sit down and make it all happen. If you have a deadline for yourself like this, you’ll be able to get your whole challenge materials created in just a few days.

From there, it’s just a matter of loading up all of the content on email or social media… and I highly recommend having a system where you can keep track of your days, so it’s not all in your head.

For example, you might use a spreadsheet or Google Doc, where you have the email copy, image or video link, and social media copy all on one line for each day. Then you can have an assistant or someone help you drop each into the appropriate place to get the challenge underway.

Should You Do a Challenge?

Social media challenge email list buildingNow that you know a little more about what’s involved in pulling together an opt-in or social media challenge… the big question is: should you put together a challenge for your business?

Here’s my take: I know that challenges are hot, and because I have my own, I tend to see them everywhere. Depending on your market and whether they’ve seen a lot of challenges or not, it could be a great way to build an incredible free or paid experience into your business for potential customers.

But then again, you might come up with a fresh new take on list building that doesn’t revolve around such an intensive detailed “challenge”.

Running your own challenge is no silver bullet to gaining traction in your online business. But it can be really fun and rewarding, if you approach it with the right mindset and you put a whole lotta heart into it.

Over To You Now

Now, I’d loooove to hear from you: do you think challenges are effective? Are you planning on running one?

What turns you on and off about the challenges you’ve seen across the web?

Leave a comment below with your social media challenge ideas.

32 Comments

  1. Louise on April 15, 2015 at 10:57 am

    Wow – perfect timing – I teach photography online and today I start my very first Instagram Photography Challenge today! Thanks for the post! Xx

    • ambitionally on April 15, 2015 at 3:20 pm

      You’re so welcome Louise! :)

  2. Kathy Pine on April 15, 2015 at 11:32 am

    I was totally inspired by your 30-day list building challenge! Thank you so much for sharing all this “behind-the-scenes” information!I recently built one as well!

    The challenge I created is a writing challenge. It’s been amazing seeing all the women who’ve been participating living more into who they want to be, take time for themselves and support one another.

    I’d be happy to share details with anyone of what I’ve learned from it as well. Looking forward to implementing more of your advice!

    The challenge
    http://www.thischerishedlife.com/index.php/passion-purpose-30-day-writing-challenge/

    The Facebook group:
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/passionpurposechallenge/

    • ambitionally on April 15, 2015 at 3:21 pm

      So glad you’re already well on your way with your challenge Kathy!

  3. Sherry on April 15, 2015 at 11:56 am

    Great article Nathalie thanks for sharing. I ran a challenge at the beginning of the year 30 days to build a new habit. It did bring some new people onto my list but I started it for fun because a few running running friends were talking about how to get accountability to do their core work.

    I’d like to run a challenge – I like your idea of keeping it shorter – I specialise in working with women who’ve taken a career break and want to go back to paid work or start a business but have lost confidence. I want my challenge to help them rebuild their confidence or maybe a challenge to get their CV updated, review their LinkedIn profile. Need to take a couple hours to brainstorm on this.

    • ambitionally on April 15, 2015 at 3:21 pm

      Ooh that’s a great topic Sherry, I’m sure it’ll work wonders for these women!

  4. Mona Lisa on April 15, 2015 at 12:00 pm

    Hi Nathalie! So funny that you wrote this post, because you and Jadah were the ones who inspired me to start my 30 day energy cleanse challenge. I wish I read this before! I did follow your examples just by checking out your challenges, so thank you for leading by example as well. I also like the idea of a shorter challenge – that’s something I might have changed if I were to do it again. I’m doing a re-launch every season instead of having it be ongoing (like Simple Green Smoothies) so I can tweak it as well. I may make it shorter, or even offer some more goodies in my paid option where they receive all access at once via an online portal.

    I have tripled my list (it was small to begin with, but it’s still huge to me!) and am very excited to move forward!

    • ambitionally on April 15, 2015 at 3:21 pm

      Congrats on tripling your list Mona Lisa! :)

  5. Julie on April 15, 2015 at 12:09 pm

    Hi,

    Great article, thank you ! And brilliant suggestion to shorten the challenge, I think I’ll try a 7 day one very soon :-)

    In the past months and as I was beginning, I thought it could be simple to use well known challenges to build my own list.
    So for instance I would let my readers know that I am participating in a challenge (Tuja Wellness 30 days challenges for meditation or Green smoothies), suggest that they do as well and have them sign up to my email list for a weekly email of advice. It could be sharing my own experience of the challenge, encouraging them to go on, giving extra advice, etc.
    One weekly email is super do-able, and people like the extra help and the “we’re on the same road” feeling of it.

    Thought I’d share the trick :-)

    • ambitionally on April 15, 2015 at 3:22 pm

      That’s a great idea Julie, why create one when you can tap into an existing one, cool!

  6. Muhammed Abdullahi Tosin on April 15, 2015 at 1:06 pm

    Hello Nathalie!

    I took your 30-day list building challenge several months ago and it totally blew me away. I used to hate Google Analytics because I thought it was difficult to understand — but you magically changed that in one of the days of the Challenge. Thanks :-)

    I’ve run 3 challenges on my writing website they generate subscribers for me like crazy. And I agree with you on the “less is more” view on the number of days to run the challenge. I also appreciate your point on producing the content in advance. I failed to to that once and I was burn out producing the content on the go during the challenge.

    • ambitionally on April 15, 2015 at 3:22 pm

      So glad it blew you away, and that you’re still on track with Google Analytics! :)

  7. Michelle Anita Wirta on April 15, 2015 at 1:13 pm

    Fantastic! This came at the right time as I am designing a new opt in on a new product I am wanting to deliver:) The batch it part is especially helpful because I tend to try to do the proverbial build Rome in a day mentality sometimes. Thanks so much for a clear strategy:)

    • ambitionally on April 15, 2015 at 3:23 pm

      Ahhh yes Michelle, we all fall into the “this won’t take any time” trap. ;)

  8. Richard Weberg on April 15, 2015 at 2:55 pm

    Hey thanks for the great article Nathalie. I loved your 30 day list building challenge emails,
    and it inspired me to do my own, I also love popup alley plugin for wordpress you put out,
    I have it on my blog. You really provide great resources and information that will help anyone
    seeking to build a better business online!

    Thanks again!
    Sincerely,
    Richard Weberg

    • ambitionally on April 15, 2015 at 3:23 pm

      Thank you Richard, you’re awesome! :)

  9. Kelita Kellman on April 15, 2015 at 4:06 pm

    Great post and recommendations! I love challenges and I love seeing the results that people receive from these challenges.

    I just completed my second challenge – Create your perfect opt-in.

    Here is the challenge – http://kelitakellman.com/create-your-perfect-optin-7-day-challenge

    It was a lot of fun!

    x

  10. Kylie Patchett on April 15, 2015 at 4:52 pm

    thanks for such a timely post Nathalie! I kick off my first challenge on May 7th. As a mindset and money coach for women entrepreneurs I was getting frustrated at seeing women run around and around in circles with self sabotage and feelings of not being good enough … And the 21 day #mindmoneymojo Challenge was born as a result! We were on track with most of what you recommend but there’s still some golden nuggets there for me – mostly how to deliver the challenge as an evergreen option. Lots of food for thought!

    Our challenge page just went up here http://www.kyliepatchett.com/yes

    Last question is: as a once off and an evergreen what do you recommend as far as marketing the challenge – we have an extensive FB ad campaign plus using new hashtags to drive interest plus an incentive to share through a pay with a tweet to unlock a bonus. Any other recs?

    Thank as always for the golden content x

  11. Sam on April 15, 2015 at 6:13 pm

    I have just run a 7 day challenge using AccessAlly and I love having the content housed in a membership site rather than individual webpages. My challenge was snippets from my paid program so for the next one I’ll be filming special videos to help it flow better! x

  12. Phoebe on April 15, 2015 at 8:40 pm

    Thank you so much for this blog post, Nathalie! I have a challenge that I am creating so this was very timely. My challenge is a 7 Day challenge that came to me organically. I had challenged myself to video tape myself doing my daily practice of Toning the Chakras. At the time I was new to the online business world but had done a few challenges and liked the idea so I sort of had that in mind when I did the videos. A year and a half later now I am ready to put those videos into action. It is a logical next step to my opt-in which is a how to video for toning the chakras. I even have the auto responders laid out and ready to be filled in. Thank you for this little nudge to complete this challenge and then put it out to the world. I would love it to be something that builds my list, but my main motivation is that more people learn how they can use their own voice to heal their body, mind, emotions and spiritual selves.

  13. Amanda Moxley on April 16, 2015 at 12:05 am

    Thank you Nathalie! I am in the midst of my first challenge and I decided to run it for 7 days. I love your idea of doing making it evergreen! And I love your goal to double your list in 30 days! Thank you for your amazing tips, support and awesomeness!!

    Love,

    Amanda Moxley

  14. Lyda on April 16, 2015 at 1:56 am

    i love this – Natalie I LOVED your challenge – I am also one of the peeps who got very overwhelmed and had to hit pause on day 9. This was mainly because I realised i needed to change a few things up and get much more specific before I start branching out into guest posting, webinars etc.

    On the topic of challenge – the minute I started your challenge i knew I could benefit from creating my own. I am a health and wellness coach and my business is called The Primal Rabbit. My challenge is called the #GreenChallenge where I challenge you to eat something green every day for 30 days. So far it has brought in circa 100 new leads in two weeks which I am delighted with. While normally I would be hesitant because I m a perfectionist and so wish I could have professional videos and pictures up there but I just dove in head first this time. You have to start somewhere and just tweak it as you go.

    Thanks for the article.!

  15. Jaclyn on April 16, 2015 at 3:00 am

    Here is one of our most successful campaigns (inspired by taking your challenge!)
    http://blogsociety.us5.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=4cbb0460e18a43d93ed7bfc69&id=855ac14d42

  16. Rosemary Davey on April 16, 2015 at 5:13 am

    I’ve been wondering what to do with my opt in and this has inspired me to revamp a course I have and use it as a 21 day challenge.
    I loved your 30 day challenge Nathalie and hopefully mine can give as much value as yours has done.

  17. Kylie Patchett on April 16, 2015 at 7:39 am

    Hey there Nathalie – your timing is impeccable! We are about to lift the lid on a 21 day #mindmoneymojo challenge http://www.kyliepatchett.com/yes and although we had most of this covered, there were still some golden nuggets for me – mainly how to offer the challenge evergreen part this one launching May 7th.

    One extra Q for you – in regards to marketing the challenge, what have been your most successful strategies? We have a combo of an extensive FB video and photo ad campaigns in place, FB group for the challenge with shareable content, a super active hashtag #mindmoneymojo, plus an incentive to pay with a tweet for a free gift and a couple of other smaller strategies up out sleeves so far. Any additional pearls of wisdom?

  18. Yamile Yemoonyah on April 16, 2015 at 8:57 am

    Hi Nathalie,

    these are some great tips.

    I already have my own evergreen 30 Day Art Biz Challenge (http://CreativeWebBiz.com/challenge ) and it does help me with list building and getting people to sign up for my membership program.

    What I definitely want to do more of after reading this post is to incorporate much more social sharing in the challenge.

    So thanks for that tip!

  19. Jasna on April 16, 2015 at 11:25 am

    Nathalie, this is so helpful. I actually signed up for your 30 day challenge and fell off the wagon after two weeks. It could have something to do with having a small baby to take care of, but I like your takeaway from running the challenge.

    I am excited to try something like this when I start sleeping again:)

    Thanks again for such valuable content.

    Jasna

  20. Shauna Sanders on April 19, 2015 at 2:18 am

    LOVE this! I’m just about to start my first 5 day challenge. As always, really good content you’re providing. THANK you!

  21. Salena Knight on April 20, 2015 at 1:15 am

    Thanks so much for your challenge and this blog post. I put together my own challenge, as a challenge to myself, to try and create the content and videos, in preparation for my 3 video launch. Learnt a lot, and am much more comfortable in front of the camera now.

  22. Laureen Oliphant on April 22, 2015 at 1:40 am

    This was a very helpful post, Nathalie! I loved your 30 day list building challenge. I want to let you know how much I admire not only the things you do but the way you do them. What I mean by that is, you give way more value than what is expected. Thanks for that. And for being a great example of an entrepreneur. My problem is that I have so many different challenges I want to start. I know when I focus on who exactly my ideal avatar is, I’ll be able to really focus on the right challenge for me.

  23. Kelly Ann Jones on September 28, 2018 at 4:37 am

    Thank you for this article. I am in the process of creating a 5 day challenge for my Facebook Group. I am an artist but my vision is to help as many women survivors of domestic violence use art to heal. Your article has given me things to think about and I am going to implement the ideas and get started on creating my challenge. Thank you again.

    • ambitionally on September 28, 2018 at 9:42 am

      Hi Kelly Ann, I’m so happy to hear that this article was helpful and that you’re planning a 5 day challenge. Your mission is so needed in the world, and I’m happy you’re creating this for women all over the world!

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