How to Run a Successful Social Media Contest

social media how toAre you planning to run a social media contest (like this one)?

Today it’s possible for anyone to achieve success engaging consumers online, thanks to the growing popularity and relative ease of execution of social media promotions.

The fact that anyone can run a promotion doesn’t mean that everyone should, and it certainly doesn’t mean that a promotion guarantees social media success. However, if executed as part of a comprehensive social media strategy, social media contests can produce tremendous results no matter how large or small your business.

So if you’re thinking of running a contest or sweepstakes, here are some key considerations.

Start With the End in Mind

Before jumping into a social media promotion, there are several important questions to ask:

  • What are your marketing objectives? Be clear and realistic about what you hope to accomplish. Are you looking to generate leads or Likes, engage or activate your existing user base or reach a new audience?
  • What is your budget? Yes, social media promotions can be executed at a relatively low cost. But budget considerations should guide your decision on the type of promotion you choose to run and will impact your ability to achieve certain outcomes.
  • Where are you on the consumer engagement pyramid? Assess what type of promotion is right for you based on the level of engagement you expect from your users.
strutta-pyramid

Which promotion is right for you?

Consumer Engagement Model for Promotions

At the base of the pyramid is the traditional enter-to-win format. This is a tried-and-true contest model and can be a great place to get started online. Whether you have 100 or 100,000 fans on your Facebook page, running a sweepstakes is an easy way to increase the number of Likes on your page. This expands the audience for your Facebook communications and builds a fan base for future promotions.

sweeps

This basic sweepstakes requiring users to Like the brand and complete a simple form to enter resulted in a doubling of Likes in a matter of days.

As you move up the pyramid, you’ll see a decrease in the number of participants but a deeper level of engagement and richer content. It’s also important to remember that the number of entries is not a sole benchmark of your promotion’s success. If you run a promotion with public voting, you’re likely to see at least 10 times the number of voters as entrants.

Using terminology originally coined in Forrester’s Social Technographics report, there are three distinct audiences that will engage with your promotion: Spectators, Joiners and Creators. All three groups should be accounted for.

  • Spectators may see a shared link from a friend and click through to your site but their interaction will likely stop there. For these people, you want to ensure you have a well-designed user interface and clear messaging, whether they ultimately choose to engage at the next level or simply leave with your brand top of mind.
  • Joiners are likely to participate in a low-barrier format such as a sweepstakes and may engage further up the pyramid through voting, commenting and sharing.
  • Creators are the people who are the target for any user-generated content contest. The percentage of online users who are content creators is significantly higher now than it was just a few years ago. Still, you must make it as easy as possible for people to participate.

Knowing your audience is essential when selecting the type of promotion you wish to run. Once you’ve determined the type that’s right for you, it’s important to communicate the what, why and how of your promotion: What is it all about? Why should I participate? And how do I enter / win?

Plan, Prepare and Prepare for the Unplanned

With social media promotions, you can reap the benefits of viral or word-of-mouth marketing, but it’s still essential to have a well-thought-out marketing plan to support your campaign. It may sound obvious, but when launching your promotion, you must drive traffic to your destination. I often remind our clients not to fall victim to the “Field of Dreams Fallacy”—the idea that “if I build it, they will come.”

Utilize the channels available to you, be that social media, paid media or promotional partners. Don’t overlook any opportunities to get the word out. Do you have a regular email newsletter or a point of sale display?

Participation at the outset will generate the ROI that comes from social sharing. And remember that your existing customers are most likely to engage. By targeting them first, you can build momentum that will spread through their social networks.

While we all hope our promotion will “go viral,” it’s not something you can bank on. Nevertheless, it’s important to plan for the scenario in which it does. If you’re running a photo contest and plan to moderate all of the submissions, are you prepared to handle the potential volume? If you’re running a contest on Facebook, are you prepared to manage the community dialogue?

johnsons

Here's an extremely successful contest that required virtually 'round-the-clock support to moderate more than 1,000 entries per day!

One of the biggest topics people get concerned about when it comes to planning a contest is rules and regulations. This topic is worthy of a blog post of its own, but the short version is that with some foresight this should not pose a major obstacle to launching your promotion.

For those looking to run a promotion on Facebook, it’s important to be familiar with Facebook’s Promotional Guidelines and/or work with someone who is. This article by Mari Smith provides a good overview of what you need to know about Facebook promotions.

Execution Over Concept

Why do so many businesses still have a container at the register to drop a business card in for a raffle? Because it’s easy to participate and administer. Don’t get me wrong; I love cutting-edge promotional concepts. But I have seen time and again that too much of a big idea can take focus away from what’s really core to the promotion. Keeping it simple often yields better results.

When running a social media promotion, the first rule is ensure that it’s easy to enter and easy to share. While it’s possible to accomplish this on your own, there are companies that provide tools to ensure the mechanics of a successful promotion are in place. That frees you up to be creative. Avoid overcomplicating what you’re asking users to do when they visit your promotion. Make it fun, personal and accessible.

share

Example of a third-party app that capitalizes on the social medium while adhering to Facebook platform policies.

Listen, Engage and Learn

Running promotions must be part of your overall social media strategy and not approached as a one-off event. Because promotions today are inherently social, take advantage of that to engage and gather consumer insights. Add a survey question to your entry form, encourage conversation on your Facebook page, gather feedback and apply what you learn to future campaigns.

What are your experiences with online contests and social media promotions? If you have questions that you would like to see addressed in a future blog post, feel free to ask them below.

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About the Author, Ben Pickering

Ben Pickering is a digital marketing executive who has worked with many of the world’s top brands. He has written and spoken extensively on the topic of social media marketing. You can follow Ben on Twitter @bpicks. Other posts by »




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