3 Tips for Effective Social Media Contests Curt Finch is the founder and CEO of Journyx, a company that offers time-tracking and resource management software. Connect with him and Journyx on Facebook and Twitter. Justin Palmer of Palmer Web Marketing has run dozens of social media contests for his clients, and gaining “likes” and “followers” is something he does with relative ease. So, for any company that wants to run a social media contest to gain new business, Justin has the following advice: Don’t. According to Palmer, contests and giveaways are effective at bolstering social stats, like the number of followers. The problem is that these followers turn out to be less likely to engage with the page again. However, there are exceptions to this rule. Social contests can be highly effective, if they are done correctly, and under the right circumstances. Here are three tips on how to ensure that. 1. Have a Goal As is the case with nearly any marketing effort, social media contests must have a clearly defined goal in order to generate any value at all. Most marketers think they know their goal, and it usually follows the formula of, “I want to raise my followers on social by X amount.” Unfortunately, this approach is fundamentally wrong, and few companies seem to know it. While it is nice to have a large number of followers on various social channels, it should almost never be the end goal of a contest. Companies need to delve a layer deeper. As Justin said, followers gained from contests alone are unlikely to have much interest in the business beyond the prize. So, what do you ultimately want out of your contests? In most cases the answer is money. That’s why you need to measure your actual ROI in terms of new leads or conversions from the contest. Other goals could include, conducting research, or revealing a new consumer base. The point is to determine what you ultimately want to achieve through your social efforts and measure the direct impact of the contest. Bullet Point Branding CEO, Bryan Fulton, had a lot of followers on social media, but needed to find out more about his niche customers. In particular, he wanted information on potential leads in the cosmetic field. He offered a free lipstick pen to the 500th follower of a contest. Based on the specific nature of the prize, he was able to determine which clients were interested in the product. He had a clear goal and was ultimately able to meet it. 2. Develop a Target Having a defined target is just as important as your goal. Many social contests cast a wide net hoping to draw in as many people as possible. This is counterproductive because it forces the business to cater to an audience that either only cares about the prize or doesn’t really care at all. It is more effective to align a target audience to a specific goal and market the contest to them. For Volusion — an ecommerce platform — most successful contests were the result of the specific nature of Volusion’s targeting efforts. In this case, the audience was “mompreneurs.” Volusion knew that this was a growing ecommerce audience, and that many of these women would appreciate sharing their stories. Part of the contest involved having the women describe themselves and the reason they started their business. Many moms participated in the project just to tell their stories, and one participant even described her entry as “therapeutic.” Because of Volusion’s successful targeting strategy, they tapped into a rapidly growing market, and gained many faithful clients. 3. Pick the Right Prize Most contests feature a prize that can best be described as shiny. Think the latest tablet, vacations, or just good old-fashioned money. Marketers assume that a lot of people will be drawn to this, and they are correct. The issue is those people just want a shiny prize. In general, there are three types of prizes that companies offer in contests: third-party prizes, a product from the business running the contest, or intangibles. Of the three categories, third-party prizes are the most common, and the most misused. Stephanie Cicarelli, co-founder and chief marketing officer of Voices.com, ran a contest in January 2011 that featured an iPad as the main prize. Normally this would be dangerous. However, the goal of the contest was to get photographs of singers in their studios or recording environment submitted to Voices.com. The mass appeal of the iPad was reason enough for many contestants to submit photos where they otherwise might have preferred privacy. In this case the appeal of the third- party prize was leveraged for a direct, tangible win. Prizes that come from the business itself can be just as desirable as a third-party product, with the added benefit of less up-front expense and the creation of brand advocates. Also, since the prize comes from the business running the contest, some targeting is already built-in. Powderhorn Mountain Resort featured a contest that asked visitors to upload photos of themselves enjoying the resort for a chance to win a free season pass. This was effective because their target audience already loved the business, and it encouraged winners to return again. The final prize category, the intangible prize, requires some creativity to use effectively yet can produce a massive ROI. SpeakSocial, a marketing firm that focuses on the innovative use of social media, ran a contest to drum up support for a new sushi restaurant, Roll-On Sushi Diner. The contest allowed participants to submit ideas for the name of a roll that would be served at the restaurant. The winner would have both the name of their roll and their real name featured on the restaurant menu. The prize cost absolutely nothing, yet opening day was an enormous success.
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