While contests and sweepstakes have been around for a long time, they have taken on a new life with the growth of the social Web. Contests are certainly not the answer to every marketing challenge, but they should be part of every social media marketer’s toolkit. Here are four reasons why.
1. Contests are a great tool for building your fan base
Whether you are starting with 100 or 100,000 likes on your Facebook Page, contests offer a proven way to increase that number. I’ve seen clients go from 50 to 1,000 and from 15,000 to 30,000 likes in a matter of days or weeks when running a contest. Of course this is not the only metric to think about, but it is one measure of the power of a promotion. A basic enter-to-win sweepstakes with a lower barrier to entry often provides the best option for those just starting out with social media contests or without a large base of fans in place.
2. Contests enable you to engage your audience
In addition to increasing the sheer number of people who interact with your brand, a contest provides a means to deepen the connection as well. A user-generated content (UGC) promotion such as a photo or video contest is a great way to do just that. UGC contests tap in to the human drive to compete, and they provide an opportunity for everyone to experience their 15 minutes of fame. Most importantly, when participants upload their personal content (e.g., a photo or story) to your promotion, they are naturally invested in your brand.
3. Contests are a rich source of data
With the lure of a prize, many people are prepared to share information with you as part of the entry process. You don’t want to introduce too many barriers, but don’t miss the opportunity to learn a bit more about your consumers (i.e., how they heard about your promotion, what their favorite product of yours is, etc.). Remember that what you ask should be commensurate with what you offer in return. In addition to collecting data as part of the entry process, you can also learn a great deal from the interaction and conversation that takes place around your contest, so be sure to listen in.
4. Contests empower consumers to do your marketing for you
How would you like to have hundreds or thousands of your fans helping to spread the word about your campaign? It is important to have a promotional plan that encompasses multiple marketing channels, but thanks to sharing via social media, contests today enable an amplification of your marketing message that was not previously possible.
If your contest includes a voting component, participants will be inclined to share through their social graph, asking friends and family to support their entry. From experience, I've adopted the following rules of thumb in voting competitions: You are likely to see ten voters for every entry (often many more) as well as ten clicks for every shared link. These numbers represent a significant multiplier of traffic to your contest site or application as a result of consumers marketing to other consumers.
Like other tools, contests can be extremely effective when used as part of a comprehensive social media strategy. Any consumer facing organization, as well as many business-to-business enterprises, can take advantage of contests to realize the four benefits highlighted above.
Before you start a contest, though, be sure to familiarize yourself with local regulations. Every state has its own contest laws—and some can be tricky—so do some research to make sure your promotion is legal.
Image credit: KLH49
Ben Pickering is CEO at Strutta, a technology company helping businesses connect with consumers through promotions that tap in to the power of social media. You can follow Ben on Twitter at @bpicks.