As a small business owner, you spend most of your time trying to navigate the complex demands of attracting new leads, while maintaining engagement with current customers, a challenging and time consuming affair. Luckily, social media can offer a low-maintenance way to keep this engagement up: online contests and giveaways connect with our innate competitive drive and deliver enticing, interactive content. Contests—and the inherent possibility of winning—elicit both positive attention and the potential for viral sharing. They also provide an excellent vehicle for brand awareness, online conversation, customer loyalty and market presence.
"If you’re a social media hound (and as an entrepreneur, you should be), you’ll notice one way businesses get fans to come back for more again and again is by offering customer contests." Rieva Lesonsky
Contests and giveaways were proven marketing strategies in the days of paper entries at brick and mortar shops. Just think of all the business cards you’ve placed in a countertop fish bowl in hopes of winning a free lunch! Social media platforms and third party apps provide a new way to update this concept and engage with fans and new prospects. A well designed and executed online contest or giveaway can attract new interest in your business and help already loyal customers feel rewarded and engaged. It can both grow your audience and entice them to new and valuable levels of interaction. In fact, market research firm Ipsos reports that contests can motivate 52% of consumers to stay connected to a brand.
Competitions can accelerate social media participation, increase brand awareness, generate leads and sales, and drive product or service usage, all while allowing you to recognize and reward your loyal customers (as well as those all important new ones). Ultimately, competitions can be a quick, low-cost incentive to encourage your customers to do some of your marketing for you. Rob Toledo
The seven Ps of online contest strategy
Before you initiate your first online contest, give careful thought to both strategy and execution. Although a contest is fun and entertaining, it's also a component of your overall marketing strategy, so it should be given as much attention as any other campaign.
1. The purpose
Although your efforts may benefit your business on multiple levels, your strategy will be clearer if you isolate one overarching goal.
Common goals include:
- Increase fans/likes/subscribers: Contests can be fan-gated so that only those who have liked your page, follow you or subscribe to your list are able to enter.
- Generate new leads: Pay extra attention to targeting your ideal customer and to creating a content entry form that provides you with the correct information to guide your follow-up marketing efforts.
- Brand awareness and interaction: Research the way your current audience interacts and to what sort of content they tend to share and discuss.
- Customer loyalty and engagement: Delighting your current customers and increasing their connection to your brand is an ideal function of an online contest.
2. The people
Every decision should be made with your desired audience in mind, and a failure to address this component at the outset can negatively impact the success of your campaign.
Questions to ask:
- Internal vs. external: Is your contest internally or externally focused (current customer engagement vs. new lead generation)?
- Targeted: Do you fully understand your target audience and their needs and motivations?
- Competition: Have you undertaken an analysis of both your followers and your main competition in terms of contest interaction?
3. The platform
It is important to have a full understanding of the social and web platforms you currently utilize and understand how your target market interacts on each platform.
- Internal vs. External: Your contest can live internally (on your own website or driven by your email list) or externally (on a social media platform).
- Opportunity: The size and current engagement of your audience on each potential platform. Where will your contest reach the most people in your target audience most easily?
- Third Party Applications: In some cases it will be necessary to utilize a third party app in order to run your contest. For example: Infusionsoft uses an app called GroSocial, which provides the software that makes integration of your contest with the Facebook platform streamlined and effective.
4. The promotion
Even the best conceived contest will flop unless you launch it with a strong distribution and promotion strategy. Not only should your audience be aware of your giveaway, but should also be enticed to interact.
Tips for success:
- Fast and furious: Social media moves at a lightening pace and many people will need to see your contest information more than once to take action and enter. Posting about your promotion once (or even once per day) will not be enough.
- The numbers game: Solid knowledge of social media metrics can help. What day of week or time of day is your engagement highest? Use this information to help schedule posts and advertisements promoting your contest.
- Key influencers: Identify key influences among your followers. Will they assist you by sharing your contest with their circle?
- Driving traffic: Don’t forget to make use of your following on other social media sites to drive traffic to your chosen platform.
- Paid promotion: Will you use paid promotional avenues on social media platforms to promote your contest, or rely on organic reach? Be sure to research the best practices for paid posts to maximize your investment.
- Keep it coming: Keep your normal content fresh and delivered at normal frequency. You need to make sure you’re keeping your new fans engaged, and maintain the interest of your current followers.
5. The particulars
Although it can often be the least fun part of running a contest, be sure you don’t ignore the nuts and bolts of the process.
Don’t forget the details:
- Rules and regulations: In addition to local and national laws and regulations, each social platform will have its own requirements; all of your contests and giveaways should comply. Be sure you have read and followed the most up to date rules for your chosen platform.
- Easy as pie: When creating your contest entry, pay attention to the opt-in form. Unnecessary fields increase the risk that prospects will drop off prior to completing your entry form. Make your contest both easy to enter and easy to share and don’t forget mobile users.
- Follow-up: Regardless of your overall goals, your contest represents an extremely powerful opportunity to increase your email list. The questions you ask should provide valuable information to help segment entrants into your list and personalize follow-up marketing. Consider including an email list opt-in as part of your entry but make sure that prospects can also clearly opt-out if they do not wish to be added.
- Branding:Contests and giveaways are a wonderful way to create increased brand awareness and recognition. Use professional and appealing graphics which fit with your overall branding. All your marketing efforts should be aligned and targeted, and an online contest is no exception.
6. The prize
People will participate in your contest for only one reason: they hope to win a prize. Therefore, your prize(s) must be a fit for the platform and your target audience.
Choosing the perfect prize:
- Appeal: Your chosen prize must appeal to the lifestyle and interests of your target. What is it about your prize that makes it strongly enticing to the specific customer persona you are targeting?
- Brand-related: Your prize should also be related in some way to your brand and identity. This ensures that the motivation to enter connects directly to you and your product or services instead of simply winning a great prize.
- Lost cost / high perceived value: The perfect prize is one that has a low cost for you, but is perceived as high value for your customer. Keep in mind extraneous costs, like shipping or time to deliver in the case of a service-related prize.
- Sponsored vs. self-funded: Will you provide the full prize on your own, or enlist the support of sponsors to help cover the cost of the giveaway? A sponsored giveaway can not only help with the financial investment, but may also help with promotion of the contest if your sponsor shares your giveaway with their network.
7. The payoff
Don’t wait until your contest ends to determine the appropriate measures of success. The chosen metrics should be directly related to the overall goal set in the beginning and will be greatly beneficial in helping to plan for future giveaways.
- Viral sharing: How often was your contest shared? Include social media shares, posts and email forwards.
- Fan base and brand awareness: What was the overall reach of your promotion? How many new likes, followers or subscribers did you attract?
- Lead generation: How many entrants did you attract? Of those, how many opted into your list or proved to be target customers?
- Conversion: What percentage of contest entrants or traffic converted into subscribers or customers?
- Customer loyalty: How many of your current followers, fans or customers entered and/or shared your contest?
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. Ben Pickering
Congratulations! You’re ready to launch a killer online contest for your small business. By taking the time to create a clear, well thought out contest strategy in advance, you’ll set yourself up for success. Using the suggested tools will help you maximize the opportunity to turn your social media contest into a valuable marketing tool that drives engagement, following and conversion for your small business.