Successful social media contests


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This white paper from Elon University's Interactive Media graduate program focuses on creating engagement on social media through contests.

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Successful social media contests

  1. 1. Social Media Contests 1  
  2. 2. Social Media Contests 2   Table of Contents: Executive Summary……………….……………….……………….……………………..3 Planning Your Contest……………….……………….…….………….………….………4 Running Your Contest……………….……………….…….………….………….………5 Concluding Your Contest……………….……………….……………….……….………6 Contest Ideas…………………………….……………….……………….……….………6 More Quick Tips…….………….…….………….…….………….……...……….………8 Conclusion……………………………………………………………………………….10 About the Authors…….………….…….………….…….………….….……...…………10 References…….………….…….………….…….………….……….……...……...….…11
  3. 3. Social Media Contests 3   Executive Summary Social media continues to be a key way for businesses to build relationships with consumers. By creating different games and contests, companies are able to gain more exposure, generate leads and even increase their sales. While larger companies may offer elaborate sweepstakes, contests can be just as effective for small businesses. Companies should consider using relevant rewards (such as a free trial or being the Fan of the Week) and what social media platforms their target audience uses. Small businesses can create their own trivia or photo contest for little or no expense. With defined goals and objectives, companies can analyze their business growth while developing long-term relationships with their clients.
  4. 4. Social Media Contests 4   Planning Your Contest Have Specific Goals Before you decide what type of contest to run, it is important to consider your goals. Do you want to more followers or likes? Or maybe build a better connection with your current followers? Knowing what your company’s goals are will help you pick what type of contest to run. More importantly, it will help you evaluate the success of the contest. The more specific your objectives are, the easier it will be to judge the ultimate effectiveness. Know Your Audience After you have defined your goals, consider your target audience. What are their media habits and how will they be accessing your contest? Look at the social platforms you currently use and find the ones where you get the most audience engagement. Although a majority of users access social games from their desktop computer or laptop, you should make sure that your contest is also compatible with tablet and mobile devices. Many users access their social networks exclusively from these devices, so you want to make sure that the app versions of social networks like Facebook and Twitter support the methods that you utilize in your contest (photo-sharing, retweets, etc). Rewarding Participants The reward for participants needs to be appropriate to the goal and type of contest. If your company wants to build relationships with its followers, having a Fan of the Week might be a good reward. If you want to raise awareness about a new product or service, a giveaway may work best. Whatever you offer, make sure it is relevant to your business. While giving away an iPad will be a quick way to get followers, those followers may not be in your target market, help increase your sales or continue to follow your social channels at the conclusion of the contest. You may want to consider offering a small reward just for participation. If you require email addresses to enter, you could send a “10% off” coupon just for entering. If you are running a photo-sharing contest, you could offer a similar discount to users who come into your store and show you on their smartphone that they have shared your
  5. 5. Social Media Contests 5   picture. Users will be more likely to participate when they know that they are at least getting something out of investing their time, however little it may be. However, if you intend to run a “just for participating” type of promo, be sure to factor this in to your budget in addition to the funds you have allocated for the main prize. If more people enter than you are expecting, you will be obligated to potentially pay out more than you expected or can afford. Tools to Use If you are worried about managing all the entries of your contest, consider using a tool or widget. From picking a winner at random to official entry forms, there are elements of your contest that could benefit from using a tool. While some widgets may cost more than your company can afford, there are several Facebook options that are available for free. ShortStack is a great example of a tool that can help you create customized widgets with no coding knowledge. While the tool is free for companies with less than 2,000 Facebook likes, it offers a monthly billing option if you want to invest for short-term usage. When and Where With defined goals and tools for success, consider the when and where of launching your contest. Depending on your target audience, different times of the week may be more effective for announcing your contest. Where you promote your contest is just as important. Is it only going on your website or should you also put it up the company’s social media accounts? Should this be a special e-mail announcement or just included in the next newsletter? Consider the company’s current communication channels and what has worked best for them in the past before you start randomly posting. Also consider the physical location that your contest applies to. If the contest is only eligible to residents of the town that your business is located in, then you need to specify this with any other disclaimers you write. You never know how far your audience can expand when users are, for example, sharing pictures for entries, and you do not want to be caught having to pay large shipping expenses if you are offering a physical prize. Legal Once you’ve decided what contest to run and what platform to use, take a look at the social platforms’ rules and guidelines. Facebook, Twitter and most other social media sites will each have their own requirements for running a game on their website. Even if you have run a contest on the site previously, make sure the terms and conditions have not been updated.
  6. 6. Social Media Contests 6   While platforms will have their own legal information posted, your company should do the same. The fine print should clearly state all terms and conditions for your contest. What are the specific dates? Are there any limitations to winning or ways a user might be disqualified? Is another company involved in the contest or sponsoring the prize? Though it may take some extra time, clearly defining all elements of the contest and making them easily available to public will help protect your company from legal issues. Duration Picking the duration for your social media contest is just as important as what type of contest you wish to run. Studies have shown that the most successful contests last between one and two weeks. Other successful contests run around 60 days, while contests that last around 40 days have the least success. Having a Halloween themed photo contest would work best for a monthly schedule while having participants submit photos of their summer vacations should be kept running during the summer season. You want to ensure that your contest lasts long enough for your goals to have a chance to succeed, but you also do not want to draw it out longer than it needs to be. Budget Budgeting for your social media contest is a lot like budgeting for anything else in your small business. You want to make sure that your business can afford any prizes that you may be offering to the winner or winners of your contest. For small prizes, like t-shirts and coupons, this is generally not an issue. However, if your business is running a campaign where the winner of the contest receives a larger prize, you want to make sure that you research the cost and know exactly where the money is coming from. Association and Motivation Associating your contests with things like holidays or other special events are a great way to motivate users to participate in your contests. For example, if your business happens to be in retail, you could run a “12 Days of Christmas” contest, with one winner being picked each day over the twelve days leading up to Christmas. If it is the 10-year anniversary of your business, you could offer 10 prizes or a 10% discount to
  7. 7. Social Media Contests 7   everyone that day. However, you should not force a contest just because you think the days line up nicely. Any association based contests, just like any other social media games, should have a clear goal and not be forced. Running Your Contest Monitor the Event Once the contest has begun, do not walk away from the keyboard. If you are not getting a lot of entries, consider sharing the promotion again so your consumers do not forget to enter. Keep an eye on what consumers are saying. If you are using a widget or app that stops working, comments and posts will be a quick way to realize something is wrong. And, if someone does complain, be prepared to address the issue and respond. Let the participants know you are listening and are active within the contest. Confirm Entry While running the contest, consider ways to confirm entries. If you are collecting e- mail addresses, think about having an automated reply going out to thank them for entering. If it is a photo contest, add a comment wishing them good luck. While it may not be possible to reply to every share or retweet, acknowledging a few will let contestants know you care about their participation. Concluding Your Contest Announce the Winner After your contest has ended, publically announce the winner and their prize. If you have a 2nd or 3rd place winner, you can stretch the announcements out over a few days. Share their winning picture or the trivia question they answered to keep the contest and your company in consumers’ minds. Take this time to hint at future promotions or contests. Analyze the Success While your participants may have enjoyed your contest, did it help your brand? Take a look back at your goals and analyze the results. Checking to see if you have new subscribers or visitors is an easy result to judge. An increase in sales or referrals may not be clear until a few months after the promotion.
  8. 8. Social Media Contests 8   Keep Building the Relationship Even though the contest has ended, your company has a great opportunity to continue building relationships. Use these new connections to keep consumers engaged and build your brand. Contest Ideas There are many different ways to run a contest or game on your business’s social media channels. The key lies in picking the correct type of contest for the goal you want to achieve and for the prize you are offering the winner. Photo Contests One type of contest that you can run is based on photographs posted to your social media channels. On Facebook, you could ask participants to like your page and share a photo of your product to be eligible to win a prize. “Caption Contests” have also proven to be successful on Facebook. Post a photo and ask users to come up with a funny caption for the image, and then pick a winner. You can also crowd source your Facebook followers to help you with your contests. You could have users submit a photo of them using your product, with the person who submitted the photo with the most likes winning a prize at the end of the contest. You could also pick the winner yourself based on creativity, but by relying on Facebook likes, you can potentially save yourself from negative user experiences that stem from picking a winner “arbitrarily”. Video Contests While photo contests are very popular on social media channels, video contests could also be a good fit for your business. With the advent of platforms like YouTube and Vine, it is easier than ever for users to create, submit and share video content. You could ask users to submit their best 6-second Vine of themselves using/wearing/etc. one of your products, and pick a winner based on which one is the funniest or most creative. Keep in mind that video generally takes longer to produce than photographs, so the prize you offer for the winner of your game/contest should be selected accordingly to encourage the most participation from users. Fan of the Week There are also ways to utilize photo and video contests in different ways. One of these ways is a Fan of the Week contest. Ask your users to submit a photo or video of themselves with your product and pick a winner based on creativity or whoever can get the most likes or shares. The winner will then be dubbed the Fan of the Week. This
  9. 9. Social Media Contests 9   is a great way to encourage your users to share their own content and simultaneously promote your page. Testimonials A great way to gather good press for your business and generate more social media followers is to ask users for testimonials. Ask them to post their best or most interesting story with regards to your business. Maybe it was a time when the staff was particularly helpful or the user had a great experience while using your product. You can pick one winner from all user submissions, but use all the testimonials you have gathered on your website or in your other marketing efforts. Make sure your users are aware that their comments may be used for promotional purposes to avoid potential legal issues. Trivia One final idea for social media contests is trivia. Trivia works particularly well with Twitter. Tweet out a question that most people would know the answer to (i.e. something about pop-culture, not necessarily related to your business) and offer something like a coupon code in return for the first right answer. This is a great way to engage with your current followers. If you want to attempt to gain new followers this way, be ask your followers to retweet the question or use an assigned hashtag. Conclusion Before beginning a contest, clearly define your goals and objectives; this will allow you to analyze the overall success. If you cannot measure the effectives of your contest, it loses all value. Every business has unique needs so different social media platforms and contests may not work well for every company. Know who your audience is and what interests them. Engage participants throughout the contest and encourage them to interact with your brand. If done effectively, contests can increase your small businesses value to consumers and build long lasting brand loyalty.
  10. 10. Social Media Contests 10   About the Authors Jessica Chambers and Justin Wylie are both students at Elon University’s Interactive Media M.A. program. Upon graduating, Chambers hopes to work as a content developer and in SEO while Wylie is entering the field of web design. Chambers can be reached at her website or on Twitter at @Jess_Chambers. Wylie is available at or on Twitter at @JWylie15.
  11. 11. Social Media Contests 11   References 10 Creative Contests Powered by Social Media 12 Last-Minute Facebook Holiday Contest Ideas ideas 15+ Stats to Know Before Running Your Next Social Media Contest How to Run a Successful Social Media Sweepstakes Online Marketing for Small Business Slide Show: 6 Stellar Social Media Contests social-media-contests.html