image01This post is by Rob Brooks, a Content Producer for RapidCampaign, a Finnish startup that enables retailers to create engaging online promotions that improve conversion rates.

“Take a picture of yourself with your favorite Hollywood film star at your favorite restaurant, and win free cinema tickets! Simply enter your email address, phone number, postal address, waist measurement, favorite color, allergies, and zodiac sign, and share this with 2,000 of your Facebook friends to win! #totallyimpossiblecompetition2015”

Sound familiar?

OK, this is a totally over-the-top example, but we’ve all entered a competition like this at some point, and the chances are, it was in Facebook.

For many social media managers, social media competitions, particularly on Facebook, feel a bit tacky. Indeed, some companies are contemplating leaving Facebook altogether. But for many, social media competitions are an incredibly effective way to engage your fans and followers, and turn them into customers, and they should not be overlooked.

Competitions provide a fun and stimulating way for people to interact with your brand, as well as allowing you to grow your email subscriber list and get more followers and likes.

However, since Facebook changed its rules on like-gating, you have to be a little savvier with your social media competitions and think carefully about which channel to publish your competition in.

Before you go and promise the world to your fans in exchange for their email address, there are some things you need to consider.

7 key points to think about when planning your social media competition:

1. What do you want to achieve?

This kind of goes without saying, but if you don’t know what you want to get out of your competition, then you are highly unlikely to achieve anything.

The real beauty of a social media competition is that it allows you to present and showcase your products to a new audience. Essentially, people enter competitions because they want to win something for free. But, while they are on your social media, you can subtly introduce them to your product range.

Your ultimate goal may be to increase sales, or purchase intent, as well as expanding your marketing opt-in list, and a competition will go a long way to helping you achieve this objective. However, there are many other benefits to running a competition, including the ability to measure if you have achieved your objectives or not.

Think carefully about what you want to achieve with your competition, and define it before you start thinking about the type of competition. Clear objectives will make the next stage of planning much easier. Remember, it should be fun and engaging, but also have a real business benefit.

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2. What kind of competition fits your needs?

Now that you have decided what you want to achieve with your competition, think about how best to get there. Competitions come in many forms, each with a specific goal in mind:

Prize Draws offer the lottery players amongst us the chance to win a prize instantly, and are great for getting people to sign up to your marketing register.

Viral Coupons entice bargain-basket browsers to sign up with the promise of even bigger savings on your products if they share the competition on social media.

Wheel of Fortune adds a little extra fun into the mix by showcasing several products with the chance to win one by simply signing up and spinning the wheel.

Choose a competition that will not only engage your fans and create a buzz around your brand, but also one that is relevant to your company and benefits your customers.

Basically, if you sell perfume, don’t give away a car.

3. Clear rules

Let’s face it, competitions are about winning. And, unfortunately, some people will bend and even break the rules in order to win, especially if the prize is valuable to them.

Make your competition easy to understand by spelling out for participants exactly what is on offer, what they have to do, how you will inform them of the results, and what are the restrictions:

“Win a weekend break for two. Simply enter your name and email. Winners will be announced a week on Friday. Only one entry per participant.”

This kind of transparency will lower the threshold to participation, and will spare you the headaches later.

4. Sense of urgency: Limit the time and amount of prizes

A limited offer is far more appealing than a never-ending sale.

Create a sense of urgency by setting a time limit for your competition. A competition that runs and runs will lose appeal because your fans get bored of waiting for a result.

Mix it up a little. Some competitions can have multiple rounds to extend engagement; others can be short and sharp “today only” competitions. Mix instant prizes, such as coupons or discount codes, with the grand prize to encourage the “I-never-win-anything” crowd to take part.

Whatever time limits you set for your competition, remember, a race is not a race without a finish line.

5. Look and feel

Demands on our attention are already ridiculously high, so your competition needs to catch the eye.

No-one is going to enter your competition unless they know what they can win, so plaster a big and bold image of the prize right where it can’t be missed.

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Support this image with clear and inviting copy that encompasses the following points:

  • Find words that bring traffic like “winner” and “win”
  • Come up with a great competition headline that highlights the prize and offers something unique
  • Emotions work better than gimmicks because people love to talk about their own feelings and experiences
  • Ask participants to share their experience so that the referral comes from a satisfied customer
  • Ask a question because people love to offer their opinions

Your competition should be in line with your brand, but it can have its own look and feel, too. Surprise people.

6. Make it fun and easy

Would you take part in a difficult and boring competition? No, neither would your fans.

Make sure your competition is fun, surprising, engaging, and easy to enter.

If your goal is to get more people to subscribe to your newsletter, only ask for the relevant information.

People are lazy and busy. They don’t have time to fill in a questionnaire, no matter what the prize. (Remember our exaggerated competition at the top of this post).

7. Promote

Share, share, and share some more. Here are several ideas for spreading word of your competition:

  • Talk about the competition on all your channels.
  • Talk about the prizes or benefits you offer in the competition.
  • Name the finalists, name the winner(s), and interview them.
  • Create blog posts, tweets, status updates, and as much content as you can around the competition and its outcome.
  • Create a hashtag for your competition and cross-promote in all your social media channels.

Remember, the competition is not just about getting a few more names on your email marketing list. It is a chance to create buzz and chatter about your brand and products, and to distribute content to the extra visitors who ended up on your sites because of the competition itself.

Make your competition shareable in all your channels so both your existing and new fans can help you promote it, too.

So, is it worth all the effort?

In a word – yes!

Remember, only the competitions you actually run are effective. Thinking a competition would be a good idea will do nothing until you actually plan it and publish it.

Social media competitions work because they are social, fun, quick, and offer an incentive to take part.

You decide what your objectives are and which channel you will use for the competition, and you can drive participation by actively promoting your competition in all your social media channels.

You can create a lot of buzz with a well-planned and well-presented social media competition, as well as increasing your marketing opt-ins, fans, and followers.

Have you run a successful social media competition recently? Which channel did you use, what were your objectives, and did you meet them? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments.

Rob Brooks works as a Content Producer for RapidCampaign, a Finnish startup that enables online retailers to create smart promotions that combine gamification and brand experience. When Rob is not writing blog posts and producing content, he is out running half-marathons in the Finnish countryside. You can contact him @RapidCampaign or @RobiBrooks.

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