How, Why, When and Where You Should Host a Social Contest
When it comes to engaging your audience on any social network, there are some certain rules to stick to. In general, be engaged, ask questions and get to know your audience and your fans. This method of engagement works on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, and even Pinterest. While this is definitely a good cornerstone for Social Media engagement, there are other things you can do occasionally to really stick it to 'em. Contests are a great way to increase engagement with your fans, customers, and followers. If done right, you will see a long lasting effect on your strategy and traffic.
Now, if there is anyone who loves a good contest, its me. I go nuts for them. In fact, I am a fan of many random pages on Facebook because they hosted a contest. And even though the contest is over and I didn't win, I'm still a fan.
HOW CONTESTS INCREASE ENGAGEMENT
Contests increases engagement in a number of different ways. We have defined engagement in previous posts, as interaction between the brand and the audience. This can be in the form of comments or shares. Contests in many ways bring both to the table.
1. Grows Your Fanbase
Contests are a great way to build your fan page and add followers. By making it mandatory for contest entrants to "like" your page, you are going to see that increase right away. You will also see an increase in likes/followers as a byproduct of the sharing entrants are doing. If you encourage contestants to share on their fan pages, or comment on specific actions, you will show up more on news feeds.
2. Builds your list
While growing your followers and fans is quite important to build your presence on the social web, never underestimate the value of an email address. This should be a mandatory field to enter. If you use Wildfire to host your contest (which I recommend) the contestant is opting in to receive marketing materials from you. This is important.
It is important to have opt-in emails for a variety of reasons. (First of all, they must be opt-in or you can get in big trouble.) The most important being continued communication with the fan. You can let them know about specials, deals, and even new contests. Don't worry about unsubscribes. If they unsubscribe, they weren't going to buy anything anyway. You'd rather have a solid list, than a large, uninterested list.
Hopefully, with the right prize you will be gathering a targeted list.
3. Gathers User Generated Content
There are many different types of contests that you can hold. The most engaging ones are those that are centered around user-generated content in some way. If you are unfamiliar with the term user-generated content, it simply means content that fans submit. This can be a photo, a video, an essay or even a testimonial. This content can be yours to use after contestants submit. Just make sure you put that in the rules and you should be good to go.
User-generated content is interesting to marketers because it shows a different side of the brand and often depicts a sentiment someone has about the brand. Fans also love their work to be shown, which can increase cross promotions. You can create a "Fan" section on your site to feature this type of content. We'll get more into that later.
4. Increases Conversations
Many photo contests allow people to comment and vote on entries. This is a great way to increase conversations around the brand and around the contest. Conversations are a key component to engagement. As I have mentioned many times before, encourage and embrace conversations.
5. Increases Exposure
Contests are great for increasing exposure for your brand. Not only will you reach a new audience, you will reach their friends as well. You will need to promote your contest for this to work, but if done right, you can reach a completely new audience that you didn't know existed.
6. Adds A Viral Element
A contest also adds a viral element. As you request your fans and contestants share their entry (if it is open to voting) or share the contest to for an additional entry, you will be seen on many new pages. If the content you receive is really great, that in itself has the opportunity to "go viral."
Contests are different than sweepstakes because they require input from the entrants. Sweepstakes are good for building your list, but they are less engaging. Each social network has a different kind of contest that works.
Photo contests work best on Facebook because it is a photo heavy site. The most important part of hosting a Facebook contest is knowing when to host it. Are you going to host it alongside a launch or a new product you are selling. What are your goals here. Do you want to drive awareness of a new product? Do you want to grow your list? Do you want to showcase work? All of these questions should be taken into consideration when planning your Facebook contest.
Another thing to consider is where you will host it? Will you build out a microsite and promote on Facebook? Or will you create a contest using Wildfire that will allow you to host your contest through a tab on your Facebook page.
Popular Twitter contests have included describe something in 140 tweets or less, or retweet to win. In my opinion you will be better off with something that requires effort. Perhaps it is a 140 character joke contest or a describe your dream in 140 characters or less. As long as there is something you are asking the contestants to do, you are going to find your engagement on the up. You can also use twitter for a photo contest by encouraging people to tweet a pic. Whenever you do a twitter contest make sure you promote your hashtag. This could be something you can brand in the future. It will also make your life a lot easier when it comes to finding the submissions. The problem with a Twitter contest is that you don't receive emails. To avoid this, you can ask the contestant to tweet their answer and send you the link with their email, name and other details via a form you create.
The most popular type of Pinterest contest is the PinItToWinIt contest. I have done a few different types of PinItToWinIt contests and we received amazing traffic that is continuing. As everything on Pinterest stays on Pinterest for as long as that board remains you are likely to continue to get traffic for a long time. A good way to encourage traffic to drive back to your site is by creating the contest around Pinning things from your site. This way your site content shows up on many different boards. The more boards your content shows up on, the more traffic you are going to receive. Of course you want to make sure that your site has content that works with Pinterest.
To capture emails here you have to make sure that you have a form where they will submit their board, email, number and other details. In a future post I will show you a clients Pin It To Win It contest as a case study. I love Pinterest.
Instagram is a great place to host a photo contest. I have seen photo contests that last one day and some that last all month. I love the idea of using Instagram to host a contest because the use of hashtags are a lot of fun on that network. If you are a clothing brand you can host a #showusyourlook contest. If you are a hair studio, you can host a #bestbraid contest. Not only is there a lot of engagement with these types of contests, you will also get a lot of great content you can use as well as new ideas. The downside is gathering emails is a bit tougher. You can use a form for them to submit their picture (link), email, and other info you'd like to have.
Do you enter social media contests? Have you seen any interesting or new ideas out there?
Stephanie Frasco is a leading social media marketing consultant. Over the past 7 years, she has worked closely with clients from all over the world to help each of them get more results from social networking and blogging. Through experience, Stephanie has mastered some of the most powerful social media websites. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter and download her engagement report.
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