By Priya Ramesh (@newpr)
Online contests have earned a permanent spot in the social media super bowl, especially in attracting the 90% of lurkers who don’t engage with you but know exactly what your brand is up to. By giving them a compelling incentive to engage with you through prizes, freebies, vacation pacakages and/or unique experiences, contests and sweepstakes do offer a reason for brand engagement. Whether its meaningful or not is a topic for a different blog post. My post today is inspired by a #PRSADIConf session I attended last week called “You May Already Have Won: How to run a winning online contest?” presented by Sandra Fathi, President, Affect Public Relations and Ben Pickering, CEO, Strutta, an interactive promotions company that helps businesses manage online contests.
Here’s a recap of the session but first ask yourself these questions before you consider online contests as a strategic piece to your marketing goals.
1. What are the business objectives of running a promotion? I can see your eyebrows rise, ‘cos you think I must be really stupid to start with this question, right? Well, let me tell you how many of us venture into online contests with a “Oh, my competitors launched one last year, so maybe I should do it too.” My friend, contests and promotions require critical investments in terms of time, money and resources so think, re-think and think again before you commit to running contests. Here are some SPECIFIC business benefits outlined by the #PRSADIConf session:
i. Generate leads and sales
ii. Drive traffic online <-> offline
iii. Increase brand equity
iv. Engage and delight customers
v. Grow fan base, generate opt-ins and subscribers
vi. Gain user data and insight
vii. Collect consumer generated content
Take the time to define key objectives; be realistic and specific about your contest goals before you launch.
2. Do you know your audience well enough to know what format and social platform would resonate with them? Online contests can have different barriers to entry depending on the format (essay, photo, video). A thorough understanding of your audience behavior is critical to selecting the right contest format and also the right platform for the contest. Video contests demand more time and attention and have the highest barrier to entry as compared to a 250 essay submission. If your contest targets millennials, then Facebook is definitely a good platform to launch the contest.
3. Do you understand the rules and regulations around running online contests? There are some rules around online promotions that can be deemed an illegal lottery if your promotions contain all three of the following:
- Anything of tangible value
- Any random selection of winner, absence of skill
- Purchase or Payment
- Substantial effort
- Possible with UGC contests but more theoretical than practical risk
- Liking a Page, sending a tweet not “substantial effort”
[Must eliminate 1 of 3].
Also, Facebook has strict guidelines around running contests on their platform and Facebook exercises the right to take down contests that don’t meet these guidelines. You can read the Facebook contest guidelines here http://www.facebook.com/promotions_guidelines.php.
4. Do you have time and resources to plan and execute? A contest can take a good six months from planning, promotions to execution, if done right. Most companies miss this critical phase and jump right into execution, only to be bewildered by near abysmal participation. We have successfully launched Facebook contests for our consumer clients, Cambria Suites and BISSELL and based on our experience, we have seen how promotions directly impact level of participation. The concept of “if you launch a contest, they will come” is definitely a fallacy. Also from a resource perspective, you are better off entrusting the contest execution to a third party (Strutta, Wildfire) or your agency partner unless you have a digital team in-house that understands how to manage online contests.
5. What platform is best suitable for your online contest? Facebook, Twitter and microsites are the top platforms periodically used to launch online contests but your contest goals and audience will define where you want to launch. While Twitter contests are great for referral traffic and could possibly go viral, there is only so much you can do with 140 characters. We have definitely relied on Twitter as a launch pad for all promotions, a driving machine to generate buzz around the contest. In my personal experience, Facebook promotions offer increased engagement with your target audience but be aware of the new implications to the Timeline changes that affect how your run contests.
6. Do you have a crisis plan just in-case your contest backfires on you? Remember McDonald’s Twitter campaign where they encouraged folks to share their positive experiences with the hashtag #McDstories? This campaign got hijacked by Twitter users sharing their not-so-favorite moments about bad food and body parts. McDonald’s had to quickly terminate the campaign to save it’s brand reputation. Even though you might have the most sincere goals to positively affect your community online, sometimes social media campaigns can totally backfire and become a PR nightmare. Having a crisis plan in place while running a contest could save you some unwanted stress and help you act quickly to remove roadblocks to a successful promotion.
Online Contest Success Story: We recently launched a Facebook promotion for BISSELL called the “What’s your carpet’s dirty little secret?” Participants had to submit a 250-word essay confessing their carpet and upholstery secrets to enter a chance to win a Lift-Off® Deep Cleaner for herself and five friends plus a $2,500 gift card and BISSELL Lift-Off products. We relied heavily on Facebook advertising (no paid media) to bring new friends to BISSELL’s page and were quite pleased to see the results at the end of the three-week campaign. The main goal of this campaign was to raise awareness around BISSELL’s Lift-Off® Deep Cleaner product which this contest definitely surpassed each of the key metrics we had outlined prior to launching the contest.
|750-1,000 contest entries||1,459 entries|
|Increase total “likes” to over 100K||103,394 total likes; 4916 new likes in four weeks|
|350-400 newsletter subscriptions||677 newsletter subscriptions|
I want to leave you with some great reminders that Sandra Fathi and Ben Pickering provided during their #PRSADIConf presentation:
One of the biggest reasons promotions fail is due to lack of planning. Plan for when things don’t go according to plan!
Favor execution over concept – i.e., a concise message, clear call to action, and good UI will outperform “clever but complex.”
Marketing partners/sponsors can expand the reach of your promotion and provide additional marketing channels. They can also help increase the prize value, making it more attractive to entrants. Technology partners with platforms and social media tools can make it easy to create and manage a promotion.
The presentation is available at http://www.slideshare.net/Sfathi/you-may-have-already-won-how-to-run-an-online-contest-or-sweepstakes.
I want to take a quick pulse check on what has helped you promote online contests the most. Please leave your comment below. Thanks!
ii) Facebook ads
iii) Earned media (traditional and bloggers)
iv) Paid media (online ads)
v) Other (please specify)