This post was originally published in Social Media Examiner.
Have you thought of using social media contests and sweepstakes to build and engage your audience?
If you’re looking to gain traction with social promotions, here are eight tips to enhance your next social media campaign.
Ensure Your Promotion Doesn’t Get You In Hot Water
It’s difficult to run a successful campaign if your promotion is blocked, removed or challenged in a court of law. So before we get to the fun part of marketing, there are a few logistical tips to keep in mind.
#1: Running a Facebook Promotion Requires an App
Much has been written about the Facebook Promotional Guidelines and how to run a compliant promotion. The guidelines have evolved, but the most important requirement remains the same: any promotion (i.e., something where a consumer enters for a chance to win a prize) on Facebook must be handled through an app.
Some are inexpensive and no-frills, while others provide a more robust set of features and options to connect you with your customers and personalize the experience.
If you choose a third-party app provider, choose a Facebook Preferred Marketing Developer so you can feel confident you’re in compliance with Facebook’s platform policies.
#2: Twitter Promotions Must Provide Rules Disclosure
Any contest or sweepstakes must provide participants with terms and conditions of entry and Twitter is no exception. With only 140 characters to work with, this becomes one of the bigger challenges of running a Twitter-based promotion.
The easiest way to address this is to host the rules on a separate web page and include a short link when tweeting about the contest. Alternatively you can host a landing page with all of the contest details and requirements and direct traffic to that page, rather than having the interaction take place within the Twitter stream.
For larger-scale promotions, you may wish to utilize a third-party service such as CMP.LY to ensure compliance.
#3: Beware of the Lottery
No, I’m not worried about you blowing your paycheck on Powerball. But lotteries are the domain of the government and you want to ensure your promotion isn’t deemed an illegal lottery.
Any promotion that contains the following three elements is considered a lottery: prize, element of chance in winner selection and consideration (cash payment, purchase requirement or extensive effort required to enter).
Since you wouldn’t have much of a promotion without a prize, you must eliminate either chance or consideration (or best of all, both) to steer clear of potential legal concerns.
Tips to Build Buzz
Once you’ve dotted your I’s and crossed your T’s on the legal and policy side, it’s time to think about how to drive traffic and build momentum for your promotion.
#4: Make it Easy for Users to Share
This is the most important tip when it comes to marketing. Much of the value in a social promotion comes from the increased ease for participants to share your promotion through their social graph.
One of the reasons contests such as “Retweet to Win” are so popular is the nearly frictionless sharing. If you’re using an app on Facebook to encourage viral sharing, ensure that the sharing options are easy and intuitive.
However, it’s also important to be aware that over-sharing can lead to the perception of spam, so it’s important to strike the right balance.
Note: It’s against Facebook policy to directly reward a user for sharing. You may use Facebook apps to reward referrals, but be careful not to directly incentivize sharing.
#5: Regularly Promote Your Contest
Contest organizers will often schedule a bunch of communications when a promotion launches, then fail to maintain communication throughout the campaign.
Be sure to share key milestones and events (e.g., contest round ending, finalists being selected, just reached 100 or 10,000 entries).
If you’re running a user-generated content promotion, it’s also a great opportunity to share content (e.g., popular or unique entries) that will drive greater engagement.
When posting about your promotion on Facebook, be sure to utilize the pinned post feature to keep the post visible at the top of the timeline.
And don’t forget to utilize all of your social channels—it’s OK to promote your Facebook contest on Twitter and Google+.
#6: Amplify Your Message Through Partners
Tap into the power of partner marketing by including sponsors and providing them with exposure in exchange for cross-promotion.
Also be sure to identify influencers (journalists, bloggers, etc.) whom you can reach out to and share news about your promotion.
If you’re running a contest with a judging component to evaluate entries, you may want to invite influencers to be a part of the judging panel. Attaching their name to your contest adds credibility and gives them a good reason to talk about it!
Tips for Contests Featuring User-Generated Content
I am a big believer in the power of user-generated content promotions, but having been involved with many over the past five years, there are a couple of key lessons I’ve learned.
#7: Prime the Pump
Any time you’re asking users to submit content into a promotion, it’s a good idea to seed the contest with a few submissions.
These can be sample entries that you create which are not eligible to win or submissions from participants who have been encouraged to enter early.
The key is to have some entries right away to break the ice and provide others with inspiration for their own submission.
#8: Think Twice Before Relying Solely on the Court of Public Opinion
Contests featuring user-generated content often incorporate a component of public voting. This is something I would encourage because it drives greater virality, with participants naturally incentivized to share their entries and voters taking an active role in the outcome.
However, if your contest is decided 100% by public voting, you need to be prepared to relinquish control of the outcome to those individuals with the largest social networks and/or those using vote-swapping and other tricks to try to game the system.
The most popular contest model among our clients uses a round of voting to narrow the field of entries down to a predetermined number of finalists, and a panel of judges then decides the winner.
By employing a set of predefined judging criteria, the client is able to retain some discretion over who is named the winner(s) while still generating a lot of voting and sharing activity up front.
Another option is to use judging criteria to select finalists and then open it to voting. Regardless of your preferred contest model, ensure that your platform of choice is well-equipped to handle voting and the potential challenges that come along with it.
A Success Story
Recently Mari Smith launched her very first contest. Mari wanted to do something fun and rewarding for her fans, and to introduce a new webinar she was hosting. She was consistently enthusiastic about delivering a great experience for her community and utilized many of the tips outlined above.
Mari invited everyone to submit their Facebook cover photo for a chance to win a Facebook Makeover valued at $1,000. In just three weeks, the promotion received nearly 400 entries, which in turn generated 1,500 shares and more than 3,000 click-throughs.
An additional 2,000 people subsequently participated as entrants or voters as a direct result of another entrant sharing the promotion with them.
The contest received more than 25,000 visits in just three weeks, providing great exposure for Mari and generating a significant number of signups to her webinar.
I’ve seen companies of all sizes use promotions in a similar fashion to inexpensively acquire and engage fans, build awareness for a new product and ultimately drive conversions to sales.