Is a Social Media Contest Right for You?

Two people playing a pick the straw guessing gameIn last week’s #PR20Chat, there was a great conversation about social media contests. I have run four of these contests for my company and I see them as an opportunity to increase buzz and exposure to potential customers. With that said, social-driven contests are not a good fit for every company.

Is there an audience?

Any good contest needs an audience that is interested in the prize offered. Large brands and companies with established social presences have communities that they can tap into. Brands that are out of the limelight, charities and small businesses looking to add a contest to their repertoire need to determine if there is a strong enough community for the contest.

To determine the audience for any sized enterprise, do a quick survey of the platform that you are looking to utilize. If you plan to use Twitter, a quick search of the network for your brand, keyword, or contest prize/tie-in will give you the amount of chatter. With Facebook, do a site search similar to the one previously mentioned and  look at your existing fans.  Look at your fan page insights to see how frequently people share your content which can translate into shares of the contest. Also, review your existing community to gauge the audience size, for example, take10 fans/followers and their community number, you can then do percentages of what the audience would be if X number of friends and X number of their friends shared.

If you are still in doubt as to whether there is an audience for your contest, ask your constituents. A simple post or poll on Facebook or a tweet can give you a vibe of participation. It can be as simple as: Would you enter a contest for a new iPad/year of free lawn care/etc.?

What are your goals?

Perhaps the trickiest part of any contest is determining what success looks like. To avoid hairy situations when the event ends, establish clear-cut goals before launching the contest and judge the results based solely on those goals.

As I previously mentioned, contests to me are a branding tool to increase awareness and buzz. If you are going to take a similar approach, track the number of entrants, tweets, shares, new fans/followers and conversions on the site. Be warned, though, this is not always the easiest sale to the budget makers because buzz is not a standard form of currency.

A contest can also be a great avenue to acquire new customers for the launch of a new product or service. If you want to add new customers you can tie a contest into the launch. If your goal is simply to acquire new leads, gear your contest towards generating as many leads as possible. Success for this should be measured by the volume of leads and how they convert to sales over a set time period.

At the end of the day there is no standard “win” for social contests so pick a goal and crush it.

Eye on the prize

Now, iPhones and iPads are sexy gadgets that everyone wants but they are not always the best prizes.

Sounds crazy right?

But think about it, these prizes will draw in a lot of people to enter, but they might not be your core audience – translated that to not buying your products or services.

To overcome this, your prizes should be a natural fit for your customer profile. For example if you have a restaurant, offer a wine pairing class, gift certificates or cooking classes. These are a natural association and the attainability of these prizes can help boost buy in from consumers.

At the end of the day it is up to you to decide what will work for your company. You can build the contest in-house or go to external companies. Success and goals are not black and white or a one-sized fits all, so be ready to take your lumps and sip from the victory cup.  This is not a perfect science so don’t be put off if your first rodeo does not meet expectations.

What has been your experience with social contests? Have you entered or run one? What turns you on to them or what made yours tick?