How To Win At Contest Marketing Without Ruining Your Life


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SuperheroContests  in social media can effectively increase the number of inbound links to your site (and profiles) as well as generate buzz and exposure for your brand. You can increase the size of your email database. You can source content and ideas through contests. Contests can help build excitement around your brand. Contests can increase visits to your site. Contests can also make your life hell. I’ve run enough contests now to know exactly how NOT to do them. I’ve ruined my life for weeks on end because I failed to set up my contests up properly. I am here to save you from that same fate. </overly dramatic>


Okay. Sorry. Couldn’t help but throw in at least one Worldcup reference. As with anything you HAVE to establish what your goals are for a contest. These goals will inform every piece of your contest so make sure you are clear on this. If you’re looking to build links you will use entirely different mechanics than if you’re simply looking to gather email addresses or boost your brand mentions.  Set these up and do not waver your tactics from them. This will save you buckets of time down the road.


If you’re including a ‘Tweet to Enter’ aspect of your contest ensure that you’ve got the ability to capture the entries for the entire length of the contest. I highly recommend in the case of Twitter based contests the use Rowfeeder to capture this data.  Twitter has been historically unreliable and continues to become increasingly so. Don’t let this data get away from you! Outline the hours and days the contest will run for and make the cut offs concrete. If your contest gets picked up by the very vibrant sweepstakes participants on Twitter they will continue to enter for days/months on end. In an effort to avoid continued tweets far after the contest has closed be sure and update the page or blog post you initially posted and reach out to those that are continuing to enter. A kind “I’m so sorry, but that contest closed on Jan 1, 8 years ago. Thanks for entering” will alert them and prevent them from spreading it to their network.

Hashtag, @Name, or Both?

This point relates specifically to contests run on Twitter. At this time you’ll want to revisit the goals of your contest. Let’s say that your main goal of this particular contest is to increase brand mentions and your reach. When you set up your contest you’ll likely have users tweet or RT a particular phrase to enter. Include your company’s Twitter account name in this. A sample tweet might look like this:
@TotallyEngagedCustomer: OMG I totally want a XYZVuvuzela from @awesomecompany! Check out to enter!
In a case like this you’re likely going to get a ton of brand mentions and exposure to your company’s Twitter account (consider the length of your contest here – that could be a lot of mentions and you may not have the bandwidth to manage this very long). If you’re not moving towards increased awareness of your brand’s Twitter account or more followers then including your Twitter name in the tweet isn’t necessary. Consider using a hashtag to track entries or collect entries on a contest specific landing page.  Then your tweet to enter would look more like:
@TotallyEngagedCustomer:  OMG I totally want a XYZVuvuzela!! I entered to win here and so can you! #pterodactylcupcakes
If you’re NOT collecting entries via tweets, be sure to offer some type of incentive for the user to share the contest such as additional entries.  Otherwise they have very little motivation to tell anyone about it (thus decreasing their chances of winning).

Choosing a Winner

Contest WinnerHow are you going to do this? Is it the first person to respond with a correct answer to a question? Okay, that’s pretty straight forward. If you’ve opted to choose your winner at random from a pool of entrants then you have made your life a little more difficult. This gets even more tricky if you’re allowing entries from Facebook and/or onsite submissions. I recommend allowing multiple entry methods to account for users who may not use a particular platform, but make them as easy as possible to collect in to one place. Tools like TwitRand allow you to pick a tweet at random from a pool specified by keyword, hash tag, or @reply. You can utilize a random number generator to choose other entries out of a spreadsheet or what not. Have this process clearly defined before you begin the contest. You’ll need to include this in the Terms and Conditions and this will also prepare you to answer the questions that will undoubtedly come up from those who don’t read the Terms and Conditions. Who really does.

Terms and Conditions

This one you’re likely going to want to get your lawyer involved with. You can often write these once and subsequently swap out details for later contests. However you and your team feel comfortable handling the interaction with your lawyer is up to you – just make sure you have this in place and visible to entrants on the landing page. This is especially important if you’ve got followers, customers, fans, etc in countries outside of the United States. Even if you’re completely domestic there are inter-state commerce laws that affect how contests can and should be managed that you need to address here. There are a host of other legal considerations that you can likely rely on your legal team to advise you on. I am a big fan however, of being familiar with this type of information myself. I highly recommend you take a look at the “Plain Language” Guide to the Deceptive Mail Prevention and Enforcement Act of 1999 that the DMA put together. These tips should help make your life a bit easier should you decide that running a contest in social media is right for your company. What are some tactics you’ve used that I missed?]]>


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