We all have some level of competitive instinct in us. If you've never thought, "Hey, I could do that better," you're probably kidding yourself. Competition is as much a part of our nature as eating or breathing -- and sometimes we even get competitive with those! So when you add in a prize and some social media exposure to combine incentive with instinct you can see why contests can be so effective for marketing. However, managing a successful contest is no backyard pickup game. There're a lot more than just getting people together and yelling "play ball!" Here are a few quick tips so you have your A-game when it's time for your own contest.
Set goals and key performance indicators (KPIs)
A contest isn't just meant to get people talking. The jury may still be out on social media ROI but for contests, given the resources necessary, there needs to be a measurable return. You need to know what you're trying to achieve with the contest and, more importantly, how to measure it. Whether it's "likes," leads, direct revenue, or just branding, define what success means and the metric that best reflects it.
Seed the field
The idea "if you build it, they will come" doesn't apply to contests. A quick Google search of "social media contest" will yield around 210 million results. Search "contest" on Twitter, and your news feed turns into a pin wheel. Clearly, contests are a noisy space, so if you want people to get involved you can't rely on them finding you -- you need to find them! Search out relevant social media groups, forums, or key influencers that are a natural fit with the objectives or details of your contest and put in some good promotional grunt work.
For any prize "x," know the "why"
The Lombardi Trophy itself is not why professional football players endure such grueling seasons year after year. They want everything the trophy means for their profession. Likewise, when trying to decide what prize will get your audience excited to compete, don't assume a simple product will be an adequate selling point. Be sure to know why your audience wants to get involved before you can expect them to care how your contest works. Also, make sure the prize is likely to bring in the sort of competitors you want.
If the goal of your contest is to give your marketing a boost, keep your audience engaged throughout (and after) the contest. Determine if you want the audience to vote on the winning entry (your decision). Think about if there will be several levels before the final vote. Consider a series of contests leading up to the finale (i.e., all of the reality talent shows).
Disclosure, disclosure, disclosure
Social media contests are a great way to create buzz and word of mouth advertising, but because the people who are talking about your brand or contest are doing so in hopes of winning a prize, their comments may qualify as endorsements and become subject to regulations by groups like the FTC. A good rule of thumb is to include terms and conditions or a quick disclosure on the contest page, so even if the contestants aren't aware of their own need to disclose their intent, the link they share will keep them covered.
The biggest mistake you can make after running a great contest is to end it the day the prize is announced. Yes, the contest has to end, but you should have a strategy in place to follow up with all of the leads -- and a high priority plan for those that are most promising. In addition to direct follow, don't forget about blog posts, Twitter and Facebook updates, press releases, and more. And hey, while you're at it, start planting the seeds for your next contest!
Seth Lieberman is CEO of SnapApp.
On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.
"Prize cup against the background" image via Shutterstock.