Everyone knows it by now – social media is an integral part of any business today. So now that your profiles are created, optimized, and updated regularly, you may be asking yourself “what’s next”? Running a social media contest is one answer that’s proving to be quite popular (and effective if done correctly).

Social media contests are not for the faint of heart; they require no shortage of brainstorming, planning, testing, and organization. Since social media is still new and constantly evolving, trial and error will teach you what is needed for your business. However, here are some guidelines so you feel slightly more prepared jumping into untouched waters.

Never Stop Planning

“Plan ahead” is an understatement. Running a social media contest requires organization and understanding of every step beginning to end. Run through these crucial questions in the very first stages.

  1. Who is my target audience?
  2. What is the prize? Is it appealing enough to my customers?
  3. What mediums will I use to promote the contest?
  4. How will contestants enter?
  5. Will the value of the prize and the amount of work put into it allow me to break even or profit?
  6. How will I measure my goals (i.e. Facebook fans, newsletter signups, blog readership, etc.)?

Choose a Platform that Reflects your Goals

There are a million and one ways for social media contests to be conducted. Having a clear vision of your goals is imperative when choosing the social media platform on which your contest will be held. For example, if you want to increase your company’s business-to-business commerce, then perhaps you will run a contest using LinkedIn. To promote a specific product, Twitter is a better option. Some contests are run on multiple platforms to increase viewership, while others focus on just one.

Clearly Explain Contestant Participation

The best way to spread word of a social media contest is to ask contestants to share the information. Do you want them to share it on social networks? Blog about it? Email the link to friends? These are the steps you need to make clear when stating the contest rules. Keep it simple – you don’t want to make the steps so complicated that it will deter people from entering.

Use all Avenues for Promotion

One thing you will always hear about social media is that it’s not about you. But when it comes to marketing your product or services, of course it is. The trick is displaying an offer enticing enough to your clientele so that it creates buzz without directly trying to sell your business.

Strategy is everything in the promotional step of a contest – after all, with effective promotion comes maximum ROI. Consider the time of year – run a contest during a slow business period to boost sales. Also, if multiple companies are involved, ask the sponsoring businesses to promote the contest on their end (through their newsletter, on their website, in their blog, etc).

Monitor Results

Social media data can slip through the cracks if not monitored carefully. There are several programs to assist in this step. Check out this link for 48 Free Social Media Monitoring Tools. Social media monitoring can also be done in conjunction with Google Analytics to measure referring traffic and set goals.

Ideas can be grand for social media contests, but keep them grounded enough to know you will break even. Allocating the correct amount of hours and staff to a contest project is also something that will come with trial and error. The most important element of starting any social media contest is to have a detailed, organized plan and timeline of your goals. From there you will set the groundwork to tweak and adjust any steps that require more or less dedication.

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