So, you’re thinking about using a contest to increase your social reach. I get it. It’s a tempting idea. Low cost(maybe), low effort (maybe) and potential for good response. But before you get started, take a look at three big brands and learn from these three common contest mistakes.
Keep it Simple, Stupid. If your contest can’t be described in one to two sentences, scrap it. This is the Internet that we’re talking about here and even the most reasonable requests for action will be ignored if they are confusing, long or boring.
Check out Summit Brewing’s Twitter Photo Contest. Notice that to win you have to be there at a certain time, you have to take a picture, upload it, include a hashtag and it must be submitted before the event ends.
That’s way too many rules. Especially since the prize is a pair of tickets to the Summit Block Party. For the cost of the tickets to Summit (nothing), they would have gotten a better response by just asking for photo’s of readers with their Summit, anywhere any time. It achieves the same goal. Exposure.
Contests with this many rules are doomed to fail unless there is a high cash value prize at stake, and even then, it’s dicey. As of this writing Summit has had three events and about seven entries. I guess I’ll get myself over there tonight since the odds of winning are so good.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, you need to plan for the best. If you don’t, it could just turn into the worst. Starwood Hotel properties have recently had a rash of social media contests that fall into this category. Most egregious perhaps is Aloft Austin at The Domain. The Westin Charlotte also comes to mind.
The Aloft property was offering 250 points for liking their page. No terms, no conditions. This is the kind of low barrier to entry, high payoff (not really though since 250 Starwood points is roughly valued at $2.50) contest that is certain to spread like wildfire. Especially in a city like Austin, the home of SXSW and generally a tech savvy city.
They pulled the contest a week early and sent this email to the The Points Guy “”Due to the overwhelming response from your promotion on your website of our SPG points for liking our page, we are going to pull this advertisement as it was to be aimed at our frequent guests and local people.” Seems kind of snarky, and almost accusatory. Like he was grifting them.
They also didn’t disburse the points to the people that rightfully earned them, leaving a bad taste in the mouth of many frequent flyers. The failure prompted this open letter from The Points Guy “An Open Letter to Companies Regarding Social Media Free Point Promotions”
The Westin Charlotte had a high barrier to entry contest that required users to post a photo on their page and earn 50 likes on that photo, but it was for 1000 points. Many, many people were able to achieve this. It was obviously many many more than the Westin was planning on since they pulled the contest early and then posted a message giving all the winners two days to message them with their info to claim their points, which brings me to point 3.
Understand the limitations of a Facebook Page. The Westin pulled their contest and then posted a status update indicating that any user who won had to claim their points within 48 hours. They posted this message because whomever launched the campaign didn’t realize that you can’t message users from a Facebook page. Oops.
Posting a status update from a brand page isn’t exactly guaranteed to have the EdgeRank to show up in everyone’s news feed. Instead, almost no one would have seen this. However, the Westin could have posted that message on every winners photo and they would have received a notification that the Westin had commented on their photo. This would have been time consuming. But it would have been the right thing to do.
In order to run a successful contest, you need to plan for the best and then have a plan to execute your award.
And finally: read the Terms and Conditions for a Facebook promotion.