3 Guidelines for Running a Social Media Contest

By Michele Weisman If you're planning to launch a social media contest or giveaway, make sure the concept fits your social strategy and your goals. Choosing the right type of promotion to run on any social network can be a challenge. Promotions are important because they drive traffic online and offline, increase brand awareness, surprise and delight customers, engage users, gain consumer insight, and ultimately generate sales and leads. To help you decide what will work best for your goals, here are three types of social promotions you can run.

1. Sweepstakes and prizes, oh my! A sweepstakes is a chance based promotion, which is a great way for brands to collect data from existing or new fans. Participants enter via a form and a winner is chosen at random on a specified date. The barrier to entry is low, which allows a higher percentage of fans to participate. But remember, the prize should align with your fan base. For instance, Bedsider is helping its fans embrace their summer style by giving away 100 one-year subscriptions to Birchbox.com (only through Friday, Aug 16th!).* This prizing makes sense because fans of Bedsider embrace the idea of individual style (and so does Birchbox.com).

2. Ask your fans to vote. This grassroots approach opens the door to an organic, viral opportunity. The barrier to entry is simple, requiring users to participate with just one vote. Voting contests on Facebook are an excellent strategy to engage with your existing fan base. Every vote will generate a story on Facebook's Open Graph. For example, JetBlue is currently running a Facebook contest dubbed "Something Blue." The airline's Facebook fans have the opportunity to vote for their favorite couple to “lei” it all on the line and say “I do.”  The couple with the most votes will win the ultimate sponsored wedding at Terminal 5 in New York's JFK airport on October 23rd and a honeymoon package to Honolulu courtesy of Hawaiian Airlines. It is also important to make sure your partners align with the theme of the contest as well as the fan base.

3. A picture is worth a thousand words. Social media is becoming increasingly more image-based, so photo contests are a great way to engage fans. It rewards your existing fan base while driving up interactions on your Page. A great example is the recent Major League Soccer (MLS) photo contest. Fans compete for two tickets and a trip to watch Clint Dempsey's home debut against Portland. Participants are instructed to design an image, drawing, photo or poster that represents Dempsey's return to MLS. Each entry via tweet or Instagram post must contain the hashtag #WatchDempsey. This non branded universal hashtag makes the photo entry extremely easy to submit and share.

No matter what contest or sweepstakes you decide to run, it's important to make sure these initiatives are in line with your community and brand. You might think you have a unique promotion idea with a "shiny toy" prize, but more often than not, your contest isn't successful. Remember to make it easy to enter, ask for as little information as possible, and cross promote across all marketing channels (not just social).

*Disclosure: Bedsider is a Likeable client.

What types of social contests have you had the most success with? Share in the comments section below!