Do’s and Don’ts of Promotional Competitions

If you scrolled through your social media newsfeeds today, you will probably have come across some sort of promotional competition. From road trips to granola, performance-enhancing Christmas hampers to formal dresses, the internet is rife with companies giving away free products and services in return for precious likes, follows and general publicity.

It’s a common marketing tactic, usually employed to deliver a quick boost to traffic and social followings, and typically, quite simple to set up.

However, the real issue now is not whether you will be able to run a competition, but how that competition might stand out with such a saturation of giveaways already online. Follow our do’s and don’ts of promotional competitions to find out how to make the most of your giveaways.

DO consider your goals before starting
It’s important to think about what you want this competition to actually achieve for you. For example, your company may require a better SEO rank to improve their sales, and so hosting a ‘Follow & RT’ competition really has little value to you. Instead, you might consider an interesting, topical competition which many websites within your community would want to cover editorially. Alternatively, you might be more interested in gaining more engaged followers, and decide that the best way to do that is to keep the entry requirements simple and put some paid advertising behind it, in order to target those who would have genuine interest in your product or service. However you decide to run your competition, just make sure that you can see how the mechanic and creative can best deliver your aims.

DON’T break the rules
No marketing tactic or digital growth should come before the legality of your competition. Make sure to check social media platforms’ terms and conditions before launching a competition, and make amendments to your competition as needs be, to make sure you won’t be penalised. Social Media Examiner, for example, gives you a list of rules which must be included in all competitions, and notes Facebook has its specific guidelines for when you are running a competition through it.

Also, make sure that you follow the rules which you have set for yourself. Do not cheat the competition so that friends or family members might win the prize, close the giveaway how and when you say you will, and always follow through on your promises, whether that is just when the winner can expect their prize or if there are any additional costs. Not only is it unethical, but your company will feel the impact of entrants’ distaste and frustration, and you can be sure that any competition you run in future will perform poorly.

DO be creative
A simple ‘Follow and RT’ style competition can be effective, especially for small or common prizes. After all, it delivers what it asks for: an increase social following and a wide circulation.

However, it can only do so much for you. The most common problem with generic competitions like this is that they attract ‘compers’ and people who have absolutely no interest in your brand besides the fact it is offering them something free. Therefore, even if your competition manages to boost your social following by five hundred, can you be sure that the majority of those people are a) engaged and b) real, and not just accounts set up to enter competitions multiple times.

It can also be boring. A quick scroll through the #giveaway hashtag reveals just how many competitions are running every single day, so it’s important to stand out. For example, Del Mar Fans and Lighting ran a competition to give away a pendant lamp shade, with a timely Super Bowl 50 twist. The mechanic remained simple, but the creative was fun and relevant.

Digital DNA talks about the benefit of being creative with your competitions, as has done by giving away a billboard placement to a graduate or student trying to find a job. You not only have free user generated content, but your creative story is much more likely to be picked up by journalists and external websites than a run-of-the-mill giveaway.

DON’T overcomplicate it
When it comes to deciding your mechanism, it’s typically best to keep it simple. If you require your entrants to join your mailing list, follow you on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and then post a photo of themselves with a poster they made for your company, and you’re only offering a 50% discount off their next purchase, it will be no surprise to anyone why your competition flopped. Instead, if you are offering an item or service of lower value, try not to press your audience too much.

winner-1548239_1280With higher value value prizes, of course, you can afford to be a little more creative, but you should still try to keep your requirements relatively broad to maximise the amount of people able to enter. You can use these opportunities to ask for higher user engagement, such as when personal budgeting app Mint asked users to submit pictures of their financial successes for their #MyMintMoment competition. Whether it was saving for the wedding of their dreams, or a once-in-a-lifetime vacation, users posted their pictures with the hashtag with the hopes of winning $1000 , generating over 3000 posts on Instagram alone.

DON’T think it’s all over
Once your competition has closed, you might think that the campaign is officially over. However, the potential for publicity remains, if you’re willing to grab it.

Think about the stories your competition has created. Are you able to showcase the incredible pictures submitted to your painting competition, or offer a website a video of all of the clips that your entrants sent in? Maybe your winner has an interesting story of how or why they entered, or their life has changed somewhat since they won.

For example, Shoeboxed, a digital archive service, ran a competition in which users were asked to send in pictures of their messy desks in the hopes of winning an iPad mini. Not only was the competition successful in terms of the publicity they received, but from the 200 photographs they received for the competition, Shoeboxed were able to create evergreen content for their website, which consequently ranked on the first Google search page for the term “Messy desk”.

Shopify writer, Tucker Schreiber, says that it’s also important to exhibit your results appropriately to not only thank your winner for participating and most likely, doing a lot of free promotion for you, but also to act as social proof and encourage more engagement for future competitions.

Remember this content can be repurposed later again, to leverage further publicity and traffic.

DO look for help from others
It’s common sense to alert your followers and mailing list, but don’t neglect to contact other websites and social influencers. Simply giving journalists and social media managers a heads up to your competition and why it’s of interest to them over email could secure you a social post or article to further promote your giveaway. Even a simple tweet from a particularly well respected social influencer can have a big impact on your competition’s success.

Sometimes the best boost for your competition is to have the help of another website or social influencer. If they have a larger following, obviously your giveaway will reach more new customers, and an external website may give your own business a new authority and place in the community. You might ask them to run the competition for you, with a mechanic that leads entrants back to you, or to simply share it with their followers. For example, UK wedding venue Finnebrogue Woods teamed up with wedding photographers Simple Tapestry to give away an engagement shoot, held at their venue. However, being a small, relatively unknown venue which didn’t yet have a sizeable social following, Finnebrogue sought the help of a larger website, Quirky Weddings, to host the competition. Not only were the results beautiful, but their social following on Facebook grew to over 2000.

DON’T panic
In every marketing campaign, you can come under fire for just about anything. Messages and posts about unfairness, rule breaking or any number of problems with the very idea of your competition can and do come through the social media accounts of many companies, and global giants are no exception.

The worst thing you can do in the face of criticism is respond defensively and aggressively. Instead, take the person’s complaint on board and evaluate if you have in fact run your competition poorly. In the instance that you are at fault, apologise and say that you will implement changes in future competitions, but if you have not made any mistake, respond politely and professionally. Tell them that you appreciate their feedback but that your competition is being run fairly, and leave it at that.

The most effective way to avoid criticism, is to spend extra time considering your Terms & Conditions, and the mechanic you will use to choose your winner. Generally, no one will be offended by a giveaway of any kind, but it’s good to be prepared.

Competitions are marketing idea staple and for good reason. They can be a great way to grab extra publicity for your company, whether in the form of impressions or engagement or new followers, but to really make them work for you, they require careful planning and care. Simple as they seem, the best promotional campaigns are cleverly tied to a specific aim to help better your business as a whole.

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