4 Tips for Maximizing Your Next Social Media Contest

By on September 10, 2012

Running a social media contest can be deceivingly easy. What could go wrong? The unfortunate truth is that if you fail to get it right the first time, you not only fail to maximize the contest you’re running, you can also hurt your online reputation and alienate your audience for good. This is, of course, the opposite of what you’re trying to accomplish, so here are some simple tips that can steer you in the right direction.

1. Keep the contest simple

Sometimes companies tap into a popular game, product, or type of media to attract people to their social media contest. This is a justifiable plan, especially if you want to create more traction. But this can easily complicate things and end you up in a position to act as a mediating firm for the very game or product you tapped to popularize your contest. For example, an online company once used Farmville to facilitate and publicize its contest online. But the contest quickly turned into a forum of Farmville fans who wanted to talk about the game, ditching the original purpose of the contest. This can be a very messy situation to be in. Simplify your contest and make sure it can run independently.

2. Create guidelines and rules before you launch the contest

Many companies are guilty of launching the contest first and making up the rules along the way. This practice carries a lot of risks as the contest moves forward. What if there are technical issues with declaring a winner? What happens in a tie? What are the violations to the mechanics of the contest that can call for disqualification? These questions are very important to answer before the contest rolls out. It’s a good way to settle disputes and confusions. Not having the rules straight when problems arise can seriously hurt the credibility and authenticity of your contest. Often times, when a social media contest becomes controversial, it can stick with the company who hosted it for a very long time, ruining its brand reputation.

3. Change the way you think about social media contests

Social media contests are not entirely about you. To realize your marketing goals, you need to think about what your audience – your contest participants – are getting from it. This is the piece of the puzzle that can make the difference between getting your social media contest right or wrong. When you think about them first, they will eagerly heed your call to join in.

4. Identify your target

It’s a fact that your company can’t appeal to everybody. This can be perceived as a limitation to your plans for a social media contest and its possible reach. But this can also be a very good natural screening for the people who will eventually enter. Narrowing down the people you want to join in the contest can give you great results, as it encourages richer brand interactions as the contest progresses. It can also solidify your existing online identity and message by making sure that the contest draws in the people who matter most in your business.

What experience do you have with running social media contests? We’d love to hear your insights! Share with the community in the comments below.

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Matthew Toren

About Matthew Toren

Matthew Toren is a serial entrepreneur, mentor, investor and co-founder of YoungEntrepreneur.com. He is co-author, with his brother Adam, of Kidpreneurs and Small Business, BIG Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right (Wiley). He's based in Vancouver, B.C.