The Pros and Cons of Social Media Contests and Promotions

social media contests

Social media contests are win-win opportunities for consumers and brands. Consumers enjoy the opportunity to win something–a gift certificate, a vacation, a t-shirt, a book, or a lamp. Who doesn’t love free stuff? And brands have the opportunity to grow their fan bases, build awareness, and engage with their target audiences. Here’s how contests can benefit your brand:

  1. Get More Fans: Social media contests are a good way to get more fans for your brand. Accomplishing this is pretty simple. You make following or liking your brand a requirement for entry, and voila! Anyone who wants to participate becomes a follower. It’s easy and doesn’t require any pushing or convincing on your part. If you allow fans to vote for the winner of the contest, this can increase your fan base as well. Anyone who wants to take part in the voting will have to follow or like your brand page.
  2. Turn Your Fans Into Promoters: As you know, Internet users are typically eager to spread the word about anything that’s free. If you create a social media contest that offers something of value for free, such as a gift from your store, a free period of service, a trip, a book or a gift certificate/card, you’re sure to see the entries fly in. And many people who enter will want to share the wealth (or potential for it) with their network of friends, family members, and associates. As such, your fans will become promoters of your brand.
  3. Encourage Engagement: Social media contests can also help foster emotional connections. This often occurs when contest participants are asked to create content for submission, such as photos, videos, pinboards, slogans, or jingles. Likewise, contests that allow participants to choose a winner help create emotional connections. These contests also encourage customer-brand interaction and help stimulate conversations within related online communities.
  4. Collect Data: Often, Internet users are suspicious and annoyed by requests for their information–name, email address, phone number, address, etc. A social media contest provides an easy, not-in-your-face way to collect such information. A brand can require participants to sign up and create a login as part of the entry process, mining valuable lead data without ruffling a bunch of feathers.

Considering a contest of your own? Read about some successful social media contests here: 5 Social Media Contests That Boosted Consumer Brands and 6 Stellar Social Media Contests. Then brainstorm a winning contest idea of your own.

The Downside of Social Media Contests and Promotions

You’ve probably heard that too much of anything can be bad for you, and this is certainly true of promotions. Discussions of social media strategies almost always include ideas for using promotions, sweepstakes and contests to gain exposure, acquire fans, boost engagement, and spur sales. And while such promotions can draw attention to your brand, they are not without pitfalls. Running too many promotions might, in the long run, lead to a less-engaged fan base. Here are some potential pitfalls to consider:

Devaluation of your promotions

One of the major disadvantages of frequent promos, contests, and sweepstakes is that your audience may stop viewing them as special. To put this in perspective, consider that holidays are special, in part, because they do not happen every day. You look forward to them because they aren’t part of your routine. Now, what if your favorite holiday happened every day? At first, you might view it as fun and exciting. After a time, however, it may become ordinary or even boring. The same holds true with too frequent promotions. Your audience may grow to view them as less valuable or even as part of the background noise of the Internet.

Fair promotion friends

Fair weather friends only want to be friends when the sun is shining, and there are no storm clouds overhead. This be the same with some “fans.” Fair promotion fans are only interested in your brand for what they can get for free. If you’re giving something away or offering the chance to win something, they’re willing to take you up on it. These types of fans aren’t interested in really engaging, and your chances of converting them to customers are slim. If your goal is to attract brand advocates? You are unlikely to find them in this batch. 

Alienation of fans 

What about your true fans? These people come to you because they really like your brand and your products. They really want to engage with your brand and build a relationship with you. Sure, they want to hear about sales and sweepstakes, but they don’t want this to be the only message shouted at them. Repeatedly.

So how can you be confident that your promotions are just enough? Here are some things to consider:

What’s your motivation? Don’t just create a promotion for promotion’s sake. Create promotions for a good reason, such as to celebrate a brand milestone or to reveal a new product. If you have a good reason for a promotion and share that with your audience members, they are more likely to value your offering.

 

 

Make sure your promotions reach a significant percentage of your audience. Those that reach only a small percentage of your audience waste your time and your resources.

Develop promotions that help build brand equity rather than merely getting attention.

Aim for short-term promotions. They have more bite, and you’ll have less risk of annoying your fans with frequent reminders to enter.

Sweepstakes and similar promotions can definitely play an important role in your social media strategy. However, careful planning and moderate use are the way to go if you want to engage your audience members rather than bombard and overwhelm them.

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Christina Strickland

Vice President at Crackerjack Marketing
As Vice President of Crackerjack Marketing, Christina works closely with clients to develop and execute world-class social media strategies and creative influencer marketing programs. Her mantra is “measure, measure, measure!” because size really does matter - at least when it comes to growing her clients’ social media presences.
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