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Jolina Pettice

How To Run A Winning Online Contest – #PRSADIConf

By Jolina Pettice     Marketing PR Conferences, Online Marketing, Social Media, User Generated Content

Sandra Fathi - PRSA Digital Impact ConferenceIf you flip through your TV channel guide, it’s hard not to notice the number of contest-based shows. Whether people are competing to be the next music icon, lose weight or play games using household products the common theme is competition and a chance to win big.

TV producers are smart and continue to find success from audiences who like to compete and love to win.

This same idea can be leveraged in online marketing to get a community excited, find new audiences and keep your brand top of mind.

At the PRSA Digital Impact Conference Sandra Fathi, president and founder of Affect and Ben Pickering, CEO of Strutta guided the audience through the process to create a winning online contest.

Here are some reasons they shared that companies decide to run a promotion.
1. Generate leads and sales
2. Drive traffic online and offline
3. Increase brand equity
4. Engage and delight customers
5. Grow fan base, generate opt-ins and subscribers
6. Gain user data and insight
7. Collect consumer generated content

The 2 common types of promotions include Sweepstakes (chance-based promotion) & Contest (skill-based promotion).

When conducting a sweepstakes keep the call to action clear and the forms easy to fill out.

For contests, there may be a public voting or closed judging or a combination of both. In this method be sure that the criteria for winning is clearly articulated and readily available.

In either model, consider rewarding participants with coupons, discounts or smaller prizes to reward their time and effort, if even they don’t win the grand prize.

Promotional Law Basics
Running promotions involves adhering to laws and the guidelines of individual channels.

Promotion containing all 3 (prize, chance and consideration) is deemed an illegal lottery. Either eliminate chance or consideration.

Facebook promotion guidelines include the following Don’ts:

  • administer a promotion directly on your Page or use Facebook features as an entry or voting mechanism
  • automatically enter someone for Liking, posting a photo or comment
  • use a like button for voting
  • use Facebook channels to notify winners

For Twitter, the 140 character limit can make disclosure of material and policy items challenging. Make sure to host the information on your website and link to it often.

Planning Your Promotion
As with any marketing campaign, it’s important to align with business objectives before launching a contest. Documenting your intended outcomes will ensure that the promotion developed is designed to achieve these goals.

As goals are outlined, identify the KPI’s as well. KPIs may include an increase in social community, visitors to a website and/or additional actions from the visitors on-site.

Important planning questions to consider including scoping out time and resources available, setting clear and realistic goals, knowing what your audience wants and creating understandable rules and regulations.

Choosing Your Promotion Type
As you evaluate promotion types, consider it on a scale of low to high in terms of customer engagement and barrier to entry.

The lower the barrier to entry (sweepstakes) the more people who will likely sign up. As you move toward photo and video promotions the barrier to entry increases, but so to does engagement.

Tips for A Successful Promotion
Plan Ahead
One of the biggest reaons promotions fail is due to lack of planing. Create a marketing plan for the contest as you would with any other campaign including key actions, milestones and measurement.

Don’t Over Complicate
Favor execution over concept.  The best idea if not well executed will go nowhere.

Leverage Partners
Marketing partners or sponsors can expand the reach of your promotion and help offset costs with marketing and/or prizes.

Tips to Build Buzz
1. Make it easy to share
2. Post regularly on Facebook (used ‘pinned post’ to keep it visible)
3. Leverage other social networks
4. Promote on your website
5. Email existing customers
6. Enlist sponsors to cross promote
7. Identify influentials to help

Promoting Your Promotion
1. Build and budget for effective marketing (pre and post) including PR, marketing, social media, on-site/in-store and point of sale

2. Leverage existing and new company assets to achieve KPIs through your own database, databases of sponsors. Enlist the help of others who also have a large audience, such as influentials. If you have built them into the promotion, all the better.

3. Stack the deck  and seed entries
Encourage people to enter so that there are examples of what an entry can/should look like.

4. Plan for contingencies if the contest isn’t going to plan
This  may include budgeting for additional costs, but also plan for public take-over and how you will respond and act.

Selecting a Technology Partner or Platform
Here are items to consider when selecting a partner or platform.

  • Custom vs Standard Build
  • Expertise vs Experiment
  • Social Media Tie-Ins
  • Budgetary Constraints
  • Time-To-Market
  • Internal Resources

A case study – New York Intern Project
Sandra’s agency launched a contest to hire a summer intern. However, true goals of the contest were generating awareness for the agency, drive PR and increase social media engagement.

In addition, it was a proof of concept to see if they could run a successful contest and gain valuable insights.

And hopefully find a great intern.

A public vote was used to narrow down contestants to the top 6. Then the top 3 were flown to New York for interviews and challenges. From there, judges picked the winner.

Celebrity judges who were also relevant to the space, such as Guy Kawasaki, were chosen to lend credibility, build in promotional mechanisms and have objective judging.

Campaign results included a 5-fold increase in Facebook Like, 96 entries and over 14,000 votes.  In addition, media coverage was gained in several outlets including CNNMoney.

Contests can hold great opportunity to get a community excited, create content and engage with your brand. While the true end goal may not be giving away a prize, but rather to capture data or drive awareness, a contest can be a great mechanism.

If you are looking to run contests consider your resources and intended outcomes. Then determine whether one, large promotion or a series of smaller promotions is most likely to serve your goals. In addition, think about your existing online marketing efforts and what type of contest will fit in best with the channels and communities you have created.

Have you run an online contest? If so, what did you find worked well or not so well?


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