4 secrets for generating buzz with online contests

When you play to consumers’ competitive sides, you can gather potential leads while also boosting your brand and increasing social media engagement. Consider these tips.

People love freebies—and many love to win.

Throngs of consumers grabbed a complimentary ice cream or Italian ice to celebrate the firstday of spring, and that same clamoring can be seen online as consumers share branded posts on their social media feeds in the hopes of winning swag.

Hootsuite wrote in a blog post:

According to a poll conducted by the Content Marketing Institute and ion interactive, 81 percent of content marketers say interactive content (like polls, contests, quizzes, and so on) grabs readers’ attention more effectively than static content. It’s not surprising, then, that half of content marketers are using contests as a component of their marketing strategy.

Thinking of launching a contest to breathe life into your PR and marketing efforts? Consider these takeaways:

1. Outline your goals.

Effective PR and marketing efforts require a foundation that starts with goals and objectives. These should be more than vanity metrics and superficial desires, such as “more Facebook followers” or “going viral.”

As soon as you know what you’re after—for example, more prospective leads for a new product or service or customer content for future social media campaigns—build your contest with that goal in mind.

Include fields on your entry forms for consumer information you need to fulfill your goal, and select specific platforms to reach your desired audiences. Consider the language and other steps you must take to make your contest posts effective on each platform—especially those with recent algorithm changes, such as Facebook.

2. Select appealing prizes.

Pens, pins and other trinkets might work well for trade shows and conferences, but consumers won’t want to give you their information unless there’s a chance they’ll win something they actually want.

Consider offering a gift basket of your most popular products or, if you’re an online retailer, credit to spend on anything within your store that the winners wish. You can also give away trips and services that tie in with either your organization or your contest messaging, such as a family vacation, spa services or groceries.

Cash is also a popular (and versatile) prize—and you can use the allure of currency while showcasing your brand. Give away gift certificates or prepaid gift cards that you can use like credit cards that has your organization’s name, logo and colors on it.

You can also partner with other organizations to boost your contest’s visibility and offer additional prizes. Whatever route you take, select items that seem equal to the amount of work you’re having your audience do to enter (filling out a short form vs. entering a photo contest and racking up referrals, for example). Also remember that the bigger and more plentiful the prizes, the more enticing your contest will be.

3. Make your contest simple and easy to share.

Even if you have great prizes and a solid goal, distribution is crucial: Contests require a large amount of participation to make the marketing effort truly effective.

Use a hashtag so entrants can quickly find and share the contest information, and consider making referrals a part of the contest (you can do this through a voting system or additional entries with more referral clicks). Tease prizes and share content from former winners to give you additional material to share.

Employ specific contest tools such as Woobox, Rafflecopter, Wishpond or ShortStack to create the actual contest and forms so you can spend your time on an effective distribution strategy. If you’ve partnered with another organization, coordinate your efforts across social media platforms and in other marketing channels to ensure that the largest audience can see your contest—and in many cases, can see it several times.

4. Strategically follow up.

Contests are great lead generation tools: They enable marketers to easily collect email addresses and other information which they can then use to build email marketing lists and pitch additional offerings to potentially interested consumers.

However, giving contact information to sign up for a contest doesn’t automatically imply interest in your organization, its products or its services—and people can quickly become fatigued (and even annoyed) if you overwhelm them with marketing emails.

When your contest ends, follow up strategically. Test different marketing messages to see what resonates. If you’ve collected additional information, such as demographic information or preferences, use that to further hone your messages.

Wishpond wrote in a blog post:

Getting some additional information (for example, the type of sport an entrant plays if you’re a gym) by adding a dropdown or checkbox field to your form gives you some more insight into potential customers. When you’re creating your after-contest email drips, you can segment your entrants based on this new information, allowing you to better personalize your marketing efforts.

You can also offer coupon codes and limited-time deals, but don’t send too many emails. A potential customer might first interact with your organization because of the contest you created, but how you communicate after the promotion is over can make strong impressions. It’s up to you to make them positive.

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