How Social Influence Has Changed the Game of Promotional Giveaways

When did subject-line bait like "you may already be a winner" and "you have been chosen" become a real thing? If you've been checking your junk email lately, you might have noticed that promotional giveaways have gotten a lot more interesting, in part because brands are now able to measure a person's influence online through social media tracking sites like Klout. Here are some emerging trends.

When did subject-line bait like “you may already be a winner” and “you have been chosen” become a real thing?  If you’ve been checking your junk email lately, you might have noticed that promotional giveaways have gotten a lot more interesting, in part because brands are now able to measure a person’s influence online through social media tracking sites like Klout. Here are some emerging trends.

Targeting Influential People

Plenty of social media users have been willing to give up their contact information and solicit votes from their friends for a shot at a dream wedding from Crate & Barrel or a walk-on role on an episode of “Glee.” But that’s a lot of entries for contest administrators to go through, and not everyone has a big prize to offer.

Peanut Butter & Co., a gourmet peanut butter manufacturer and sandwich shop based in New York; and Bob’s Red Mill, a natural foods company based in Milwaukie, OR, took a different approach with a recipe contest. Instead of an open call for peanut-butter themed recipes, the entries were limited to five food bloggers who were hand-picked to compete for a $1,000 prize, which was larger than the going rate for a blog post and had better odds than a typical sweepstakes. Newsletter subscribers were then invited to vote on their favorites.

Earlier this week the sample sale site Gilt offered graduated discounts to Klout users based on their influence scores, which are calculated by the number of followers, comments, and shares people receive through their social media sites. My Klout score of 44 earned me a 60 percent off coupon. Had my score been higher, I could have gotten an item for 80 percent off, or even for free.

Social Games

Brands are now asking customers to do more work for their rewards. Instead of a contest being a promotional tool to pick up sales in the short-term, marketers are borrowing techniques from the gaming industry to encourage loyalty.

Last month, Badgeville partnered with Klout on a social loyalty program that uses Klout’s scoring system to identify people who are influential on a particular topic, like electronics, so that brands could offer them special challenges and perks for sharing their networks. “While consumers likely only make a big-ticket electronics purchase once a year or every couple of years, it is important for a big consumer electronics brand to maintain and grow loyalty among its customers between those big purchases,” explained Badgeville marketing director Adena DeMonte via email. Samsung customers, for example, earn badges and prizes for watching videos and taking surveys as well as making purchases.

Happiness Is Its Own Reward

Punch passes and frequent flyer miles have kept customers coming back to the same sandwich shop or airline for years, but now companies reward positive feedback as well as spending. In an age where angry customers can write negative reviews on Yelp or Trip Advisor, and voice a complaint directly on Twitter, a company’s reputation is increasingly harder to control.

The Red Lobster seafood chain rewards its Facebook friends with discounts for posting photos of their meals. There are 1,128,502 “lobstars” to date, and the fans are so devout that some patrons will even criticize others for using the page to complain. “It was ONE restaurant and ONE experience!!,” one customer wrote. “NO NEED to crucify an entire chain for it! #youaredumb.”

Image by vberla via Shutterstock.