Contests Require Careful Strategy or Risk Being Dismissed by Audiences

It’s a game of skill, not chance

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Giveaways are dime a dozen across social media. Effective, legal, responsible and on-brand competitions, however—not so much. Cluttering up your newsfeed, thanks to shares and tagging, and popping up as adverts and organically from the pages you like, they range from products you’re actually likely to buy to that old chestnut, the “Win an RV” scam. With so much competition white noise, there’s a temptation to think, “If everyone’s at it, what could go wrong?” The answer is: everything. Competitions can deliver serious ROI but, done badly, there can be a huge cost to your client’s brand and ultimately your bottom-line.

Whether your prize is a new product or a round-the-world cruise, businesses know that competitions work, but they don’t necessarily know how or why. The evidence? Some very sketchy tactics when it comes to legalities, T&Cs and platform terms of use.

Play nice and no one gets hurt

First up is the legislation. Huge numbers of businesses accidentally flout the law because they simply haven’t done their homework. Regulations vary from state to state and are sometimes dependent upon the type of competition you’re running—skill or chance, for example—and the conditions of entry. Word to the wise: “I didn’t know!” isn’t a valid defense.

Secondly, that competition cluttering up your newsfeed because your friend shared for extra entries? That’s directly against Facebook’s page guidelines and runs the risk of getting a company’s business page and the admin’s personal Facebook profile deleted.

There’s a myriad of social media rules that many businesses totally ignore. Yes, it could land them in Facebook jail but, just as importantly, those tag and share competitions do absolutely nothing for their brand. All they do, besides annoy their audience and their audience’s poor friends, is attract low quality entrants. They’re also likely to get your page on the spam radar under new engagement bait restrictions.

Beware of the prize pig

Competitions can deliver serious ROI but, done badly, there can be a huge cost to your client’s brand and ultimately your bottom-line.

T&Cs are often dropped into the too hard basket, which is an open invitation to professional compers. Yes, there are people who enter competitions for a living, and you can bet that they will ask for the cash value instead of the prize, for the product to be shipped to Outer Mongolia or for a free mini bar and thrice daily massages to be included as part of their holiday. If you haven’t put together some watertight terms and conditions, then you have nowhere to hide. Stating your inclusions protects you from pushy winners trying to get more by leveraging gaps.

Well-planned, well-executed competitions can deliver an exceptional return on investment. Fail to lay the right groundwork, however, and you’re potentially exposing your client to real reputational and financial risk.

Do you want to be in it, and will your customers win it?

Interestingly, success doesn’t directly correlate to the value of the prize or the ad budget, but to the careful strategy behind the competition. An on-brand competition can build engagement at a rapid pace with the key point being on-brand. The profusion of iPad giveaways in the competition marketplace is bordering on painful, particularly when it has absolutely no relationship to the brand it’s being used to market.

The reality is that competitions aren’t right for every business type or every brand. They’re great for ecommerce and fast-moving consumer goods, the types of things people have on their wish list or buy on impulse, but they don’t always work for service-based businesses with a longer sales lead time. They also have to fit with the brand. For example, the aforementioned iPad might bring in thousands of entries, but how many of them are ever going to buy the ethical, vegan skincare line behind the giveaway? Fail to match your prize to your audience, and you’ll just end up with a mailing and likers list full of people who’re only ever going to enter your competitions and never purchase your products.

Ensuring that a competition delivers for any particular business is a game of skill, not chance. They have to be well-planned, beautifully executed and should be seeded through a comprehensive marketing strategy. The good news is that, with a clearly measurable return on investment, you can easily track the efficacy of your campaign, from lead generation right through to assisted conversion sales. They have the potential to expand reach exponentially and are a super simple lead generator. Be strategic, do your homework and watch a giveaway become the goose that lays the golden egg.