Five Ways To Screw up Your Social Media Contest

Greed isn't always good. Send your users through a maze, and they won't care what prizes you're offering. Trust me on this.

It’s easy to get greedy. When you run a social media contest, you want to rack up the traffic, amass friends or followers and generally just get as much as you possibly can. And, who can blame you? We’re in the marketing game, right? The need becomes even more acute when the value of your prizes increases. You can stomach not asking for much when you have a few t-shirts or free software on the line … but fine dining, travel and other big-ticket items are different.

To maximize bang for buck, you decide to hit as many platforms as you can in a bid to generate plenty of analytics (translation: market intelligence), build up your fan base on multiple platforms (if for no other reason than to make you look good) and accumulate names for future marketing efforts. It seems prudent, as it builds up the possibility for greater contest ROI, not to mention marketing ROI down the road.

Well, it isn’t a good idea.

Get greedy, and you risk losing people because your contest is too much work. Or, they may not understand the rules properly, and give up or mess up when trying to follow your necessarily lengthy and intricate instructions. It’s pretty easy to turn your social media contest into a dud, and here are five ways to screw yours up heroically:

1. No platform left behind: instead of running a Facebook, Twitter or blog contest, you decide to include multiple platforms. You ask people to friend you, follow you, retweet you, like you and leave comments all over the place. If you’re partnering with a company, you do all this times two.

Antidote: pick a platform and stick with it. If you want to get information via Facebook and Twitter, run two contests.

2. Rats in a maze: in addition to gathering names, you decide you want your social media environments to look busy. So, you ask for blog comments, wall posts, retweets and anything else you can imagine. Even if you limit your contest to one social media platform, you still need to be realistic about your interaction expectations.

Antidote: ask for just enough action to be meaningful, such as a like or a wall post. Try to choose a form of interaction that provides some information (e.g., “leave a blog comment telling me why you want to win”). Focus on your objectives first; then decide what level of interaction will get you there.

3. Rule that require a law degree: contests are supposed to be fun. Sure, you want the people in your target market to earn their prizes, but you have to remember that it can’t rise to the level of work (unless your prizes are absolutely incredible). If your participants can’t figure out how to enter to win, they won’t. In addition to making your contest simple, you need to make the rules straightforward.

Antidote: Make the rules clear and easy to follow. When you write your instructions – for your press release, blog post, wall post, etc. – think about turning them into a list. I usually do this when I get contest press releases, and I’ve found that it increases traffic and reader engagement. And, you get a great, clickable headline when you do this: “Five easy steps to win …”

4. All or nothing: the point of your contest is to engage, bring people in the door and create future marketing opportunities. This is most effective when you can increase both excitement and the number of people you can make happy. With only one prize in your contest, especially if it’s a big one, you’ve narrowed your ability to create happiness.

Antidote: Offer interim or lower prizes, especially for a multi-day contest. People like free stuff … they really do.

5. No follow-through: sometimes, a contest doesn’t get the appropriate response – e.g., too few entrants or a disproportionate number of people from outside your target market. I have two words for you: too bad. You have to honor your commitments to prevent inviting damage to your brand. Bailing when you see the contest isn’t meeting your expectations isn’t an option.

Antidote: you’re a marketer, right? Use that! Monitor contest performance closely, and if you see that it isn’t meeting expectations, take action to increase visibility with the people you want to enter. Stack the deck along the way.

[photo by conorwithonen via Flickr]