7 Tips for Killer Holiday Contests on Twitter

The holidays are a great time of year to fire up contests on Twitter to grow your followers and generate word-of-mouth. Offerpop's Allen Bonde tells us how to make sure your campaigns deliver the goods and not fall flat.

Allen Bonde is co-founder and CMO of Offerpop, a New York-based social marketing apps company, and Managing Director of Evoke CRM, his consultancy. His passion for online marketing and e-commerce started at McKinsey and Yankee Group way back in the mid-90s. Join his conversation on Twitter at @abonde.

The Holidays are a great time of year to fire up contests on Twitter, like Case-Mate’s 12 Days of Christmas promotion. Contests and giveaways can be a fun way to grow your followers and generate word-of-mouth. But how do you make sure that your campaigns will deliver the goods, and not fall flat?

Here are some learnings and best practices we’ve compiled for planning and running sweepstakes or giveaways – and helping you and yours deliver killer contest on Twitter this Holiday Season.

1. Find your audience’s passion – Like most social media (and commerce) campaigns, the most effective themes and rewards are typically tied into shared interests or experiences – such as favorite books, movies, travel destinations, fashion, tech gadgets, etc as I discussed in my last post. Structure a contest that taps the passion of your audience, and “goes with the grain” so your followers will want to participate and share their own stories. A good example is Kobo’s Tweet about your favorite books campaign.

2. Pick the contest model that fits – One choice is a sweepstakes model, where you award a prize or prizes based on random draw, and users follow and tweet/retweet to get an entry. Or you can use a giveaway (“call-in”) model, where you award a prize to the Nth person to tweet a correct answer to a contest question or challenge (e.g., name this product). Another variation is the “first 100” model, where the first 100 followers to tweet qualify to win a reward such as a free ticket or special discount as Hotels.com did in their recent promotion.

3. Look for tie-ins and themes – You could run a contest that promotes a one-time event like a product launch (like the Skype for Mac 5.0 promotion), holiday or other special occasion. You could also have regularly scheduled contests, like a weekly scavenger hunt. We love weekday themed contests such as “Funday Monday” or a “12 days” theme. These are a great way to keep people tuning in and interacting with your brand on a frequent basis.

4. Build viral loops – The notion of building sharing into your contest – what Adam Penenberg calls a Viral Loop – is key to having participants spread the word to new users. An effective way to do this is to have people include a descriptive hashtag like #SkypeMac5 or #FundayMonday in their tweets. This makes it easy for others to click to learn more about the contest, and see all related tweets. When you tweet updates about your contest, remember to include the hashtag yourself (see below). These hashtags help to “close the viral loop” and become the common identifier for everyone interacting with the campaign.

5. Partner to expand reach – Look for opportunities to run contests with partners to add their follower base to your addressable audience. The partner could be a prize provider, or complementary product or service provider. When following is required to enter, users will follow both companies – building up your partner’s follower base as well as yours.

6. Tactically drive participation and word of mouth – Beyond creating a great concept and approach for your contest, there are some additional tactics that can drive participation, spread the word (and good cheer), and boost campaign performance.

  • Popular prizes – appealing to target audience, with a clear value. Popular items are gift certificates and yes, everyone seems to be giving away hot Holiday items like iPads as well.
  • Simple gestures – a “Follow and Tweet to enter” model works well for many of our customers, although some customers may prefer an ‘open’ approach where anyone can enter.
  • Multi-channel promotion – use your email list, Facebook, in-store displays etc. to promote your Twitter contests.
  • Duration – For one-time events, a week or two is typical. For regular/weekly contests, the program may be structured to run (or generate a winner) in a day or even a few hours.
  • Updates – Regular tweeting is one of the main difference makers. Tweet 2-3 times a day, at different times during the day, plus when hitting milestones (number of entries, time left, winners etc.) or to highlight interesting entries. For example:
    • You have 2 days left to Tweet and get a coupon for 20% off your next order
    • 30 minutes left to share your holiday recipe idea and win a kitchen makeover
    • We have a winner in our Christmas Decor competition! We’ll DM the lucky winner

7. Be clear about the rules – To avoid being naughty, you will also want to clearly list the rules for your contest – who can participate, prize details, any judging rules, etc – on the contest landing page. Here’s a listing of sweepstakes definitions and considerations to get started.

Happy Holidays!