A well-structured contest — wisely integrated in social media, encouraging participation of groups, and easily enabling the sharing and including of the social graph of participants — will bring consumers into your brand experience.  Savvy marketers can leverage contests to increase both short- and long-term return.

As with any marketing campaign using social media, a contest needs to be part of an integrated media strategy, using a blend of social and traditional media as appropriate for your brand’s consumers. And as always, remember to keep your message consistent.  A great contest that does not match your brand message is a waste of your resources and does little to add long-term value. Many are using strictly social contests to grow Facebook “likes” and Twitter “followers,” and this is ok if that is your objective, but keep in mind those are very targeted initiatives and offer little value to the brand experience.

When you are planning the social part of your strategy, remember that you have the power of influencers on your side… and tap into that at each phase of the contest. They can be a valuable asset to spread the word and attract new consumers.

To get as much participation in your contest as possible, focus your initial outreach on consumers who already believe in your brand and give them a reason (like additional chances at winning) to bring along their friends, family, and colleagues.

Once people show up, make absolutely sure that participating in the contest is EASY and make sharing of the contest experience (before, during, and after) as easy as possible.  Two very important caveats: #1 – a contest will only be a one-shot wonder, at best, if not followed up and added to with continued relationship-building experiences.  #2 – a successful contest relies on the strength of the connections between you, your contest participants, and their networks… so facilitate interaction with their networks at every stage!

Avoid the “one-shot wonder” by building a database of influencers and participants and continue the conversation after the contest concludes.  Not a simple email list used to broadcast information, but facilitate interaction and engagement in social environments. The opportunities there are endless!  Analyze the demographics and behavior of the participants… but don’t assume you know their needs.  Ask them questions, listen, ask again, then ACT based on their feedback.  Not only does this give you invaluable information to guide your brand innovation, but you also begin building longer-term relationships that can turn your contest participants into customers (if they are not already), bring them closer to the brand, and build them into an army of advocates.

When you put resources into building relationships with your advocates, they will reward you with loyalty and recommendations that bring new consumers to your brand.  The Return on Relationship is high with valuable growth of your database and the subsequent interaction and engagement… leading to increased visibility, social conversation about your brand, and higher sales.

So use your contests to grow your brand, but use them wisely, remembering that even with a contest, it is still… ALL ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS.   

 

Originally posted at Collective Bias

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