Run a Social Media Contest: You Win, I Win, We All Win

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Admit it, it’s fun to enter a contest. It’s even more fun if you are a winner, right? Yes it is true. We all love to win. In times past to enter a contest meant you had to fill out a form, send it in and wait to see if you won. It took time, effort and a lot of desire to follow through and what did you get? Usually nothing. Nada. Nilch. It was kind of a waste of time and energy. If you were like me you probably chose not to participate that often.

Today, in the age of the digital revolution as marketers we have the ability to capture people’s attention, get them to enter a contest with a simple click and yes sometimes they even win. And the results can be quite significant. You can get people interacting with your brand, company or event. Customers become your promoters, your brand ambassadors and event your content creators. And it can be done with minimal investment. Even a small business and nonprofit can participate without a big financial investment.

Last week I participated in two social media contests and I won both.  I usually don’t participate in contests because I don’t have time and/or don’t feel compelled to participate. Yet last week I found myself interacting, participating and winning. And what did I do when I won? I talked about it on Twitter, Facebook and now my blog.  I promoted the brands that chose me as the winner and shared great resources that others in my circles may find useful.

The first contest was a Twitter contest run by @RickMahn through the Social Media Breakfast Minneapolis/Saint Paul group. I tweeted a phrase early last Thursday morning and by 3:30pm I had won a ticket to a $300 Online Marketing Summit.

The other contest was part of a 10-week online course I am taking with @KeithFerrazzi called the Relationship Mastery Academy. I simply had to share the best tip I have received for using Linkedin. I was chosen as on of the people with the best tip and I won Seth Godin’s last three books: Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?, Tribes, and Meatball Sundae: Is Your Marketing Out of Sync?  Stay tuned, as my winning tip will be featured in Keith’s blog this week.

What did these organizations get from offering these contests? The Social Media Breakfast and Online Marketing Summit got a lot of great publicity. It was a great way to get the word out about the conference to a target market of possible attendees.

The Relationship Masters Academy used the contest to encourage interaction amongst their closed online community, but also used crowdsourcing to get two pages full of great Linkedin tips that Keith can now blog about while promoting his online course.

Finally what did the participants get? A chance to win, knowledge of great educational opportunities and shared resources. And for a few lucky people, the grand prizes! It was win, win, win for everyone involved! As for me, good things happen in 3’s, so perhaps it’s time to buy a Powerball Ticket. Wish me luck!


  1. sarahkayhoffman says

    Nicole – I love this and I couldn't agree more! I have found (on the “marketer's end”) that contests are extremely successful for the reasons in which you pointed out. Furthermore, you can almost identify through them who some of your Brand Ambassadors might be.

    You won some great contests, but sometimes it doesn't even have to be that complex. People are always looking for the FREE!

    Thanks for a great article!

  2. says

    I agree and disagree. I agree that contests and promotions can have their place in social media, but only when used in moderation and if it fits the end objective. That is where the flip side comes in… most of the promotions I see on Twitter (for example) are a failed effort to add followers and increase re-tweets. Is a contest that is adding (false) followers who are really not interested in your brand or product but just want to win the free iPhone really helping build your community? Most likely not. Most contests cannot add marketing value just by increasing numbers alone.

  3. says

    Thanks Sarah,

    You are right, sometimes it can be easy to identify a brand ambassador through a contest. Sometimes there are people out there who love your brand, but have not been asked to speak up. A contest can pull that out of them. An example is Keith Ferrazzi who is my favorite networking guru. I have followed his work for several years, read his blog and never commented. I had this opportunity to participate in his new Relationship Masters Academy (which is an awesome program!) and then won this contest. The contest is the first time I have participated in his online community. Winning has set me up to talk about it and him a lot.

    I think a well thought out contest with clear objectives can be amazing for a brand. And yes, free is always fun!

  4. says

    Hi Bob

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment. You are right about contests, moderation and a good fit with an end objective are both very important pieces. You are right a contest that just gains followers, but does not necessarily gain followers with interest in your brand is not effective. A contest that is well set up, fits your audience, makes them feel like they would win something that is useful and is passing along useful information to other non-followers is much better. I think the social media breakfast contest was well done. It was simply, it provided followers with a chance to win something they really wanted and it promoted the Online Marketing Summit to others who may not have known about it and may want to attend. I know when I saw the first tweet from the contest before I entered, it peaked my interest about the Summit.

    As in any type of marketing, it is important to meet the needs of your target market and have specific objectives. Thanks for pointing that out.

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