These days, it seems like everyone who’s anyone is running an online competition. Love football? Answer these questions on our Facebook page for free tickets to your favourite match. Adore food? Tweet us your pictures to win a cooking session with an acclaimed chef. From a quick look at my personalised Facebook advert feed I can see four brand competitions being publicised, from a popular juice brand to a family holiday for four.
In these tighter times, competitions, discount codes and vouchers are becoming more appealing and more acceptable to the wider public. But with many brands following suit, we need to sit back and ask ourselves, what is the aim? AND what happens when the prizes end?
There is definite value in developing branded competitions online. Last week, Claire Mason set out a very thorough and valuable breakdown of tips for brands wanting to run competitions and highlighted the advantages from an SEO, brand awareness and social point of view.
But before you give away all of your assets wrapped in sparkly prize-winner bows or start spreading your #win / #competition tweets, here are a few considerations to take on board and a few ways that you can help yourself.
1. Who do you really want to target?
Competitions can provide value as easily sharable content, and a potential incentive is a great way of convincing fans to take that first step and engage with you. By inspiring users to share or ‘Follow and RT’ to win brands can develop a fan base quickly and effectively.
But who are those new fans? And are they who you’re really looking for? In the short term, you’ve gained a surge in activity and moved your following into double, triple or quadruple figures, but in the long term you may have diluted a fan base previously concentrated with the demographic of users most likely to engage with your brand.
If your competition has been shared on a competition forum by a fan, you may also collect a number of ‘competition addicts’ along the way. A strange species of online user, their online activity is centralised on applying for every competition available, resulting in a surge of traffic to your site but no ongoing relationship – these users will give themselves to you freely, but are unlikely to engage or share your content ever again.
How to help: Do your research; find out what appeals to your target audience most, and where they are talking/researching about it. This is how you should focus your campaign. Everyone wants to win a 5 star holiday for two surely(?) but your ideal fans might research their holidays through luxury blogs rather than Twitter. Find out.
Remember, it is better to have a smaller growth of those who are likely to engage with the brand again, than a mountainous peak with a lower long term impact.
2. Links or Likes or …?
You’ve set up a competition, you’ve convinced your department head to provide a high-value prize and now the likes/follows are flooding in. Great news yes?
But oh no, your e-commerce team is expecting brand links to have been shared far across the web, and your sales team want to know why there’s no increase in conversions. Drat.
How to help:
- Determine what your primary aim is. And think around it.
- Work out what you are going to track. And stick to it.
- Remember the value of brand awareness.
3. The Expectation Barrier
This is the pitfall of the most generous brands acting online. You develop a genuinely interested, passionate fan base, you target your key audience, you reward them with regular discount codes and competitions and you create a thriving community.
But then it happens – like a child at Christmas, they start to expect to be given something. Those fans, who previously might have spent money with the brand, are now patiently waiting for the next opportunity to win or get a reduced price on the product they want. Yes you have a dedicated fan base, but only as long as you keep feeding them financial incentives.
How to help: Providing value for users isn’t all about incentives, ensure that you are engaging with your fans in proactive ways – provide rich media content, talk about what they are interested in, listen to them.
In addition, mix it up a bit – you don’t always need to give users everything for free to fulfil the user’s need for financial gain. Yes, run competitions, but intersperse these with purchase based incentives (for example, if you spend XXX this week you’ll get this free gift, or buy two of these to get this other thing for free). Always make it relevant and fun.
4. Breaking the Fourth wall
Those of us who work in online marketing live lives saturated in http’s and hashtags, wincing at the sunlight when we leave our desks at the end of the day.
But your user interacts with the outside world, in fact, they absorb it. So often we see competition campaigns which are restricted to a particular platform, or are termed ‘integrated’ because they run across a number of channels online. Yes, online integration is a positive step and is known to increase the impact of a campaign, but staying online can also limit the true reach of your competition.
How to help: Think about mixing activities with your other marketing and PR avenues – integrate with the real world if you will.
Your users react to what’s going on in their online and offline worlds, make sure that plays to your advantage. Do you have paid print advertising? Reference the competition. Do you send out print with orders? Include the giveaway hashtag. Do you have venues? Get users to participate in the online competition while on-site, better yet, encourage them to generate content while they are there. A picture speaks a thousand words, but a positive sentiment picture generated by a fan speaks tens of thousands.
In conclusion, work out what you want, who you want, and what they want. Then look at every avenue available and have fun with it. Make sure that all content is sharable across the different platforms, and vary the incentives provided to keep users engaged but not too expecting…
Overall, competitions are great, and a good idea. For technical advice I definitely recommend that you check out Claire’s post on the bigmouthmedia blog, but most important of all, know your target audience. You don’t need to get half the world to enter a competition for it to be a success, just the right people.