If you manage social media for a brand, you face a daily dilemma: how do you consistently create social media content without access to a limitless multimedia library? You could technically write copy until the end of time, but, without multimedia, your updates are more or less going to disappear into, for example, Facebook’s and Twitter’s respective abysses. Think about it: how much attention do you pay to a social media update without a photo or video attached? Exactly. Now let’s talk about photo- and video-reliant platforms Instagram and Pinterest; without multimedia, you literally wouldn’t be able to interact in the space. And these are all important real estate to occupy. According to the Pew Internet Project, 69% of online adult Americans are on social media: 68% on Facebook; 24% on Twitter; 35% on Instagram; 25% on LinkedIn; and 29% on Pinterest. And I’m not even going to get into today how much visual communication is becoming not only the norm, but the requirement in order to reach Millennials and Gen Z, who, with short attention spans and constant bombardment of information, rely on visuals to quickly consume information.
So, the question is, how do you come up with a ton of multimedia, fast? How have we done it in the past? Social media contests.
Contests are a fun way to engage your social media communities, drawing creative inspiration from subject matters that are important to your unique audiences. When brainstorming a contest, consider how your products and services make your customers’ lives better and how that could relate to what they’d like to consume on social media. For example, if you sell, let’s say, those cool like kitchen doodads that slice and core an apple, what type of related social media content might appeal to your customers? Now, I’m just brainstorming here, but possibly apple pie recipes, the biggest pile of apple slices anyone has ever created—maybe even an entire garment made out of sliced apples (seriously, just let your imagination run wild with these). Those all sound like some pretty compelling pieces of content, right? But without images or video to showcase them, they’re basically invisible.
Tapping Your Customers for Social Media Contest
So, what to do? Host a social media contest that incentivizes your customers to share their own multimedia with you (while they simultaneously release all rights to that content to you; that’s a must-have in the rules)! This method is called crowdsourcing. You’ve probably heard of it before with sites like Kickstarter or, heck, even Wikipedia. It’s activating a community of people whose actions work together to achieve a larger goal.
The really cool part is that this is the perfect way to acquire multimedia content to support ongoing content creation on your social networks that is: a) unique to your customers because it came from them; b) free (save for the cost of running the contest); and c) surrounding a creative subject matter that you’ve already deemed to be important to your audience.
When concepting a social media contest, make sure you flesh out all the tiny details: from what kind of contest you’re creating; to when it will run; to who is eligible to enter; to how they will enter; to how winners will be determined; to what they will win and how they will be notified. We recommend that all of this (and more) is spelled out clearly in an official rules document that is reviewed and signed off on by a lawyer.
Choosing a Social App Vendor
Social media contests can be customized to fit your unique brand, with your unique customers and your unique desired functionality, but that, of course, comes at a cost. Developers aren’t exactly inexpensive and social contests can be complex: from how to enter, to documenting entries, to incorporating rules, to saving multimedia files, to activating a voting function, to automated confirmation emails, to displaying an entry gallery, to syncing with a CRM system, to accommodating creative, there are a lot of factors that need to be considered and decisions that need to be carefully made when creating a social media contest.
Luckily, there are third-party social app vendors that simplify this process for you. These partners have built templates to support different types of social media contests, like sweepstakes, photo contests and video contests, so you don’t have to start from scratch. But simplification doesn’t necessary mean streamlined. There are still a lot of questions you need to ask before selecting the right vendor for you:
- How much does it cost? These vendors all charge differently, whether it be per contest or per a set duration access fee. They also all come at different price points. We’ve seen them come in at as low as $150/month to $1,500/month, but while we will say that the $150 price point is pretty darn attractive, we’ve come to find that you more or less pay for what you get in this space. That $150 price point is going to come at the expense of features that only the $1,500 vendor offers.
- What do you need it to do? Consider the objective(s) of your social contest. Is it to increase engagement? Is it to grow social communities? Is it to capture contact information to feed into your lead nurture program? Is it to crowdsource multimedia for content generation? Is it to direct participants to a landing page to redeem a coupon? Is it to empower your customers to choose the winners with a voting function? Different vendors are going to offer different capabilities in terms of supporting each of these.
- What support will be available before, during and after your contest? This one applies both to operational and technical support provided to you as the operator, but also for technological troubleshooting for your customers throughout the contest. A lot of the time, what seems like a straightforward entry process is complicated by users’ computer or mobile settings. Things that are important for you to consider are, as a marketer and not a coder, can you navigate through the back end of the app comfortably and confidently, or would a developer be better suited to customize the app using the vendor’s editable options?
- How customizable is the template you select? A lot of the time, you’ll choose a vendor template, and though it performs the primary function you are looking for, there are a lot of details you’d like to change. For instance, things like styling, placement of pop-up thank you messages, and the ability for entrants to see and search for their entry in a gallery.
- What fraud detection measures are in place to prevent cheating? I don’t think I’ve ever had a contest where someone wasn’t accusing someone else of cheating. And this hasn’t just been from the “sore losers.” Certain vendors have fraud detection in place that will record participants’ unique Facebook IDs, to unique IP addresses, to time of voting or entry associated with each of the formers. Sometimes, the closest you can get to proving a false entry or vote is by inspecting the trends within this data.
When in doubt, ASK A LOT OF QUESTIONS because you never know until you ask. As many times as we’ve run contests, there are always things that pop up that we have either never encountered before or could be improved. If you keep track of these things along the way, you’ll know to bring these questions to the forefront the next time you’re selecting a vendor to work with.
Managing a Social Media Contest
And though you’ve now got all of the social app vendor qualification out of the way, hitting “Publish” on that social media app is just the beginning of your contest. There are several components that go into managing a social media contest from start to finish:
- Promotion: If there is a fundamental beginner’s mistake to avoid when launching your first social media contest, it’s to assume that once you launch it, people will flock to it. People will only flock if you both give them a reason to and because they know it exists. Think about how you can create an integrated marketing effort surrounding your social contest to maximize participation and results.
- Community Management: Any time you introduce something new to customers, whether it’s a product or a social contest, they are going to have questions. Do you have the resources in place to monitor and respond to these on social networks, by phone and through email? For us, these have ranged from people asking if their entries have been received to figuring out why they can’t enter through mobile or why they got an email saying their entry has been disqualified. Customers are also going to be excited. Even if they don’t have questions, they are going to celebrate the opportunity to share a little piece of themselves with you. Good social media managers will acknowledge and thank them for their participation. But, of course, this takes time and people to manage. Make sure you’ve got both!
- Technical Glitches: Sometimes, the app just doesn’t work how you thought it would work at any given time for any given reason. Make sure you have access to either a technical contact within your app vendor’s organization or within your four walls that can either troubleshoot, overwrite or improve app code on-the-fly for the duration of your contest.
- Winner Selection: Once the contest closes, make sure you know how and who is going to be selecting and notifying the winner(s). Is it through email, phone or directly on the social post? Will there be a certain time period within which they’re required to respond? Is there app data that you can review to ensure the winners have followed all the rules of the contest? How will you announce the winners to the rest of your social communities? How will you manage fulfillment of the winners’ prizes?
When all is said and done, we recommend keeping a record of things that don’t go as planned each time you run a contest. This can be anything from a technical malfunction to a lack of functionality to a creative approach that left your communities unresponsive.
Have you run a social contest of your own? I’d love to hear about it in the Comments section—everything from objectives to contest management to reporting is welcome and will definitely help others in the same boat.
For the inside scoop on vendors we’ve worked with, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below.
I write this blog for you now, fresh off the high of speaking at the annual Search Marketing Workshop, hosted by Eastern Michigan University’s amazing Center for Digital Engagement. I must take this tangential opportunity to applaud the work they are doing every day to cultivate young and eager digital professionals, equipped with the education and experience to preparedly enter the marketing world following graduation. I have been honored to speak at this conference three times now, and I have yet to meet a student I would not consider hiring. So, thank you, Bud Gibson (creator of the EMU search marketing program), for putting on a great show once again. It is through your nonstop drive and pursuit of higher education crossed with practical application, for students and small businesses alike, that make this event a growing success.
This year, I was honored to sit beside two amazing social media professionals to talk about “Effective Social Media Campaigns:” David Murray, manager of social media at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, and Kelly LaVaute, managing supervisor of social media for Chevrolet at Fleishman-Hillard. Since David and Kelly are working with brands of major scale, it was asked of me to provide an example of how smaller companies, or even larger companies with budget limitations, can make the most of social media from a cost-efficiency standpoint. As we’ve talked about before in this blog, social media isn’t free under any circumstances, so any cost-saving measures you can employ is a win. This year, I spoke on the above topic: crowdsourcing multimedia assets using social contests. View my Crowdsourcing with Social Contests Search Marketing Workshop presentation on SlideShare!