Using social media contests to drive engagement

Generating “likes” for a Facebook page, or followers for Twitter or Instagram is often a constant challenge for PR practitioners in social media.

While there are many “earned” ways to reach your clients’ goals, like following back or providing a stream of engaging multimedia content, one of the most consistently successful tactics involves creating a social media contest.

If you don’t want to spend about $1.70 to get each “like” for a client’s Facebook page, a carefully managed social media contest can be the answer. In fact, it’s estimated that 34% of new fans are acquired through social-media contests.

But like all contests, rules must be established. If the reward has significant monetary value, then you need to think through the proper legal disclaimers. Also, determine your target audience—it should be a rough match to the demographics you are trying to attract to your social media site. has some good resources to check out.

If you’re doing a video contest, YouTube is an obvious choice, but video also works well on Facebook and as Twitter and Instagram are extending the lengths of videos they accept. The length of the contest is also a consideration—if contestants have to put some time and effort into their submission, you may want longer than a week. I’ve found about a month is a good timeline for most social media contests—longer is too long and shorter often doesn’t provide enough time for a significant response rate, unless you already have a large social following.

Even if this is primarily a social media contest, you should provide link on your website to allow for some cross-channel synergy and pollination. Think about the prize as well—what’s popular with certain demographics may surprise you. A recent blog I did about the quick service restaurant industry indicated the most popular give away was not in fact food, but T-Shirts.

In my own experience running these campaigns, the most important lesson I learned, is to make sure the winner is a real person. A lot of people have very convincing “fake” social media profiles. At some point, you need to get a phone number, an e-mail or an address, particularly if the prize has real monetary value (you might even think about supplying the appropriate tax form for legal purposes).

There are several ways to randomly pick a winner, but one intriguing one if you are driving engagement is to reward the participant with the highest Klout score or who has created the most engagement measured by Radian6 or Critical Mention’s new Twitter measurement service.

If the contest involves a brand’s fans engaging with the product(s) in video or still photos, then you might consider re-purposing for future social or video ads. The material could be a marketing gold mine for future use. Questions, comments? I’d love to hear from you.