Using social media promotions in marketing

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Scroll through your personal Facebook feed for more than 10 seconds and you’ll likely come across at least one contest. Social media contests are great marketing vehicles and contrary to popular opinion, social media contests are not the sole purview of B2C brands. B2B companies can have just as much success with social media contests as any B2C company. Here’s how to use social media promotions in your marketing.


First of all, let’s define the terms. There’s a world of difference between contests, sweepstakes, lotteries, and games. Lotteries are games of chance that have some sort of payment to enter. Only governments are allowed to run lotteries. Sweepstakes are also games of chance, but there’s “no purchase necessary.” Games, actually a kind of sweepstake differs from regular sweepstakes in that they are interactive and entrants can win instantly. Contests replace chance with skill and entries are judged.


Now, why would you want to run a social media contest? Marla Altberg, CEO of Ventura Associates International, answered this question in a recent presentation to the NJ Chapter of MENG (Marketing Executives Networking Group). According to Altberg, social media promotions are great tools for:


  • Increasing awareness and branding
  • Engaging customers and prospective customers
  • Thanking customers for loyalty
  • And most importantly, generating leads and driving sales


Here’s what each of those points could look like for your company:


Increasing awareness and branding. Remember the printer scene from “Office Space? The folks at Expert Laser Services, a printer repair and printer fleet management company, sure do. They’ve held multiple “Destroy Your Printer Video Contests” to create buzz for their company and build awareness for their services. Small prizes were awarded for videos depicting the most creative destructions. Customers responded with tremendous zeal, demolishing pesky printers, using wood splitters, front end loaders, machetes, explosives, and drops from roofs.


As you might expect, a campaign showcasing this sort of entertainment and mayhem got the company a lot of web coverage, which resulted in generating sales leads.


Guitar manufacturer, Martin & Co., also held a successful video contest, which Altberg showcased. Called the “Love of my ‘Lifespan,’” the contest required entrants to write a song using the word “lifespan” and upload it to YouTube. Winners received a Martin guitar and a year’s worth of Lifespan strings.


Engaging customers and prospective customers. For its 35th anniversary, culinary magazine Food & Wine, held a photo contest for its media buyers. Entrants were asked to submit photos of their favorite culinary moments using Instagram to win dinner for two. The winning photos were printed in the magazine.


Thanking customers for loyalty. Taco Bell hosted the Doritos Locos Tacos Hometown Tweet-Off, a contest that promoted the then newly-introduced Doritos Locos taco shell. Entrants had to tweet using the hashtags #DoritosLocos Tacos and #Contest. The tweet with the most retweets won, earning the winner’s hometown a visit from the Taco Bell Truck for an early taste of the new taco shell.


Generating leads and driving sales. Ultimately, any marketing action should result in sales, either in the short term or the long term. Contests are a great way to capture information on current and prospective customers to generate leads for future sales. In your entry form, make sure to collect contact information so your sales people can reach out to them afterwards and as much demographic information as your entrants are willing to give. This data will help you target your marketing in the future.


Crate & Barrel did this well with their “$100,000 Ultimate Wedding” contest. Built around Crate & Barrel’s wedding registry, contestants filled the registry with things they wanted and answered a few questions to tell their love story and explain what they wanted for their Ultimate Wedding. The winners received a $100k wedding, complete with a wedding planner, and a $10,000 gift card for Crate & Barrel. More than 7,000 couples entered the contest, bringing in a tremendous amount of new business for the store.




The last thing to keep in mind with your contests, are the prizes. Choosing the right prize is something many brands have trouble (which is why there are so many iPad giveaways out there!). Make your prize something that is relevant to your company and your products/services. If you’re a software company, offer a year of free licensing; if you sell hardware, offer up the latest widget in your product line; if you’re a consultant, give complimentary consulting sessions. Whatever you use for a prize, make sure to give away something that provides value to the winner(s) and entices potential clients to enter (instead of random folks who want an iPad).


I hope these examples help generate some ideas for contests of your own!

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