Should a social media contest be on your content calendar?

I know from experience that social media contests and sweepstakes can be incredibly valuable tools for increasing brand awareness and building and expanding online communities. Contests can also be a great way to communicate key messages and to proactively interact with influencers, customers and potential customers.

I’ve managed numerous B2B and B2C focused social media contests, and always have a lot of fun creating and implementing the strategies and tactics that drive brand awareness for clients, and build excitement for contest activities among target markets.

Two of the most exciting and successful Facebook and Twitter contests I’ve managed have been in conjunction with my pals at dot ME. Both contests focused on goals that included community expansion, message placement and the acquisition of new customers.

The contests were launched by leveraging traditional media strategies, including the development of press releases and proactive media outreach to drive initial buzz among target audiences and communities.

These strategies were complemented by the release of a steady stream of fun and engaging content designed to establish and continuously expand contest visibility, participation and momentum across multiple social media outlets.

I’m a big fan of holding planning sessions with client teams prior to the launch of any contest to discuss how to measure successes and ROI, and to agree on how to best address any potential issues that may come up during the contest period.

I hold these sessions because there are many ways organizations can leverage contests to successfully raise brand awareness, but there are also many ways an online contest could potentially harm a brand – at least over the short-term – if a contest isn’t administered properly.

Russ DeVeau Social Media Contests

This is why I always recommend that organizations launch contests based on well-defined goals and strategies and tactics that are flexible enough to adapt to whatever may happen on social media while the contest is running.

Continuous monitoring of contest activities and conversations, combined with appropriate proactive interaction with participants and potential participants, can help maintain momentum throughout the contest period and ensure that any potential hiccups are addressed immediately.

My experience has taught me that the most successful contests tend to be those that run for a relatively short period of time. I also recommend that contests begin only when the social media manager truly understands their current community of friends and followers.

Existing community members who may not be interested in participating in contest activities could see ongoing contest content as spam and may be tempted to hit the block or unlike button at any time during the contest period.

This point can be especially important if the community consists of top-tier journalists and other influencers who follow a feed for industry-specific content.

The social media manager can help minimize the possibility of losing quality followers during a contest by letting existing community members know a contest is coming – which is an excellent buzz-building tactic – and by pointing to rules and time frames early in the outreach process.

Organizations looking to leverage contests to increase brand awareness will want to adhere to the rules established by social media outlets and be aware of the many legal issues involved in administering online contests, giveaways and sweepstakes.

Social media managers should also note that there is a dedicated group of folks who seem to participate in almost every social media contest. These participants may or may not convert to customers or engaged long-term friends and followers. But they are great at helping to build buzz for contest activities, can be a lot of fun to interact with during the contest period and usually always play to win. – Russ DeVeau