Giveaway “something” and they will come!

What Gives? Creating a Successful Social Media Giveaway

For many startups, generating consumer interest is as hard, or harder, than getting investor interest. When growth and awareness strategies rely on increasing social media follows, likes, and participation, it’s extremely important to know what really motivates people to engage with companies on social media. Over 40 percent of users will like a Facebook page for a discount, so why not go one better: give fans potential fans something completely free.

How Do I Get Started?

Rule number one before you decide to offer a startup giveaway is to decide how you’ll measure the success of the contest. Generating a long list of people using your hashtag is great, unless what you really wanted was to collect email addresses. Ask what you want your contestants to do: it’s relatively easy to get follows and likes, but the more you ask, the less likely you are to get it—getting more meaningful interaction are harder. How long will the contest will run, and what platforms and channels do you want to use to promote and host the contest? And this should go without saying, but how much can you afford to spend on prizes and contest management?

Know your demographics—over two thirds of Pinterest users are women, so it may be the wrong platform if you’re targeting men. More than 80 percent of upper income teens use Instagram. Social networks generally make this information available, but if not, there are other sources of this information. The medium you choose will also determine how much work you need to do in creating promotional materials. And definitely tie all your channels together with a contest landing page with all the necessary details and social media links.

Once you know what you want to achieve and who you want to target, look for a giveaway partner. One sign that social media contests are good business is that there are other platforms that make creating and managing giveaway campaigns their business. A good partner can help you integrate the contest across multiple social sites, if that’s what you want to do.

There Are Rules.

The last thing you want for your startup is a crippling lawsuit before you even get off the ground. You’ll need to know the law regarding social media giveaways, as well as the giveaway rules for your social media platform of choice.

Social Media Giveaway Success Stories

Do social media contests really work? Absolutely.

  • In 2011, Clairol gave away 100,000 samples of hair coloring foam in four days. In addition to the intrinsic value of having customers try its product, Clairol increased its Facebook fan count by 944 percent in only 24 hours and gained tons of exposure among beauty sites and blogs.
  • Mongolian grill restaurant HuHot asked diners to create a HuHot recipe and post it to their own Pinterest board, and HuHot repinned all entries to its Pinterest board as well. This contest required detailed knowledge of the brand and active consumer participation, both of which are valuable. Contest winners received restaurant gift cards, which brought winners back to the restaurant, helping build loyalty.
  • Customers who post a review to HighSpeedInternet.com, a site that helps consumers search their area for multiple Internet Service Providers at the same time and compare prices, are automatically eligible to win free Internet service for a year. It’s key to give out a prize that’s relevant to your brand, and it’s a plus if the prize is already a consumer need.
  • Sherpas Cinema creates action sports documentaries and films. To promote its newest film about heli-skiing, the company traded Facebook follows for chances to win brand-name action sports gear and even a heli-skiing trip, prizes relevant to the very enthusiasts who would want to watch the new movie. Sherpas gained 50,000 new follows from the contest and made users more aware of its product.
  • The Lay’s “Do Us a Flavor” contest gives away $1 million to the person who creates the best potato chip flavor on a dedicated Lay’s contest site. While cash giveaways usually aren’t as cool as brand-relevant prizes, give away enough of it, and people won’t care. The 2014 contest generated more than 14 million flavor submissions and created several new flavors that had consumer interest and desire before they were even available.

Are You Ready Yet?

Like any other business venture, the most important factors for startups staging a social media contest are research and planning. While those two things won’t guarantee you success, a lack of them will guarantee failure.

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