The Secret to Putting On a Successful Contest

The Secret to Putting On a Successful Contest (and How to Grow Your Brand in the Process)

If you’re looking for a great way to attract people to your business, nothing will draw them in more than a contest. We could paint a pretty picture here and make up some reasons that contests work, but the gist of it is simply that people like free stuff.

Social media has made holding a contest something of a surefire crowd pleaser. You keep your current customers happy and will find a staggering number of new people that are suddenly interested in your brand.

Best of all, people will talk about a contest. This is true of online and offline encounters. You yourself have probably shared information about a contest that was being held by a brand that you are unfamiliar with.

Having your brand orchestrate a contest for free goods or services is one of the best things you can do to attract attention. Think about it:

  • Contests are among the most retweeted posts on Twitter.
  • Contests are among the most shared posts on Facebook.
  • In real world scenarios, contests are spread by word of mouth; anytime a person thinks they can help a friend out by sharing a bargain or a change to win something free, they usually step up.

If we’re really being honest here, the prize that is being offered really isn’t what is of interest to most people. If the contest is set up to be fun and entertaining, you may even have people enter that have no real interest in the prize at all.

The trick is finding out how to lure people to your site with your contest. There are many ways to do this without coming off as irritating, spammy, or desperate.  It takes some planning and, if you’re really ambitious, maybe even a bit of money.

Consider tactics if you’re planning out your first contest:

Only allow “entries” for the contest by commenting on your blog, retweeting a tweet, or sharing a post on Facebook. Don’t overly advertise this—leave that to your audience.

Even if your brand or business doesn’t offer services or goods that everyone will like, tie in something that everyone would want. For instance, if you are giving away your new book on the science of color schemes in advertising, throw in a Kindle to read it on (remember, we said some contests can cost you money).

Think about offering much smaller runner up prizes. This gives people more of an incentive to enter the contest. Even if it’s something as inexpensive and as generic as a free e-book, people will enter—because as we said at the start of this, people love free stuff.

If you are thinking of holding your own contest, there are a few basic rules you might want to stick to when putting it all together.

  • Make sure your prize is relevant to the times. More than that, make sure it is somehow tied to your industry, even if it is nothing more than a discount on your products or services.
  • Use social media as well as traditional print outlets to get the word out. Mixing up your approach here will increase the number of entrants as well as the amount of exposure you’ll get.
  • You want to make sure your contests is simple and easy to enter. If you make contests overly hard, you alienate a portion of the potential audience. It also turns many people off of the contest, wasting your time and efforts. So make sure that any contest idea you have is going to be appropriate for people outside your usual crowds.
  • Make sure you can deliver the offered prize. Don’t out yourself in a position where you may not be able to deliver the goods when the contest is over.
  • Take notes as you go. If you do something wrong or that seems to impede the progress of the contest, correct it for the next contest you have.
  • Try to make it interactive. Social media is great for this. People can feed off of one another’s comments in Facebook to really generate conversation over your idea.

Speaking of social media, if you have a Facebook account, you already have a hugely sacksful platform for kicking off a contest. But if you are going to use Facebook, be sure that you know their guidelines and policies. You’ll also want a third party app in place to help you kick off the contest. You’re going to have a really hard time running a contest on Facebook without one…and that’s if Facebook will allow you to hold it at all.

When it comes to third part apps, there are a few basic staples and features that you’ll want to keep an eye out for to make sure your contest will run smoothly. So if you’re running a contest on Facebook, you can pick out a winning third party app by looking for these qualities:

  • Don’t get fooled by those super-expensive third party apps; there are some out there that can cost you thousands of dollars. A free third party app will do just as well as the expensive ones almost all of the time. Don’t waste money that could be better spent elsewhere.
  • Make sure the app has the ability to be customized to your specific needs. If it’s not customizable, you’re going to be extremely limited in how you are able to use it.
  • Whatever you do, although you’re looking for a third party app this is highly compatible with Facebook, make sure it’s not only compatible with Facebook. Make sure you select one that can be used on other sites as well—making it easier to plan contests on others sites in the future.

In closing, one of the most common mistakes that people make when it comes to holding a contest—particularly online—is not staying involved through the entire process. You have to do more than simply announce the contest, watch the entries roll in, and then award the prize.

Stay engaged with contest entrants as if they were already customers. This will keep them coming back and likely cause them to spread the word about your contest and, more importantly, your brand.

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