Running a Successful Social Media Competition

Competition UGC

A case study for getting the most out of your competition 

Have you ever hosted a social media competition or giveaway, only to have it fall totally flat? Maybe your competition posts just didn’t get enough reach (thank you, algorithm) so you didn’t get enough sign ups to make it worthwhile. Or maybe all those new followers unfollowed you as soon as the competition was over (we may be guilty of doing this ourselves 😬). It seems like running a competition should be easy. You’re trying to give away free stuff! Who could object to that? But the reality is that it can be tough to get traction these days and sometimes the time, effort and budget you put into a competition just isn’t worth it. But with a bit of careful planning, the right tools and the right strategy, it can be. Using a case study of one of our clients, we’re going to outline what you need to run a competition that’s truly worthwhile for your business.  

Case study: free coffee! (Now that we’ve got your attention, here’s the case study).  

Towards the end of last year, we welcomed a new client on board. This client is a boutique coffee roaster and retailer, and they wanted to launch into an international market. To help them grow their audience pre-launch, we designed a competition as part of their strategy to kick things off with a bang. But we also wanted to make sure that the competition gave our client value beyond sign-ups during the initial launch period. This is how we went about it…  

The right offer:  

One of the major reasons social media competitions fail is because the offer isn’t strong enough. People are bombarded with online communication these days, and can be wary of giving up their email address or contact details for just any old prize. And sometimes it’s not just about the contact details. Have you ever tried to enter a competition and been asked to tag 40 of your closest buddies, follow 8 different accounts, and write a short essay in the comments about why you should win? If people feel that the hoops they have to jump through just to enter your competition outweigh the value of the prize, that could be the major reason your competition is falling flat. Keep in mind, value doesn’t necessarily mean how expensive the prize is. It just has to be something that your target audience would be over-the-moon to get their hands on.  

So, with that in mind, we went about creating a super compelling offer for our coffee client – win a year’s supply of free coffee. This probably isn’t news to you, but people love coffee. So a supply of high-quality, freshly roasted coffee showing up at your door every month for a year without you even having to think about it? That’s definitely worth giving up your email address for! 

The right targeting:  

Getting traction on a competition organically can be hard. Even if you’re a small business with a limited budget, it can be worth spending money on targeted social ads to ensure you get a decent RIO for your competition. After all, if you’re giving away a $500 item and you only get 10 new sign-ups, it’s probably not worth your time or effort.  

For our coffee client, our team of expert strategists and media buyers did what they do best – researched the audience and created a series of targeted ads to ensure the competition reached the right people for maximum impact. 

The right tools: 

If you’re a smaller business, manually tracking competition entries can be totally doable. But there are some super useful tools out there that can serve multiple purposes, like collecting email addresses and encouraging social media follows and shares for extra entries. Depending on the goal of your competition and your budget, these can be well worthwhile.  

For our client, we set up a tool that would encourage competition entrants to take more than one action for the chance to enter multiple times. Things like sharing the competition on social, following pages, and answering a few questions through a chat bot so we can better understand the audience after the competition is over and serve them the content that they want. 

The right long-term strategy 

Most brands run competitions with the goal of getting more brand awareness, or growing their followers or email lists. While these can be worthwhile goals, we want to encourage you to look at the bigger picture when planning your competition. If there are going to be more eyeballs on your brand for a period of time, what can you do to take advantage of that in the long-term? Particularly if you’re going to put some budget behind your competition, really give this some thought! Is there something you’d like to learn from your customers that could be useful for you in the future, like product preferences? Do you need more user generated content for your brand? You could ask people to submit their own photo of your product as part of the entry.  

As our coffee client is launching into a new market, we incorporated a survey into the competition. We wanted to find out who these people were, a bit about their lifestyles, what type coffee they like to drink, how they make their coffee (at home, get it from a cafe, etc.), do they have dietary restrictions, and things of that nature. This type of information is invaluable for segmenting the audience, so that when our client launches, they can deliver targeted content based on what they know the audience wants to see, as well as being able to make informed decisions about future products, thanks to these survey questions.  

The right follow-up:  

Have you ever entered a competition by a brand that’s new to you, only to not hear from them again for three months? Then you get a generic eDM from them out of the blue, and you can’t even remember how you ended up on their mailing list in the first place! ‘I never signed up for this!’ you think, before slamming that ‘unsubscribe’ button without giving it a second thought. And just like that, that brand loses a good portion of all the sign-ups they gained through their competition.  

Say it with us people: follow up 👏 is 👏 key! 

Before you launch your competition, make sure you have lead nurturing email sequences in place. In the case of our coffee client, we hooked up our competition entries tool with their email provider so that all competition entrants are entered into a nurture sequence, creating a smooth process for both collecting and nurturing new leads that come through as a result of the competition. This nurture sequence gradually introduces new leads to the brand’s values and story. This helps our client develop a deeper connection with the new leads and increases the chances of them sticking around and even making a purchase once the competition is over.  

The results:  

Because our client wants to build an audience and learn as much as they can about them before entering into a new market, we’re keeping their competition running for a decent amount of time (3 months, to be exact). But so far, using the strategy we’ve outlined above, we’ve had 2,500 sign-ups in a week a half! Not a bad effort for a competition that’s just launched. As the weeks go on, our team will continue to tweak and optimise ads for performance, and look for other opportunities to nurture the new leads and help our client gather more valuable insights about their audience.  

Do you think a competition could work for your business? Our team can make sure you have the right strategy around your competition, to get maximum value for your competition efforts. Get in touch today.  


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