Why, and how, to craft a Facebook contest

One May 27, 2009, Densey Cole, a 16-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department, was responding to a burglary call when another car crossed a median, hitting him. His head slammed against the ceiling of his police car and he broke his neck. Shortly after the accident, two thugs ran up to Cole’s car and stole his wallet and his 9mm weapon. Cole pleaded for his life as one of the gang bangers beat him with his own gun, adding to the severity of his spinal injuries. Despite facing many months of institutional care and knowing he would be forever remain a paraplegic, Cole later married his fiancé, Mary, while still in the hospital.

In 2010, Crate & Barrel ran an online wedding sweepstakes contest; first prize was a $50,000 dream wedding package. Engaged and newly married couples could submit an essay on why they should win a wedding or a do-over ceremony. Thousands of entries eventually were reduced to 10 finalists. Finalist Mary Cole wrote that her fondest wish, if she and Dempsey were to win, would be a do-over wedding (with medical assistance) on a beach in Mexico.

Their story was one of 10 equally moving stories from all over the nation. Could I have compelled you to enter the online contest, register your email address, and then vote for this couple – regardless of whether you had any prior interest in Crate & Barrel or its products — if I added that my daughter is a Chicago cop with personal ties to this groom? That’s right, to help my daughter help the Cole family, I extended my journalistic reach to ask thousands more people to vote in 2010, and then those thousands contacted thousands more…. And that is the power of one truly brilliant online contest.

And, oh yes – you could have voted as many as 10 times, driving up C&B co-op advertising rates and brand value every time you clicked onto the page… another reason to consider an online contest for your business, too. If you do want to generate some social good will as well as solid business leads, one of the easiest ways to launch a social media contest today through Facebook. Here’s how:

Set a goal. Are you trying to sell product, generate leads, increase top-of-mind brand awareness, or create a stronger sense of community within the audience you already reach? What, then, would success look like? How many new followers should you garner? How many sales? How many leads? How many more people do you want to inspire, through this contest alone, to “like” you? (Note: you can ask people who enter your contest to “like” your business, but you cannot make a “like button” the vehicle for people to enter the contest, or use it as a voting mechanism). Decide in advance what success will look like and communicate that vision to your team members.

Pick the right incentive (prize) for entering. You don’t need a $50,000 dream package, but you do want a strong lure for your target market. It’s acceptable practice to offer a third-party prize (electronic device, trip, gas card, gift card, etc.) as a hook to maximize entries. A larger prize awarded to the top three applicants usually will draw more interest than a discount for your own service, unless you are a large name-brand store offering a gift card credit to everyone. Short of that, don’t let your ego trip your team up when determining prize offerings.

How many entrants and layers will your contest have? In the C&B example, thousands of tier one respondents signed on due to the size and quality of the prize. After narrowing the pool (their information already having been collected), the finalists’ stories were compelling enough to bring in thousands and thousands more tier two participants (voters). Can you also legitimately transform your initial entrants into contest ambassadors?

Make it easy to enter: Social buzz is your friend. Make it as simple as possible to join in the fun, meaning name and email address, not an IRS inquiry. A fun, interactive contest will encourage pass-along sharing, helping take your contest go viral. And remember, the more human-interest you can muster, the more success it will garner.

Familiarize yourself with Facebook contest rules, which are pretty straightforward. Your company has to own the service being promoted; you have to ensure the contest is legal and that you clearly spell out the official rules, offer terms and eligibility requirements. You must use Apps of Facebook [FB] for the promotion and yet make it clear that the contest is separate, with no connection to FB. For example, as already mentioned, you can’t use FB features such as a “like” feature for voting purposes; the vote must be initiated and collected via the third-party app. No one is included or excluded from your contest based on any affinity buttons on FB; they all have to enter the contest, know they entered a contest, and vote another way, via the stated rules. Finally (though there are more rules), you must notify the winner(s) another way, other than through FB.

Choose a third party app that is easy to use: There are lots of options (do a simple Google search). You’ll be looking for a free or affordable one that is customizable, a mobile-friendly app that can be embedded on your website.

Follow up: Once the winner is announced, follow up with all entrants with your thanks for becoming a part of your community. This is too often overlooked, yet one of the key reasons you chose an online forum.

Now that we’ve tested your talents for contests, let’s come together next week to discuss your changing role as employer versus health care insurance provider. What can you do this year to prepare for 2014 changes?

About Jody Glynn Patrick

Jody is President of Glynn Patrick & Associates, which provides management consulting, executive coaching and strategic planning services. She is Publisher Emeritus of In Business magazine, which she published for 17 years. Selected as the “U.S. Business Journalist of the Year” in 2007 in Washington, DC, by the U.S. Small Business Administration, Jody has been a business reporter, editor, radio talk show host , and has won other state and national journalism awards. At the same time, she has helped corporate clients grow their businesses -- the basis for her practical coaching advice here. She also was the 2005 Athena Award recipient for her leadership role in mentoring other professional women. Jody will be talking with you weekly on TDS’ blog to share her insights and tips from the C-Suite perspective. Follow on G+.



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