Contests and promotions can be great way for businesses both large and small to help promote their products and services, gain more followers and subscribers, interact with fans and generate a good buzz to help boost a company’s image. However, when not done properly, a poorly run contest can backfire and actually do more harm than good. Here are some quick tips to help you get started on running a successful contest and avoiding an ‘Epic Fail.’
Know the Rules
If you are running a contest on Twitter or Facebook, check out both sites to make sure you are following rules set up by both social media sites. For example, Twitter does not allow for contests where a person with the most tweets wins. Also, Facebook does not permit winners of a contest to be notified that they have won through Facebook (no posts, messaging, etc.). Do not jeopardize your account status by violating the terms on either site. For guidelines for running a contest specifically on Twitter, check out this article. For Facebook rules, visit Facebook’s promotions page.
Make the Rules
When running any contest, it’s best to seek legal advice and draft Official Rules. It’s better to err on the side of caution and consult with an attorney who is highly knowledgeable about sweepstakes laws. Some contests and sweepstakes are not allowed in certain states. If you do choose to wing it, consider giving away smaller prizes (under $50 value), which are less likely to come under the scrutiny of litigious eyes. The larger the prize, the larger buzz you will generate and entries gained, but also the more likely someone will want to know if your giveaway followed all applicable laws. No matter the prize, make sure that you are following the law; the only way to really do that is to consult with a professional.
Not setting limits for your contest can have disastrous consequences. If you have a product giveaway and your only requirement is that everyone who uploads a photo to Facebook ‘wins’ a product, then prepare for the deluge—and the backlash. Often news of such giveaways spreads like wildfire through social media, blogs or other freebie and giveaway sites. Even if you have a low follower count and are a new company, not setting limits might force you to backtrack on your prizing and cause a stir among your followers. By simply limiting your giveaway to a specific number of winners can save your contest and reputation.
Another common problem is having a giveaway at a designated date and time, such as “the first 1,000 to enter will receive our product!” Only to have servers crash, error messages pop up and followers become disgruntled. Don’t offer something you cannot follow through on—unless you would like to see your wall or timeline fill up with angry posts.
While not a contest, I’ll bet this week McDonalds wishes they would have foreseen the negative turn their #MeettheFarmers/#McDStories hashtag campaigns took. While hoping to generate a wholesome, positive buzz online and have users share their fond stories of MickeyD’s, instead users began to hijack the hashtag and tweet horrendous experiences that only sent messages of their dislike for the restaurant chain across the Twitterverse. Business must realize first of all that when venturing into social media, they lose a degree of control in that they cannot oversee what users write about them. If you have a product that might be controversial to some degree, seriously think about the possible repercussions of running such a campaign. On the other hand, this might give you a chance to engage those who might disagree with your product and try to set things right or state your case. Secondly, if you are running a contest in which you solicit a feel-good story, specify that when promoting your contest: that to enter, users must tweet/post their favorite thing about our company. By making clear the purpose of your contest, you might inspire people to share positive thoughts about your business, and leave the negative ones off of their timelines.