When I was 18, my dad gave me my first business book. He said, “If I can teach you at 18 what I learned at 36 you will be way ahead of me.” He was right, but what he didn’t anticipate was the speed at which business and marketing would change. It’s no longer enough to read business books. I subscribe to a wide variety of blogs and newsletters so I can keep abreast of the latest ideas and trends. There are a lot of great articles giving you social sweepstakes marketing ideas, but as I have combined my business background with my hobby, I spot pitfalls in giveaways most marketers miss. Here is what you don’t know about running a sweepstakes via any social media channel.
Everyone Else is Doing it.
PITFALL #1 Not adding giveaways into your annual marketing plan.
Sweepstakes, contests, and giveaways that are tied to your brand, product, local or national event, or milestone is a fun and dynamic way to engage with your customers, fans, and followers. It’s important to make them part of your overall marketing plan so you can:
- budget for prizing, etc.,
- pre-promote and viral marketing,
- and dovetail with other marketing activities, such as a sale or open house.
I get at least one request a day for my marketing services, but after the prospect receives my price list they respond with, “We don’t have any money in the budget for promotion.” They expect me to offer my services for free because they didn’t plan properly.
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. ~ Benjamin Franklin
PITFALL #2 Not having a purpose for running a sweepstakes.
JUST BECAUSE is not a reason to take on any business activity, but it seems to happen far too frequently for social media giveaways. The Marketing Manager may have run out of ideas (see PITFALL #1, not planning a year’s, or even a month’s, worth of content) and decides to host a social sweeps to generate some online activity. Why? Without a purpose, how can you measure success? How can you track progress or milestones?
Plus, purpose will determine platform. Want to increase Facebook followers? Then don’t hold a Follow and Retweet contest on Twitter. (That example is blatantly obvious for a reason.) How about wanting to increase newsletter subscribers? Which platform? Which text?
For me, the best way to increase newsletter subscribers is to host a blog giveaway using Rafflecopter as the contest engine, plus it has built in official rules -see PITFALL #4. You may need to do a lot of A/B and maybe even C testing to see what works best to reach your goal. Use low value prizing to test and a larger prize once the best path is determined.
PITFALL #3 Having the wrong purpose.
I am a believer of quality, not quantity. Sadly, I see too many marketers hosting social sweepstakes to get their numbers up. This way they can go back to the boss and say, “Look! I ran a social media marketing campaign and increased our followers by X number.” That means nothing if thousand follow for one post and never engage again. You might as well save time and just buy followers!
Personally, I do not have as large a following across my social media channels as I would like. However, those that do follow me are real people that engage on a regular basis. Plus, when I look at the back end statistics of those followers, they fall into my target market range. This is important because when I do promote a client’s giveaway, I either meet or exceed the online traction promised.
Rules, Rules & More Rules!
PITFALL #4 Not having legal official rules.
This is one pitfall even I am guilty of. If I am giving away prizes I never used, sweepstakes memorabilia or lucky charms, I generally run a flash Twitter contest. Good ole’ FOLLOW & RT, with an end date and open to CAN & USA. That’s it. Bare bones rules. However, most companies are not giving away $5 items. They are giving away heaps of prizes with large cash values. It’s important that after creating the sweepstakes concept a promotional lawyer is contacted. This is extremely important for two reasons:
- The contest sponsor and agency must protect themselves from legal liability. (The obvious reason.)
- The idea you have for a contest may not work legally. (The not so obvious answer that could cost thousands of dollars.)
I work with many promotional lawyers in both Canada and the United States. I hear story after story of clients that get a contest ready to launch, and a day before realize they need rules. The lawyer reviews the promotion and notices several factors that are not legal, but all the artwork, graphics, web content, social posts, etc. have already been created. Not only is the client paying rush legal fees, they are recreating all their work.
Consulting a promotional lawyer should ALWAYS be step number two in the process of sweepstakes creation. (And, don’t be calling Uncle Bernie who wrote your neighbor’s will thinking his skill set will help you navigate sweepstakes law. I have seen rules written appearing to be written by lawyers that have entire clauses missing!)
PITFALL #5 Breaking social media contest rules.
Are you breaking the contest rules? Yes. You.
Did you know that most contests on Facebook today break their Page Guidelines with regards to sweepstakes? Have you read them?
- infrequently have a link to official rules,
- leave out the minimum legal requirements such as eligibility,
- are not getting proper government approvals, specifically the for the states of CA, FL, NY, RI and in Canada the QC,
- forget to add in the clause releasing Facebook from any liability,
- and finally asking entrants to like the page, share the contest post and tag their friends in the contest.
PITFALL #6 Not realizing how nefarious cheaters can be.
This topic is a blog post in itself. Actually, it’s two so far with MSB:
You must be aware that someone will try to cheat in every contest you hold. They will buy votes, use stolen images, and virtually untraceable bots. You must check every entry, scan databases, vet photos, etc., before declaring a winner.
Awareness is Key
I have marketing books dating back to the 1930s describing sweepstakes as a marketing tool back to the turn of the 19th century. It has grown year after year, for well over 100 years as a fun and exciting way to connect with customers. Currently, running sweepstakes is a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States. The ways that companies host giveaways has changed over the decades (Watch: The Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio), but the main purpose has never changed: engage with prospects and turn them into loyal consumers.
Be Prepared ~ Boy Scout Motto
The Boy Scouts do not let the dangers of nature stop them from hiking, camping or canoeing. Instead, they learn what the hazards are, learn how to handle any situation and then set off for the adventure of their lives. I do not want the pitfalls I outlined in this post to discourage you from hosting giveaways. The purpose of my post is to show you where the potential hazards are, so they can be avoided when you do host a giveaway. I want you to be like a Boy Scout when it comes to Social Media Sweepstakes. Be prepared! Now plan your next giveaway and have a grand adventure.