Although I have previously written about the different aspects of how entrants cheat to win a sweepstakes, how to prevent it, and how to turn your biggest fans into brand ambassadors and influencers, it seemed time to reiterate, review and update the topic as social channels and platforms continue to evolve.
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This specific post was precipitated as I, once again, received a message from a fellow sweeper about a marketing post from 2015. It keeps cropping up in their online searches for Facebook giveaways: How to Stop Facebook Fraud and Deter Prize Hunters. They emailed me because they are concerned, as an honest sweepstaker, they will be lumped in with the unsavory prize pigs who lie and cheat their way to winning. They also feel as I am both an entrant and Sweepstakes Marketer, I can make their concerns heard by sponsors, agencies and my fellow marketing colleagues.
Why does this concern crop up time and time again?
It stems from the many misperceptions and assumptions marketers make about running a sweepstakes and those that enter them.
Like any healing or 12-step program, acknowledgment there is a problem is always the first step. You must acknowledge the nature of giving something away for free will always draw out the chancers and cheats and backstabbing snakes. I have met many marketers that naively believe that:
- no one would cheat to win. Shocking, but true.
- they would easily be able to spot a cheater. Not as easy as one would think.
- the contest app they are using will block cheaters. Apps regularly promote this as feature and benefit of using their program, but devious cheaters are always one step ahead.
Secondly, you must start assuming everyone is a cheater and put in place as many deterrents as possible. The deterrents will, for the most part, be the same for every giveaway and then some alterations will be required depending on the specific platform. Be aware you will have to build-in additional measures if your social sweepstakes is held across multiple platforms.
Let’s begin with the steps you should take to reduce your exposure to contest leeches:
- Choose a giveaway format that attracts the least amount of cheaters.
- Choose prizes that appeal to your specific fan-base.
- Use contest apps to help deter unsavory entrants and weed out fraudulent entries.
- ALWAYS HAVE OFFICIAL RULES!
- Choose to use entrants to viral market your giveaway vs. targeted ads.
ONE = FORMAT
Each type of giveaway, social media platform, and entry method will attract different types of cheaters.
VOTING CONTESTS: Voting contests are notorious for all types cheating and online flame wars.
SOCIAL MEDIA: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram attract those entering under multiple accounts and profiles.
CELLPHONES: Text contests attract those using multiple burner phones.
CONTEST APPS: Some contest apps are prone to be hacked, so always ensure you vet and dedupe the contest database before your final drawing.
Once you are aware of the types of cheating attached to each type of sweepstakes you can better monitor, check and manage the entries. You must also vet each potential winner for cheating before they are announced as an official winner.
The platform(s) you choose will also be determined your contest goal. Are you wanting to promote brand awareness, attract social followers or newsletter subscribers? The process of designing a contest should always start with the end result in mind and then work backward. Not only will it impact the format chosen, but your goal will also determine the verbiage and messaging you use and the prize(s) you select (see TWO).
Be sure to read:
- Which Social Channel Should You Run Your Giveaway On?
- Why Voting Contests Are Always a Bad Idea.
- Consistency is Key When Planning Social Media Contests
TWO = PRIZES
The prize will determine who enters. Not always, but offering prizes that appeal to your customers, vs anyone and everyone, will help narrow your entry pool. You may get fewer entrants, but it’s a matter of quality vs. quantity.
For example, if you are a local restaurant it would make sense to give away gift certificates to your establishment of dining experiences as only those within driving distance would enter, vs giving away an Amazon gift card.
Have clear rules outlining the prize details (see FOUR), because including a clause such as: must pick up prize in person will deter cheaters and exclude those you do not wish to market to.
Remember to monitor each social channel’s analytics and insights to determine if your contest is attracting the correct demographic to reach your marketing goal. If not, alter one aspect, host another. Recheck. If you change more than one aspect, you will not be able to determine the successful tweak and repeat it in the future.
THREE = APPS
Using a contest app such as Rafflecopter, Gleam or Woobox will help deter cheaters. Yes, cheaters can use a VPN, IP blocker or bot to enter, but as you are using an app, you have more control over the post-giveaway vetting process.
Download the database into Excel for easy scanning. Sort it by different fields searching for duplicates and anomalies. Look for similar names, addresses, and phone numbers. Check email addresses too, but they are the easiest to create in bulk.
Have a hunch, gut feeling or intuitive hit about an entry or entrant? Listen to it! How many times in life have you ignored it because it wasn’t logical, only to discover it was right? The same goes for the contest vetting process. Don’t dismiss a flash of insight.
Be sure to read:
- Cheaters Always Win (& Get Caught) – Part 1 of a 5 part series.
- Could an Axe Murderer Claim the Grand Prize in Your Sweepstakes?
FOUR = RULES
ALWAYS READ THE RULES is the #1 tip I teach entrants. Having legal official rules is the number #1 tip I give marketers. Many marketers do not realize contest rules are a legal and binding contract between the entrant and the sponsor that should be court actionable. They should be written by a promotional lawyer and be written in favour of the sponsor.
Hosting a social media sweepstakes is no excuse to skip official rules. Ensure you plan to embed a short link to an official rules page when planning out your contest verbiage. AND, not only do you have to enforce the rules to deter cheaters, but you must also follow your own rules.
Be aware, all social channels have Page/Account rules with regards to sweepstakes on their platform. Many companies are either unaware or chose to ignore them, amazingly without consequence. I am not advocating you break policy as it could get your account closed, but as the social platforms are in business to make money from boosted posts and ads, they appear to be turning a blind eye. Break those rules at your risk.
Be sure to read:
- Why Social Media Contests Must ALWAYS Have Official Rules
- How to Avoid Social Media Backlash in Contests
FIVE = VIRAL
In the past, I would have advised you to skip paying for online advertising and solely rely on the Refer-a-Friend feature built into the contest app. However, as Facebook’s algorithm has changed, again, paying to boost posts and ads must be part of your promotional marketing plan and budget. Test various ads and posts across all channels to see what garners your specific target market the greatest engagement.
For example, I have twice as many Twitter followers, but I garner better engagement on Facebook when I boost a post and include Instagram. I also have to ensure I bottom load the post with targeted hashtags.
Embrace the Entrants
I can’t stress this point enough. Embrace the entrants. Just like overseeding a lawn with grass to choke out the weeds, the more legitimate entrants you have, the easier it will be to spot the cheaters and delete them from the contest database. Also, honest entrants will help you reach your marketing objectives, spot cheaters, and viral market your giveaway along with other social messages.
Entrants can become your biggest fans, advocates, and influencers. Guess what? Sweepers change their buying habits based on giveaways. I can’t tell you the number of new products I have tried and used from a contest I entered, or better yet, a prize I won. When I ran out, I added it to my shopping list.
My daughter has not known a life without winning as I began my hobby before she was born. A few months ago I spotted her in the grocery aisle taking pictures of a product with a contest on it. Instead of walking out, I grab a bag and bought it right then and there.
That is just one example of an altered buying habit. Become an observer when you shop and see what makes you deviate from your normal patterns.
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When you run a sweepstakes, do you weed out the chancers and cheats?