How do you learn what you don’t know – especially if it is about a free online sweepstakes?
Listen to your colleagues, peers, mentors, etc. and more importantly, listen to your prospects, customers and clients.
Why would I be stating the obvious?
December is Online Sweepstakes Season.
Online Sweepstakes Season is the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas (sometimes New Year’s) where every company, big and small, is hosting an extraordinary amount of giveaways on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
This December I saw an unprecedented number of poorly run promotions. You would think, with the vast amount of free social media and promotional marketing information and advice online, there would be fewer mistakes, not more.
Why so many errors?
I believe it’s because Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram seem so easy to use. Many entrepreneurs, small business owners, and marketers jump in with both feet creating promotions, posts, and social sweepstakes. Only when they get unexpected or disastrous results do they realize they are in over their head, with no idea how to rectify the problem.
What free online sweepstakes marketing mistakes are being made?
MISTAKE: Not listening to those offering helpful advice.
WORSE MISTAKE: Not answering those asking simple questions.
If you are getting advice or questions, it means what you have posted isn’t clear. You have missed a key component of your promotion. A key that could dramatically affect the outcome of your marketing efforts.
I have heard from contestors who tried to get clarification on a social media giveaway from a sponsor, only to be shut down, deleted, blocked or worse, talked back to.
Why would you ever be rude to a prospect or customer? Your followers are only trying to ensure they can enter so they are not wasting their time or yours.
Perception is reality. If you are perceived to be something, you might as well be it because that’s the truth in people’s minds. ~ Steve Young
By being rude the perception you are creating is; ‘Why should I consider buying from you? If you are snarky now when I ask a simple question, what will happen if I have real product question or service need?’
If you behave badly online with regards to a fun activity, a prospect assumes they will receive poor service once they become an actual customer.
Worse is never replying at all. Many times I have contacted the contest sponsor regarding entry clarification, only to be ignored. Ignoring those who ask questions creates two circumstances:
- the perception of indifference,
- and those entering may not enter properly, because their rules aren’t clear to them, and they never received clarification.
Being indifference creates the same perception as being rude.
Allowing entrants to enter improperly will only make it difficult for you to draw a winner, and will skew your analytics.
BETTER SOLUTION: TAKE ACTION!
Are you missing eligibility, a step regarding participation or did not follow the promotional guidelines set out by each social channel?
Although you shouldn’t change a free online sweepstakes once it has started, if a key element is missing, make the correction ASAP.
Far too many small businesses are hosting social media holiday contests expecting the winner to come in and pick up their prize. Except they did not put that anywhere in giveaway mechanics and were upset when people from all over the country entered. I understand their intention was to increase their social media reach within their local community by giving away a gift card or gift basket, but by not having complete mechanics outlining exactly what was expected of each entrant, the results were disastrous.
At a minimum, each social sweepstakes should outline:
- eligibility (who can enter),
- what steps need to be taken to enter (like, comment, etc.)
- when the contest ends (time and date),
- the social channel disclaimer (can be found within each social channel’s promotional guidelines),
- along with any special requirements (the prize needs to be picked up).
Even better, if you also include a short link to a landing page on your website that hosts long form official rules.
Without precise rules, you will get mass followers, quickly followed by mass unfollowing. You will get mass likes, quickly followed by mass unlikes. You will get all types of people outside of your desired target market entering your giveaway. None are good for your long-term social media algorithms. In this case, quality is far better than quantity when it comes to online activity and analytics.
MISTAKE: Not investing the time to set out a digital marketing plan, let alone properly planning giveaways.
SOLUTION: Set out an annual plan of your business goals. Then break those goals into simple steps you need to take to reach those goals.
There is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time. ~ Desmond Tutu
Always built giveaways into your annual marketing plan, just like every other online and offline promotion or activity (conventions and conferences, product or service announcements, sales or discounts, etc.). Better still, tie into contests into many or all of your other marketing actives whenever possible.
You wouldn’t go to the gym once and expect to become fit and strong. You wouldn’t diet for one day and expect the extra 20lbs melt right off. Why do marketers run one promotion or free online sweepstakes and expect extraordinary results? Like diet and exercise, for a social media marketing plan to be successful, consistency, over a long period of time, is key.
Similar to making New Year’s resolutions, your marketing and social media planning should be set in January. Then, unlike most resolutions, they should be adhered to for 12 months.
That said, flexibility is key as social media moves quickly and as timely events take place, your team should be ready to pivot and react at a moment’s notice.
If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail. ~ Benjamin Franklin
DO NOT fall into the trap of creating an online sweepstakes ‘just because’. This is especially tempting when a calendar holiday or event comes around and suddenly there are hundreds, or even thousands, of #ValentinesDay promotions, #12DaysofChristmas giveaways or foodie contests on #NationalHamburgerDay. Making yourself busy so you have something to report to your boss, or jumping on the seasonal bandwagon will do nothing to increase sales. (After all, that is the main objective of every marketing activity.)
You are better off doing nothing, than hosting a rushed, disastrous social sweepstakes.
SOLUTION #2: Be creative when pre-planning your annual free online sweepstakes.
Does your product or service lend itself well to a specific day? If not, how can you put your own spin on it? For example, a café could host a #MothersDay giveaway for an afternoon tea, or how about a tire company poking fun at #DoughnutDay by hosting a contest?
Use the National Holiday Calendar to determine which days, or weeks, you can incorporate into your annual marketing plan. What type of promotion could your company create that would dovetail into standard holidays such as #HappyNewYear or #StPatricksDay, or into unique days such as #UpsyDaisyDay or #AcornSquashDay?
MISTAKE: Thinking what you post online will go viral, for free.
SOLUTION: Just because you create a contest, doesn’t mean anyone will enter it, let alone go viral. Social media isn’t the Field of Dreams. ‘If you build it, they will come.’ is a dominant misperception and misconception of how creating and sharing content on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram works.
Once you have set-up your giveaway properly, the next step is to let the world know it’s there. One of the most common questions I get is, “Can you make our contest go viral?” The short answer is, “No.” And neither can you.
There are a myriad of subtle factors that make any marketing campaign viral. Contests usually do not viral to the level of Chewbacca Mom, but you can make it a success and garner quality results if you follow a few steps:
- pre-announce your online sweepstakes on all your channels: blog, email, social media, etc.
- upon launch reach out again via all the same avenues.
- buy social media ads and target them to the demographics you want to reach.
- choose specific hashtags that would be searched by your target demographic.
- budget to hire social influencers and bloggers that also speak to your audience to attract entrants to the online sweepstakes.
- announce the winners to create trust with your audience that you do, in fact, give away the prizes you promote.
To reiterate, if you schedule online sweepstakes into your annual marketing plan you have the time to announce upcoming promotions. This builds in anticipation and your subscribers and followers who will be watching for their chance to win. When the online sweepstakes is launched, it will have an immediate boost for the previously laid groundwork.
What changes will you implement to make your future giveaways a success?