5 Must-Haves for Running a Successful Contest

Contest Submission!So your company has adopted social media marketing techniques. You’ve been on social networks and built relationships with your consumers, but want to take your engagement to the next level. You’ve heard that online contests can help your business get there, but you aren’t really sure what separates a great contest from the gimmicks. Don’t worry – we’ve figured that out for you.

1. Rules and Guidelines

The first step to having a successful contest is creating a list of rules and guidelines not just for entrants to follow, but also for you to live by. The goal is to create an airtight document that gives you ultimate control in case the contest somehow comes crumbling down around you.

Even with a small crisis, it is still good to be able to refer to a separate, impartial source when answering questions from entrants. Say it with me – “I’m so sorry, but it’s in the rules.” Have your lawyer look at it – we aren’t kidding. Having a foolproof rule book is the way to go.

2. A Great Concept

This one might seem pretty obvious, but you’d be surprised how pointless some contests can be. Too often, companies focus on how contests can drive traffic to their Web site, and stop there. But the point of a contest is to engage your audience and bring new consumers into your brand community. Just having participants enter their email addresses doesn’t really achieve that.

Creating a concept that will mobilize your target audience doesn’t have to get complicated – just look at the simplicity of the concept behind the contest we’re running for the National Chicken Council: the I Love Chicken contest. Your concept shouldn’t be so narrow that only a small niche of people want to participate, but it should still hone in on what your audience cares about. The true balance is making the contest easy to enter, but also specific enough that you get great user-generated content to use long after the contest ends.

3. A Huge A$$ Prize

Listen – people aren’t going to enter your contest for a chance to take a picture with the mayor of your town. Okay, a few might, but let’s face it – creative people aren’t going to pass over content they worked hard on – the kind of content that could be really valuable to your brand – for a photo-op.

You’ve got to give people a reason to enter. Money is always a great prize, or something worth a lot of money (think tropical vacation getaway). Personal promotion is also a good incentive (think about all the bands that vied to be the next FreeCreditScore.com guys). Whatever it may be, it has to motivate people to not only enter, but to get their friends and family to vote for them too.

4. Sharing Options

Give participants the option to share their entry with everyone they know on their social networks. It will be easier for them to pass the contest to their buds and relatives, ultimately driving traffic to your site. But it doesn’t just do that – it greatly widens that audience that can now connect with and participate in your contest and your brand. When you make it easy for contestants to spread the word and get votes for their entry, you hand them some power in the outcome of the contest, making them even more excited to be ambassadors for your business.

5. Crisis Communication Plan

Regardless of how well you plan the contest, set up your voting system, and monitor entries, there will be some sort of problem or question. And if you’ve got a great concept that is married to a huge prize, people will do pretty much anything to win, meaning that they will also find anything to call into question or complain about. That is where a crisis communication plan comes in.

Prepare for these often headache-inducing inquires by drafting messaging with the proper responses, tone, references to the rules, etc. While it won’t eliminate issues, it will help you maintain sanity as you launch your contest, making it much easier to respond to contestants in a consistent and professional manner.

Thinking about running a contest? Seems you’ve got a lot to think about. Not sure where to begin? It just so happens that we’ve got plenty of experience. We’d be happy to hook you up.

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