Daniel Burstein

Social Media Marketing: A look at contests from the customer’s perspective

October 30th, 2012

I’ve previously written about using social media contests and sweepstakes to grow your social communities on the MarketingSherpa blog, but today I’m going to write about these promotions from a unique place many marketers dare not tread – from the customer’s perspective.

You see, I just happen to be one of five finalists in a nationwide program now accepting votes on Facebook. One idea will garner $100,000 in funding. (You can read more about my rooftop farming idea, an initiative focused on content marketing for grocery stores, and vote for me, Daniel Burstein, if you like.)

Getting the opportunity to see these programs from the perspective of a customer/finalist, here are a few lessons I learned and relearned along the way that might be helpful to you for your own social media promotions …


Make sure your judges are clear on what you’re looking for

Every time I see one of those “Cutest Baby” promotions on Facebook, I always wonder how the judges ever decide on a winner. All of the babies look cute to me.

It’s vitally important that your judges have a clear picture of what you’re looking for when you choose finalists … during every step of the judging.

You likely want to have a three-step process if you receive any significant volume of entries:

  1. For the basics of simply making sure an entry is appropriate, a team of interns or administrative assistants can likely separate out the obviously, sometimes flagrantly unqualified.
  1. To separate the wheat from the chaffe, you want a team with a bit more expertise. This team might also contact its chosen semifinalists to obtain more information and a better understanding of them, to arm your judges with more information in the next step.
  1. Then, to separate the rest of the wheat from the really good (whole grain) wheat, you want a team of subject matter experts. These may be celebrity judges that you advertise with your promotion, or simply people knowledgeable in the field. They’ll help you choose your finalists, so you want to narrow the field enough by the time they’re in the picture that they can really focus on picking a worthy group.

At each stage, give your screeners, sifters and judges clear instruction for what type of entries you are looking for (the basics of this information will also be in your official rules), decide how to break ties, and make sure the judges of the finalists have a way to discuss characteristics of the finalists (if your Official Rules allow).

As a customer, in the promotion I was involved in, I’ve met the other four finalists, and they all have good ideas. I would have a very difficult time picking the winner.

But as a judge for previous MarketingSherpa Email Awards, I had a much clearer picture of whom I thought should win since I was part of crafting clear judging guidelines.

Even then, one element I made sure to include in the judging is the necessity for each judge to make a case for why a campaign should be a winner. Actually having to make the case out loud can really help clarify one’s thinking.

Besides, if we can’t get up and speak passionately about an entry internally, we’d never be able to do so from the stage of the MarketingSherpa Email Summit.


Create talking points for your finalists and winners

As marketers, we eat, sleep and breathe our brand messages. Therefore, it’s easy to forget that even our most passionate customers aren’t always aware of the messages we’re trying to communicate.

Your finalists and winner(s) will become pseudo spokespeople for your brand. Sure, no one expects them to be your Joe Isuzu. Nevertheless, they will be associated with your brand, perhaps through your own promotions and media push (see next tip), but at the very least through their own social networks. (After all, that is the benefit of a social media promotion.)

So give your finalists and winner(s) some talking points about your brand, and send them some free products so they’re well versed in all aspects of what you do, how you do it, and why you do it so darn well.


Make some hay

In the short amount of time that you have voting for finalists live or have just announced a winner, you possess the brass ring of public relations – a newsworthy event.

This isn’t just a product launch, a book written by your CEO or a new customer signing, this is a genuine achievement by someone (now) associated with your brand. So make the most of it through your social networks to your own audience, but also to the media:

  • Local media in the finalists’ and winner’s hometown(s) – “Local boy does good stories” are always popular
  • Trade pubs and influential blogger in the finalists’ and winner’s industry(ies) — “A fellow programmer has the chance to carry the torch at the Olympics.” You get the idea. (Hey, it’s one of the reasons I’m writing this blog post to you, as a bit of encouragement … look at what us marketers can do with our superhuman powers of messaging and communication.)
  • To media that reaches your own customers – of course. You always throw the love their way, and deliver value with your products. This promotion is just one more example of that.

You’re looking for where the tribes that your finalists are members of consume media, and targeting those outlets. The storyline can be, “Look at this cool thing that happened to someone just like you.”


Have some fun

At the end of the day, don’t lose sight of the greater good that’s going on here. This isn’t just a drip campaign or lead gen initiative … you’re actually helping make someone’s dream come true. Or giving them an opportunity they never thought they would have. Or shining a light on a truly outstanding but often overlooked citizen.

Use this opportunity to build your brand. But don’t overlook the fact that, for the end consumers (like me in this particular case), it’s one heck of a ride.

So have some fun with your finalists.


Related Resources:

Social Media Marketing: 7 steps for using contests and sweepstakes to promote your brand

Content Marketing: How to get your subject matter experts on your corporate blog

Content Marketing: 3 tips for how to get started

Daniel Burstein

About Daniel Burstein

Daniel Burstein, Senior Director of Editorial Content, MECLABS. Daniel oversees all content and marketing coming from the MarketingExperiments and MarketingSherpa brands while helping to shape the editorial direction for MECLABS – digging for actionable information while serving as an advocate for the audience. Daniel is also a speaker and moderator at live events and on webinars. Previously, he was the main writer powering MarketingExperiments publishing engine – from Web clinics to Research Journals to the blog. Prior to joining the team, Daniel was Vice President of MindPulse Communications – a boutique communications consultancy specializing in IT clients such as IBM, VMware, and BEA Systems. Daniel has 18 years of experience in copywriting, editing, internal communications, sales enablement and field marketing communications.

Categories: Social Networking Evangelism Community Tags: , ,

  1. David Skaer
    November 5th, 2012 at 12:10 | #1

    What are the legal restrictions on running a contest. I was going to offer $100 worth of iTunes or a $100 gift certificate to Amazon or a couple of others.
    Do you know of any legal ramifications? My only requirement is that they click “Like” for Facebook.


  2. November 5th, 2012 at 17:29 | #2

    Sorry, we’re not lawyers, and it would be inappropriate for us to give legal advice. However, the follow blog post offers a very high-level look of some legal considerations you should keep in mind in Step #1… Social Media Marketing: 7 steps for using contests and sweepstakes to promote your brand

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