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4 Ways to Build a Winning Digital Contest

  |  August 2, 2012   |  Comments

Regardless of what kind of contest you undertake, there are a few things you can do to enhance your campaign.

It was Vince Lombardi Jr. who once said, "Winning isn't everything - but wanting to win is." It's a statement that rings true for sponsored contests as much as for sports events. Contests enjoy the rare distinction of being as popular among consumers as they are among brands. Few marketing strategies can boast that they offer something for everyone, and even fewer can make that claim when they live online.

It used to be that online contests were simple affairs: invite your target audience to enter a sweepstakes for a chance to win a product-related prize. While this type of contest is still going strong, the growth of social media has created new opportunities for brands to connect with consumers in the context of a contest, and the results can be very appealing. An increase in Facebook fans, Twitter followers, and word of mouth are just a few of the potential perks.

Seeing the Value in Visual Submissions

Brands are finding unique ways to build contests around digital platforms like Instagram and Pinterest by inviting consumers to submit photographs related to a product or brand persona. When American Airlines wanted to promote mobile products like its mobile site and mobile boarding pass, it called on social media users to share a photograph for a chance to win round-trip airline tickets. Each week was defined by a different theme, and contest participants could use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or email to submit their original photograph; the photographs that best represented the theme were posted in a gallery on the American Airlines contest microsite and Facebook page.

Other brands, like public service company Common Sense Media, have invited consumers to create original videos in order to increase not just awareness and affinity, but also deliver the organization's brand message. Common Sense Media contests have incorporated video submissions from both parents and school-age kids, with entries drawing attention to the role that media and technology play in children's lives and educating consumers about online safety. This is video content with value, and a contest of this nature can do a lot for a brand with a compelling story to tell - even if that story is more closely related to a niche salable product than a public service benefitting all.

Best Practices for Digital Contests

Regardless of what kind of contest you undertake, there are a few things you can do to enhance your campaign.

  1. If your experience with online contests is limited, start with a small Facebook effort designed to increase your fan base. The social network is an ideal arena for recruiting willing participants. Consider using a Facebook contest application or social marketing platform like Wildfire or Votigo to help you execute a flawless campaign; both, along with many other providers, offer affordable options along with customized programs for larger campaigns. Once you have the feel for a contest based in social media - and a strong user pool to pull from for future contests - you can get more creative by employing different or multiple sites.
  2. For image-based contests, ask consumers to post a pre-defined hashtag along with their video or photograph. It's a small addition to each submission, but it will greatly expand the contest's reach across Twitter and potentially generate additional online buzz.
  3. Support your contest with multi-channel ads whenever possible. Contests that are mentioned in TV spots and print ads, display ads, and on social sites are more likely to get moving quickly, and launching with a bang is critical when your campaign is time-sensitive and short-lived, as contests typically are.
  4. Give participants the chance to share your contest with their peers. In addition to incorporating sharing functionality into the contest itself, invite consumers to help you judge the winners. By opening a contest to public voting, brands can recruit additional participants and improve word of mouth, and the small act of recognizing the value of consumer feedback can have a big impact on the way consumers perceive your brand.

Businesspeople Crossing the Finish Line image on home page via Shutterstock.

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Tessa Wegert

Tessa Wegert is a business reporter and former media strategist specializing in digital. In addition to writing for ClickZ since 2002, she has contributed to such publications as USA Today, Marketing Magazine, Mashable, and The Globe and Mail. Tessa manages marketing and communications for Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy agencies servicing such brands as Bioré, Food Network, illy, and Hunter Douglas. She has been working in online media since 1999.

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