Facebook Advertisers Pony Up Prize Money

Dollar signs are turning up more often in Facebook ad copy as brands utilize cash giveaways to drive “likes” to their pages. In new examples yesterday, Expedia ran an ad touting $1 million in vacation money while Super 8 offered the chance to win $500 and three free nights at its hotels.

facebook-pony-cashLast week, Excedrin advertised a video contest and a chance to win $150,000. And JC Penney has been pitching “Celebrity Shopping” contests, giving away $1,000 and $500 shopping sprees in New York City with the trip as part of the prize.

In every case, the brand requires Facebook users to “like” it before they can have the chance to win. The cash giveaways are the latest twist on the increasingly popular like-gating tactic, the practice of trading gifts or exclusive content for a “like” on a brand’s page.

Of the above examples, Expedia is casting the most lucrative lure. Five grand prize winners will be selected for either a trip to South America – worth an estimated $160,000 – St. Vincent ($125,000), Europe ($100,000), Paris/south France ($100,000), and Las Vegas ($100,000). In an effort dubbed “FriendTrips,” smaller travel prizes will also be distributed.

These offers underscore brand’s increasing willingness to invest sums in Facebook that rival their offline efforts. The seven-year-old social network is surging towards 700 million global users.

“Smart marketers are recognizing the value in engaging customers on Facebook,” said Blake Hayward, VP of products for social marketing firm Extole. “These types of customer-powered marketing activities are converting existing customers into ‘likers,’ fostering social recommendations, and acquiring new prospects.”

Harry Gold, CEO of Overdrive Interactive and a ClickZ columnist, suggested that while cash giveaways and freebies may be increasingly employed as a like-gating strategy, it’s generally an old online marketing trick. “It works on landing pages to get leads,” he said. “It works to get people to opt into email lists. And it works to get people to ‘like’ you on Facebook.”

But Gold warned, “You have to be cautious about sweepers and samplers who are not really interested in your product but literally enter every contest on the web. They’ll request anything as long as it’s free. Be prepared to connect with those people as well.”

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