How to Stress Test Your Social Media Contest Ideas

As part of a multi-disciplinary marketing team with plenty of creative personalities who are full of ideas, contest idea generation can sometimes lack process and structure. How do you make sure that your contest stands the best chance of success?

Ideally, you’ll already have cultivated an audience or community on your social media channel and gathered plenty of insights on how they like to interact and what content they respond to but sometimes this is not the case. For example, you may be taking over from someone who has left or your team simply has not documented the insights from social media.

So when you have what you think is a brilliant idea for a contest, how do you make sure that it stands the best chance of being a success and delivering on its goals?

Here are a few ways you can stress test your idea and expected ROI once you have it:

1. Look for evidence that people will actually find the theme of the contest interesting – e.g., if you run a website for the market leader in child development programs and 20 percent of engaged social media posts are already about how to keep your baby happy and this is why we believe it could be a suitable theme for the contest.

2. Refer to Socialbakers to find other contests (in your country) that are similar and to benchmark results so you know what to realistically expect. For instance, 124 entries, 4,000 shares, 3,000 Likes, and 300,000 visits to the site. Try to understand what mechanic has worked – was it a simple sweepstakes contest or was something more challenging required (generally the less challenging you make it the more entries you attract).

3.  Take a long hard look into promotion and budget realistically on that front. Also look at mapping influencers who could help promote the contest (ideally you’ll have cultivated longstanding relationships beforehand).

4.  Once you validate that the contest is likely to engage and that the ROI is likely to be there, your team can begin looking for creative execution that might have been done elsewhere to inform the creative. This is a shortcut that makes sense to do this if you have time and budget constraints.

5. Create a content plan and plan a way to sustain momentum and buzz for the full lifecycle of the contest. For example, you may require a weekly mini-prize giveaway to sustain momentum before collecting a critical mass of entries and giving away the big prize.

6. When doing the contest terms and conditions, look at risks and loopholes in the contest that could lead to the audience complaining and reacting badly – e.g., I have seen a contest in India and the Middle East that needed hourly management toward the end as people got quite upset about the originality of the entries. You need to consider how often you will monitor the page and respond to comments.

7. Finally, begin to develop the detailed execution plan.

In short, try to have as much upfront evidence that your contest will actually engage the audience and result in the ROI you are aiming for.

In the final steps of this process you may find that your idea may not pass the stress test and you’ll have to go back to the drawing board. This is quite normal. Many marketers I know have found that social media contests can be exciting but they require a lot of man hours to run and the risks of them backfiring need to be planned for.

The direct ROI (that can be measured) is often lower than channels like SEM (search engine marketing) and SEO (search engine optimization) in the beginning and you should have your stakeholders primed to expect this and to understand that last-click attribution can inflate the ROI of SEM and SEO while underestimating the contribution that social makes.

Image from home page via Shutterstock.

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