Five Types of Social Media Promotions to Engage Your Fan Base

Peter Roesler, President - Web Marketing Pros

By Peter Roesler

President, Web Marketing Pros

woman-like-buttonJust about everyone who is tasked with handling the social media for an organization will eventually be asked about running a promotion through the social media channel. However, this task may be a little harder than people initially realize. Not only do social media marketers have to navigate the rules of the individual social media channels (Facebook has rules that can be somewhat frustrating), they also have to decide which promotion is best suited for their product and fan base. But there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel. Here are five types of promotions businesses can use to energize their social media fan base.

Sweepstakes and Giveaways
The simplest and most common forms of social media promotions are sweepstakes and giveaways. Essentially, sweepstakes and giveaways are just online raffles. Contestants fill out an entry form on the social media channel, and then the winners are selected by a random drawing.

Besides being simple, sweepstakes and giveaways have the advantage of allowing companies to gain whatever information they need from consumers by adding appropriate fields to the entry form. For example, adding a field that asks what the consumers favorite local news channel is, an entry form for a contest can double as a tool for market research.

Because entering this kind of promotion is easy for participants, it can be promoted in other forms of marketing materials, such as putting QR Codes on in-store displays. Fan gating the sweepstakes can also ensure that the contest brings in new fans to the social media channel.

However, since these kinds of promotions don’t require any interaction besides the initial entry, sweepstakes and giveaways work best when the goal is increasing brand awareness or fostering a better public perception of a product.

Photo Contests
For engaging users in the form of a promotion, the best choice is often a photo contest. Participants upload photos and the winners are chosen by votes from the audience (or through some other form of judging). It requires contestants to actively participate in the contest and it encourages them to invite their friends to follow the organization’s social media channel so they can get more votes.

Fans get excited about these form of contests (and similar video contests) because they are fun to do and allow them to express their creativity. These are two of the key reasons that people use social media, so by tapping into that energy to engage fans, businesses can find new fans and build stronger connections with current ones.

One thing to keep in mind is that photo requiring people to work in order to enter the contest may be a barrier that prevents people in certain age groups from participating. As was mentioned in a previous post, certain demographics are more likely to be social media “Creators” than other groups.

Trivia Questions
For organizations that want to increase their audience’s knowledge about the organization, a trivia question contest can do much to help accomplish that goal. Trivia contests require contestants to think about the organization. By ensuring that people know the answers to the questions can be found on the company’s website, a trivia question contest can drive traffic back to the site as well.

Be sure to make the prize desirable enough that people are willing to take the time to search for the answers. Also, remember that even if trivia contests are based on factual information, have fun with the questions. If the quiz seems too much like a boring test, people may just skip the contest or choose not to finish answering questions.

Caption Contests
In a sense, a caption contest is the inverse of a photo contest. The organization provides the images and then contestants write captions that fit the photo or product. Similar to the photo contest, the winner is chosen by which receives the most votes.

Caption contests are great for product promotions. Not only does it make people take notice of the item, they also have to think about it marketing terms. By the time the contestant chooses a caption, they would have thought of several other positive things to say about the subject of the image.

However, the disadvantage of a caption contest is that the organization has to vigilantly check every caption that is entered, to ensure none of them contain unacceptable content. A humorous example of what can happen if you don’t can be seen from the Chevy Tahoe viral marketing campaign in 2006. Customers wrote captions for Chevy Tahoe videos that would be used in user-generated commercials. Some of the commercials that ended up being shown had captions like, “Don’t Buy Me” and “Peak oil is here. Maybe you should walk”.

Tug of War Contests
A Tug of War contest is a great way to take advantage of friendly rivalries. A tug of war contest is like a poll where participants pick between multiple options and the highest chosen option wins.

Local schools, neighborhoods, and popular charities are great potential topic choices. Establishing prizes for this type of contest can be difficult. Since, it’s unrealistic to give prizes to everyone who voted (unless the prizes are small, like a coupon), it may be better to give the prize to the winning choice. An example would be giving a donation to the winning charity or school.

Tug of War contests all engage the participants because it encourages people to comment about their choice in order to convince others to follow their choice. The comments serve as valuable market research because it allows organizations to see what target audiences thinks about the topic.

From these five different types of promotions, there are innumerable ways an organization can choose to engage consumers. Experiment to find out what works best with a company’s demographic. Ensuring that the proper type of social media promotion is chosen for the goals of a campaign can be the factor that determines the ultimate success or failure of a project.


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