3 Steps to Creating a Social Media Contest That Drives Sales

3 Steps to Creating a Social Media Contest That Drives Sales

3 Steps to Creating a Social Media Contest That Drives Sales

Since 2012, I've been on the marketing team for a software company which creates contest templates and runs fully-managed campaigns for businesses looking to boost social media engagement, gain Fans, and drive sales.

There were a couple years there when I was jaded - frustrated by many business' misguided desire to pour money into social media, knowing they weren't getting anything back from it.

I kept writing the words "You need to have a complete strategy to actually turn Fans into customers!" but it felt like nobody was listening to me.

We were doing great, but I was frustrated by what I saw as our business delivering vanity metrics to companies who didn't know any better.

With the fall in organic reach on Facebook, though, that all started changing. People began to recognize that their 10,000 Facebook Fans meant diddly squat if they weren't reaching even 5% of them or turning any of them into customers.

So what did that fall in reach mean for a company whose social media contests apps are dedicated to increasing social engagement?

Luckily, there's still value in a social media contest. Social media is still the arena where the largest number of prospective customers are hanging out. Instagram, for instance, has 600 million and counting. Your business can't afford to ignore that. So how do you turn prospective customers into actual customers?

A contest can help. No, seriously. You just need to have a complete strategy to actually turn Fans into customers.

Oh look, an article on that!

Editor's Note: Wishpond’s proven campaign system makes it easy to run online marketing campaigns that get new leads and customers for your business. Grab your Free Trial here.

Step 1. Create an Optimized Social Media Contest Page

There are a couple strategies I can recommend here...

1. A photo, referral or Instagram hashtag contest. These contests are characterized by using your entrants to spread the word. Because whichever entrant gets the most votes on their submission (or refers the most friends to enter with a unique URL) wins, it takes a lot of the workload off your hands.

Here's an example of that:

2. A giveaway contest which uses a share incentive popup to give bonus entries to people who complete a social-media action (Following, Sharing, Liking, etc).

The contest page for New York women's gym, Lucille Roberts, might look like this:

The "Share Incentive" popup would appear when someone submitted their details and clicked on "Enter Now." It looks like this:

Which one should I choose?

It depends entirely on your business' objectives. Both campaigns will yield new contacts that you can turn into customers.

If you have any questions about the pros and cons of each, just ask in the comment section and I can help you out.

What should I do to ensure the people who enter my contest are actually prospective customers:

  • Use language which appeals specifically to your target market. If you're in the fashion industry, use the headline "Fall Fashionistas! Submit your favorite selfie to enter to win!" Software companies could go with "Marketers (or Designers/Consultants/Agencies) Enter below for a chance to win a year's subscription of AcmeSaas!"
  • Choose prizes appealing exclusively to your target market. If you give away cash or a trip to Bermuda, people will enter your contest. Congratulations. Good luck getting any of those people to buy your app, handmade jewelry or marketing software. However, give away a prize related specifically to your business (a gift card or your actual product) and only people who are actually interested in what you sell will enter. I'd rather get 100 entrants I can convert to a sale at 20% than 500 I can convert at 1%.

Step 2: Create an Ad Campaign

Definitely you should promote your contest with organic Facebook, Twitter and Instagram posts. Definitely you should add a scroll-bar to your blog letting readers know about your promotion. Definitely you should send a newsletter to your email list (especially if you have a segment of "inactives" who you'd like to re-engage with).

But, ultimately, we're talking about trying to get new people in the door, right? There's no point in getting 500 of my existing customers to enter to win a free year of my service.

We need to run an ad campaign. The ad campaign run below (by Lucille Roberts, the women's gym I showed above) was run on Instagram, but of course uses the Facebook ad manager.

Targeting by Demographics:

If you're a retailer, there's no point in spending a dime on an ad campaign that shows anywhere you don't sell. It'd be like paying for a radio ad in Beijing when you sell coffee in North Dakota.

The example shown below uses zip code targeting for the neighborhoods in which the advertiser has a location.

Because this example is from a women's gym, they targeted exclusively women. Sensible...

They also ran a couple different ads. The example ad (shown below) features a younger woman in the image and so the target audience was women aged 18-24.

Targeting by Interests:

This part is pretty straightforward. If you have a gym, target people who have showed an interest in fitness. If you have a cafe, target students or people interested in coffee or writing. If you have a marketing consultancy, target people who Like your competitors or by their job title.

Here's what Lucille Roberts did to target Facebook users by Interest:

This gave them a prospective target ad audience of about 38,000.

The Instagram Ad Design:

First and foremost, with any social media advertisement, you want to use colors which grab the eye and contrast with the rest of the newsfeed.

For a contest advertisement, you want to feature either your prize or the dollar value of your prize front and center. This is the primary lure to get a click.

You want to feature your prize visually, if possible. If not, feature a person seemingly enjoying your product.

Here's an example:

This ad campaign is currently costing the advertiser about $2.50 per contest entry. Keep with this article to find out how we can get an awesome return on that budget.

* Bonus Strategy for Driving People to your Contest Page:

Which one of your website's pages gets the most traffic? Your homepage? Perhaps a particularly successful blog article? Put an entry popup on that page so it appears when new people first arrive (you can ensure it doesn't appear for return visitors or existing clients with a good marketing campaign platform). Here's what that looks like for the campaign advertised above:


Let's take a quick breather and do some math.

We want a profitable campaign, yeah?

So let's take a quick second to think about what we've already put into this promotion. Let's say we have a monthly plan with Wishpond to create our Instagram contest. That's $69 (it'd be less if we went yearly, but whatever). We've spent $500 on Instagram ads and actual value of our prize is probably about $750).

Total spend = $1,320.

We have 350 Instagram contest entrants. Average lifetime customer value is $80. If we want to make a profit on this campaign we need to convert 17 entrants - about 5%.

Let's take a look at the best way to do that...


Step 3: Create an Automated Email Campaign to Turn Entrants into Sales

Now for the fun part. Your contest is over and we have the opportunity to turn entrants into customers (we're talking about real dollars, people).

Depending on what kind of email marketing platform you're currently using, there's a couple options for how to best do this. It also depends on what kind of business/product you have.

Option #1: Automatically send an email to people as soon as they enter your contest.

Thank them for entering and give a coupon code/discount code which can only be used to buy your products.

This is what our women's gym did:

I have nothing against this strategy. It works for a lot of businesses. My recommendation, though, would be to actually hold off on delivering the discount until after the promotion has ended (so send two emails instead).

Even if there are 10,000 other entrants, people don't believe they'll actually lose until they do. They're extremely unlikely to use the discount you give them because they believe they'll get it all for free when they win.

Option #2: Create an email drip campaign

Traditionally, email drip campaigns are used by SaaS companies to "onboard" leads. If you've ever received an educational email not long after downloading an ebook, you're being onboarded.

How does this work?

  • John enters your social media contest. He's sent (automatically) an email thanking him for entering.
  • Once the contest finishes, he's sent an email offering commiserations on his loss but thanking him for being involved. It also mentions a limited-time discount you're running on the product he entered to win.
  • ONLY IF he opens that email but doesn't buy, he's sent a follow-up email the next day reminding him of the limited-time availability.
  • If he doesn't open, five days pass (from the first discount email) and he's sent an email related to the qualities/competitive edge of your product or platform.
  • ONLY IF he opens that email but doesn't buy, he's sent a follow-up email the next day prompting him with the discount.
  • If he doesn't open, five days pass (from the competitive edge email) and he's sent a final email with the limited-time discount.

It's a bit more work, but think of it this way. If this strategy turns an entrant-conversion rate of 5% into an entrant-conversion rate of 15%, we make $4,200 instead of $1,320. Worth another half an hour to set up?

I think so.

Final Thoughts

It doesn't matter if you're in B2B, SaaS, brick-and-mortar retail or ecommerce, social media contests drive more than vanity metrics. They can deliver real-world returns: lead generation, an increase in your social media Following, brand awareness and, yes, your bottom line.

Have any questions about how best to run a social media contest? Let me know in the comment section.

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James Scherer is a social media expert and blogger for Wishpond. Wishpond makes it easy to run Facebook Ads, create landing pages & contests, email automation campaigns & manage all of your contacts.

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