Who doesn’t like free stuff? Right? It’s weird. Even getting a free ink pen carries some sense of excitement.

Each year I attend an automotive conference for work.  Between educational sessions, my colleagues and I visit exhibitors to gather information about products and services that may benefit us and our clients in the industry. Engaging with the scores and scores of vendors can take hours, so we set off amidst the bright lights and noise intending to be selective with whom we leave contact information.

Some vendors are bolder and practically drag you into their booth space and ramble incessantly until you can escape.  Others have neat activities like body painting and Lamborghinis that you can check out while registering for a high-value prize. And, yet still, others give away really cool stuff like t-shirts, travel mugs, jump drives, chocolate, and all sorts of knick knacks as an invitation to see what they’re offering.

After hours of scoping out who has the best freebies and pretending that you’re interested in their products, you leave the exhibit hall with a tote full of stuff. Sure, some of your spoils are pretty sweet, but how many cheap keychains and ink pens do you really need? You get caught up in the thrill of getting “something for nothing” and don’t realize that it’s not really free because it zaps your time unsubscribing to the flood of promotional emails you get a week later!

Some vendors have beneficial products while other just have free stuff.  So the question is, what’s it worth for you or them?  What do you have to give away, if anything, to bring attention to your business?  Is the return on investment worth it?

Flip this scenario into the realm of digital marketing and consider social media as your exhibitor space.  Your organization has a profile page with which you want clients and potential clients to follow and engage.  So, what does your page need in order to meet your expectations of that network?  Aside from an attractive profile that fits your company branding, you need to share relevant and interesting content consistently.  Of course with platform algorithms, only 10% of your followers will even see it.  You can create the most fantastic content, but if people don’t engage then it’s almost useless.

Contests and giveaways are often an effective way to promote your product and generate engagement.  It’s important to define the goal of your contest.  Do you want more followers?  Do you want to introduce a product or increase event attendance?  You need to decide on a prize incentive that will attract your target audience and make the participation process simple enough to draw them in.

It’s very important that you understand and adhere to the platform’s contest rules.  Facebook guidelines are more detailed than other social networks, so reviewing them would be helpful.

According to the terms, all contests, promotions, and sweepstakes must:

Clearly state who is eligible to enter (are there any age or residency restrictions?)

Comply with any regional, state, national, or international contest laws

State that the promotion is in no way associated with or endorsed by Facebook

The official rules also note that personal Timelines and friend connections cannot be used to run a contest.  Specifically, you cannot require stipulations like “share on your Timeline to enter” or “tag your friends in this post to enter.”

Keep it simple.  Make it fun.  People like to talk about themselves, so ask questions that can be answered with one word or quickly.   A pizzeria, for example, could ask participants if they prefer pepperoni or cheese.

You don’t have to give away anything extraordinary to get engagement either.  People will interact with contests for free shopping totes, food items, or gift cards.  There are contest apps that you can use to get more information about your audience by requiring that they provide answers to pertinent questions and their email address.

Contests can be hosted as often as you want.  Some companies run weekly or bi-weekly contests while others launch quarterly or annual campaigns that incorporate contests with higher-priced prizes.

I did participate in a super cool vendor contest at the aforementioned 2016 automotive conference.  They offered a valuable service, had an informative CEO with an upbeat promotions team, and hosted an educational and fun Snapchat contest with a useful prize ($100 Visa Gift Card for 5 participants).  You entered the contest by submitting a Snapchat of yourself with the conference filter for a chance to win.   That was pretty impressive!

If dealing with the details isn’t appealing to you, give HRD a shout!  We’ll be happy to organize a social media strategy with contests for you.