5 Steps to a Successful Online Sweepstakes

Posted on by Tim McMullen

One sure-fire way to create engagement between consumers and your brand is online sweepstakes. When your relationship is mutually beneficial, your audience is more likely to come back for more. And, a well-executed sweeps can increase the likelihood of your audience sharing with their friends, a.k.a. your future audience.

How does this high-level of engagement happen? Earned media isn’t the free marketing solution it can appear to be at its most shallow definition. Yes, your audience is spreading the word for you, but it can take years of research to get them consistently hitting the “Share” button.

Over the years we’ve filled stacks of notebooks with our findings from this kind of research. Here’s what we’ve found works best to make an online sweepstakes go a long way.

1. Intersect With Their Lives

Create ways to engage that seamlessly integrate with your fans’ habits. If they feel interrupted, they’ll tune you out without a second thought. Themes, design and prizes need to fit naturally into the conversation you’re already having with your audience.

Every fan base has its favorite places to gather and engage. Follow in home décor retailer Kirkland’s footsteps and find where your fans spend their time, using this information to your advantage.

Kirkland’s knew that their target audience was diving into Pinterest at breakneck speeds, so they developed a sweepstakes campaign utilizing Pinterest and their own microsite, the Pinning Parlor. In return for pinning photos, DIY tips and mood boards from the Pinning Parlor, fans received coupons and of course, a grand prize.

Kirkland’s found a way to truly intersect with consumers without disrupting their lives. They even boosted their online community interaction by more than 300,000 in one month, surpassing the amount of pins their competitors received in three months.

2. Utilize Partnerships

Bringing in an outside player will immediately multiply your audience size. Creative partnerships that align with your core audience can quickly double or triple your earshot. Analyze your target audience. What are some of their other interests and activities?

Hilton Hotels and Resorts is currently teaming up with their preferred rental car agencies and Ford Mustang to offer their Hilton HHonors members even more rewards. Hilton piggybacked on the busy summer vacation season creating the Ultimate Road Trip Sweepstakes. This campaign brings travel together at a higher level by combining free hotel stays, Hilton HHonors gift cards, rental car coupons and an amazing grand prize, a 2014 Ford Mustang Convertible. This type of partnership delivers more value to customers and expands their reach beyond their existing HHonors members.

3. Incentivize Sharing

There’s no such thing as a free share. You just have to make it worth their while. Research shows that 20% more people will share if they are incentivized. But we already know that people want prizes, so let’s take it a set further. Give fans the chance to earn more entries in the online sweepstakes by offering various options to share to different groups of people.

For instance, “Get +1 entries for liking us on Facebook,” “Earn 25 more entries when you follow us on Pinterest,” or “Get 10 more entries when you tweet this promotion to your friends.” Not only do fans get more entries, you reach more people.

World Market incentivizes sharing by allowing fans to earn bonus entries when they share the promotion through their favorite social profiles or follow the company’s social accounts. Don’t underestimate the power of an extra online sweepstakes entry—many fans will take advantage of it and will thank you kindly, through shares of course.

4. Include Frequent Rewards

Have a little something for everyone. Never underestimate the power of “new winners every day!” Go ahead and dedicate part of your project’s budget to daily giveaways up-front. Offering daily winners as well as one grand prize winner increases the likelihood of customer engagement and keeps them coming back for more.

Some people think daily prizes are easier to win while others are more dazzled with a big grand prize. That’s what Oreck, manufacturer of cleaning products and appliances, found with their Facebook Merry Mess-Making Giveaway.

During the holidays, entrants played the giveaway game by choosing a Merry Mess-making personality that represented them best. Daily chances to win various Oreck products and a grand prize boasting cash – plus three of Oreck’s top-selling products – drove continual engagement. These frequent reward offers proved to be successful and increased Oreck’s Facebook page by 140 percent as well as gaining nearly 20,600 new email addresses in less than one month. Talk about successfully mining new customers!

5. Make Everything Trackable

What’s the point of all this work if you can’t prove it did anything? You’ve got to be able to measure your success in traffic and engagement. Including multiple layers of trackable elements like coupons, QR codes and links allows you to measure gained traffic and in turn the success of your sweepstakes

Yes, it takes time and money to build in trackers, but it’s worth it. Remember: Data becomes insight becomes improvement.

And that improvement is what it’s all about. Every day, tweaking your messaging to find better ways to get your audience involved in the daily work. Find where they hang out, partner with other fun brands, track your successes and failures and give them reasons to share (lots and lots of reasons). Sweepstakes are a fun and exciting way to get people involved and talking about your brand. Add a couple in your budget and see the “Shares” pile high.

Tim McMullen is founder and CEO of redpepper, an integrated ad agency.

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