In the past, social media contests were a quick to grab the attention of your audience by appealing to them with an offer to get something for nothing. But the nature of the customer in 2017 has changed and this begs the question, are social media contests still relevant?

It’s true that today’s customer feels more empowered and perhaps is more focused, cautious and web savvy, it’s also true these online enthusiasts still look for stronger relationships with the brands. Platforms designed to optimize social interaction have proven to optimize connections between brands and their audiences.

Social media creates a bond with the millennials, Gen X and emerging Gen Z customers that own the marketplace, and social media contests  can help to accelerate the brands ability to build relationships through a reciprocal relationship based on if you give today’s customer something they feel like, they should give you something in return.

Social media contests can:

  • Boost Online Engagement: where customers look for deeper connections, contests stimulate your audience to make the first move to interact with your brand.
  • Build your Email List: Social media contests can also be an excellent form of lead generation by convincing your follower that they’re getting a reward for giving you their email address.
  • Inspire viral: Customers are obsessed with experience (particularly millennials). If your contest is fun and exciting, they’ll want to share that experience with their friends, improving your chances of going viral.

The simple answer to whether social media contests still work for 2018 is YES.

But with a caveat. You will have to adapt, enhance and turbo-charge your social contests for a new age of social experience. Here’s a checklist you can use to re-evaluate your social media contests for 2018.

1. Understand Your Audience.

Whether it is conventional media or a digital sphere the same old rule still applies. If you want to achieve your goals, then you need to know your audience.

Today’s most-socially active customers are more complex than the generations that came before them. For instance, millennials prefer vacations and music festivals to houses and cars and feel a stronger affinity with companies who give something back to the community. As a result, your contests should be as relevant as possible and provide incentives that appeal to their aspirations.

Once both you and your audience know exactly who you’re speaking to, you can keep them engaged by tying your promotion to events and trends that matter to your target market.

2. Experiment with Different Platforms

As per conventional media, understanding your audience should help you to figure out where they spend most of their time.

Snapchat now has more than 300 million active users each month. What’s more, around 173 million of those people are active on the platform every day. In other words, your visually-focused customers could be some of the most engaged leads you have. The key to making the most of these newer platforms isn’t just for sharing photos regularly and updating your campaigns.

3. Know what type of contest to run

Once you know who your audience is and what platform you’ll use, you can start thinking about the type of contest to run. Using the technographic ladder to identify audience segments will serve as a starting point from where to begin to plan contest ideas and prize options.

Social Technographics - Identifying your audience segmentsFor example, using the ladder, if you know your average customer is more of a “creator” or a “spectator,” then you should have an easier time choosing from the following campaign ideas:

  • Video-based campaigns: Now that things like “Facebook Live” are more popular than ever, it makes sense to engage your customers with an active, visual and experience-based campaign.
  • Comment Giveaway campaigns: While comment campaigns aren’t exactly new ideas for 2018, they are still a good way to connect with the people at the bottom of the Technographic ladder who don’t want to do much to get involved with your brand. If a comment seems like too much, you could simply ask someone to give their response to a poll using one of the newer Facebook Reaction.
  • Fan Content campaigns: As mentioned above, today’s customers like to get involved with their favorite brands. So why not invite your audience to share their own content and be a part of the experience? Ask them to create pictures, videos or live streams that respond to your brand.
  • Social cause campaigns: Social causes are incredibly effective at improving customer engagement. This might be because millennials are more involved with philanthropy than many of the generations that came before them. If you can connect your contest with a charitable experience, you could significantly improve interaction.

4. Rethink your prizing

As mentioned above your prizing should reflect your audience’s aspirational interests. In other words, the prize that you’re offering needs to be something that appeals to the people you want to connect with. If the outcome of your contests isn’t appealing enough then there’s nothing to motivate your followers to get involved.

chart: Experiences are better when shared on social media.

Younger customers spend most of their time on social media are looking for ways to connect with people through a shared experience. In fact, 72% of millennials prefer to spend more money on experience-related purchases.

As a result, free iPads and gift cards no longer have the appeal they once had. Instead, you’ll need to think about how you can demonstrate your brand personality, appeal to your audience and generate even more social sharing power through experiences.

Remember, not only does something like tickets to a festival or a chance to go parasailing give your demographic groups a more appealing prize, it also increases the chances that they’ll share that experience on social media and link back to you. Your prize in 2018 could be a way to expand your social visibility even further.

5. Know how to differentiate yourself

Over 88% of businesses are active on social media today, which means there’s a lot of competition out there fighting to grab your customer’s attention.

One useful way to potentially give your contest volume in the year ahead is with live video. Although video in itself is not new, it’s still one of the most novel engagement solutions out there. Since users now expect more in-the-moment engagement from their favorite brands, live video could be your opportunity to cash in on a platform that’s growing by about 94% a year.

6. Have the right resources

Making sure you have the right resources before you launch your social media contests could be the key to ensuring you get a powerful response from your customers.

You might choose to employ the benefits of a social media tool like Sprout Social, which could help you to schedule automatic updates about your contests on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Those automated posts could countdown to a live stream or an upcoming event that shares more about your giveaway.

Additionally, you can easily track your branded hashtags and keywords associated with the contest to see whose participating. Sprout makes it easy to track, benchmark and analyze your hashtag data to see just how well your contest worked.

On the other hand, one of the resources that appears to be maintaining its impact on social media today is the power of influencers. More than 90% of marketers using an influencer marketing strategy today believe it’s effective for increasing customer engagement. In 2017 we’ve seen numerous brands using traditional advertising strategies struggle to connect with their customers. In the years ahead it could be that companies embrace influencers to connect with wider audiences.

Social media contests will continue to be a winning strategy

When it comes to connecting with millennials and generation Z who want experience and socioeconomic value, we can’t take the same approach that we used with contests just a few years ago.

While the journey to organic visibility is changing on many social media platforms, contests continue to be a great way of earning shares, engagements and impressions. That means that they’re still worth your investment–you just need to be willing to adjust and adapt.


Also published on Medium.