Have You Considered Contests As An Online Marketing Tactic?

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A long-standing tactic in link building is the use of contests or competitions. More recently with the advent of social media, it has also become a standard tool of many brands to get more followers and fans.

Without pretending to be a legal wizard, there are two things in particular to consider before embarking on a competition campaign in your SEO and social media efforts.

1.   What local laws apply? For example, in Sweden you can’t have a straightforward prize raffle targeting Swedes without the proper license (which is very difficult to get). Instead you have to add an element of skill into the competition as in this social campaign that asks the audience a knowledge-based question about the website in question. While you might not want to target snowy Sweden, there are similar laws around the world that needs to be followed.

2.  Are you compliant with Facebook promotional guidelines? If the aim of the competition is to achieve more Facebook fans, you need to start off by reading through the official Facebook guidelines, which as of writing were last updated on December 1st 2010. In order to avoid Facebook becoming a new home for spammers, you’re basically not allowed to require people to do wall posts, upload photos or status updates in order to enter the competition. You’re not even allowed to notify winners through Facebook. This means that you will need to capture their details elsewhere (which can be a Facebook application). You can, however, have a contest that’s only open to fans, and that has additional elements and capture their contact details.

It’s also absolutely key to understand the differences in execution depending on objectives. It’s a big difference to create campaigns with the aim of going viral for brand exposure, achieving fans for loyalty, or building quality links for search engine rankings.

If you’re after inbound links, you need to build this element into the competition and target an audience with on-topic sites. Again, you need to be aware of Google’s webmaster guidelines and be a little more clever than simply having an inbound link as a requirement of entry, in order to avoid looking like a spammy link buyer.

Ultimately you are probably after all of the above objectives. This can be difficult to achieve in a focused manner with a single competition. The risk of this approach is that, depending on your resources, your campaign will lack focus and not achieve real success with any objective.

If you’re considering launching your first competition, I suggest a single objective campaign. You can by all means use several channels for this, but by focusing on a main KPI, e.g. fans, view or inbound links, you will be better focused and more likely to achieve success.

About the Author

Magnus Nilsson is Managing Director at RED Performance, an Oslo-based agency that helps clients increase their online marketing results.

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2 Comments

  1. Also be aware that if you run a competition on your site, and get a lot of traffic then be prepared for your KPIs / on site metrics to be screwed. What tends to happen if the prize gets listed in a "compers directory" is time on site and conversion rate plummets, bounce rate rockets etc etc. If you have used the contest to build your mailing list - a similar thing might happen, your open rate and conversion will fall. (There are thousands of "professional compers" out there, some of which use a dedicated email address only for their competition entries). This isn't exactly a bad thing as it's incremental traffic but it is something to consider.

  2. Those are all great points. As with any incentives to accellerate volume uptake there is the risk of lowering quality. The trick is to make sure the incentive is not the only reason yo take the desired action, but merely a catalyst. But that's a big challenge.