4 Fundamental Building Blocks of Successful Social Media Contests

A good social media contest can bring in tons of new visitors, build excitement among your existing user base and create buzz in the industry as a whole. Pulling one off successfully requires a lot of planning. Just one or two mistakes can not only bring down your whole contest, but even put your company in jeopardy.
Here are four of the most important things to know before starting your social media contest.
#1 – The Legalities
When you’re doing an online contest, you should almost definitely have a lawyer look over your legal disclaimers and the contest as a whole to make sure you’re fully compliant.
Different states have different laws about what you can and can’t do in a contest. Sweepstakes can never require a purchase. Contests that are based on skill or participation have special rules as well.
Your contest will need to have appropriate disclaimers. These should be written by a lawyer. It’s important to realize that you can actually get sued if you don’t have your legalities down.
#2 – Understand Cheating
Cheating is an often under looked aspect of online contests. If there’s real monetary value to the prizes you’re offering, there’s a very good chance you’ll attract people who won’t play by the rules.
Forms of cheating include using proxy servers to vote on their own submission, hiring out voting or other processes overseas or even downright hacking.
Start by studying how contest players game various different kinds of systems. Then implement basic protections, such as one vote per IP, cookies to track users, etc.
Finally, check your logs regularly to see if there’s any suspicious activity. For example, if you suddenly see 2,000 users an hour coming from Vietnam voting on one user, you might start to get a little suspicious.
#3 – A Prizing Strategy
Having a great prize is at the heart of every successful contest. Your prize has to be good enough that people will spend time, put in energy and enroll their friends all for the chance to win.
If you want your contest to really take off, you’re going to have to have prizes that are worth at least hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.
Popular generic prizes include iPads, computers, gaming consoles, around the world tickets, vacations and cash cards.
Industry specific prizes tend to do really well. For example, if you’re in the fishing market, give away top of the line fishing rods worth hundreds of dollars. If you’re in the hotel market, give away a free 5 night stay at your hotel.
If your prizes are great, you could make a lot of other mistakes and still succeed. With bad prizes, you could do everything else right and people still won’t be excited about your contest.
#4 – A Viral Strategy
Finally, you need a strong strategy that gets people to pass your contest along to their friends. If you’re running the contest on social media, you need a strategy to get people sharing and linking your contest. 
How do you make that happen?
There are a few different ways you can do this. One common way is to use liking as a voting mechanism. In order to vote for their friends, people first need to come to your page and “Like” it.
Another common method is to post the results on a page that’s only visible to people who’ve liked your page. That way, if people want to follow their friends’ progress, they need to first like your page.
You can also center the contest around how many other people you can get to join the contest.
Spend some time thinking about the viral strategy of your contest. Why would people want to post your contest to their friends? How can you increase the virality of your contest?
These are the four most important things to think about before you launch your contest. On one hand, knowing the law and having proper anti-cheating provisions will help you protect yourself from losses. On the other hand, having stellar prizes and an effective viral strategy will help you skyrocket your contest’s success.


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