How Social Media Contests Drive Awareness and Customer Acquisition

When attention spans are at an all time low it takes some juicy digital bait to get consumers excited about a product or service.

Contests have become a go-to social media marketing tactic for consumer-facing brands due to simple deployment and consistent outcomes. After all – who doesn’t like free stuff?

And we should know. At lonelybrand we’re running social contests on a daily basis.

Earning participation is a careful balancing act. Maybe the brand is asking for too much effort, or the prize is just downright lame. But on the other hand, a well-executed contest can work like magic in the social realm to earn followers and fans, start the conversation and ultimately lead to conversion and sales.

Chicago startup Dabble is a “community marketplace for people to discover, teach and host unique and affordable one-time classes.” They launched a brand new contest to drive awareness in 2012, and we think they’re onto something.

Here are five reasons why Dabble’s contest is set to be a winner:

1. What’s your goal?

Before letting the creative juices flow, take a step back and ask yourself what you want said contest to accomplish. Do you want to drive awareness? Build your email database? Earn more Facebook fans? Gain customer insight? Dabble’s Bucket List contest asks four specific things of participants – each of which seeks to accomplish a measurable marketing goal:

    • “Like our Facebook page”

GOAL: Build Facebook fan base and start the cycle of nurturing

    • “Copy and paste the following as your Facebook status: I’d like to Dabble in _________________ next year … how about you? http://bit.ly/dabble2012”

GOAL: Build brand awareness via social networks and discovery

GOAL: Drive new clicks to Dabble’s website

    • Fill in the blank with what you’d like to Dabble in (creative & crazy encouraged).

GOAL: Gain customer insights – what are current and potential customers interested in?

    • Replace the bolded Dabble with a Tag by typing @Dabble 

GOAL: Build number of likes by driving users to Dabble’s Facebook page (see nurturing)


2. What’s in it for me?

Prize-wise, one year of free Dabble classes ain’t too shabby. At $20 per class, a free class every week for a year not only amounts to money saved, but knowledge earned (just think of all of the practical and not-so-practical things you could accomplish by picking up 52 new skill sets in 2012).

If you’re going to put the effort into creating and running a contest, make sure you’ve got an alluring piece of bait. And don’t assume because you think it’s great your target audience will agree. Ask them!


3. How long is this going to take?

Regardless of the prize’s appeal, chances are users aren’t going to put their day on hold for your little contest. The easier and less time-consuming your contest is for users, the more participants you’ll see. And it’s really about getting more participants. In the world of digital marketing the real prize is acquiring valid and opted-in contacts across multiple channels. Make it easy and you’ll win too.

Entering Dabble’s contest took me all of five minutes, if that. And other than a quick daydream session about what I’d like to learn and a few clicks of the mouse, there wasn’t much effort required.


4. Cross-platform promotion

Publish and continue to promote the contest on all of the platforms that are available to you. Facebook statuses and landing pages (see below), Twitter, blog posts and website banners are all valuable sources that will add to your contest’s traffic flow. If you’ve run a similar contest you probably have some cost of entry figures up your sleeve, in which case paid media including search and display may be a viable addition to the mix.


5. Make it foolproof

We’re not by any means implying that you should assume your target audience is incompetent, but at the same time don’t assume that they know all the intricacies of what you are talking about. Thorough instructions are a necessity, and for visual people like me who tend to mutter, “wait, what?” in the midst of instruction-reading, a set of screenshots can be beyond helpful.


6. Give folks their 15 minutes (or clicks) of fame

Dabble’s contest prompt promises, “we’ll be sure to post the entries (especially the funny ones) somewhere where all eyes can see!”

Offering to publish the best or most amusing entries on your blog or Facebook page encourages participation and might even boost the quality of entries for fear of judgement from fellow Facebook critics.

After publication, follow up with entrants to ensure they are aware of their newfound internet fame.


7. Follow the rules

As a final disclaimer, it’s always a good idea to make sure that your contest or giveaway falls within Facebook’s Promotions Guidelines. Because no one wants to be on Zuckerberg’s bad side. We would also remind you to develop and deploy official rules. They vary depending on the type of promotion and the way the prize is awarded, so be sure to have legal give it the once over.


Social media contests that are well conceptualized and executed will effectively drive awareness, conversation and sales. Have you seen any legit social media contests lately? Share them with us in the comments section below, or tweet us @lonelybrand.