In his second blog post for the AMA, Mikolaj Napieralski, Head of Marketing and PR at the Orientalist Museum, Qatar, shares his advice on what makes an online contest work.
Photo by Joseph Morris used under Creative Commons
Launching a social media contest is a great way to promote an upcoming exhibition or event. It can accompany traditional marketing campaigns and help you reach a broader, international audience.
That said, the most successful digital contests follow 5 basic rules.
Immediacy – a successful campaign needs to have a central idea that is easy to understand and act upon. This is ideally something that can be communicated in a single sentence, such as “tag a holiday photo” or “win a vacation”.
The simpler the message, the easier it is to communicate, the more likely people will act upon it.
Personalisation – a campaign needs to be relevant to peoples’ interests for them to take part. But to make them care you need to provide them with a sense of ownership. In other words, they need to feel that their personal involvement has some impact on the outcome. When people can add their own photos, stories, illustrations, or suggestions to a campaign, they feel that they are adding to the experience. That makes them care about the end result.
Easy of entry – a campaign needs to be easy to access. The more steps involved in entry, the more people you’ll lose. While hitting ‘like’ on a Facebook image can be the simplest option, a truly effective campaign needs some level of contribution from the public. Hashtags are one of the easiest ways to get people involved and sharing their own content. They allow organizations to group content together and are an easy way for people to register (e.g. ‘use hashtag #MuseumDay to enter the competition’). More elaborate competitions may need entry forms, but keep the details to a minimum. Encourage people to register via their Facebook or Twitter accounts – this is an effective way to ensure you can communicate updates to people who have entered.
Viral element – to maximize a campaign’s reach, it should provide a way for people to share it on social media. In other words, it needs a ‘viral’ element. This will vary depending on the campaign, but popular ways to generate social media shares include:
- Votes – any contest based around votes will encourage people to share the details with their friends as a way to up their vote tally;
- Entry – requiring people to share content on their social media page as a condition of entry can build access to a broader network;
- Exclusive content – offering people early or exclusive access to a product;
- Charity donations – offering to make a contribution to charity for every share (so long as you have a wealthy corporate benefactor!)
The point is, there should be some incentive or reason for people to share details about the campaign with their friends. This is most successful when the items you ask them to share are in some way personal or specific to them, e.g. stories, pictures.
Reward – Finally, and most obviously, a contest needs a suitable reward. This reward doesn’t have to be monetary or physical. Having your name attached to an art show, or having exclusive access to a person or event, is the sort of intangible prize that’s even more likely to motivate people than a cheque.
Don’t forget to read Mikolaj’s previous post – a case study of an Instagram competition which helped develop interest in a ‘difficult sell’ exhibition.