Using Contests to Drive Social Media Engagement

September 15, 2015

Who doesn't love a good contest? Especially when that means winning free stuff? 

Holding contests is a tactic that many brands are using to drive engagement on their social media pages. From coffee giant Starbucks to t-shirt maker Qwertee- these companies are finding ways to get their customers involved in with their brand online (and giving some of those customers their 15 minutes of social media fame). Whenever I refer to social media or online contests, I always automatically think of two previous contests: Mountain Dew's "DEWmocracy" campaign and Lay's "Do Us A Flavor".

Both were, and one still is, very successful.

The premise is very similar for both contests. The brand holding the contest introduces (usually) 3 new flavors of their product. These flavors can be chosen by the brand itself, or from suggestions given by the customers. Mountain Dew did this a few years ago, introducing three new flavors of their caffeinated soda. Mountain Dew drinkers could then go to the campaign's Facebook page and vote for their favorite. Though there was no cash prize or customer fame, the campaign saw great success, with 120,000 new Mountain Dew fans on Facebook within a year.

In the case of Lay's "Do Us A Flavor" contest, participants from around America submit their ideas for a tasty new Lay's flavor, inspired by their local cuisine or personal favorite food. Sometimes the flavor combinations are very interesting (say Chicken & Waffles, or Cappucino). Voting takes place on Lay's website or Facebook page, and the winner not only gets their flavor established as a regular Lay's product, but they also win $10,000 and receive the recognition for their creation with their name, photo, and bio on Lay's website, Facebook page, and product packaging. Not bad!

This sounds great. Maybe I should start a contest...

Here are a few quick tips to remember if you're thinking of holding your own contest:

  • Take time to plan your contest and its theme - you don't want to start a contest and "wing it".
  • What's your end goal? - do you want to increase site traffic? Facebook fans? Instagram followers?
  • Have a reward - what will make your customers want to participate?
  • Incorporate relevant hashtags - or create your own for your contest.
  • Measure - keep in mind your end goal and track your progress towards that goal.
  • Keep your promise - if you say you're going to reward the winner with a free wardrobe, cash prize, or merchandise, then do so.

So what exactly is this doing? Contests like these make customers feel like they are in control. And, in a sense, they are. From deciding which flavors to create, to voting on which one will continue to be sold in stores. When customers feel in control, they are happy. And they're practically doing some of the work for you. Even with product research, flavor testing, and food laboratories- there is no better judge than your customer.

Now, I'm going to be honest- I don't normally eat potato chips. But every year that Lay's holds their "Do Us A Flavor" contest, I find myself scoping out the snack aisle, looking for those four experimental flavors. Maybe it's those two magic words "Limited Edition", or maybe it's the fact that I, the customer, have a say in which one sticks around. Either way, Lay's is doing a great job at getting my attention (and many others). And who knows? Maybe a non-chip eater like myself will fall in love with one of these flavors and become a loyal customer.

Have you participated in a contest online recently? Or just taken part in one like me by buying a bag of chips? I'd like to hear details and what you thought about the contest in general. E-mail me.

Dan Dellecese

Posted By: Dan Dellecese

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