Dana Sullivan Kilroy is a communications professional with more than 20 years of experience delivering compelling content. Her work has appeared in national, award-winning publications and sites, including: The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Fast Company, Inc.
When it comes to connecting with customers -- existing and new -- few things beat social media contests, giveaways and sweepstakes. Contests excite fans of a brand and, when done right, encourage sharing and motivate those fans to spread the word about the giveaway, ultimately doing much of the heavy lifting for the contest's host -- you. The premise of a social media contest is simple: give something valuable away to your audience and in exchange, they will connect and engage with you on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter ... and encourage their friends to do the same. The ultimate goal is to attract attention,The ultimate goal is to attract attention, shares and links, all of which are relevant to SEO.
As noted in this Forbes post, there are six social media practices that boost SEO, and a contest or giveaway can help with all of them:
- Growing your number of followers organically. Google can detect the quality of your followers. Buying them isn't a shortcut!
- Encouraging external inbound links. The more diverse the external links the better, because diversity gives you more authority in Google's eyes.
- Optimizing your posts for searches. Google favors popular social media updates in the top sections of its search engine results pages (SERP). Make sure you title your post -- whether it's a video, an infographic, etc. -- in an accurate, descriptive way.
- Influencing social sharing. Any indication of a verifiable external source improves your domain authority, says DeMers. Likes, shares, favorites, replaces and retweets all count.
- Optimizing local posts. Any time a company attends a local trade show or similar event, invite other local participants to comment which reinforces your participating in your community and makes you more visible in local searches.
- Increasing brand awareness. Using social media to improve your reputation will lead to more branded searches on Google.
As Jason DeMers notes in the Forbes article, "There's not a specific way to improve your authority other than to give your audience a quality experience."Ideally, you give them quality experiences that they want to share with their own communities. Contests, giveaways and other sweepstakes-style campaigns can help with all of the above.Ready to see how a contest can improve SEO for your brand? Here's what to do:
Pick a goal
Just a few years ago, the top goal many brands had when hosting a contest or other giveaway was to get people to Like their Facebook Page. Turns out that Likes weren't all that valuable. These days there are nine goals we typically see from ShortStack users:
- Increase brand awareness
- Collect user-generated content
- Develop brand advocates
- Converts followers into leads
- Converts followers into sales
- Grow a social media presence
- Promote a new product or service
- Boost user engagement
- Gather user feedback
It's fine to have a couple of goals, but it's important to determine the top one or two things you want to achieve.
Pick a prize
One of the keys to a successful promotion is choosing a prize that resonates with your audience and is relevant to your brand. Try to avoid offering a flashy prize just to draw entrants. The more relevant your prize is the more relevant your entrants will be. In the end, you should be running a promotion to collect leads, and you want those leads to be valuable. Offering multiple prizes can also result in more entries since people will feel they have more opportunities to win.
Pick a platform
If one of your goals is to collect email address or other contact information, use third-party software, like ShortStack, that will help you keep all the data you collect organized. If all you want to do is increase engagement, run a Facebook Timeline Contest using a comment/like importer tool that allows you collect a Facebook user ID number and name from everyone who engages with your post. You can also use the information you collect for future marketing efforts.
Promote, promote, promote!
A successful contest or other campaign depends on a well-executed promotion plan that includes a mix of free and paid efforts. "Build it and they will come" does not apply to most marketing campaigns, unless you are giving away an insanely valuable prize. But we've seen plenty of brands give away small prizes -- like the chance to be a "taste tester" for Tootsie Roll or the chance to test-drive a Zip Car -- that have brought the brands thousands of new followers and leads. As outlined in the Forbes story mentioned above, anything you can do to influence social sharing, will boost your authority with Google.
Pick a winner (and get in touch with all who entered)
When you wrote the rules for your contest (check out our template if you need tips) you should have included details about how the winner of your contest would eventually be chosen. The more transparent and specific you are with your fans from the get-go, the better. Whether you plan on having a panel of judges, one judge, or a tool that randomly selects a winner, explain in full detail how a winner will be selected.
- Include any details that will go into the winner-selection process. For example, if you’re running a photo contest and you plan to judge based on picture relevance, creativity or lighting, be sure to include these criteria in your rules.
- Disclose how you will contact the winner and the guidelines that go along with the selection process. When we select contest winners we first notify them by email and then give them between 15-30 days to confirm that they received the email notification. If we don’t receive the confirmation, we move on to the next winner. This is an example of the type of information to include in your rules and regulations.
- Don’t forget to include the fact that you (the contest sponsor) have the right to change the winner selection at any point in time, just in case you run into any hiccups along the way.
Plan the next one
When we analyzed a handful of the most successful businesses that have run campaigns using ShortStack, we learned that they companies running frequent Campaigns have the best results. (We even wrote a white paper about it, which you can download here.) While you're here, you might want to check out this AdWeek/Social Times' infographic, which includes 18 steps for Facebook contests for those who are interested in keeping their contest in the Facebook corral.
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