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There were 1,730,000,000 active users on social media by the end of 2013, a full quarter of the world’s population. Social Media continues to grow at an unfathomable rate , while inspiring conversations and sparking ideas worldwide.
Businesses see the nearly limitless opportunity in social media to grow their customer base. That’s why 83% of businesses worldwide have a presence on social media. And most businesses are far savvier in terms of how to use social media to their best advantage than they were just a year ago. They’re learning what works. Social media promotions—sweepstakes, contests, giveaways and exclusive deals—have proven to be an incredibly valuable tool for many companies. In fact, over 70% of companies with an online footprint have utilized social media promotions at least one time.
But in their eagerness to roll out social media marketing promotions, some companies are missing out on making their programs as effective as they could be—and equally important, they’re neglecting to educate themselves on the laws that regulate these chance promotions. When planning your social media promotions, it’s important to take all aspects into consideration.
It’s about connecting, NOT selling
So first things first. Determine your motivation to holding the online promotion. If it’s just to get Facebook likes, then you need to step back and re-evaluate your plan.
Cristina Vazquez is the social media marketing specialist and Senior Account Executive at Vertical Marketing Network. She guides leading client companies in the packaged goods, beverages, retail, and entertainment categories through various social marketing promotions. She stresses that any kind of social marketing promotion is ultimately about engaging your audience and creating a relationship that establishes your brand as the “go-to” in the audience’s mind.
Golden West Casino has done a masterful job of setting up social media promotions that accomplish exactly that. Vazquez manages and implements their weekly contest on their Facebook page that is nearly irresistible to their fans. Each week, Golden West Casino features a Fan of the Week in which page visitors are awarded points based on their interaction with the page during the preceding seven days. The more they share, like or comment on posts, the more points they earn. The result is that many fans interact on a daily basis—not just with the page itself, but most importantly, with other fans.
So what are the differences between sweepstakes and contests?
Whether you’ve already ventured into the world of social media promotions or are just dipping the proverbial toe into the water, it’s helpful to know what the official differences between them are. They may go by different names, but these promos fall into different legal categories:
Sweepstakes: In a sweepstakes, the winners are drawn completely at random. Some examples of sweepstakes include promotions where people submit information that may include their name, email, or address, or retweet a phrase with a pre-determined hashtag. In legal terms, sweepstakes are also referred to as a contingent giveaway.
Contests: “In a contest,” explains Vertical Marketing’s Vazquez, “the entrant needs to demonstrate a skill. For example,” she continues, “amongst the most popular contests implemented are photo contests, where a panel of judges will judge each entry based on pre-determined and pre-published criteria.”
Most social media promotions fall under the “sweepstakes category,” because they are less costly for client implementation than contests. Both require the development of official rules with sweepstakes rules generally a bit less complicated.
Social media and the law
For over 17 years, Vertical Marketing has exclusively retained Cohen Silverman Rowan LLP as its promotion law specialists for the ever-changing legal requirements associated with the development and implementation of promotions for the agency’s clients. Vertical Marketing works directly with partner Scott A. Schleifstein, whose practice deals exclusively with promotions, sweepstakes, giveaways, contests, and the like. Schleifstein an acknowledged expert in the field. But even he admits that legal guidelines are not keeping up with the changes brought by the explosive growth of online and social media promotions.
“While social media continues to grow at an astounding rate,” he says, “the law often lags far behind.”
The laws that governed promotions prior to the plethora of social media, online sweepstakes, and contests still apply. They are, Schleifstein says, the cornerstones of social and online promotions. People need to make themselves aware of these prior to starting any social promotion—even a small contest can be fraught with unintentional violations of the law.
While it is the responsibility of the brands (or the agency they hire) to make sure that their social media promotions are handled properly, that can take time and money. Small companies in particular sometimes skip this investigative step—not because they are dishonest, but because they aren’t aware of the issues they may incur by not following appropriate guidelines.
Best ways to set up a social media promotion
Facebook ranks at the top of social media platforms for businesses. Twitter is a close second. For both of these platforms—and the rest of the various social media platforms out there—you can create contests, drawings, and giveaways through a third-party app like Woobox, Heyo, Shortstack, or any number of others.
“When you run a sweepstakes using a third party app,” says Vazquez, “you need to figure out your goals ahead of time. If, for example, you want to collect cell phone numbers for later re-marketing, you can set up the third party app to collect that information from the people who enter.”
Facebook also allows page owners to create instant contests directly on their timeline, without requiring a third party app. “This is great for running things on the fly,” says Vazquez. “For example, if you have tickets that you want to give out for tomorrow night’s concert, you can create a giveaway on your brand’s Facebook page. It’s a great way to keep visitors coming back to your page on a regular basis, to see what other types of spontaneous giveaways you may be having.”
“We already know it is important for brands to be on social media,” says Vazquez. “And people love free stuff! You need to give away special things. Marketers need to make giveaways part of their overall social media strategy.”
It’s your turn
The topic of how to run social media promotions successfully while staying within the all-important parameters of what is legal is a complex one with many layers. Social media promotions can be an astoundingly effective way to get people involved with your brand. They can also be a huge headache if you don’t cross your Ts and dot your Is, so be sure you’re up to date on all the applicable laws and guidelines or at least hire an expert agency.
So what’s your perspective on social media promotions? Have they worked well for your company? We’d love to hear your thoughts.
And if you’d found this article helpful, feel free to share.
Brought to you by Vertical Marketing Network, a Leading Integrated Marketing Agency.
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