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Every brand would love to build a fan base and increase engagement. Creating engagement-oriented content increases the likelihood that your message will gain traction and spread, so why not let the fans do the talking for you?

Unfortunately, it's easier said than done. We live in a social-media-saturated world where over half of active adult social networkers follow a brand. Your audience might be spreading the word for you, but it can take years of practice and research to get them consistently hitting the "share" button for you.

Using well-executed sweepstakes promotions, drawings, and contests to reach fans can increase the likelihood that members of your audience will share with their friends—AKA, your future audience.

These three tips will help you sweep up more fans in no time.

1. Create ways to engage that seamlessly integrate with your fans' social habits

If consumers feel interrupted in their day-to-day lives or they think that their privacy is being invaded, they'll tune you out, without thinking twice. Every aspect of the contest needs to fit flawlessly into your audiences' conversations. Find out where your fans are spending the majority of their time. Is it Pinterest? Facebook? Twitter? Instagram? Vine? Once you unearth that channel, you can work on intersecting with their lives.

We helped Kirkland's, a home decor retailer with over 300 retail locations, find a way to intersect with consumers without disrupting their lives. After defining its target audience as women age 25-44, the company determined where those fans were socializing: the ever-growing world of Pinterest, where 80% of users are women and they are voluntarily engaging with brands.

From there, Kirkland's strategized how to get a slice of the Pinterest pie. The result? The Pinning Parlor, a microsite full of inspirational pinnable photos, DIY projects, and home decor tips geared toward engaging both current fans and new customers. In return for pinning those images, fans received coupons and were entered to win a grand prize.

Within three months, Kirkland's surpassed the number of pins competitors (such as West Elm, World Market, and Hobby Lobby received); it also boosted its online community by more than 300,000 in one month. Seconds anyone?

2. Don't underestimate the power of incentives

Studies show that when people are provided incentive, 20% more will share vs. those without incentive. When your relationship is mutually beneficial, your audience is more likely to come back for more.

We all know that consumers love freebies. If don't have money in the budget for daily giveaways, try something else: additional entries. Prodding fans to share the promotion on their favorite social media sites or follow your brand on social sites in return for more chances to enter a sweepstakes competition is a win for both you and the player. Fans get the opportunity to earn more entries, while you reach more people!

Try these tactics on for size. World Market is adept at giving fans a chance to win more entries:

  • Get +1 entry for following us on Instagram.
  • Earn 25 more entries when you tweet this to your followers.
  • Receive 10 additional entries for sharing this promotion on Facebook.
  • For each friend you forward this email to, you will receive one additional entry.

3. Partner Up!

Find your partner to become a dynamic duo. Associating with an outside player will immediately expand your reach. Analyze your target audience. Pinpoint their other interests and activities and partner with a brand that aligns with your core audience.

The travel industry is known for partnering up. Hotels, flights, and car rentals just naturally go together. American Airlines, for instance, capitalized on the vacation season, teaming up with the Grand Wailea Waldorf Astoria Resort to offer AAdvantage Members a little extra reward: a week's stay at the fabulous Hawaiian resort for two, plus airfare and an extra activity. The catch? You must be an AAdvantage Member—whether you are currently a member or you sign up for the first time to enter the sweepstakes. The move not only captures American Airlines and the Waldorf Astoria's current customers but also attracts new members.

* * *

Sweepstakes are a fun and exciting way to engage current customers while also capturing new ones. Find where your audience socializes, what their likes, and preferences are, and give them incentives to share and partner with a strong outside player. Although there are countless other ways to boost engagement, these tips will start you off strong.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Tim McMullen

Tim McMullen is founder and CEO of redpepper, an integrated ad agency that produces creative content and marketing promotions for brands.

Twitter: @timmcmullen

LinkedIn: Tim McMullen