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Having a Giveaway? Ask Yourself These Questions First

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Let's talk about getting attention through the enticement of winning or giving away merchandise—done in a way that keeps your brand on the customer's mind while maintaining every temptation to buy your product or service.

Not staying cognizant of how much to give away can either lead to an uneventful campaign or attract people who think your stuff should be free anyway.

So, keep the answers to the following questions in mind when creating a giveaway or promotional contest:

  • What are the elements of a good social media giveaway or promotional contest?
  • What do you want customers to remember from the experience?

Consider the message you're conveying and what tools you will use to convey it. Everything will say something, whether it's a certain color, sound, word, etc. Make everything count.

Another question to ask yourself: Who's your target demographic?


Knowing your customers and learning from them defines the cycle of campaigning. One should be constantly enhancing the other.

Moreover, apps can help you plan your promotions and giveaways. Companies such as Woobox and Offerpop can help you manage campaigns across multiple social sites and collect feedback (e.g., likes, retweets, etc.).

In planning a contest, keep the level of difficulty appropriate with the size of the prize. People will only jump through so many hoops for a keychain (unless you're Apple).

Other considerations to keep in mind:

  • Collaborate with others in your industry. It may not be hard to find a win-win that helps maintain your costs low while keeping your exposure high.
  • Make sure your related links (especially your website) are compatible with mobile devices.

Who Got Promotions and Giveaways Right?

There are many examples of successful campaigns.

Ikea ran an ingenious photo-tagging promotion on Facebook. Photos of showrooms were uploaded to its general manager's Facebook account. The first person to tag himself or herself on an item in a photo would win that item. People were eager to share, and Ikea received an enormous amount of good press.

Another example: Take the simple and time-tested game of scavenger hunt and incorporate social media as a way of sharing clues to the location of hidden items. Shazam! You have Tony Hawk Twitter Hunt. It turned out to be a brilliant way to keep people engaged!

Know the Risks

Timothy's Coffee offered free samples for following the company on social media. Two weeks after exhausting its supply of free K-cup packs, the company sent out a message saying it would continue on a first-come, first-serve basis. The end result is a customer base that is loath to forget how it was not given something which it was promised. Timothy's is still trying to recover from it.

Chrysler's "Blogger Faceoff" is an example of what may occur in a social media campaign when failing to consider the range of responses from your target audience. In this case, "mommy bloggers" competed in a contest that asked them "how to keep kids occupied while traveling." Entries would appear on Chrysler's blog and receive votes from readers. The winner would receive an iPad2 and a trip to NYC.

The results were far from spectacular. The target audience was tiny, and the blogger moms were hardly excited about the concept of "days on end stuck in a car, driving for endless hours with two kids" (as one blogger put it). The campaign went from bad to worse when inflammatory comments were exchanged in the comments. Another blogger wrote, "My guess is that everyone involved probably wishes they'd never even heard of this."

* * *

When creating a promo or giveaway, remember to be wary of legal requirements in any promotional contest, sweepstakes, or giveaway. In New Jersey, for example, you cannot sell raffle tickets online. Some states effectively communicate their requirements online, and those can be easily found. Other states may have you dealing with bureaucratic entanglements, which can delay your campaign.


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Ivan Serrano is a freelance writer and infographic specialist.

Twitter: @IvanSerrano55

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  • by Virginia Nicols Sun Dec 7, 2014 via web

    Ivan, you forgot another important question in your article about giveaways: Once your audience has been treated to free samples, do you think they will be willing to pay full price in the future? This is always a problem when people try discounting as a marketing strategy. However, adding something special IN ADDITION TO THE BASIC PRODUCT may work well as part of a promotion. Just gotta be aware of whether you're training folks to think "less than" or "more than!"

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