A contest, a quiz, an election, a sweepstake. Voting, playing, choosing. Anything fun that’s somehow playful, requires a quick opinion, to take side, to express yourself, to get a chance to win something.
No wonder that contests have been so popular on social media. Combining real time action, getting friends to vote one side or the other (or for you), are popular yet essential attributes of most social media strategies.
Or should we say ‘Were’ ? After the rise of social marketing a few years ago (say 2008-2011), some start-ups basically built almost overnight multimillion dollars business based on contest apps that spread like wild fire (pun intended). They had to diversify to other areas as their ‘apps’ have slightly fallen out of favor over the last years. They were living entirely on & out of Facebook, and many brands & Facebook have moved on. Many were bought by giants like Salesforce, Oracle or Google, just on time.
The reason? Those contests ended up attracting, at least partially, the wrong audiences: too many ‘contest-lovers’ solely attracted by the award (your typical iPad), not by the brand. They would not buy, would remain fan but would never comment or like your content, decreasing your engagement rate, decreasing your Edge rank (which drives the probability of being shown on the newsfeed when you post). Bad. The other reason was Facebook, who decided at some point that ‘in app’ actions should not be that visible, after all, since they were in any case polluting too many newsfeeds.
Yet, consumers remain hungry for contests. It’s participative & fun, and it is still part of the essence of what social media is about to so many people.
Over the last couple of years or so, we have seen a progressive rise of contests based on hashtags. The principle is simple: there is a specific hashtag per possible answer, and as the tweets come in, stats get calculated through a tool that captures tweets (and other social posts) & makes the math (discounting duplicate votes). The nice part with Twitter is that its flexible ‘Web intent’ allows to create URLs that are preprogrammed for each possible vote, so that in two clicks people can vote.
There are 4 advantages of that approach:
- First, it’s more visible by nature since the vote has to go to the social network of followers & other watching the hashtags to be valid.
- Second, you don’t need to be fan or follower to participate. Actually, in theory, the organizing brand or media does not even need to have a social account ! In practice we recommend one though, just to answer to possible angry participants, or retweet fun or interesting tweets…
- Third, consumers can easily modify their tweet before posting to include an interesting or fun comment with their vote – it’s essentially a ‘smart’ vote, from which other interesting information can almost be found (and replied/retweeted)
- Fourth, more social media are supporting hashtags than Twitter (Instagram, Facebook, Google+…), and while sometimes timidly (Facebook), they are enough options for consumers to join in.
Will contest lovers join in ? Surely, but their negative impact will be more limited. Broadcasters have been more keen to use hashtags contests than brands.
Have you done hashtag contests recently ? Let us know in the comments.