How To Kill Your Next Social Media Promotion

One common way small business owner’s work to build up their social media profiles is through online promotions. They may hold a Twitter contest or a Facebook giveaway in the hopes that it will help them catch a user’s eye and provide incentive to get them engaging with the brand. However, that doesn’t mean they’re always successful or they go about it in the right way. Far too often SMB owners fall victim to innocent (and very preventable) marketing mistakes that cause them to lose potential customers without even realizing it.

Below are some tip for running a social media promotion if you WANT people to completely ignore it.

  1. Make sure no one knows about it: Even though you may be running the contest to build brand awareness and get users engaging with you, don’t worry about actually promoting it. You wouldn’t want to create a graphic to put on your Web site, tweet about the contest daily, Facebook it, mention it in store, and definitely don’t put it in your email newsletter. Your perfect customers will naturally find you all on their own. You just come up with your great idea and then lock it in the basement. Your customers will use their magic to find it.
  2. Be unsure about it yourself: When launching that promotion, don’t worry about having a specific marketing goal in mind or setting up metrics to track what you’re doing. You wouldn’t want to waste valuable tweeting time by outlining why it is you’re running the promotion, what you hope to attain from it, and how it’s going to help the brand meet its larger goals. That stuff will just naturally fall into place. Again, like magic.
  3. Don’t do any research about prior promotions: Sure you could enter [contest] into Facebook or Twitter and see immediate examples of what people are doing, what’s working, and what’s dead in the water, but don’t worry about all that. I’m sure you won’t repeat other people’s mistakes or that you don’t need any help. You’re smarter than everyone else who came before you.
  4. Pick a really uninteresting prize/angle: Most social media promotions include giving your customers some sort of prize or reward for their participation. For example, you may offer a discount for the customer who creates the best video montage about your company or offer a free product to the winner of your trivia contest. When coming up with prizes, make sure you pick something completely uninteresting and, if you can, really self-serving (like a free copy of your book, perhaps). Using interesting, exciting prizes will attract the wrong kind of person and may get you too much attention. Stick to boring stuff.
  5. Make it impossible to enter: Before someone is allowed to take part in your promotion, you should require that they give you their full name, address, phone number, email address, social security number, shoe size, and at least offer legal rights to your first child. They should also need a Master’s Degree to understand your content guidelines. Don’t worry, this won’t at all discourage people from entering or make them wary about what exactly you’re going to do with all this information. Also, don’t worry about telling them what you’ll do with the info. It’s really none of their business.
  6. Don’t highlight entrants: During the time that your promotion is running, don’t bother highlighting your latest entrants or let anyone else know what’s going on or the excitement that’s taking place. By highlighting any new submissions or interesting work, you might accidentally attract more people to what you’re doing and give yourself more work in judging. Meh, people.
  7. Don’t use analytics. At all: Your brand will probably see a spike in mentions, retweets, traffic and other measurable data points during the time that your promotion is going on. This is natural since lots of people will be talking about the contest and hopefully passing it around to their friends. Don’t bother actually tracking any of this data or looking for where the spikes are coming from. It’s not like you’ll learn anything useful in there.

Above are some of my favorite ways to absolutely kill a social media promotion or contest dead in the water. Of course, it you want to be successful, I’d consider reversing everything listed above. ;)

8 Comments ▼

Lisa Barone


Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development firm where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions.

8 Reactions

  1. Lisa,

    Number Five does it for me. I love it when I have to spend 5 minutes filling out a form, (because the form is unfriendly to Google-Auto-Fill) and they ask for information that I really don’t want to give.

    Kinda makes the contest not too important, about halfway through the form.

    Now, they have to find another prospective customer/client.

    The Franchise King

  2. I agree with Joel. Entering some of these contests feels like I’m at the DMV filling out paperwork. Most of the time I wonder if they ever had an employee go through the steps just to feel the pain.

  3. These are great tips. It is important to keep things short and sweet when entering in a social media contest. Also, the price needs to be something that people are going to want, otherwise people will not even bother in entering.

  4. I agree with the others re entry. Looking at the way offline promotions such as in supermarkets are conducted before you do one online can provide useful tips. I would also say one to avoid is not include clear conditions of entry upfront.

  5. Great points Lisa! What kills me about number one is when it’s done halfway. For example, I see a tweet about a contest and get interested enough to want to participate. I click on the link, get to the website and don’t even see a whisper about the contest. No graphic. No link. No contest tab. I think that’s even worse than not promoting it :)

  6. There are so many contests out there that you’re right, the prize has to stand out. I like the idea of highlighting entrants to build momentum and making it easy to enter. Too many rules = too few entries.

  7. I do know what you mean about promotions or contests.
    The cell phone carrier that I use has deals on their service that only new customers hear about and then not always.
    Some of the promos they run apply to users that have been in their service for some time as well.
    You don’t know unless you directly ask them and then some of their staff don’t even know about.

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