Are Social Contests “Buying Likes”?

corporate Facebook promotionsHas your business run a promotion on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest to grow its following on that platform? Did you consider that you were “buying likes”? Or was it just a way to get the word out?

Recently I had a brief conversation about contests with a social media management client and it got me to thinking…where is the line between “buying likes” and “getting the word out”? If your goal for the promotion is to gain 10,000 new fans in a month is that ok? What if the goal is simply to launch a new product or service and spread the word quickly?

Buying Likes is Bad for Business

It may not be as obvious as Presidential candidate buying 62,000 followers for his Twitter account to boost his profile in the upcoming campaign, but contests can have a dramatic effect on your fan count. Obviously, if you’re caught actually buying likes you’re going to lose a lot of respect. A new Twitter program will actually estimate how many fake accounts are following you… check it out.

If you run a contest with a really great prize–let’s say $500 to spend at your favourite store–are you just as bad as said Presidential candidate? It’s not like you’ve paid people to join your page specifically, but you are encouraging them to come for the HOPE that they will win the prize. Of course, you really hope they’re coming because you provide awesome content. The truth is, they’re coming because of the prize in a lot of cases.

If you’re not very careful about how you run your promotion, the majority of these new found fans will be completely useless to you. Many will be from outside your serviceable area. Others are simply freebie-chasers. Another group are entirely fake accounts set up for the sole purpose of gaming, contests and spamming.

Contests CAN Be Good

I’m not trying to scare you off from contests all together–I just want you to think about it carefully. Will this contest help you meet your business goals? Are the entrants coming for you, or for the prize? Do you only get new fans when you run a contest with a prize? Do you have the capability to run a Facebook contest within the Facebook rules? These are a few things you need to consider before rushing into it.

I actually like the idea of having contests to promote new products and services. I have run successful contests that garnered a 30% increase in a client’s Twitter following, and launched a company’s presence on Pinterest. We were very careful to limit the contest entry to those who were highly motivated and to those who were at the very least within our serviceable area.

Did we “buy likes”? Yes, I guess we did. Am I ok with that? I would do it again, so I guess I am! Those people still chose to join the Facebook page, or follow on Twitter or Pinterest. Two months later we have not lost many people. So while they may have come as a result of the contest promotion, they’re staying because of the content. From our Facebook insights it’s easy to see we haven’t sprawled outside of our target market much, so I don’t feel like we’ve simply “bought likes”.

The Difference

There are contests that obviously stretch outside the serviceable area of the host company. Voting contests often do this. You have to like the business page in order to vote for your friend’s cute dog costume, but you’re on the opposite side of the country. What good does that REALLY accomplish? Sure the host business gets 10,000 new fans, but 9,782 will never be customers. Just take a look at their “Talking About This” metric…it’s right there for all to see. They’ve got 10,000 new fans a couple of months ago, but this week only 7 people are engaging with their content. They bought likes and it’s doing them no good.

If you decide to try a contest, make it relevant to your business. Retail operations have a distinct advantage…you can offer up a shopping spree at your store. Restaurants can offer a free meal. Artists a free piece from their collection. People who aren’t interested in your products are less likely to enter and at the very least those who do enter are probably in your area. But if you find the only way you get people to like your page, or follow your account, is to offer prizes, then you need to seriously rethink your content strategy.

Leaving you with a great video on this topic from Scott Stratten.

In case I haven’t mentioned this enough…Scott is coming to Halifax on September 17th. I’m thrilled to be involved in bringing him here to share his “AWESOME” wisdom for the social business. Want to join me? You can win a VIP seat (sorry, this one’s over) or grab tickets for your whole team.

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