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A few weeks ago I was excited to learn one of my clients was named a finalist in the BDC Young Entrepreneur of the Year awards and would be in the running to win $100,000 to further their business. Of course this was an amazing opportunity for Spring Loaded Technology Inc., makers of the world’s first bionic knee braces, right here in Halifax, Nova Scotia…but is it wrong that I was more excited about the opportunity to run a campaign of that magnitude and importance? When they told me I would be their fingers on the keyboard, aiming to win a social media voting competition, my heart skipped a beat and I did a little dance of joy in my head. It wasn’t until later that the gravity of the task at hand really hit home.
Nothing we did is a state secret. We learned from the best! Our first task was to meet with a local charity Souls Harbour Rescue Mission, who had recently won the Avviva Community Fund award of $100,000. Between what we knew and what Michelle had learned from running her own campaign, I’m going to admit, we were pretty confident.
Here are the best tips I have to pass along if you find yourself trying to win a voting competition through social media.
Talk to Previous Winners
Seek out past winners and ask what they did. We spoke with Michelle at Souls Harbour, who had spoken with the winner the previous year. You just never know what little tips and tricks they have tried that you may not think of.
If you’re allowed to announce the upcoming vote, start talking about it and building the excitement as soon as possible. Get all of these things set up in advance so you can concentrate on the day-to-day engagement once the flurry begins.
Start a Facebook Group and add as many of your contacts to it as you feel comfortable with. Then ask them to add their network as well. Generally I don’t recommend this for building a Facebook Group because it annoys people to be added to a group they didn’t ask to join. Update this group at least morning and night. If it’s a super-heated race, more updates will be needed to keep the momentum going.
Compile a Twitter list of people you think are good candidates to vote so you have easy access to them every day without remembering or missing someone. Tweet this list daily reminders to vote.
Use a combination of tweets, @ replies and direct private messages to send your daily voting messages. Using private messaging allows you to keep some of the “spammy” feeling of repeated messaging off your timeline. Social Bro is a great app that allows you to send the same private message to a list of people from Twitter (among many other features)…it was a huge time saver and well worth the monthly price during the campaign.
Design Compelling, Branded Graphics
We went through several different ideas for our graphics before we ended up with the ones we used. You want to have some countdown graphics and eye-catching call-to-action pieces to stand out from the crowd as you’re posting and tweeting. Get these done beforehand so you’re not scrambling to design/update them in-the-moment.
Depending on the rules of your competition, have a countdown to lead up to the voting. We were not able to allude to the fact that we were in the competition until it was announced, so we couldn’t do this. Then have a daily countdown of how many days/votes are left. This creates a sense of urgency.
Scheduling is Your BFF
If you don’t want to be living on Twitter, you’re going to need some technological help to spread things out. Whether you use Buffer, Hootsuite (Aff) or another program, you will want to schedule your reminders so they get spread out over the day, every day throughout your campaign.
When someone tweets your link, tagging you or not, thank them and send them a reminder the next day. You can search for your voting link on Twitter or in a Hootsuite stream and go through each one quite easily to thank them, even if they didn’t tag you in the tweet.
I hope we managed to thank everyone who voted for us, but I’m sure we missed some people. We certainly aimed for 100% gratitude!
Search Your Name
Using Hootsuite it was simple to keep all these searches up to date and see which tweets had been responded to and which ones had not. Sometimes people would add the Twitter handle to tag us and sometimes they didn’t. Tags (@ Mentions) are easy to see, but you also need to be searching for the people who click to tweet and don’t bother to make that change.
Get an Easy-to-Remember url
This was one of the big tips we picked up from Michelle. We used www.voteknees.com. So much easier to remember in conversation, or tweeting-on-the-go, than the big long links the competition hosts provide. Voteknees.com appeared in our graphics, email signatures, on the website and many other places. When people visited voteknees.com they were automagically redirected to the voting page. One link to rule them all.
Space Out Your Tweets
Use Buffer or Hootsuite, or just manually take breaks. I scheduled daily reminders about once per hour to specific people. Thank yous were sent out in bunches. You have to be careful to not send too many similar tweets to close together or your Twitter account will get suspended for a period. You definitely don’t want that right now. Have a variety of thank you messages…try to personalize them as much as possible. Don’t do all your tweeting in the morning and take the rest of the day off…you need to be there about 18 hours of the day to maximize your voting.
Invest in Advertising
Again, this will depend on the rules of your competition, but I highly recommend investing in some graphic design specific to Facebook, Twitter and Google ads. Our campaign objective was to remind people who had visited our link to vote again. This is easily done on all networks with a website custom audience pixel (a little piece of code the network gives you and you insert on your website).
Don’t Take Weekends OFF
Michelle had stressed this one with us as well. History shows if you take a break on the weekend, your competitors don’t and you lose ground. While we didn’t exactly take a weekend off, we did lose a lot of ground on the weekend because we had such great weather in Halifax and people weren’t at their computers as much. We spent the next few days flip-flopping from second to first and it wasn’t until mid-week we seemed to have regained a steady lead. Find a way to keep the momentum through the weekends.
In the end, you have to work your collective butts off for the entire voting period. Someone needs to be talking to people on social media and someone needs to be courting traditional media. You need to be prepared to tell every single person you meet about the competition and get them to vote. It’s an 18 hour a day project if you really want to win and it needs to completely take over your social presence to be successful.
We were, of course, ecstatic when we finally found out Spring Loaded had won. The hard work of all our team members had paid off…literally. And now, the team at Spring Loaded can get down to the business of providing the world’s first bionic knee brace to the masses!