There’s a great rule of thumb in advertising that copywriter Scott Mackey shared with me, and it always sticks out in my mind:
When you read an ad, replace your brand with a used car lot. If the ad still makes sense, it’s probably not a great ad.
It’s a smart test. If an ad is truly tailored to your brand, it’s not going to be transferable. In the spirit of this advertising rule of thumb, I’d like to add one for social media giveaways:
When you’re hosting a giveaway online, substitute your item for a new iPad. If it still makes sense, it’s not an effective giveaway.
This isn’t about the giveaway item per se, but what you’ve built around it. If it doesn’t matter what you’re giving away, does anything about it matter? Is it just free stuff?
Let’s be real – this isn’t anonymous generosity. You’re hosting a giveaway because you want something in return: customers, followers, or simply greater brand awareness. Too often, giveaways attract the masses who are only interested in a prize. People come in droves and make you feel good about all your new “likes,” yet they never return again. (Can you hear the crickets?)
The good news is, there are ways to break convention. Here are 4 ways to make a giveaway, sweepstakes or contest more meaningful to you and your community –
- Spark a content generation blitz.
It’s important to make content generation a central part of your giveaway, as long as you don’t include so many asks that you overwhelm people and discourage entry. You can ask those entering to do something easy, like share a photo and include a specific tag. Or, you can ask your winners to share content. After all, where’s the fun in sharing contests if you don’t also share the prize?
The best way to do that is to give away an experience. This is a great way to engage your community and lengthen the life of your giveaway. Maybe they didn’t win, maybe they didn’t even enter… but you can be sure they’ll catch you next time after they saw the recap from your winner’s amazing experience, courtesy of you.New York Times writer Nicholas Kristof chooses a student to join him for a reporting trip each year, and then shares a Q&A about the experience. Read the latest here.
- Foster a more genuine way to connect. Another good litmus test beyond “could it be an iPad” is this: Would YOU want to share this with your friends, or does that feel like spamming?Instead of asking submitters to tag 5-10 others, make your contest a giveaway for two. Zomato did just that, and asked fans to tag the Twitter friend they would want to join them for their #lastmealonearth. With this approach, your current customers are identifying future customers for you.
- Make it signature.
Is your giveaway uniquely yours, or could it come from anyone? By infusing your brand’s values or personality, you get more traction with the right people. Every business has an anniversary. It’s not breaking news, but giveaways can be a great way to make your milestone more meaningful.In honor of their second birthday the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU (CHoR) delivered a cupcake giveaway to three Facebook fans in the Richmond area. To be entered to win, all fans had to do was “like” a specific Facebook post. A little too easy? Maybe, but it was enough to get people talking – and get media interested.CHoR took their cupcake surprise on the road to local radio stations and newspapers. Outlets were happy to accept and mention CHoR’s 1-year milestone on the radio – something the hospital would be hard-pressed to achieve without the giveaway celebration.
- Give back, and recognize your customers.
Cal-EZ is a calcium and vitamin D powder supplement (and a client). When we queued up a giveaway, we knew it needed to mean something. We created a mission statement to tell our customers we are dedicated to helping women live active, healthy, fulfilling lives.Fulfilling? Does a calcium supplement really care about that?Yes. And if we were going to say it, we had to back it up. The Unbreakable Award was formed to allow women to nominate one another for their personal work on health or nutrition – whether they were following a dream or dedicating their lives to helping their community, we wanted to acknowledge women who are making a difference in the health and lives of others.Out of the nominations, three women were selected to win a cash contribution toward their missions to help others live healthier. Was it more work than an iPad giveaway? Absolutely. But it meant something to us to be able to help women who were taking big chances – and we hope it means something to the Cal-EZ community too.Jessica Dang, Founder of Cook Smarts and Unbreakable Award Winner: Read her story
We all know giveaways can result in the wrong kind of attention from freebie-seekers. But I hope these examples show they don’t have to.
With the right supporting strategy, giveaways can draw in media attention, inspire friends to connect, and allow you to get to know your customers in new ways. Today, they’re a customer, but tomorrow, they might become a fan – proud to be a customer, and looking forward to seeing what’s next when you pop up in their feeds and inboxes.
What are some ways you can give back to your community and get them engaged?