by Paula on April 16, 2011

Posting a torrent of one-way traffic on Social Media not only can cause your audience to switch off but goes against the purpose of wanting people to connect with you. Getting involved in others conversations, helping people out when they call for information, or asking questions to encourage others to respond are all ways of getting people on board and engaged with you.

Posts that encourage people to respond would be referred to as having a “call to action”. This means asking something of people, whether it’s an open question, a request to look at something or review something, or an invitation to visit an event, or an enquiry as to who else might be going to somewhere that you are.

Another way of getting people to respond, and monitoring whether they are listening to you, is to have some form of competition. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve noticed a number of competitions popping up in my Twitter timeline and this included 2 from local people that I follow.

1. Quincy Lampshades, a local lady who makes beautiful lampshades to put those from your local DIY store to shame, posted on Twitter that the 1st person to visit her stall at the Long Ashton village market that weekend and say “Manky Lampshades!” would win a free lampshade of their choice. Ruth explained that her goal with the competition was three-fold:

“The first aim was to get people’s attention. How many people just think ‘Another update/tweet/post about stuff she sells’ and quickly scroll away? I wanted to remind people about being at the local market whilst saying something different. You say ‘Manky Lampshades’ to win (whilst I say where and when). But I didn’t just want to remind people, I wanted them to come and visit my stall! So, my second aim was to try and encourage an actual visit on the day. I wanted to see some friendly faces, make the stall look busy, have people see the product, not just a photo. My third aim was to have people ask ‘Why Manky Lampshades?’ and to explain my Manky Lampshades parties which I hope to begin in autumn 2011.”

Having a clear goal of what you want to achieve with the competition and making it very clear to your audience what they need to do and what’s in it for them is excellent. Ruth clearly had thought this through and her expectations were clear.

While Ruth did get visitors and sales, (and yes a winner!), the market was not as well-attended overall as hoped and I asked Ruth what she might do differently next time. She said:

“I would save this kind of ‘Present for Presence’ competition until I had a larger number of followers and until I was selling at a bigger, and better attended/publicised, market in the city where more of my local followers might be more likely to visit.”

2. Kevin Leighton is a blogger that I follow locally due to a shared interest in photography. He tweeted that he was running a competition to identify a photo that he’d posted during January and match it with a film poster. The prize was a feature, Social Media mentions, and link-backs through his blog the following month. I asked Kevin the aim behind his competition. He said:

“I was looking for an idea that would a) drive people to the site and b) make people look through different posts to find the one to which I was referring. The idea was to raise awareness of the content and increase page views. It was a bit of a “fishing trip” to find out whether this kind of offer would work for me at this time.”

Again, a defined goal and a good one. Encouraging a new audience to not only look at the blog in question but to need to look back through other posts will give them longer to get to know you and your work, and hopefully like what they see and want to come back for more!

Kevin explained that while there was a small increase in traffic to his blog he was overall disappointed with the take up of the competition and has been thinking through what he might do differently another time

“I’m not sure of the reason behind the lack of take up but it could be down to one of the following. I would strengthen option 1) if I was to do this again.

  1. The incentive was insufficient
  2. The blog was new and there wasn’t sufficient interest overall in the blog for people to go to the trouble of following it up
  3. I did not get the message over sufficiently to my audience”

There’s no doubt that people are time poor and to encourage them to take time out and look through a new blog perhaps requires a greater incentive but probably the most likely reason is about the number of people the message reached.

Points to remember when running a competition are:

Make entry easy. If people decide to give it a go and it takes longer than they first expected, you’ve probably lost them.

Encourage people to be able to put forward something of their own. People like to share what the’ve been up to. A competition running last week by easyfundraising where people had to post a photo of their garden has huge numbers of entrants.

Ensure it is well-publicised. Your tweet can quickly disappear, especially when your followers are following large numbers of people. Most people will miss it so get the message out a number of times.

Build your followers. The more followers you have, the more people you will reach. If you are going to use your Twitter account to involve people then continue to work to increase your following of relevant people, and connect with them. Talk to them, laugh with them and make sure that they are interested in and looking out for your tweets.

Ask for Re-tweets. People will often forward your Tweet to their followers if you ask. If 5 people re-tweet and each of them is followed by 500 people your audience of 5 can suddenly become thousands.

Let the ‘prize’ be something people would value. Both competitions offered that and Kevin was right that it doesn’t always need to be a physical prize. In these days of SEO and desire for increased awareness, mentions and referrals offer great value.

Be clear on your expectations and your goal. As with all Social Media, a plan and monitoring against that plan is vital. Only then will you know if it’s been a success and have a benchmark against which to assess and measure future competitions.

Thanks to Ruth and Kevin for their input and for those who offer and enter competitions: GOOD LUCK!

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