How to Run a Contest

1. Clearly Define Your Objectives - This may seem obvious, but clearly understanding your objectives will help determine if a contest is right for you and more importantly, what type of contest you should run. If a high number of submissions is the goal, a photo contest or a combination of video and photo is the way to go because of the low barrier to entry. If you're looking for high-quality content to be used in future marketing efforts, a video commercial contest might be a better approach. Either way, user engagement should be part of the equation.
2. Choose the Right Partner - Occasionally when we talk with prospective clients, they say something like, "We have photo upload and ratings so we're thinking about developing the contest in-house." or "We were thinking of just creating a channel on YouTube." That's like saying, "I've got a hammer and a screwdriver in the garage so I think I'll put in the new transmission myself." And having a video channel is a far cry from a fully branded contest microsite. Working with experts can be the difference between a wildly successful campaign and a dud. A few things to consider when evaluating potential partners:
  • Do they support photo, video, audio and text?
  • Do they have the necessary administrative tools to protect my brand?
  • Can they handle the legal aspects of a contest?
  • Does their offering have the viral and social networking features built in to make my campaign successful?
  • Can the look and feel of the contest site be customized?
  • Do I own the user data for participants in the contest?
  • Can they help me get distribution and entries into my contest?
  • What sort of metrics do they provide so I can measure my success?
  • Can they scale?
  • Have they successfully run campaigns in the past?
This last question is an important one. There are far more "platforms" on the market than there are experts in social media marketing. Choosing the right partner means finding a company with great technology and great
3. Promote It - This doesn't have to be expensive but you need to promote your contest if you expect to get entries. Your own site, a newsletter or a note to your following on an existing social network like Facebook or MySpace are quick and easy places to start. And of course making good use of our Contest Widget and Widget Ad Unit are excellent ways to promote your contest.
4. Make it Social - Lack of a social component is probably the single biggest mistake I see when marketers try to execute a user-generated contest. What does it mean to make it social? It means enabling visitors to use social media to interact and communicate with each other and your brand. It means ensuring that the right tools are in place for entrants to promote their entries. And your campaign is designed to be as user-friendly as possible to encourage this behavior. A good place to start is by implementing voting widgets and email tools for entrants to easily contact friends and family and promote their entries on their existing blogs and social network profiles. This can result in driving traffic back to the contest microsite. In addition, commenting, sharing, friend / favorite connections are all vital social networking functionality that will allow users to participate and become engaged in the promotion. Done correctly this will create a micro-community around your brand.
5. Use the Results - Often times when a contest is over the marketer fails to capitalize on the great photos, videos, essays, comments and relationships acquired during the campaign. Instead, create a photo or video gallery of the entries on your website or mix a few quotes into your advertising campaigns. Extend your contest site into a branded social network where users can continue to share and interact around your brand. Any of these will strengthen the relationship you've built with your customers and make your marketing more authentic.

The benefits of running online user-generated video and photo contests are clear. They create a positive consumer association with your brand by offering tangible rewards for participation. Actively involving consumers in the campaign creates a unique way to inform them of new products and services and make them advocates for your brand. When considering a user-generated contest for your next campaign remember that not all contests are created equal and careful planning can make a world of difference.
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