Engage Your Audience with Social Media Contests

Winning Social Media Contests
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We’ve talked before about social media contests, particularly the hashtag contest:

  • to generate momentum for your brand’s social properties
  • to raise engagement with your brand
  • to develop relationships with your would-be brand advocates

Now, let’s talk about contests that do more.

Contests that bring in some of that good good, that UGC.

UGC stands for User-Generated Content.

And, that, friends, stands for content you didn’t have to make. Because your users made it. Your tribe. Your brand advocates.

SmartWool’s Sexy UGC Social Media Campaign:

Strip to Your SmartWool

Step with me into our way back machine and let’s remember the good old days. 2011 to 2013, anybody?

Victor and Spoils “turned SmartWool’s R&D process over to their Facebook fans” in the much beloved Fan Field Tester. If you’re an outdoorsy type, you probably recall images like these in your favorite print media of the day.
SmartWool's Sexy UGC Campaign and Contest
As Victor and Spoils’ Executive Creative Director, Noah Clark, explains his portfolio,

SmartWool, long known for their wool socks, had an awareness problem: They made some of the finest merino wool baselayer around, but nobody knew it. Because on the mountain, SmartWool apparel is worn underneath jackets and shells, making it literally invisible. Our solution? STRIP TO YOUR SMARTWOOL. A Facebook-powered campaign that asked SmartWool fans everywhere to celebrate their outdoor accomplishments by taking a picture of themselves… stripping.

These photos were all gathered by a superfantastic custom app that aggregated them all in one place– the SmartWool Facebook Fan Page.

[Of note, the app still exists as a placeholder on their FB page even though they’ve moved on from that campaign and, for that matter, from the agency of record. However, if you click–and I wouldn’t–on the Strip to Your Smartwool app link, it’ll show you the worst broken image icon ever. It’s a wonder SmartWool’s social media team doesn’t remove the link. If they read this and appreciate the heads up, I wear a ladies size 10 in knee highs. ‘K? Thanks!]

Where were we? Oh, right.

But, how’s that a social media contest?

I thought you’d never ask.

I’ll let Mr. Clark finish the tale,

If any given photo got a bunch of likes, we used it in our ads, making the campaign completely user-generated.

Cha-ching. It’s so brilliant.

Pose for a product photo and if it’s good enough, you get to be in a “real” advertisement!

Look Ma, no pants!

Instead of putting their marketing budget–said to be “small,” in this AMA case study–into professional models and outdoor photography, they put their money into the concept and development of the Facebook app.

It kind of reminds me how the Hollywood writer’s strike gave us reality TV. Unscripted shows are as close to do-it-yourself (DIY) television as the show-runners could get. “We don’t need no steenking writers.” Thanks for that, Hollywood.

Of course, I’m being tongue in cheek when I say that reality TV is do-it-yourself.

After all, we can’t all be Kardashians. Praise be.

My point is–even when your users are literally making your content for you, there’s a lot of scurrying thankless behind-the-scenes footwork to set these things up and make them happen, both in TV shows and in social media campaigns.

Don’t worry!

You don’t have to have a “small” budget, or even one big enough to afford a creative agency and ad buys in print media. You don’t have to develop your own app.

It’s Like Flat Stanley for Your Business.

Wait. What?

You don’t know Flat Stanley?

(Well, I don’t know Elf on the Shelf, so that makes us even.)

Flat Stanley is “an authentic literacy activity” for kiddos around the world, according the Project’s website. Flat Stanley “is a uniquely multi-generational, global literacy activity that engages hundreds of thousands of children on a daily basis.”
Flat Stanley Knows Everybody
Basically, Flat Stanley is a paper person who travels from classroom to home to family to friends, overseas and back again, and everybody who “meets” him takes a picture with him. The Pyramids? He’s been there. The Taj Mahal? Done that. Flat Stanley knows everybody and has been everywhere. And, he’s got the photos to prove it.

Let Your Brand Be Your Flat Stanley.

That’s basically what SmartWool did, right? Instead of “Send the kids back home a picture of you on an adventure with their Flat Stanley,” it’s “Share a post of you on an adventure with our cool thing.”

Example: Snap Kitchen’s “Snap in the City” Social Contest

Snap Kitchen Instagram Contest
In addition to having a snazzy contest name that may or may not evoke a ground-breaking TV show in the minds of the Snap target demographic, this Instagram-only contest benefits from its simplicity and ease to enter. There is no custom app for Snap to build or for users to futz with.

Snap’s major milestones in this marketing campaign would have been:

  1. Come up with the idea.
  2. Give it a sexy name.
  3. Authorize a $500 gift card. [Note: Not even cash. In-store purchases.]
  4. Make pretty sandwich boards to display at retail outlets. It is, after all, a restaurant. Snap in the City Social Contest
  5. Write a blog post about the contest.
  6. Tell everybody you know to tell everybody they know.
  7. Collect pretty branded photos of your product from your customer base.

Example: Thurber’s Brick Bunny’s Social Adventures

Admittedly, this one is a little more homespun. And, not even a contest. But, it’s bittersweet and gets me all nostalgic.

Thurber, Texas, to the west of Fort Worth, is a ghost town now but was one of the first booming Texas coal towns less than a hundred years ago. If you’re ever on I-20 headed off into the sunset, be sure to stop at the fabulous history museum across from the visible remains of the old town.

The W. K. Gordon Center for Industrial History of Texas, run by Tarleton State, walks the visitor through Thurber’s flash-in-the-pan history from the first findings of that suggestive sparkly black rock to the gusher down the road at Ranger, now equally a ghost town, which effectively spelled the beginning of the end for Thurber.

Thurber was a company town, entirely owned and operated by the Texas and Pacific Coal Company. They ran their own mercantile, their own commissary, their own everything. As an offshoot of the coal mining, they also ran a successful clay brick manufacturing plant. Much of old downtown Fort Worth is still paved with that famous Thurber brick.

Thurber Clay in a Model T
And, that’s where we meet our little friend, Clay, a bunny that the workers fired for funsies and that the museum staff faithfully recreated for the souvenir shop and the Facebook page. When you purchase one, like I did for my dad, son of a coal miner, you receive a little typed note encouraging you to share your photos of #claysadventures to Facebook.

Not surprisingly, my dad hasn’t. Because, A) he’s my dad. And, B) the good folks at Tarleton haven’t incentivized this as a contest, so who’s going to bother?

I can’t wait to hear…

How can you get your brand seen? And shared?

How can your product or service be a Flat Stanley?

What offering or reward can you give to incentivize this sharing? Store credit? Complimentary 15-minute call? What will your social media contest look like?


Image credits:

Featured Image Source: Pixabay user MB Fotografie, Public Domain

SmartWool Collage Source: GearJunkie’s blog post about the Strip to Your SmartWool Contest

Flat Stanley Collage Source: Flat Stanley Project’s About Page

Snap in the City Contest Collage Source: Snap Kitchen’s Blog

Snap Sandwich Board Source: Suzanne Hoenig

Clay in a Model T Source: W.K. Gordon Center’s Facebook Page

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Suzanne Hoenig is a strategist and writer helping small businesses, nonprofits, and private practitioners craft their marketing copy, grow their online and offline community, and navigate the changing tides of social media and digital content marketing.

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