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An Ultimate Guide to Platforms for Hosting Online Contests and Sweepstakes

Posted on October 25, 2012 by Elena

Facebook, although popular, is not the only platform that  offers enough resources for running a contest or sweepstakes. Get familiar with other platforms and choose the one (or more) that better fits your needs.

Email 

email icon

You can ask your audience to send their information, contest submission or answer to the trivia question via email. As long as your spam filter doesn’t block the entries, you should be able to collect submissions just fine. Email is often used as an alternative method of entry in case the main one malfunctions.

Pros: simple, easy and you get a valid email address.

Cons: boring, doesn’t offer any interaction, doesn’t let you take full advantage of the promotion.

Website

website iconCreate a landing page on your website with promotion details and an entry form to drive traffic to your website. A popular approach is a scavenger hunt, which involves hiding an entry form on one of the pages and making the entrants look for it throughout the website by giving them hints or sending them on a blind search.

Pros: freedom and full control over the contest.

Cons: possible server overload and slow loading times if you are running a timed giveaway.

Blog

blog iconIf you are looking to increase readership and create buzz about your blog, it might be a good idea to host a blog giveaway. You have three options of how you can arrange people to enter through your blog:

 

-    By leaving a comment

-    By building a custom entry form or using one of the available plugins

-    By using a third-party tool like Rafflecopter

Pros: if you are looking to increase traffic and subscriptions, that’s the way to go.

Cons:  could be cumbersome to collect information and process entries if you choose to do entries via comments.

Mobile

mobile iconThe population of smartphone users keeps growing and so does the creativity and intricacy of mobile sweepstakes.There are many ways you can collect entries through a mobile device. For example, ask participants to:

 

-    Text a certain message to a specific short number

-    Visit your mobile website, locate an entry form and enter through it

-    Scan a QR code from a product or a web page to receive a link to an entry form

-    Download and use a specific app to enter, such as the one designed exclusively for this promotion

Pros: allows targeting mobile device users.

Cons: some people might be leery about giving away their cell phone numbers.

Facebook

facebook iconFacebook is currently one of the most popular platforms for hosting promotions. Grow your Facebook fan base, but beware of Facebook’s promotional guidelines. As of August 2013, Facebook has changed their pages terms and removed the provision that required page admins to use third-party apps for running promotions. This means that people can now enter your promotion simply by liking or commenting on your post, posting on your page or messaging your page.

There are still a few rules and restrictions Facebook wants you to follow:

-    Include an acknowledgment that the promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.

-    Disclose that the participant is providing information to your company and not to Facebook.

-    Write the official rules that outline all terms, requirements and restrictions associated with the promotion.

-    Don’t tag or encourage irrelevant tagging (the image must depict the person(s) tagged)

-    Promotions are confined to brand pages and apps and can’t be administered on personal timelines. This means asking users to post or share something on their personal profile is discouraged by Facebook.

Pros: a huge potential for engagement and publicity.

Cons: Facebook wants you to pay for reaching more people, so some expenses might be involved.

Twitter

twitter iconTwitter is far less uptight than Facebook when it comes to promotion guidelines, which are worded to imply more of an advice than a strict regulation. It’s still recommended that you follow them to avoid getting in trouble and putting your participants in danger of being reported for spam or their accounts blocked by Twitter.

Some of the ways you can have people enter on Twitter:

-          By Re-twitting your tweets

-          By following you (this is a tricky one, because not every follower might be interested in participating in your promotion)

-          By posting an original reply to your tweet

-          By using specific hashtags in the tweet

What Twitter wants you to consider when you sponsor a contest or sweepstakes:

-    Include a provision in the rules stating that anyone found to use multiple accounts to enter will be ineligible. This is meant to discourage creation of multiple accounts by the same user, which is a violation of Twitter rules.

-    Set limit on the frequency of identical tweets. Twitter doesn’t like when the same exact tweets get posted over and over again because they disrupt the search dynamics.

-    Maintain hashtag relevancy. Using hashtags unrelated to the content of the tweet is against Twitter policy, so encourage your followers to stick to the topic.

Pros: minimal effort setting up the promotion on your part.

Cons: limited to Twitter users and not very engaging

Pinterest

pinterest icon“Pin to Win” sweepstakes and contests are gaining more and more popularity. Pinterest is a perfect platform if you have visual content you want to promote.  Being fairly young, Pinterest doesn’t have specific promotional guidelines, but make sure your promotion doesn’t violate Pinterest’s Terms of Use.

Pinterest is relatively simple and doesn’t really leave a lot of room for experimenting with the ways people can enter. A typical Pinterest sweepstakes requires participants to:

(1)    Create a board with a specific name

(2)    Follow the company on Pinterest and repin specific minimum number of pins from the company’s board(s). Another option: pin images from the company’s site, blog, or anywhere from the web.

(3)    Include specific hashtags in the pin description or create a unique description.

(4)    Submit the link to the board along with other contact info via a form on an external landing page (can be a website, blog or even Facebook). Another option: have entrants comment on the promotion announcement pin with the link to their boards.

Pinterest can be successfully used to run contests as well. Because this platform allows creating unique image collections accompanied by unique descriptions, there is a skill involved that can be judged.

Pros: creative and engaging way to get more traffic to your website or blog.

Cons: limited audience (primarily internet-savvy women)

Instagram

instagram iconInstagram promotion is essentially conducted via a smartphone app, so it falls in the “mobile” category. However, I made it a separate point because Instagram is a social network large enough to deserve your undivided attention.

In case you are not familiar with Instagram, it’s a mobile app that lets users take pictures, apply various retro filters, add description and post them on one’s stream. The app also has built-in sharing options to Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Foursquare and Tumblr.

So how do you use Instagram to run a promotion? Ask people to take pictures of course! The entries can be identified by a specific hashtag in the photo description. Both sweepstakes and contests can be held with equal success. Instagram doesn’t have specific rules for promotions, but as long as you follow their terms of use and encourage promotion entrants to do so, you should be fine.

Pros: great way to humanize your brand, generate user-created content and turn followers into your brand ambassadors.

Cons: limited to (a) smart phone owners and (b) Instagram users, which are primarily teens and young adults.

Google Plus

google plus iconI wasn’t particularly familiar with running promotions on Google Plus and never saw anyone do it, so I looked into it and here’s why: Google Plus doesn’t allow using any Google Plus features to host promotions. Boo! No one else can play on their playground. And because this young social network doesn’t support apps just yet, there’s no way around it. However, what you can do is announce a promotion by posting a link on your Google Plus page. Not much, but that’s all we can do right now.

Have I missed anything? Please, share your experience with running promotions on any of these platforms and let us know if there are any new ones we should know about.

Elena

Elena is an online content strategist, blogger, social media enthusiast, amateur photographer & a crafty lady who enjoys learning new things and sharing her knowledge to help others succeed online.

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