How to Create a Viral Contest (in 10 Days or Less)


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Contests and sweepstakes are tactics that will always have a place in the marketing mix. By continually tapping into the desire for free stuff, brands can boost their visibility without breaking their advertising budgets. They encourage consumer engagement, and help marketers looking to gain measurable exposure at a lower costs than traditional social media marketing efforts. Digital technology has further enabled the deployment of contests, by incorporating instant rewards such as eGift cards, coupons, and more. Brands no longer have to worry about printing or shipping costs. Instead, they can give a consumer instant access to the reward. And instant rewards make it quick and easy to drive data capture.

When considering how digital innovation has impacted contest creation, it’s possible to execute contests and sweepstakes much faster than ever before. This means that your ideas can virtually come together in less lead time, giving your team more time to get creative.

So, how can you run a viral contest in under 10 days? Here are a few strategies to consider for your next engagement program:

1. Go Digital

The fastest, and most cost effective way to run a contest is to create it for digital consumption. You may choose to make it exclusive to social media, or perhaps its a separate microsite, or landing page. Regardless, it’s important for your contest to be accessible to an online audience if you have any hopes of it going viral. Another important point to note is to ensure it’s responsive. This means that it must be available on any device that a consumer could access it from. In the last 5 years, the number of entrants from mobile has multiplied by 8. That’s a significant increase that marketers should not ignore when developing their contest strategy.

2. Offer Refer a Friend

You want your contest to go viral right? Then it’s best to include a refer a friend option for additional ballots or entries. Referral marketing has been proven to be the most successful way to promote your business. Nielsen reports that 83% of consumers turn to friends and family for recommendations, well above any other media source. The same strategy can be used for referring contests too. Your promotional efforts may generate a certain percentage of entrants, however, if your participants are your best source of contest promotion.

Referrals can be performed in many ways. It could be as simple as encouraging your audience to tag friends in the contest on social media, or by including a refer a friend button to a more sophisticated experience. Regardless, it’s a great way to broaden your audience.

3. Include Instant Win

There’s no better way to drive engagement than with an instant win promotion. Instant win contests increase fan excitement and engagement levels, especially if you offer daily prizes and chances to win. This gives consumers more opportunities to spend time with the brand and to share their experiences.

The best instant win contests are easy for participants to find, access, complete, and share. And, of course, they’re fun! People are busy. They may not have time to fill out a complex entry form or put a lot of effort into a task. The simpler the promotion, the better chance you have that people will participate – meaning more exposure for your business. Additionally, by giving entrants the opportunity to win something instantly, they feel like the barrier to winning is less, and are more likely to hand over their information more readily. See how Sport Chek activated fans in-area using this instant win game.

4. Make It Shareable

There are a few ways to encourage your audience to share your contest with their network. Some of these strategies depend on where you promote your contest, however, these simple tactics can be easily applied to many different situations to boost awareness:

    1. Include sharing/retweeting/reposting as a rule to enter into the contest. You may have seen your friends post a promotional image on their Instagram, or retweet a contest announcement, and wondered what it’s all about. You may have ended up entering the contest yourself. This is a simple tactic that can create a ripple effect for driving engagement and awareness.

    2. Add a user-generated component to the contest; ask your audience to share pictures or selfies related to your brand as a method to enter. For example, Crispy Minis asked users to upload a selfie to a contest microsite and “add a flavourful” frame to enter for a chance to win a $10,000 travel voucher. You can read more about this contest, and how user-generated content increases brand awareness here.

    3. Include a contest video. Why? Social video generates 1200% more shares than text and image content combined. By including this type of content, you are significantly increasing your chances of your campaign going viral.

Finally, with a bit of creativity and design work, marketing assets for an online contest can be spun out in as little as a few hours to a couple days (for a more complex project). Your biggest time constraint for any contest is putting together the rules and regulations. But with the right vendor, you can get legal approval within 3-7 days. If you’re not sure about how to create rules and regulations for your contest, it’s best to consult with an expert before moving forward.

These are just a few proven ways to make your contest go viral. If you’ve ever had a contest go viral, go ahead and share your tips in the comment section below.

Nicolina Savelli
Nicolina is the Marketing Manager at Wily Global (WILY) and manages their customer activation blog. WILY is a marketing technology company that develops innovative solutions for organizations to engage and incentivize consumers wherever they are. WILY's proprietary SPRY technology provides highly secure and dynamic solutions for sports teams, B2B, B2C, eCommerce, finance sector and government clients alike.


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