There seems to be strategic flaws with many of the ‘voting’ contests hosted by brands on Facebook. On the surface, promotions are often deemed successful based on buzz and ‘likes’.

But what about relevance? Awareness and acquisition are meaningful, but only if they are tied to the right audience.

The Status Quo

There are variations in how brands manage voting contests, but two models are prevalent:

  1. Awarding a prize to the person that collects the most votes for a photo, video, entry, etc.
  2. Drawing a prize from a group of people that have garnered the most votes i.e. top 20 vote getters.

In addition, many brands ‘fan gate’ contests so visitors need to like a page in order to participate. From a marketing perspective this makes a lot of sense:

acquire new fans >> provide them with relevant content >> fuel engagement >> prompt activation

But what’s the value of these fans if most of them aren’t really that interested in the brand?

Enter vote exchangesForums, websites,  and Facebook pages that facilitate the trading of contest votes.  As a result of vote swapping your brand ends up building an audience consisting of people (or fake accounts) solely there to vote in your contest so they can get votes in return. These fans are likely never going to truly engage with your organization.

I would argue that voting contests based on popularity actually erodes business value. By rewarding high vote counts brands open themselves up to diluting their core audience and hampering their ability to effectively benchmark and measure ongoing engagement. So what is the alternative?

A New Way of Looking at Contest Acquisition

My theory – by lowering the barrier to contest entry i.e. 50 votes and conducting a random draw, brands can build a participation ‘long tail’ that:

  • prompts more people to enter because there is a reasonable chance of winning vs. having to compete with contest pros that buy/exchange votes.
  • helps create business value by prompting brand communication with real people and fueling genuine word of mouth – with a low barrier to entry fans will likely share contest details/expose the brand to friends, family or colleagues. The low barrier of entry discourages users that participate in voting groups.
  • creates an even playing field for participants and minimizes acrimony – the contest is deemed to be fair, doesn’t get overrun by people exchanging votes and mitigates negative dialogue.

There is much more value in having a slower rate of acquisition and building a fan base that has the potential to be engaged … rather than rapid growth created by smoke and mirrors.

Voting Contest Best Practices

In addition to embracing a low barrier/random draw contest model, consider implementing some of the following ideas in order to build a more relevant following and improve the contest experience for your audience:

  1. Enhance your contest terms and conditions – be clear to state reasons for disqualification i.e. no voting groups, no vote buying, IP stipulations, etc.
  2. Implement options like Offerpop assured voting when using third party contest apps – Facebook authentication vs. IP tallying allows you the opportunity to audit the validity of Facebook profiles.
  3. Budget time to monitor the contest – most brands invest time communicating with contestants via their Facebook contest app but it’s also important to spend some time monitoring and auditing entries.
  4. Use Facebook Insights – large numbers of new fans from ‘out of ordinary’ regions might indicate vote exchange is taking place.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced running voting contests on Facebook? What other suggestions do you have to make the contest process more strategic for brands? The comments are yours.

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About Mark Smiciklas

Mark Smiciklas

Mark Smiciklas is a Digital Strategist, author and President of Intersection Consulting; a Vancouver based digital marketing agency that teaches organizations how to leverage the dynamics of the web to achieve business goals. Mark is also the managing editor at Solopreneur.ca and is an established marketing and social media practitioner recognized for his visual thinking and practical strategic approach. You can connect with him on Google+.

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://www.microsourcing.com/ MicroSourcing

    When conducting a voting contest, it also helps to have a degree of flexibility as well as contingency plans in the event that things don’t go according to plan; for instance, when a contest isn’t getting the amount of participation that you expect, you can extend the voting period and simultaneously hammer on contest promotions to get more participants.

  • http://www.microsourcing.com/ MicroSourcing

    When conducting a voting contest, it also helps to have a degree of flexibility as well as contingency plans in the event that things don’t go according to plan; for instance, when a contest isn’t getting the amount of participation that you expect, you can extend the voting period and simultaneously hammer on contest promotions to get more participants.

  • http://www.blurbpoint.com/link-building-services.php Link Building Services

    voting contest will increase more and more on FB as now FB has decided to view the post , comment or page as per sorting methods. As sorting of two kinds one is that see which has more likes or votes and other is recent post. So as FB has the new page for the news feed and such feature through which person can see as per what he/she need. So now all will try to get more likes and votes to see their page or post on first. So the contest is going to be so tough.

  • http://www.blurbpoint.com/link-building-services.php Link Building Services

    voting contest will increase more and more on FB as now FB has decided to view the post , comment or page as per sorting methods. As sorting of two kinds one is that see which has more likes or votes and other is recent post. So as FB has the new page for the news feed and such feature through which person can see as per what he/she need. So now all will try to get more likes and votes to see their page or post on first. So the contest is going to be so tough.

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  • http://twitter.com/howlvenice Heather White-Laird

    thanks this is so smart. there is a whole cadre of facebook fans who are “professional” contesters and they know how to game the system very well in order to win. a random sweepstakes will still increase a fan base, and it precludes possibility of unfair practices coordinated by those who enter contests for a living. the true test of a brand page is to have no like gate and leverage their true value to gain and retain fans. 

    • http://twitter.com/intersection1 Mark Smiciklas

      Thanks Heather! Well run contests are a good way to acquire/reward fans but I agree that brands need to deliver value beyond giveaways. Organizations need to invest time to learn about their audiences information needs – community participation and conversation stems from engaging content and communication.

  • Pingback: A New Way to Look at Facebook Contests | Intersection Digital Marketing

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