Sweepstakes Deliver Facebook Likes, but how to Engage between Contests?

By Carolee Sherwood

Special to The eTail Blog

So your brand has figured out that you can grab fans and followers by the hundreds (and often by the thousands) through running sweepstakes. Now what?

Consumers “Like” Sweepstakes

After keeping a watchful eye on a few particular campaigns, we’ve seen many examples of retailers achieving huge spikes in their fan bases during major contests. Fashion retailer Ann Taylor used the tactic to grow its fan base by more than 17 percent. In fact, sweepstakes ruled the last days of Spring with many retailers, including FYE, Williams-Sonoma, Sears and Fashion Bug gaining big numbers with simple like-and-enter contests.

Research shows that like growth spikes in the earliest days of a contest. GNC Live Well’s newest sweepstakes, a $6,000 value, earned the brand 16,638 new likes its first day (the day before, it had grown by just over 800). Increases are especially pronounced on days when brands post about their promotions.

However, there is a danger: though it’s rare for brands to actually lose likers, growth often flattens in the days and weeks after a spike. Consider Williams-Sonoma. It ran a Backyard BBQ Sweepstakes on Facebook, June 2-16. During that period, its like base grew from 169,233 to 191,459, an exciting increase of over 13 percent.

Notice the dramatic spikes on June 8 (+3,146) and June 12 (+10,622). On both days, the brand reminded fans to enter the contest. Even the small bump on June 16 can be attributed to a wall post mentioning the final chance to enter.

However, notice also the very obvious flatlining of the like base increases before, between and after these posts.

In another example, Gander Mountain’s June liker base spiked earlier driven by wall posts promoting a $1,000 in gear sweepstakes. But its liker growth has dropped from nearly 2,450 a day on the highest day of the promotion to a current rate of less than 500 new likers per day.

Engagement is the Key

What can brands do on Facebook between large promotions to engage fans, promote brand experience and improve chances for remarkable growth? Well, that’s the trick. Ongoing engagement, rather than giveaways, is hard work. Engagement—in the form of fan feedback and posts—can be accomplished by granting likers access to special in-store discounts, providing an avenue for self-promotion or simply by appealing to their sense of fun or community. Here are some examples of keeping energy high, fans growing and comments/post-likes flowing:

  • Give fans special treatment – The fan base for Family Dollar had been chugging along at a steady pace: an average of 874 new likers each day June 1-19. On June 20, it posted on its wall about an unadvertised special on a no-contract color flip phone, and its liker base spiked by 1,978 – a boost in excess of twice its normal rate.
  • Post fan photos related to your product – On June 21, TJ Maxx posted fan photos in TJ Maxx fashions to one of its Facebook albums, “Maxxinistas Having Fun in the Sun!” Four hundred and five fans liked the post itself, and the brand page grew by 450 that day, well above its average daily growth.
  • Express gratitude for the fans you already have – Lane Bryant earned a liker spike with a post recognizing its fans for pushing the brand past the 300K mark.

Yes, it’s a form of a giveaway, but this thank you gift boosted the liker base even more, and it’s hard to argue with this level of engagement: over 2,400 comments in seven minutes! The offer was made at 2:45 p.m. and the winner announced at 2:52.

  • Use the calendar to your advantage – Despite liker growth leveling out after its $1,000 in gear promotion, Gander Mountain realized a small bright spot in liker growth around Father’s Day, a holiday that correlates well with the outdoor brands’ consumer base. A Facebook wall post about the holiday achieved the highest engagement level of any of its other posts for the month, including the contest posts.
  • Work hard for the community – Although it did not correlate with a better than average rise in fans, Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores’ far and above highest level of engagement in June so far was for its wall post about getting its employees back to work after losses in Joplin, Missouri:

Promotions are an important part of growing a brands’ fanbase, but it’s only one tactic in an overall strategy of increasing brand loyalty through social media channels.

Carolee Sherwood is a Conversation Manager at Media Logic, an agency specializing in marketing for a social world.