Twitter Contests: Waste of Time or Opportunity to Engage With Followers?

At this point, it is safe to say that just about everybody has at least heard of Twitter, if they don’t already have accounts set up. Attracting followers is generally the first objective of anyone who establishes a Twitter account. Followers represent a core group of individuals – or organizations – interested in what you have to say. Once followers have been established, the next goal is connecting with and building relationships with those followers.

This is where contests come in. Contests are becoming fairly popular on Twitter, with Twitter account holders using them both to build and engage followers. But, do these contests have any intrinsic value or, are they simply a waste of time?

Opinions vary and run the gamut from “complete waste of time” to “promising new opportunity. As with any communication endeavor, of course, the best answer to the question of “are Twitter contests a good idea?,” is “it depends.” It depends on your target audience and what you’re hoping to achieve.

Chris Lower is director of marketing, PR and social media for The Sterling Cross Group, a PR firm located in Maple Grove, Minn. Lower has created and run several online contests on Twitter as well as other social media platforms. Contests can be used, he says, for:

  • Market research. “We’ve done giveaways for restaurant, retail or services clients to test out new products and seek feedback,” says Lower. “A simple example was a restaurant that introduced a new flavor of chicken wings and wanted to know if it should be put on their menu.”
  • Launching new products. “We’ve conducted contests to have people vie for a chance to win the first of a company’s new product or service.”
  • Driving advertising. “We’ve given away branded gear – coffee mugs, t-shirts, etc. – to get our clients’ brands out into the public.”
  • Driving PR and online web traffic to company web sites. “Encouraging others to create content and link back to you creates viral word of mouth,” he says.
  • Driving traffic to events.
  • Improving customer service. Contests for suggestions to improve service or products are a great way to help improve your customer service,” says Lower.

But, like others, he cautions: “While contests are a good way to build followers initially, you have to have a reason for them to stay signed up to follow you as well.” In other words, contests are just a tactic for increasing engagement. To maintain engagement, you need to continually think of ways to offer information and value to followers.

It pays to think creatively in terms of who, what, when, where and why. In short, those considering the use of Twitter contests need to have a clearly articulated strategy.

Here are some things to think about:

  • What you want to accomplish
  • Who you’re trying to reach (your ideal client/customer)
  • What problems those people need to solve
  • How you can solve that problem better than anyone else
  • What other resources (non-self-serving) – like books, magazines or websites they have nothing to do with) – can help them with those problems

Don’t be afraid to experiment. This is a brave new world with a lot of opportunity – and a lot of the unknown. Those who ultimately find success through social media are likely to be those who are not afraid to just do it!

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