Growing Your Numbers: Do Contests Work?

Meet Sue Edworthy. I did. For reals. I have photographic evidence that we are more than just “Facebook friends.”

Sue does lots of the same kinds of things that I do, just in Toronto, so we immediately bonded over that. Then we got to hang out in February when she was in town, and we’ve been looking for an excuse to work together ever since.

Well, one of Sue’s blog posts caught my eye the other day. It was called Follow Me! Like Me! Become a Fan and RT to Win! Sue’s post didn’t actually offer any contests. It was, rather, a comment on how many of those kinds of emails, Facebook updates and Tweets we see of that nature every day.

Here’s an excerpt:

I think [contests] can work in terms of bumping up your followers list. At first I was skeptical as in, okay you’ve come here to win a contest, and someone did, but it wasn’t you. Will you become what I call the “forgotten follower” – a follower who clicked “like” and promptly forgot they were following you? High numbers, no interaction?

Possibly. But what we need to remember is that every time someone clicks like or RTs you, even if it’s to win something, your product just expanded by a percentage of that person’s followers. So now maybe the forgotten follower has indeed forgotten about you – but now their folks know about you as well – and maybe they’ve been wanting to know more about you, and didn’t do anything about it, until a RT reminded them. And now they’re a follower too. So now you have two types of folks on your list – your high interaction evangelists and folks who are just spreading the word for you with every like and retweet. Not bad for the price of a prize.

I was intrigued, and immediately fired her off an email asking if she would do an interview with me on the topic for my blog. And so, without further ado…

RC: Do you think it’s a good idea for people, when they are starting out, to set specific number goals for the amount of followers they want to acquire in a certain amount of time (say, for example, 500 fans in 6 months, etc)?

SE: Yes, it is a good idea to set a goal. We need goals and it keeps us on track and reminds us to keep working at it.

But I don’t think the number should be the only goal. You can rapidly increase your Twitter followers by clicking on everything and anything – but do you really want to count “get a free gas card!”-bot as a true follower?

I like to see it broken down a bit more – so if you set your goal of 500 followers in 6 months, let’s break that number down.

  • I’d like 40 of them to be fellow social media bloggers
  • I’d like 50 of them to be independent performing artists
  • 10 funders
  • 20 businesses who I want to be emulate

….see what I mean? By all means bump those numbers but bump the quality as well. Spend some time looking at these folks. And then spend some more time seeing who’s following them. Like finds like -would you rather your twitter feed be 500 filled with crazy cat ladies and gas card bots, or 300 solid, reputable people, orgs and establishments who make you look good? Everyone’s mom was right, you’re judged by the company you keep.

Make your cake from these types of solid followers and the rest are icing.
RC: Mmmm…. cake… Uh! Right!  Do you think that contests are a good way to encourage people to follow you?

SE: Why not? Contest prizes are usually inventory you’ve allocated to marketing so the cost is covered. It’s also amazing to partner with another org to create your prizes which doubles your reach and marketing to their folks as well. Win-win. I still want it to be a good prize – I mentioned this in my post – if you’ve got show tickets, throw in a copy of the play – signed, maybe. And it will spread the word to your followers and if it’s a RT to win it spreads to their followers. And maybe their followers will start following you. it can’t hurt. One thing – I’ve seen people run a contest on their blog, the facebook page and twitter – same contest with no variants. How are you supposed to track that? Make each one slightly different so you can determine who found you and where and how.

RC: What about the folks that just sign up to be entered in the contest and then you never hear from them again? The forgotten followers?

SE: Forgotten followers are the folks who click “Like” because you’re their friend and you asked them to, or started following in the hopes of winning the tickets and then you never hear from them again. They’ve forgotten they clicked. We all do it. But I think that if you followed the info in answer one up there – these folks are your icing. You’re still building yourself a quality fan/follower list with the goals you set for yourself, so the forgotten followers are a bonus. They’re improving your numbers without hurting anything, and their numerical presence helps your heavy lifting. and again – they’re expanding your reach. A theatre-lover usually knows at least one other person who also loves theatre. Like finds like, right?

RC: Thanks, Sue!

To read the rest of Sue’s post, including some more specific ideas for contests, click here.

UPDATE: Here’s Sue’s response to my post. She has an advantage, because she’s three hours ahead of us.

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Rebecca Coleman

Social Media Marketing Strategist, Blogger, Author, Teacher, Trainer. Passionate foodie, mom to Michael, fueled by Americanos. I love my bike. Soon-to-be cookbook author. Localvore with a wanderlust.

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