Are Social Media Contests and Giveaways Idiotic?

socialWhenever I open Facebook or Twitter, I see something like this:

“Like our Facebook page and enter a drawing to win an iPad!”

Usually these contests I see have something to do with the latest product from Apple. Now, it makes some sense for Apple to be giving away iPads, but for other companies?

Seems like everyone’s doing it, and because everyone’s doing it, everyone thinks they should do it, too. If you talk to most social media marketers, they’ll all tell you to run contests. They’ll tell you it’s a great way to get buzz around your brand and build followers and fans.

But I’m skeptical about if it’s worth it. It’s like the equivalent of teachers bribing their students with candy:

social bait

The problem here revolves around:

Valuable Social Followers

The number of followers you have is not nearly as important as the types of followers you have. With contests, you bribe people to become followers that in any other instance, might not ever be your follower. Instead of bribing followers, do things to earn followers.

Earning a Follower or Fan or a Like, produces a better social audience that will engage with you and become your advocate to others. Earning a fan through things like providing useful information, expertise, great communication and customer service, brings in followers that have a better chance of becoming customers.

Contests will bring fans from all over that might never, ever, ever have an interest in your product.

For instance, if Lendio gave away iPads on Facebook, we’ll likely get a jump in followers. Will any of those followers be interested in business loans? The demographic we’d add to our Facebook followers would be all over the map.

On the other hand, if we add followers by providing great information about getting business loans, and by helping other business owners in some awesome way, then we’ll add a much better group of fans — without having to fork over expensive prizes. We might add less fans, but we would add quality followers.

The Cost of Getting More Fans

Think about what it costs to give away stuff like an iPad. Some companies do it regularly, giving away iPads every month, or multiple iPads every month. With iPad 2s costing $500+, that’s thousands of dollars to capture more Facebook and Twitter fans. Not to mention all the work the marketing team goes through to organize the contest.

Are random social followers really worth that price? If so, you better track the cost per acquisition of Twitter followers, and find the value of each one.

Wouldn’t it be better to put that money, time and energy toward something like a search marketing campaign to find new customers that are actually looking online for exactly what you sell?

Your Turn

Do you disagree? Are you having successful social media contests? Can you tell if those contests are giving you valuable fans and followers? I really want to be told that I’m wrong here.

It takes a little cash to change the world.

So what are you waiting for?

About the author


  1. Social Media contests only work if you couple them with great, frequently-posted content. Your contest acquires followers, and your content retains followers.

    Also, I wouldn’t give away iPads. I’d give away something that relates to my product/service, if not my product/service. That way I’d weed out more of the bogus followers who just want an iPad and target the people who might actually be interested in what I have to sell.

  2. Of course I couldn’t resist commenting, Dan. For a while, we gave away an iPad every single day with a measurably good ROI. We know that at a good portion of our fans are contest junkies, and yet our promotion efforts still pay off because of the good integration between our promotions and our product info and company content.

    It’s also good to remember the plateau effect created by contests. We have to be innovated in how you run promotions because incremental returns from promotion campaigns are always on the decline.

    • Scott, I was hoping you’d comment. I’m actually very curious how Zagg does their contests, and if they get positive results from it beyond just increasing followers. I’d love to have you explain the “measurably good ROI” you guys have had.

      Of course, giving away iPads for Zagg makes a bit more sense, since you guys sell stuff around tech gadgets and things. So, you’re probably getting more fans interested in tech, which would likely be interested in Zagg as well.

  3. Paid search, SEO, and virtually any other form of online marketing are really not too different from social media marketing.

    Not everyone that searches for “business loans” is in need of a business loan and not every click will result in a super-targeted lead or customer. Social media promotions are no different; however, the upside with a social media campaign is the fact that, if you administer your promotion correctly, sharing will take place.

    For example, while I may not be interested in or need a business loan, I’m definitely interested in an iPad. If I enter to win an iPad, and by so doing broadcast that I did so via Lendio, chances are pretty high that one or more of my friends (who may be a business owner looking for a loan) will enter, too. There are definite benefits to acquiring both quality and quantity of fans.

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