Whenever 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: Teacher: "Hey, Bobby, if you sit quiet, I'll give you lollipop." Bobby: "Candy ..." Social media person: "Hey Facebooker and Twitterer, I'll give you an iPad to be one of the many trolls following me. It's great to get another follower like you." Twitterer and Facebooker: "OK, I don't really care anything about your product or service, but I might get an iPad, so I'll do it. I'll ignore all your posts for a chance to win something." The problem here revolves around: 1. Valuable Social Followers/fans 2. And the Cost of a Follower 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.