A recent mashable.com post breaks down how you're probably doing social-media contests wrong, or at least in need or reevaluating your current approach. If your end goal is to get more followers, according to the mashable.com post, "followers gained from contests alone are unlikely to have much interest in the business beyond the prize." And yeah, that feels right, if you put yourself in the shoes of someone who's never heard of you and just wants to grab the brass ring you're serving up. So, what you need to ask yourself is this:
What do you ultimately want out of your contests? In most cases the answer is money. That’s why you need to measure your actual ROI in terms of new leads or conversions from the contest. Other goals could include, conducting research, or revealing a new consumer base. The point is to determine what you ultimately want to achieve through your social efforts and measure the direct impact of the contest.
Really, you can't determine what the prize you offer should be until you figure out why you're doing the contest. Again, from the post:
Prizes that come from the business itself can be just as desirable as a third-party product, with the added benefit of less up-front expense and the creation of brand advocates. Also, since the prize comes from the business running the contest, some targeting is already built-in.
Social Media Examiner also has a slick post on this same topic that explores some different areas, including execution. This post makes the point that contests nowadays are inherently social, so you have to assure the barrier to entry is low while also using your participants' insights. Don't just throw money at the problem -- if you're doing a contest, treat it like you would any other interaction with a customer.
David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a columnist for EGM. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. When not playing video games for work he's thinking of dashing out to Chicago Diner, Pizano's, or Yummy Yummy. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.