By Josh Ledgard
You’ve come up with a great idea for a contest. You’re sure that it can increase awareness for your brand and your products.
The only problem? You have no idea how to spread the message of your new contest. Sure, you can create a pop-up on your home page or link it on your social media platform, but those messages will only find people who are already connected to your brand. How do you reach people who you don’t know and who don’t know you (yet)?
It may sound like a riddle, but it’s not. It’s actually easier than you think, but it does require some work. So, roll up your sleeves and let’s get to it.
Let’s start with the basics. You need to go viral.
But, what does it mean to go viral?
As we discussed in the post 7 Essential Ingredients For Making Your Contests Go Viral, going viral means that you’ve activated social sharing. You’ve created a recipe that others love and are willing to share with their friends.
Through the magic of Internet sharing, you build awareness for your brand, product, contest, etc. If shares increase rapidly over a relatively short amount of time, congratulations, you’ve gone viral.
As you can imagine, going viral means different things to different people. For one brand, going viral can mean one million shares over a one-week period. For others, one thousand shares in one month can be a viral moment.
There are a lot of variables to consider, such as your existing audience size, the appeal of your prize, and the parameters of your contest. But, in general, going viral means that awareness for your contest has grown mostly through word of mouth.
In other words, you didn’t need to promote your contest through ads for it to gain exposure.
While going viral may seem like a magic that’s denied to most, there is a science behind it. That’s good news because it means that you can replicate it, too, by following a proven formula.
Remember that the outcome will vary based on your audience, the prize(s), the length of your contest, and the type of contest you’re running. But if you implement the following advice, you’ll set your contest up to go viral, guaranteed.
Answer the question.
You need to capture the attention of your audience. You’ll do that by answering the number one question your audience is asking. That question is, “What’s in it for me?”
The go-to answer here is a killer prize, right?
Right! You’ll start with an unforgettable prize that your audience will lust after.
But steer clear of iPads or trips to Bora Bora. You need a prize that’s inextricably tied to your brand, preferably your own product or service.
By giving away your own product/ service as the prize, you’ll increase the odds of generating leads for your business. And isn’t that what it’s all about? If you give away a generic prize, you’ll get a generic audience. If you give away a prize that’s brand-centric, you’ll have a collection of leads that you can nurture after the contest is over.
Make them afraid.
Fear in a powerful motivator. If you can inspire the fear of missing out, or FOMO, you’re halfway to viral.
So how do you do that? With scarcity, of course.
Include an element of scarcity in your contest using motivating language (for example, Only X amount of prizes available). Other scarcity words to use:
Scarcity is all about limiting availability. This could be the amount of prizes available or a strict deadline.
You can’t have scarcity without urgency. The two go together like peanut butter and jelly. To create a sense of urgency, impose a strict, fast-approaching deadline for entering your contest. Make the deadline clear to everyone who signs up. You may even choose to add a countdown clock on your contest’s landing page.
I don’t know about you, but nothing makes me sweat bullets more than a countdown clock on a landing page.
You know what makes people share? Incentives. It’s not enough to have one shot at the ultimate prize. Consider sprinkling rewards along the way.
We’ll go in depth in our Viral Boost section below, but the general idea is that you should offer incentives for your contestants to keep sharing the news with their social circles. The more they do, the more rewards they reap.
For example, if five friends sign up with the contestant’s unique referral code, the contestant receives a special prize. It could be a discount, an eBook, or some other valuable resource. Have another prize for reaching a 10-friend sign up milestone, and so on.
Reach out to influencers.
If ever you needed to tap into influencer marketing, now’s the time. Work with influencers to spread the message of your contest. Influencers can help your contest go viral by sharing your contest to their adoring audience. To learn more about influencer marketing, click here.
But don’t just reach for celebrity influencer. “Everyday” people without huge social followings can be influencers, too. These are people who’ve shared your contest far and wide to those within their social circle. They should be rewarded. Offer them a special incentive to keep on sharing.
Start out by sending a personalized but automated email to them that thanks them for sharing. Time these emails to coincide with reaching a referral milestone. You’ll also want to deliver the referral prize, and include social sharing links within the body of your email.
Sounds like a lot of work?
No sweat! Set up these automatic emails with KickoffLabs. Here’s more on how to use social referrals to supercharge your landing page conversion rate.
Optimize your contest landing page to encourage sharing. Here’s how:
Activate Viral Boost.
You can’t just set up your contest and hope that people will discuss it with their social circles. Chances are, they won’t. So, you’ve got to actively encourage it.
One of the easiest ways to do this is through our Viral Boost feature. Viral Boost is our proven strategy for getting an average of 35% more people to sign up for your contest. Here’s how it works:
Once a person signs up to participate in your contest, we automatically generate a unique social referral sharing link that they can copy and share. We’ll keep track of any new signups automatically, and you’ll be able to identify your rockstar referrers.
What’s even better is that your contestant can also keep track of their referrals, too. Each contestant will have his or her own landing page that they can check on whenever they want to see how many referrals, or how close they are to a prize milestone.
Encourage social sharing.
In addition to a unique referral link, you should also make it easy for people to share your contest. Don’t just pass them a link like you’re passing a baton. For some, the idea of copying the link then going onto another site or email client, coming up with a message, typing that message, and then pasting the link sounds a lot like work.
Take the work out of it by conveniently setting up the message. Above or below your unique referral link include social share buttons (along with an email button). Then, do your contestants a solid by including a pre-written message that’s ready to go.
This means that if your new contestant decides to share the message on Twitter, he will be able to click on the Twitter button and see a pre-populated message (complete with his unique referral link) that’s ready to be tweeted out.
You’ll also want to include these social share buttons in your automated emails to them.
Make it a priority to keep your contestants informed.
You can’t rely on the contestant to stay engaged in your contest on their own. They’ll forget. They’ll wane in excitement. That’s why you need to send an email whenever a milestone is met. This will re-ignite the excitement and incentivize further action.
But don’t send out dull, boring updates on your contest. Add stories to your updates. Your contestants will love to read inspirational stories about others. Show how others are using the very product that the contestant is hoping to win. Discuss how someone’s life improved after using the product or service you’re giving away. This will keep your contestant motivated.
Also, consider highlighting a rockstar referrer, or keep a scoreboard of your top social sharers to inspire the spirit of friendly competition.
To learn more about setting up automatic emails to keep your audience updated and engaged, check out the ultimate guide to contest autoresponders.
Here are a two related resources to help you share your contest: