Choosing the Right Contest Type to Meet Your Advertising Goals

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It’s no secret that if one wants to do well in the college market, running coupons and contest giveaways is a must. Whether one is promoting a deal on social media, paying for a printed coupon in a publication, or raffling off of one’s product in an on-campus competition, they can be confident that—as long as student loans exist—college kids will continue to flock to things labeled with their favorite four-letter word: free.

But the real question when it comes to contests is what type of contest one needs to run in order to accomplish their goals. Would one rather increase their social media following or build an email database? Is the only measure of success units sold or would one be happy with an increase in brand awareness? Choosing the proper contest type could be the deciding factor and make the difference in one’s overall goals.



Sweepstakes vs User Generated Content



Sweepstakes vs. User-Generated Content



A sweepstakes contest is the contest with the lowest barrier of entry and thus best for growing an email database and/or the fan following of a social site. Businesses interested in creating a sweepstakes contest will generally promote the giveaway of a prize (i.e. a coupon or product item) and push the promotion through all avenues (print, social, word-of-mouth). Once users decide that they want to enter the contest, they do so by “liking” the business fan page or entering their email into a database entry program. Pushing the promotion is perhaps the biggest step from a business standpoint, as the extent of one’s reach directly correlates with the growth of the contest itself.

Sweepstakes are the most common and widely used form of social media contest (especially for small businesses aimed at the college market). For students who spend a good amount of time on social media anyway, entering a sweepstakes is as easy as making a couple of extra clicks, and then waiting and seeing what happens. All small businesses should look at running annual sweepstakes contests as an initial marketing strategy, but if one isn’t well versed in Facebook sweepstakes guidelines, it could take the hiring of a third-party group to avoid possible illegal infractions (a small price to pay to be up to date on one’s sole marketing platform).


User-Generated Content

User-generated content contests are more competitive (from a judging standpoint) than their sweepstakes counterpart and therefore there will usually be less entries. That’s not necessarily negative for business owners though, because any content that is user-generated will take some time to be created. UGC contests are perfect for businesses already somewhat established who want to increase either website hits (by allowing the audience to pick a winner or displaying all entries on a secondary page) or build overall brand awareness. Whether running a video competition, caption contest, or even choosing from a themed original photograph/audio recording, users take time to create their work (and thus work harder to promote it and score votes, driving more traffic than ever to the site).

When promoting to the college market, UGC contests have the possibility to hit on multiple levels of success. Students have the luxury of being creative, while being tech savvy enough to manipulate the tools of digital creation. Add in the viral capabilities of campus, and the proper UGC contest (equipped with an awesome prize) could potentially shatter all of one’s social media expectations.


One example of an excellent user-generated contest is a video contest currently being held by Study Breaks magazine. Users are instructed to make a short how-to video fitting the provided theme (How to Be a Badass College Student), and the entries will be posted online, where visitors will be able to vote for their favorites. The winner will receive $1000. The creation aspect of this UGC contest means that the people who’ve entered have put at least a minimal amount of effort into their videos, and that—along with the awesome prize incentive—means that they will be very likely to promote their video and—by proxy—, encouraging people to vote for them. This serves as free marketing and promotion for the Study Breaks team, who can sit back and watch as website traffic increases—the ultimate benefit of this type of contest.