Ever since Facebook Pages were introduced in 2007, everyone from small business owners to Fortune 500 company executives turned to promotions– contests, sweepstakes, and giveaways– to boost their fan bases and increase engagement. It seemed like a no-brainer, as that’s what fans said they wanted (as seen below).
But no one thought of the long-term implications of these promotions. It was all about short-term growth. Everyone was obsessed with getting more likes. So they gave away iPads. Sadly, there are still page owners who have a short-term focus on growth– and yes, they’re still giving away iPads. A quick google search led me to this [awful] campaign:
The problem is that page owners had the wrong mindset about Facebook marketing from the beginning. They saw it as another channel for push-marketing– so they wanted to amass a large audience they could shout sales pitches to. As a result, they spent more time worrying about [acquiring] people who weren’t fans than those who were actually fans. So they repeatedly posted about their free iPad sweepstakes– harassing their fans to share rather than creating and posting quality content to engage their fans.
What are the long-term effects of this short-term focus on growth?
The Likely Result (in order):
- You gain low-quality, unqualified fans (hooray for vanity numbers!)
- Your future posts get less engagement (due to low-quality fans)
- Facebook notices, your EdgeRank decreases
- You reach less people in the future [ouch!]
Let’s consider the example pictured above. Say you’re ALA Gap Insurance– a UK-based insurance comapny. You give an iPad away to get more fans. It works. I like the page for a shot at the iPad. So do 10 of my friends. We’re in the US and we’ll never be a customer of ALA. We don’t care about what they post, we just want to win an iPad. We are low-quality fans. When ALA posts and we don’t engage with their posts– or even worse, if we give negative feedback– it negatively affects the Page’s EdgeRank. The engagement rate (people engaged divided by people reached) is lower. These impressions are not only wasted for that specific post, but the negative affect on EdgeRank will result in fewer people seeing the posts in the future.
To sum it up: bad fans hurt your page, a lot.
But not all sweepstakes/contests bring in ‘bad fans’. Let’s take a look at a good contest.
This is a sweepstakes run by Philz Coffee, a popular San Francisco Bay Area coffee chain. Their grand prize is free coffee for a year– an awesome prize– but one that’s only relevant to their target audience, coffee drinkers in the Bay Area. I’m living proof that this is a great contest. I’m a Philz customer but wasn’t a fan on Facebook until I saw that a friend entered this contest on Facebook. What’s even better? When I joined this sweepstakes, another one of my friends noticed, messaged me, and then ‘liked’ the Page and joined the sweepstakes. That’s word-of-mouth marketing made easy and at scale. That’s a Facebook sweepstakes done right.
This type of contest works because it immediately eliminates interest from people who aren’t potential customers. If you aren’t living in the Bay Area and/or you don’t like coffee, you have no reason to enter this sweepstakes. As a result, potential new fans are pre-qualified. Even if they aren’t current customers of Philz like I am, they are potential customers.
Compare this to an iPad give-a-way (or an Amazon Gift Card, iTunes Gift Card, etc.), and it’s a completely different story. This is why choosing your prizes carefully matters so much.
So think and strategize before you run a promotion on your page. Build a promotion that centers around engagement as a primary goal, and high-quality fans will come as a result. If done right, a promotion can really help your page. If done wrong, it can really hurt your page. Remember [the old saying stands true] that quality beats quantity in regard to your Facebook page audience. I hope this post doesn’t discourage you from running promotions– but instead makes you think critically before you run them– and talk to someone (like Wildfire) who knows about them! They’ll definitely lead you in the right direction. Google trusts them, you can too.
And please, I beg you, no more iPads.
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