Are we being contest-ed to death?

It seems that you can’t swing a Zuckerberg these days without hitting yet another contest on social media. Maybe it’s the lowest common denominator. Maybe it’s easy to do. Maybe it’s just a natural extension of marketing like it’s been done for so long.

But I’ve been thinking about it lately. And I’m struggling. Because on one hand, I get it. People like to pull for their favorite (team, person, band, etc) and when that entity wins, they win. It’s part of that “we” mentality.

Setting that aside, I’m not sure if contests fit well within the community mentality of social media. Stay with me here, but generally contests start with MANY and whittle it down to ONE. And, from what I’ve gathered, it’s not about the ONE person getting all the attention in the social webs. Instead, it’s starting with MANY and spreading to MANY MORE. Or as Matt pointed out to me, it’s starts with ONE and spreads to MANY (sound familiar?).

So this is just a little reminder that contests are easy. Sometimes they are effective. But more often than not, people look at it like all other junk mail. Sure, they want to be recognized, but instead of offering them 15 minutes of fame, how about offering something that can’t be given out by the Prize Patrol? Like a sense of being.

Something to chew on.


  • October 13, 2010

    Shane Rhyne

    Good analysis. I’ll admit I’ve had some client success with contest/sweepstakes, but it’s easy to get caught in a trap of going too often to that well. My best success with social media contest was one that was essentially a giant city-wide product giveaway dressed up as a contest. It was difficult to NOT win. It generated plenty of earned media in traditional media and in social network conversations. The problem, of course, is the desire by clients to try to duplicate the effect and our temptation to take the easy way out and try it again. I’m making an honest effort to prevent myself from doing that. Thanks for the reminder to keep making that effort.

  • October 13, 2010

    Spike Jones

    Thanks for the comment, Shane. You’re right, contests are good if used in moderation. And I love the “everybody wins” idea – especially when it can unite a city.

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Spike Jones, Shane Rhyne. Shane Rhyne said: A thought provoking question. RT @spikejones: Are we being contest-ed to death? […]

  • October 14, 2010

    Eric Pratum

    I’m just speculating here, but don’t contests in the social web get a lot of support from the yoyodyne-esque approach of demonstrating some sort of value upfront (especially through contests, giveaways, etc)? What I think a lot of people don’t consider is that you can’t just have any contest in order to generate quality, long term attention, FFFs, or whatever else.

    I was asked at a recent conference if I thought giving away an ipad to a random new liker of an FB page was a good idea in order to get more likers. I said something to the effect of, “If the ipad somehow has something to do with why someone would want to like or be affiliated with your organization, sure. It might be. If not, then no. You’d get people like me, who have no particular interest in your group or message & might just really want an ipad.”

    Maybe, if we had more contests that were relevant to the cause or organization, we might feel a little bit less like they were spammy, no?

  • October 21, 2010

    Darin Kirschner

    Its a good point that SM is supposed to be about one to many while contests are many to one, but contests are predicated on the panic that there is scarcity. Marketing 101 that…

    SO how does a company tally a contest in the Social world? I think it would be better to offer many to many and even more to many more! The more who join the better the gift! That’s a possible generator. You get this small prize if only YOU enter, but if you bring MORE friends into the circle, you will ALL get a better prize. Seems that would be analogous to what SM is all about and uses crowd sourcing influence to up the ante while garnering greater eyes on the prize, which is ultimately what any company really wants.

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