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Using Social Media to Compete in Online Contests

Since Pepsi announced just before the 2010 Superbowl that it was moving its advertising dollars from the big game to an online contest for nonprofits, many companies have followed suit and launched their own online competitions.

These voting contests pit one charity against another to see who can get the most votes and win the prize(s). As an example, Sam’s Club launched the “Giving Made Simple” contest and gave away $4 million in prize money. Participants could vote for their favorite charity either at Sam’s Club stores or once per day at the Sam’s Club Giving website.

Social media has proven to be an important way for causes to get out the vote and win contests. Online contests are another way nonprofits can flex their social media muscle.

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Here are some tips for succeeding with online contests:

  • Go back to prospecting circles. Start with your supporters first, the people that know you, and work outward. Your supporters are critical in getting your message out.

  • Reach out to supporters in every way possible. Direct mail is a possibility, and e-mail is a great place to start. But focus on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, and other social networks your supporters favor.

  • Don’t give supporters an excuse to say no. Give them everything they need to make voting and sharing the vote easy. Some nonprofits create custom landing pages and give them a unique URL so that supporters don’t have to go searching for the right page.

    Give your online audience prepackaged tweets and Facebook postings that they can share immediately with their contacts. Forcing them to create their own material — even a 140-character tweet — just gives them a reason to say, “I don’t have time.”

  • Make it fun! Share fun postings with all your supporters. Create contests within the contest for voters. Offer incentives (for example, T-shirts, key rings, and so on) for votes. Continue to educate supporters about your mission. And, of course, thank them for their efforts!

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