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How to Create a Contest That Makes Your Brand Go Viral

Nathan Resnick
Nathan Resnick
at Sourcify

You've seen other brands run big-time contests. Now it's your turn to do the same.

Of the many marketing techniques you can use to spread the word about your business, sometimes going with an old-school tactic will be the most effective. In fact, when you combine digital marketing tactics with a classic contest or giveaway, you can quickly help your brand go viral.

Offering a prize or giveaway has long been a great way to generate excitement and interest. Over the years, contests have produced innovations ranging from canned food to artificial intelligence.

You don't need to try to change the world for your contest. By following these basic principles of contest-building, you can reach a massive audience and bring new customers to your business.

Offer the right prize.

An exciting prize is the basis for any successful contest. After all, if you can't get your target audience interested in your prize, you won’t have much hope of going viral. The good news is that unlike lotteries or sweepstakes, you don't have to offer a cash prize to get others interested in the contest.

Some of the best prizes include gift cards, free products (or even a full product lineup), or an all-expenses-paid trip to a special event. When a prize has greater monetary value or is viewed as a rare, exclusive item, demand and interest naturally increase. Make sure the prize is relevant to your business in some way; this ensures you attract relevant participants who are more likely to become paying customers after the contest is over.

Incentivize sharing.

You can't make a contest go viral on your own. You need the help of your participants, and the best way to get them to spread the word about your contest is to incentivize online sharing. This is a great way for individuals you might not reach with your own marketing materials to learn about the contest – and your brand.

Make it easy for participants to share your contest. Even something as simple as adding a social media button to the contest's main page can increase the likelihood that participants will spread the word.

Limit the timeframe.

You might think that letting a contest run for a longer period of time creates more opportunities to generate buzz. This isn't actually the case. The most successful viral contests typically run for a month or less, all to take advantage of our ingrained "fear of missing out."

When your audience understands that they only have a limited amount of time to win that great prize, the perceived value of the contest increases. More importantly, this creates a greater sense of urgency that motivates customers to act immediately. This is why restaurants, auto dealerships, and other brands use limited time offers – the exclusive, narrow window makes the deal that much more desirable and newsworthy.

This is also true with multistage contests. Even a photo contest that requires multiple rounds of voting should end each round after a relatively short period to ensure your audience doesn't lose interest.

Harness the power of partnerships.

You don't always have to offer one of your own products or services as a contest prize. Many successful contests involve smaller companies partnering with media influencers, celebrities or other brands to create a win-win situation for both parties.

For example, let's say your entertainment company was offering an all-expenses-paid trip to the Super Bowl. By partnering with a specific airline and hotel for the grand prize and keeping them in the loop regarding all contest details, you can quickly double the marketing power behind your contest. Your partners will provide additional marketing push to spread the word to new audiences – without the need for extra spending on your part.

Time to go viral

People love participating in contests – especially if they think they have a chance at winning a great prize. As you incorporate the above techniques into your brand's contest, you'll put yourself in a better position to reach the people who are most interested in what your company has to offer. When this happens, even the people who miss out on the grand prize can contribute to rapid growth for your business.

Image Credit: Roobcio/Shutterstock
Nathan Resnick
Nathan Resnick
business.com Member
Nathan Resnick is a serial entrepreneur who currently serves as CEO of Sourcify, a marketplace of the world's top manufacturers. Having brought dozens of products to life, he knows the ins and outs of how to turn ideas into realities.