Kamal Kishore wakes up five minutes before the alarm on his smartphone goes off. Today is a special day. His excitement levels are off the roof. The results are coming out today.
Kishore picks up his smartphone, closes his eyes and seems like he’s praying, and then opens the Twitter app on his Android smartphone. He opens his direct messages folder on the app first and then scans through a profile’s timeline.
Today is probably not his day. He didn’t win anything in the contest.
Ankita Mittal is a food blogger based in Chandigarh. She admits once she got hooked to playing contests on Instagram, it started taking up a lot of her time. “There are times when I wake up all night just polishing up my entries for an Instagram contest,” says Mittal who is just 19. She has won so many times she claims she’s lost count by now.
Kamal Kishore and Ankita Mittal are a part of thousands of enthusiasts who live and breathe contests on social media platforms. Their goal is to win no matter what, and sometimes they do get lucky. Kishore claims he has won several contests on Twitter and Facebook. His biggest reward till now has been a smartphone from a contest run by a technology blog.
On being asked whether he also takes payments for posting tweets, Kishore completely denies it. He claims he’s not a part of the crowd that will tweet anything for a buck. Winning gadgets or online gift cards is a totally different thing. And he’s addicted to it.
Contests are a sure shot way to win audience no matter which social platform you pick. Companies have realized this over the years and it has become their biggest plan of action in their social media strategies. Agencies catering to the top brands in the country prefer holding contests as the return on investment is quite high when a freebie is up for grabs.
It’s not only the top brands who are willing to give away products and services to users, smaller companies and websites have also experimented with running contests on social platforms to quickly gain an audience.
Casual participants can spend anywhere between a minute to half an hour entering a contest. There’s a new category of participants who spend endless hours working their magic towards winning a contest on Twitter or Facebook.
Kishore reveals that sometimes the more time you spend buttering the social profiles running a contest, the more you increase your chances of winning. Agencies and companies running contests keep an eye out for people who seem committed and are ready to go the extra mile.
A typical contest on Twitter or Facebook generally involves following a Twitter profile or liking a page. Over the years, this has evolved to making hashtags trend by making people post tweets with a specific hashtag. Professional contest players tend to spam their timelines with such tweets.
Top prizes for a typical contest on any social media platform can range from anything like a cool smartphone to a chance to meet your favorite celebrity. All brands and agencies work super hard to cater to their target audiences for the maximum return on investment.
It doesn’t take much to find out if Kishore is telling the truth or not. Spot a contest on Twitter, ideally from a typical trending hashtag, and scan through the resulting timeline. You’ll notice a trend. A set of people is always continuously posting for a number of hashtags, sometimes even copying and pasting others’ content.
Some of the popular tricks involved by pro contest players on social platforms include:
- Multiple entries to a contest (tweets, posts, etc.)
- Multiple profiles to post more entries
- Going the extra mile by showing loyalty to the brand (referring friends, retweeting brand’s tweets, etc.)
- Getting creative with entries
- Regularly following up with brands, private messaging etc.
Social media platforms have also understood the importance of contests. Facebook now has a strict policy on how page owners can run contests, paving the way for cleaner contests which don’t end up spamming the platform. Instagram has also updated its policies to make influencers declare sponsored posts.
“The way we pick winners is that we pull a huge spreadsheet that has been automatically populated with people who posted our hashtag,” says Anirudh Sharma who works at a social media agency at Noida. He further added, “Then we randomly pick a winner so you know the content of their posts has nothing to do. Sometimes we end up with winners who only posted the hashtag.”
Sharma told me that bigger brands are willing to give away expensive products from time to time. Contests are the surest way to get eyeballs and it helps bring traffic to websites and social profiles.
However, everything isn’t green. Once a contest is over these participants who once looked like loyal followers and lovers of a brand don’t care much. And that’s just natural, isn’t it? “Only a small percentage of the followers you gain will continue engaging with the brand, depending on their interests,” says Sharma.
Participating in contests takes a lot of time. A large chunk of these so called professional contest players on Twitter and Facebook are students. Some of them are part of the bored-at-work and bored-at-home audience that brands now love to target. Mobile broadband has made things even better for companies and agencies holding contests online.
Contests are entirely different from the popular paid-to-post campaigns on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. A few companies end up getting influencers to participate depending on how big the giveaway is. Overall, no one denies the impact of contests in growing an audience on social media platforms.