Brands move sweepstakes to Facebook

Student lender Sallie Mae needed to attract college students’ attention over the summer and maintain their interest into the fall semester. It launched a sweepstakes this summer where students are throughout the entire year: Facebook.?

“We wanted to do something fun to engage with students and decided to end the sweepstakes right around when most students are heading back to campus because it’s important to continue the dialogue,” says Debby Hohler, director of corporate communications at Sallie Mae.?

Not only did the company take advantage of Facebook’s platform by requiring consumers to “like” Sallie Mae’s page before entering the “Smart Summer Sweepstakes,” but it even incentivized consumers to share their participation with others. ?

“One way to increase participation is to encourage people to share with their friends, by making it so that when an entrant tells their friends about the sweepstakes, they get an additional entry,” says Hohler. ?

Since the sweepstakes’ July launch, Sallie Mae has quadrupled its Facebook fanbase, she says. ?

“Facebook has become the de facto hosting site for contests and sweepstakes essentially because of the audience size of the social network,” says Jake Wengroff, global director of social media strategy and research at Frost & Sullivan, via email.?

Other brands are boosting the marketing value of their sweepstakes by holding the contests on Facebook. Clothing company Williamson-Dickie Manufacturing Co. expanded its Facebook fanbase by more than 50,000 consumers over the course of its Dickie’s brands’ “American Worker of the Year” contest, which ran from May into June. ?

The 2011 version of the 19-year-old contest was the first time it was hosted on Facebook. Of its more than 1,000 participants, all but two entered via the social network. ?

Brandon Van Dyck, marketing manager for sponsorships and national promotions at Williamson-Dickie, says the company chose to host the contest on Facebook instead of, as it had done in the past, because “our most engaged fans are engaging with Dickies on our Facebook page.” The primary value of hosting a contest on Facebook, he says, is the social network’s inherent ?remarketing capabilities.?

“It certainly brings a casual passerby into your social community that you can then talk directly to, as opposed to someone that may just flip over your website and see something, and then be on their merry way without you ever having a chance to talk with that person again,” says Van Dyck.?

Marketers have long used sweepstakes and contests to build their customer databases and buffer their remarketing programs, but Noah Mallin, VP and group director of social media at Digitas, says brands must take advantage of Facebook’s remarketing value. ?

Coupon company RedPlum ignored Facebook’s built-in remarketing mechanism by not requiring consumers to like its Facebook page before entering its “Super (Savings) Man” contest. However, the company did include an email opt-in for its “Coupon Alert” and “Freebie Alert” newsletters.?

“If we are just touching our customers during the ‘Super (Savings) Man’ contest, then we may not have the opportunity to stay in touch with them,” says Kate Arcieri, editorial director of “But if we’re able to get them to sign up for our email newsletters, then we’re able to be in contact with them every week.”?

The nature of the contest also kept RedPlum regularly in touch with consumers on its Facebook page, including the more than 16,000 fans garnered in the three weeks after its June debut. Because female consumers were asked to nominate a coupon-loving man in their life, the prompt became a conversation starter and community builder.?

Weeks after the contest ended, “we’re still seeing new followers and people commenting,” says Lisa Reynolds, VP of consumer engagement at Valassis, a media and marketing company.

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