Twitter has done an awesome job of outlining best practices for running a successful Twitter contest. Unfortunately, few companies follow their advice. We are consistently surprised by the big name brands that violate some or all of these best practices when running their contests, effectively damaging their brand and potentially losing followers.
Here is a summary of the guidelines that Twitter has laid out and where we see big companies most often go wrong.
#1 Discourage posting the same Tweet repeatedly
Next time you sign into your Twitter account you will likely see a tweet from a major credit card company offering you a gift card if you follow and retweet them. This is exactly what Twitter is asking us not to do and for good reasons. This promotional tweet tells us nothing about the company and asks nothing about us. It’s pure Twitter Spam. For every one person that retweets this spam, there are hundreds, if not thousands of Tweeps who see now see that brand as uncreative and annoying. These companies may be adding new followers, but these are the type of followers that are willing to retweet spam and are likely not worth much to their business.
Why not ask a relevant question and offer a prize? Tweeps are smart and competitive and love to show how much they know. Twitter users ask questions and hold informal trivia bouts all the time. No need to even announce it as a “contest.” Just ask challenging, topical questions.
#2 Discourage the creation of multiple accounts
This is one of the many reasons we strongly discourage Twitter sweepstakes in general. There is no skill involved in entering a sweepstakes, so the user who creates the most accounts is rewarded with the best chance of winning. Avoid this by holding a skills-based Twitter contest (we call them TweetOffs!). If you have thoughtful and challenging questions, you will attract thoughtful and challenging followers. Wouldn’t you rather have 100 intelligent and active new followers than ten new followers with ten fake accounts each?
#3 Ask users to include an @reply to you in their update so you can see all the entries
This makes it easier to sort through the responses to pick a winner. One advantage of running a TweetOff is that our algorithm can identify the winner automatically for you. We encourage you to have users include an @reply to keep within Twitter’s best practices. If you have crafted a well-thought out contest, then encouraging followers to include an @reply has the added bonus of advertising your brand in a positive light!
#4 Encourage the use of topics relevant to the contest
Creative use of Hashtag topics is an excellent way to to make your contest more relevant. Hashtags can also help in making a distinction between multiple contests you might be running. But make sure that the Hashtags topics make sense relative to your contest, or you may be putting followers in danger of breaking Twitter’s rules.
#5 Follow the Twitter Rules
As you can see, Twitter’s rules are really just common sense. As a general rule, treat your followers the way you would want to be treated. Then you should find your followers are growing and becoming more engaged. You can find Twitter’s complete list of contest guidelines here.
About the Authors:
Mashable recently named Jay and Matt Bailey as one of the “10 Must-Follow Twitter Accounts for Sports Fans” (you can follow them @hoopisms). When they are not tweeting about all things basketball, they are obsessively building the worlds greatest Twitter contest platform with their mad scientist older brother Brian.