Use Contests to Expand Your Social Media Reach with Curtiss Bryant
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In the past, we had great success with Facebook/Instagram ads. Then something changed, and they are no longer as effective. We were spending more money and not getting the same amount of engagement as before, so we started to abandon them. We still needed something to gain reach on social media to replace Facebook ads. We decided to run a contest for a free shoot, and the results were amazing. It’s the same thing we were doing before with the ads, only this time it was all organic reach and we didn’t pay a penny. Let’s look at how to use contests and “free” giveaways to drive social media reach to grow your business.
First, let’s dispel the myth that free devalues your brand. Shooting a cover for a large magazine is often a free shoot; but in return, you get the cover image on a magazine that is seen by thousands (sometimes millions) of people. That is certainly not a bad use of your talents. Free doesn’t have to be a bad word. Embrace it to help your business grow.
Step 1: Build the Demand
We rarely discount our services, and everyone in our area knows that. When we do offer a contest for a free shoot, it is a big deal because it’s the only time you can get us for free. If we did discounts or sales all the time, there wouldn’t be an incentive to enter the contest, as they could just wait for the next giveaway or discount. If we did a monthly mini-session, why would anyone want to pay full price for a regular session when they can just do a monthly mini-session for a fraction of the price? It is the same concept here. If we always offered a discount, why would anyone pay full price?
We run these contests twice a year, coinciding with engagement season and the holidays. The one over the summer is for engagements and the two we do over Christmas are for regular sessions as well as engagements (one for each).
Step 2 – Decide What You Want to Offer
Do you want to offer a full session? Do you want to offer digitals? Prints? We want to keep our out-of-pocket costs as low as possible on these giveaways, so we offer only digitals—they are the cheapest product for us to produce. Digitals also happen to be the most expensive product we offer, so the giveaway value is huge. Our Christmas giveaway is our biggest value of the year. We give away the session and include 20 digital images, which is worth over $1,000. For the engagement giveaway, we include the session and five digital images (a $499 value). We have found that the bigger the value of the giveaway, the more people are interested.
Step 3: Structure It for Success
Since Facebook ads stopped working well, we needed to find another way to reach a large audience. With these contests, we are able to do so if we structure them properly. We cannot just post the contest and tell people to message us. Once we post the contest on our page, we tell people they have to do three things to enter the contest:
- “Like” our page
- Share the post
- Comment with the word shared on the post (or have them tell you their favorite movie or something else fun)
We don’t have time to monitor it to make sure they do all three things in order for their entry to count, so we count them just as long as they comment, since we need names to include in the drawing. Posts that include an image with the giveaway details are seen more throughout Facebook than a post with no image. The most important aspect here is that they share the post so it builds organic views. The more people who share it, the more Facebook puts it out. The likes on the page don’t mean much, but it does get noticed by potential clients who are looking for a photographer. To them, more likes equals a better photographer, so they aren’t a bad thing to have.
Our engagement contest is a bit different. We use the same idea as above, but we ask that people comment on the post with a name of someone who recently got engaged, rather than commenting “shared” on the post. This way, we have the names of the bride and/or groom, and they can see the post as well (and share it). This can be more successful than a bridal show because the engaged couples are now being given to you on a platter (for free) rather than you having to find them on your own or pay money for a bridal show. Bridal shows are an important part of what we do, but this gives us extra names to help us fill our books (more on that in a bit).
An important thing to remember is that they have to go to our page and like, share and comment on the post on the page in order to count. They cannot do it on shared posts since we will never see them. We want them on our page checking out our work.
Step 4: Determine a Winner
Now that we have all these entries, how do you know whom to pick when the contest ends? We take all the names of those who commented (or those tagged engaged couples) and put them into a spreadsheet so each is assigned a number. We hop onto Facebook Live and use a random number generator to generate the winner. We announce them live so that people see it’s a transparent process and we aren’t just selecting people we know. Normally, we do the big giveaway (the reason they signed up), and then, as a bonus, we include a few smaller giveaways (mini-sessions). This way, more people win and we surprise them, which gets them talking about us with their friends.
Step 5: Make Everyone a Winner
This is huge for our studio. We reward everyone who participated in the contest with some type of prize. For the portrait giveaway at Christmas, we offer everyone a discounted session fee. We do not announce this; we simply message each person with the offer. This weeds out those who aren’t willing to invest with us, and allows us to shoot more portrait sessions than we would have otherwise.
For our engagement entries, we make everyone a winner of a free engagement session. This gets them into our studio, where we can show them what we do. If they hire us for the engagement session, chances are they will hire us to shoot their wedding.
We make it known to all the secondary winners that products and images are available at an additional cost and are not included in the free/discounted session they receive. This eliminates any confusion. They know they are expected to pay for any prints or products they want.
In addition to the winners (who will likely spend more money with us), we have all the people who saw our name all over Facebook for a week. Those people will remember us when they look for a photographer, and will likely reach out to us first. Our recent campaign for Christmas brought over 20,000 views, over 280 shares and 200-plus likes to our pages. We didn’t pay a penny for that reach, nor did we boost the post. It was simply organic reach, using the power of social media to get the word out and get people to our pages.