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#tweetsmart by Jesse S. McDougall

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Chapter 1. The Radio Contest

This is the first project in the book for two reasons: it is simple for beginners; and it is special to me. This project explains how to run the same contest on Twitter that provided me with my “A-HA!” moment. Like many people, I was originally skeptical that business and social media could mix. Like I said in the Introduction, I still shudder when I hear or use the phrase “social media marketing.” This contest proved to me that the two worlds could collide—and that the result can be spectacular.

This contest is a adaptation of the old “Be the 10th caller”-style contest radio stations have been running for decades. However, instead of asking people to call in, we’re asking people to send tweets. So, in effect, this is a “Be the 10th tweeter”-style contest.

For the price of some sort of prize—a coupon, a product, a free hour of service, etc.—you can use this contest to directly engage your audience with your products and services—and in doing so, recommend you to their followers.

The idea is simple: at the same time every week, invite your followers into your online store or website and ask them to tweet out a link to the product of yours they’d like to win. The 10th (or 12th or 50th, etc.) person to send such a tweet after the defined time, wins the product he or she has chosen.

Before you can run the actual contest, you will need to do some preparation work in order for it to be most effective.

Choose a time you will run the contest every week. Plan to do it during the work day, as that’s when most people are at their computers and looking for something to do (or trying to avoid something they don’t want to do). Be sure to run the contest at the same time every week so that your followers can plan to show up and play regularly.

The first step is to place a “Tweet This” button on all the product and/or service pages on your website that you’d like to make available for the contest. If you’re using a modern content management system (CMS) like WordPress or Drupal to manage your site, you will likely only need to update one product page template file.

Using the HTML code Twitter provides through their Tweet button creation tool (http://twitter.com/goodies), create the JavaScript code you will need to copy and paste into your website’s HTML. Fill in the field that designates that the button should include your username in each tweet sent. This will allow you to track the tweets your followers send from your site.

This button will give your visitors the ability to recommend your individual products or service out to their followers with a simple click of the new button on any product’s page.

Once the button is installed and functioning, write a blog post that explains the rules and the workings of the contest. When it comes time to promote the contest, you can point people to the blog post where everything is laid out and made clear.

In the hours before the designated time you’ve chosen to run the contest, promote the contest every so often by tweeting out a link to the blog post you’ve written. Do not overdo it. It’s easy to get excited and overpromote the contest, but annoying your followers with constant promotion will only turn them off. Use a light touch.

Also, when promoting the contest, don’t just stick to Twitter. Try to enlist the help of bloggers, Facebook users, and newsletter owners you know who might be interested in helping you promote the contest. A well-placed and well-timed article about your contest can bring in a good number of new people.

The blog post you’ve written explaining the contest should invite people to browse through your online store in the minutes before the contest is scheduled to start—let’s say, for the sake of example, the contest is run every Tuesday at 2 o’clock. In the minutes before the contest is to start, visitors will enter your store and begin looking for a product they would like to win that week. When 2 o’clock rolls around, send out a tweet announcing that the contest has started and that anyone browsing the store should begin clicking the “Tweet This” button on the page of the product they hope to win.

You, as the contest manager, can track these tweets by running a search for your username at http://search.twitter.com or through Twitter management software like TweetDeck (http://www.tweetdeck.com) or HootSuite (http://www.hootsuite.com). As the tweets start flying, you begin counting. When you have counted up to the 10th tweeter, you have your winner and the contest for the week is over. Announce the winner and the prize, and thank everybody for playing.

Contact the winner directly—usually via a direct message—to send your congratulations and request his mailing address and other required information. Plop the prize in the mail and you’re done!

In the early weeks of running this contest, you can expect low numbers and slow response rates. You might have four or five people play in the first week, and therefore you should set your “Be the ‘Nth’ tweeter” number low. Every week however, because the participants are recommending you out to their followers in their contest tweets, your contest numbers will grow. In a few weeks’ time, you can expect 30 to 40 people participating in your contest every week.

I realize that 30 to 40 people does not sound like many participants. But, keep in mind that during the course of the 10-minute contest, each of those 30 to 40 people is sending out a tweet with a link back to your site to all of their followers to read. When gauging the effectiveness of your contest, add up not only the number of folks who played, but also the number of folks who received the tweeted link recommendations. You will be astonished how quickly you can reach 20,000 (or more) people with only a few dozen people participating in your contest.

Advanced Strategies

Once you’ve been doing this contest for a few months and you feel as though you’ve got a handle on how it works, there are a few things you can do to improve its effectiveness.

Landing a Big Fish

It is great to get a bunch of individuals and loyal customers to participate in your contest, but it is even better to get some powerhouse Twitter users who operate in your niche to play along as well.

For example, if you own a shoe store and use the contest to give away a free pair of shoes every week, you should try to get the Twitter marketers at companies like Runner’s World magazine, Dr. Scholl’s, or even Nike to play along as well. These companies often have large numbers of followers and are often more than willing to participate in a fun contest that suits their audience. This is a quick way to double or triple the number of people playing in the contest—and the more people who play, the more promotion your contest gets, and the more people who play…and so on.

Trivia Questions

If you run this contest the same way every week, it won’t take long for it to become stale and less interesting for your audiences. Therefore, you should spice it up every so often by throwing in a fun bonus question. In this iteration of the contest, you would give away two prizes—one to the normal contest winner, but also one to the first person to answer the bonus question correctly.

Along with every bonus question, you might want to provide a link to a page on your website—or another appropriate (or fun) website, where the participants can find the answer.

For example, during your shoe store’s contest one week, you could provide a link to your own site’s About Us page—which contains a long description of each of your office dogs—along with the question, “Of the four dogs in our office, which little ball of sunshine ate my $300 Nikes?!”

This type of question draws people to your site’s About Us page, where they learn that your company is run by humans with a sense of humor—which is always a good thing for your customers to learn.

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