Whenever we talk about running a successful social media contest, it’s important to start by defining what ‘success’ will look like. Before diving in to any social media promotion, the first step should always be asking “what are we trying to accomplish?”

If you don’t start here, it will be nearly impossible to measure the ROI of your promotion. Why? Because while the measurement of ROI in other marketing strategies can be fairly straightforward, social media marketing is a little bit…squishier. The goals most often associated with social media activities are branding-related, not strictly financial. And it’s a bit more difficult to measure the return on investment achieved through brand building. But don’t despair – there are still ways to measure your social media success if you are willing to think outside the numbers box.

Today we’re going to talk about three good measures of success (I’ve heard up to six).

Financial
Depending on the type of social media contest you run, you may see some immediate financial return. Say you ran a Facebook contest that enters buyers of a certain product into a contest for a getaway. You could immediately measure the number of extra units sold during the month of your contest and weigh that against the cost of the app that ran your promotion and your own cost of the grand prize. Of if you run a bed and breakfast and your Instagram photo contest resulted in a noticeable uptick in the number of bookings you saw during the week of the contest, that’s pretty straightforward to measure as well.

If the goal of your social media contest was to increase revenue, these measures are a good indication of your success.

Search Traffic and Exposure
As you probably know, content marketing is quickly emerging as a crucial part of any marketing plan. The practice of producing a consistent stream of quality, engaging content to drive traffic to your online presence is growing in popularity every day. Why? Because the more quality content that exists on the internet and links back to your website, Facebook page, etc., the more search engines like Google perceive your business as worthy of a good search ranking. When people share your content with their own networks, it tells search engines that the content you produce is valuable. And the higher you rank on search engines, the more potential customers can find you and bring traffic to your site. This is where social media contests come in. One feature of well-run social media contests is that they are highly viral. This means that your followers are likely to share them and the pages they link to with their networks, increasing your search ranking and visibility.

Before starting your contest, try a Google search for your business and see where your various web pages and profiles fall. Repeat this a few weeks after your contest ends and see if there’s been any change. You can also set up your Google Analytics profile before running your contest and monitor how your referral traffic from search engines changes.

Engagement
This measure is the hardest to pin down from a financial return standpoint, but is nonetheless an incredibly worthwhile goal to set for your social media contest. Engagement in this sense is anything that speaks to the number of fans/followers you have, the degree to which they like, comment, and share your information, and how many people un-follow your pages on average. These things can be easily measured by looking at your Facebook Insights, checking on your tweets and re-tweets, and then number of followers you pick up on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. You should check on these metrics not just for the pages associated with the contest itself, but also with your profiles in the larger sense. The goal here is to see how running a contest increased the general level of engagement your audience has with your brand overall.

How you report that financially is murky. But especially when a business is small, there can be a visible correlation between these kinds of measures going up, and your revenue or web traffic increasing. It requires a little more creativity to quantify, but the quality of this kind of marketing activity is clear. Create your own Facebook contests quickly and easily with the new Pagemodo Contests tool.

About the Author: Sarah Matista is the Online Content Specialist and resident blogger at Pagemodo. Loves social media, branding, whales. Get more from Sarah on our blog and Google+.

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