Shea recently entered a contest on Facebook run by a group who are trying to raise funds to create a breast milk depot in Regina (similar services exist in larger cities such as Calgary and Vancouver.)
For the contest, a bunch of local breastfeeding advocates submitted photos of themselves and their babies into one of three categories – Breastfeeding, Skin on Skin, or Maternity. The contest encouraged them to promote their photo using social media and whichever one got the most Likes would win the contest (“Winning” is a relative term as there were maybe 30 entries total and the top 12 of them would win a free photoshoot which, in turn, would lead to them being featured in a calendar to further promote breastfeeding awareness and raise funds for the Regina Breast Milk Depot.)
The contest opened but we got started late and before we had a single Like, some of the others had 50, 60 or even 70 Likes on their Submitted photos! Shea, always the optimist of the family, thought we’d never catch-up let alone get more than that level of Likes. 😉
I thought differently.
Beyond being someone with experience in direct marketing as well as being very interested in social media including a recent stint as the “Social Media Director” for the Ryan Meili campaign for the leadership of the Sask NDP, I was mainly confident because I had a not-so-secret weapon – Sasha!
Very recently, I’d posted a picture of her visiting in the Children’s section of my library and without any promotion, push or other incentive, it had garnered 86 Likes. So I was fairly confident I could at least get to that many for the contest and there was a good chance with some extra prodding, I could do a lot better than that.
I came up with a loose strategy to build momentum and keep the Likes coming in constantly during the contest’s duration rather than as one burst.
It began with an initial post that explained the contest, provided a link to the photo (one tricky thing was I had to explain to potential voters was any Likes on my News Feed didn’t count, they *had* to click through to the contest page and vote on Shea’s picture there.) Beyond that, I also promised that I would post another cute photo of Sasha for every 25 Likes Shea’s contest photo got.
During the first day, we quickly reached 25 Likes from what I call the “early adopters” – friends and family we know “like to Like” and often click on everything we post anyhow, contest or not.
I monitored the responses and although I didn’t do it in any formal way, if I happened to notice someone who liked the post on my News Feed but didn’t click through and Like the contest photo, I’d tag them in a reminder comment. (If I’d been really aggressive, I might’ve tagged likely Likers right on the contest page where they’d be less likely to Like the wrong thing. Er, that’s a lot of “Likes” in that sentence!)
For my first “Cute Sasha” incentive photo, I posted a fresh one of her smiling in a sandbox (not sure if her face, dirtied with chocolate, would make the photo cuter or not). One worry I had is I tend to be pretty verbose at the best of times and many of my posts were so long, I worried potential voters wouldn’t even get to the point of the entire thing. I did try inserting a link to the contest photo early but was never brave enough to post something like: “Vote Here: <link to contest photo>” although in hindsight, I wish I had.
At 50 Likes, I posted a less cute one of Sasha and Pace playing with a hose in our backyard. This was less about winning contests and more about preserving family harmony in case Pace realised we were giving his sister a lot of attention on Facebook with this contest and he started to feel left out.
Next, it was a picture of Sasha in a Riders shirt which tied into the timely news that the Riders QB had been injured and his back-up would be called in. (I didn’t do it too for every picture but at least for that one, I tried to think of warm, fuzzy associations that would get people to click Like – the Riders being pretty much universally liked in Saskatchewan.)
By this point, we’d passed the 75 Like plateau but we now seemed to stall out around 90 Likes which was surprising since I’d promised to post an extra cute, extra funny video of Sasha when we got to 100 Likes.
So, as a way to “re-prime the pump”, I posted this photo with a joke that it was Sasha’s face when she heard that she was stuck at 90 Likes…
That helped us blast past 100 Likes and we were at 110 by the time I posted a really funny video of Sasha playing her current favourite game – “Scare Mommy” – which is basically her growling at us and us acting scared…
After that, I completely forgot to post any more incentive photos but Shea’s total Likes continued to climb, passing 125 and eventually stopping at 139 when the contest closed tonight at 9pm.
The results aren’t finalized yet but from a quick scan through the entries, it looks like Shea’s probably going to end up with the most overall Likes on her entry across all three categories (though it was nip and tuck with one other entry which ended up with 132 Likes to Shea’s final total of 139. There were also a couple other submissions that finished just a shade below those totals who could’ve done a last minute surge.)
With it right down the wire, I posted one final incentive photo tonight although this one was a picture of Sasha from a few weeks after she was born with the words “Thank You” spelled out in fridge magnets and I didn’t even remember to include a link to the contest photo except as a comment on the post.
In that post, I clarified that although my frequent and insistent posts probably made it seem like winning was my main goal, it was also about supporting a good cause, promoting breastfeeding and trying to learn more about social media strategies.
On that note, here are some other random thoughts about the process…
- If I’d been really trying to wrack up the votes, I’d have pushed people to share my posts out more rather than just having individuals Liking Shea’s contest photo (a strategy that worked well in the Meili campaign)
- I also didn’t use any paid Facebook ads like we had to great effect in the Meili campaign
- We did a bit of promotion away from Facebook – Shea on mommy boards and me on a site I visit regularly which I thought might be sympathetic (they weren’t – I think we got one vote from there!) 😉
- If I’d have been even more desperate for votes, I could’ve used various off-shore services that for a very small fee, will basically buy you votes (or tweets or Likes or page views or whatever you want) for very low cost. But I thought a bunch of Likes from people in India might get Shea disqualified so didn’t go down that route! 😉
- I didn’t think to tag Shea in all of my incentive posts which might’ve garnered a few extra votes from her circle of friends.
- I happen to have a relatively large number of progressively-minded Facebook friends including librarians, writers and people involved with the NDP aka people who would most likely look favourably on breastfeeding and/or a breast milk bank which I think really helped. In the end, I’d say I had roughly a 10-15% response rate from my entire friend list.
- On that note, I didn’t do a formal count but it did feel like there was a definite gender split in the respondents. Even though I’d guess that my Friend list is roughly evenly split between men and women (although it might be 60-40 or even 65-35), the votes seemed to come overwhelmingly from women (75-25?) which I found interesting. But again, I didn’t do a formal count so this could be confirmation bias of some kind.
- The “Scare Mommy” video has 77 Views as I type this though I have no way to correlate people who voted for Shea’s contest photo and people who watched the video. But presumably, there’s a fairly big overlap since I made a pretty big deal about that being the “reward” for reaching 100 Likes.
- I think there were some very basic principles for social media at work here – people Like pictures of cute babies, people Like videos more than they like photos.
- There was also an oppositional thing that might’ve happened – my take is that people don’t tend to like too many posts from one person, especially on one topic, and people are also reluctant to be too indiscriminate with their Likes, especially for things that don’t directly affect/impact/reach them eg. things like “Other People’s Contest Requests” (perhaps one step above “Invites To Play Candy Crush” on the Facebook Like hierarchy.) It’s not that we “lost” votes from people who were bugged by my bugging them and/or not likely to vote anyway. But a different approach might have convinced them to vote in a way that a frequent stream of cute baby photos and appeals to their kind nature didn’t. (I even addressed this directly in one of my later posts aimed at the “late adopters/non-adopters” saying how I don’t like to be indiscriminate with my Likes either and rarely vote for contest appeals like this. But since I was essentially calling you out, would you mind doing it just this once?) 😉
- Like I said earlier, it’s not official but it’s looking like Shea might have ended up with the most Likes on her entry of anyone in the contest. But win or lose, the main thing is that it’s been a fun, learning experience!