CEO Tips: How to Create Social Media Promotions that Really Engage

Posted by Chelsea Hejny on 22 Jan 2015 / 0 Comment

Entering social media promotions has become part of the daily Internet experience for millions of users.

They are incredibly popular on Facebook and they are increasingly popular on other social media networks as well.

In fact, effective promotions on social media could be one way to help businesses achieve online success.

But what are the key elements needed to create engaging promotions on social media?

Recently, I had the honour to interview Jim Belosic from ShortStack, who in this episode of A Chat with The Masters gives us some tips on how to run promotions on social media that would keep users engaged with our brands.

Make sure you follow his advice.


Antonio: One of Shortstack’s features is its ability to customise layouts by editing CSS code. This allows you to create unlimited promotions on Social Media platforms with highly engaging visual content. However the creation process takes much longer than with simpler campaigns using pre-defined templates. Do you think users engage more with promotions that are visually ‘attractive’? Or their engagement is more affected by other factors, like: rules, prize, etc…?

Jim: Simple promotions can yield results that are just as valuable as campaigns that have more bells and whistles. So if branding or aesthetics rank lower on your totem poll of importance, then definitely keep your promotions simple! We have dozens of templates that look great right out of the box, and themes (color schemes and fonts) that are easy to use with the templates.

On the other hand, if you represent a big brand, or you’re with an agency that creates campaigns for clients, building Campaigns from scratch is often the way to go. Starting from scratch allows you to build more unique campaigns with custom branding elements. Users who need/want to match corporate branding can customize their campaigns using CSS, HTML, JavaScript, etc.

The flexibility is what our users love. And either way, over the years my team and I have found that a campaign’s success is not about its looks, but about other variables like how well you promote it, the incentive your users receive in exchange for their engagement and your campaign’s ease of use.

A: Which brings me to my next question: what is more important to boost user engagement: visual content with a ‘wow’ factor, or a set of rules that are fun and interesting?

J: Neither! A big part of what determines the success of a promotion or contest is the prize or incentive being offered. From years of analyzing what makes contests and promotions successful, we know that when companies offer rewards that are relevant to their audience, their contests do better. Remember a few years ago when everyone — and I barely exaggerate — was giving away an iPad? While plenty of those contests had lots of entrants, they attracted Apple/tech fans, not necessarily fans of the restaurant, retail shop, hotel, etc. that was hosting the promotion.

All that said, it’s important to take the time to learn what your customers want, like, and ultimately respond best to. One way to do this is to periodically implement and test new offers and engagement tactics against your online audience.

Starting in January of this year, my company ShortStack committed to hosting a giveaway every month for twelve months. Yes, we wanted to eat our own dog food — a term people like to use when talking about a business using its own product or service. But more important, we hosted a year of giveaways to learn more about what makes our audience tick.

When we planned out our year-long strategy, we made a list of the types of prizes and offers we wanted to share. Our objective was to use each month as an opportunity to test different prizes, offers and campaign ideas; then we’d measure the results of each month by engagement, number of entries, campaign views, money spent, etc. For example, one month we tried a partnered sweepstakes, giving away two free services, including our own. Another month we did a giveaway with multiple winners of a smaller prize.

After ten months of testing different campaigns and prizes, we know a heck of a lot more about our audience. We’ve also gained a ton of data (i.e., grown our email list and collected demographic feedback) along the way.

A: When thinking of promotions on Social Media, most companies consider only Facebook. However users are shifting towards other sites. Do you think running the same promotion in different networks is beneficial, or could make users feel tired of seeing the same content everywhere?

J: Contests and promotions may have gained a foothold on Facebook, but Facebook definitely isn’t the only game in town anymore. The social media space is increasingly fragmented, so instead of focusing on one channel, I’d recommend focusing on the campaign and making sure your users and potential users can get to it from anywhere.  When you create a hub, you can use all your social networks and assets, like your blog and email list, to drive as much traffic to your campaign as possible. The more opportunities you create for your campaign to be seen and shared, the better you’re setting your campaign up for success.

What’s more, it’s a more time- and cost-effective to build a single campaign and promote it on all your networks, rather than creating multiple niche campaigns for each channel.

A: Different demographic segments could have very different behaviours to promotions on social media. What do you recommend to do when it is necessary to run campaigns targeted to a mixed audience?

J: It’s challenging to try to cater your campaign to everyone who has ever been a customer, fan or follower. But, there are ways to make a campaign by targeting a mixed audience work. For instance, with ShortStack, you could build a campaign that automatically serves custom content based on time, date, or geographic location.

However, automation isn’t always the answer. I prefer to create a campaign and then “clone” it, making modifications for a specific audience. You can then direct your users to the appropriate campaign using targeted tweets or Facebook posts. Facebook has a built-in tool to allow you to target certain locations or languages. That way you can direct some of your audience to Promotion X at URL X, and some of your audience to Promotion Y at URL Y.

A: Many consultants suggest that running too many promotions on social media could generate an idea of ‘cheap’ brand among users. However, not running enough could backfire and make users focus on competitors. Is there a good ratio that would allow maintaining engagement whilst not being perceived as a promotional-only brand?

J: I would never recommend running promotional/contest campaigns day after day or even week after week. Yes, there are some companies that can get away with this (GoPro, for example, which gives away one set of its entire product line every day) but it’s not feasible for most brands. But there are others kinds of ongoing campaigns – surveys, countdowns, vote-only, etc. — you can run that will help you collect user-generated content, get feedback on new products, and even collect useful demographic data without shouting “Sale, Sale!” all the time.

A: Some companies use Facebook tabs also to provide non-promotional content. Considering that only 1-2% of followers return to a Page Timeline after following, and that tabs are not so evident anymore after the new Page layout; is it still worth it investing time and money to create non-promotional tabs?

J: Tabs/apps (which we actually now call “campaigns,” in case you missed that ;)) can certainly convert a user who has never visited your Timeline before into a fan.  If a user who visits your brand’s Page for the first time discovers something of value to them, like a special coupon code or access to an exclusive deal, within the first few seconds of landing on your Timeline, they’re more likely to click “Like.”

So although your campaigns aren’t getting much love from your current fans, they’re still assets to your page as they can help make your brand appear more valuable and like worthy to non-fans. When brands realize their existing fans rarely return to the brand’s page spontaneously, they get …. sad. But remember: It’s the campaign that matters! Go ahead and talk about your campaign on Facebook, but promote it everywhere else, too, and drive people to your campaign hub.

(P.S. My company has a really great blog post addressing this question – check it out here.)

Socially Stacked Blog Post

A: Anything else you would like to add or comment?

J: At ShortStack, we have an all-star content team. Feel free to download their awesome free social media resources or check out our company blog. Also, if anyone has any questions, shoot us a message at [email protected] any time.

This interview with Jim Belosic was originally featured as post on on January 9th, 2015.