Most of the people who will enter your social media giveaway enter a lot of online contests. They’re sweepstakers, they don’t care about your brand, and never will.

There are an infinite numbers of articles on the interwebs with advice on how to run a “successful social media contest” (just Google it) — from how to choose the right type of giveaway, to how to plan and execute the giveaway, to promotion and follow up. But what does success mean? Really. What does it mean? If your goal is to increase your Instagram followers by 10%, an Instagram contest is likely to do that, but are your new followers people who care about your brand? Are they even people who might care about your brand after you reel them in? Or is the relationship doomed from the start?

Confession: I have run social media contests that failed.

Did my clients grow their following? Yes.

Did the brand gain exposure? Yes.

Were the winners happy? Probably.

Does this constitute success? It depends on how you define success for your campaign.

The most important piece of your social media giveaway strategy is…to have one. The second most important element of this process is to define your goals and objectives. How are you going to measure success? Once you’ve answered this question, make sure your strategy is designed with your goals in mind.

I’m guessing that, if you've gone through this process (or are about to), your number one goal is to grow your fan following by getting in front of a new audience. If that’s your goal, it’s close, but not quite on point. Your goal should be to get in front of a new audience who is likely to become customers of your brand. This changes everything. Here’s why...

Sweepstakers enter a lot of contests. Some of them make living from it. They find contests in a few different ways:

  • By searching social networks (mostly Twitter) for keywords and hashtags, such as #win, #contest, and #giveaway. Most sweepstakers create Twitter accounts and email addresses solely for the purpose of entering contests.
  • By maintaining a go-to list of blogs to visit daily that make a practice of running regular giveaways.

Sweepstakers are not interested in your brand. They want to win something, and usually they don’t care what it is. They, most likely, won’t convert to true fans, loyal advocates or even customers. Have they followed you, Liked your page and subscribed to your newsletter? Yes, because they had to. Did your follower count go up? Of course it did. Will you ever hear from them again. Not likely.

So what can you do to reach your goal? Remember what your goal was…to get in front of a new audience who is likely to become customers of your brand. Although there is no sure-fire way to prevent sweepstakers from entering your giveaway, here are a few tips that will help procure quality participants:

  • Don’t run a giveaway: Maybe a giveaway isn’t right for your brand. Consider creative digital marketing campaigns or targeted Facebook advertising. This may take some experimenting to figure out what works for your target audience.
  • Require engagement: Although it’s important to make giveaways easy to enter, you may not want to make it too easy. Offer a prize that people want and require participation for qualification. This is one of my favorites from Tillamook Cheese.
  • Focus on local: If your prize is a trip, anyone can enter (no matter where they’re located) and use the prize. But if your prize is local (spa, dinner and a show) and you geo promote it, it’s likely to dissuade sweepstakers from entering because they can’t use the prize. Even if you’re a regional, national or global business, you can offer local prizes. It may require more research and content creation, but it’s likely to procure more relevant fans.

There are several types of giveaways: contest, sweepstakes and lotteries. Make sure you know what you’re running and what the legalities are in your state.

Anytime you run a campaign (whether it be a contest, advertising campaign or otherwise) for your brand that helps grow your social media fanbase, don’t lose them. Plan out a content strategy for when your campaign is over that keeps new followers curious, engaged and wanting more. And don’t forget to track and record your results so that you can use that data to inform future campaigns.

Have you run an online giveaway that you’ve considered successful? Tell me about it!