All new social networks and community-focused services face the same challenge: attracting a loyal user base. Having the latest and greatest facebook+twitter+flickr+whatever is great, but worthless without an active community of users. While there are many different ways to run a user acquisition campaign, this article will focus specifically on using a contest to attract new users. We’ll look at one example of a contest created to drive user acquisition, and we’ll examine the social media tools used to promote the campaign. Though we’ll focus on a contest, the promotional methods described here can easily be used for any user acquisition campaign.
As one of several user acquisition campaigns, my employer, matchmine, launched a weekly sweepstakes. A little background: the company is a media discovery network, helping partners recommend better content to their users based on the users’ media preferences. The contest was created to satisfy two goals: get users to register and send traffic to partner sites.
The Prize: The winner of each week’s sweepstakes is given the choice of either
- Two tickets to the next New England Patriots home game
- A football signed by any New England Patriots player
- A $100 New England Patriots Pro Shop gift certificate
After launching the contest on patriots.com, we identified several promotional opportunities to maximize our visibility and conversion rate.
1. Video- We shot a video that summarizes the contest, including how to create accounts on our partner sites. The video not only gave us an opportunity to succinctly explain a complex contest, it was also a great off site marketing tactic. We hosted the video on blip.tv, which is both a destination site and a publishing tool. End users go to to blip.tv to watch video, and publishers get free hosting from blip. Having the video hosted at blip gave us both a free place to host the video and a new audience that would not have been able to see the video if it was hosted in-house.
In the video, the presenter mentions the URL of the contest, and it appears on screen. This way, no matter where the video is viewed, viewers know where to go to sign up for the weekly sweepstakes.
Here’s the video:
2. Refer-A-Friend– Whenever possible, it makes sense to let the community itself expand your user base. In the context of a social network or messaging system, it makes sense for users to want to invite their friends, as they get more out of the service when people they know are there. But in a contest, inviting friends seems counterproductive: why ask your friends to sign up when each friend registration reduces your chance of winning?
We solved that problem with additional entries. Let’s use an example here. We’ll say that Frank signed up for the contest. Wanting to have the best shot at winning, he decided to invite 5 of his friends to sign up. When all 5 signed up, Frank got an additional 5 more entries. By shifting the incentive to invite more people to sign up, we gave all users motivation to promote the contest.
A great example of a social service that does this well is thesixtyone.com, a music discovery site. The site gives users points for actions like listening and rating music, and also gives incentives to invite friends to join.
3. email- Ah yes, email. When a user signs up for the contest, we immediately send a confirmation email, telling them how they can earn additional entry in the contest. Each week, we also send an email announcing the winner and reminding users how to gain additional entries.
4. Friends and Family- Once the contest was launched, the first promotional activity was what we called a “friends and family” round. We encouraged all employees to send a message to their contacts to tell them about the contest. This served dual purposes: First, it gave us a chance to receive feedback from people we know personally. Second, it helped us identify any glitches before promoting to the masses.
5. Twitter– Once we felt comfortable with the way the program was working, we encouraged employees to mention it on twitter, using a shortened URL from bit.ly. Using the bit.ly url, we were able to measure clicks from twitter, along with metrics on retweets and other twitter users using the same link.
6. Facebook- Our company set up a facebook page and group specifically for this purpose. We linked to the contest on both, and encouraged friends of the company to sign up and spread the word.
7. Company Blog– As soon as the contest was launched, I posted on the company blog, giving details on how to win. I also included the embedded video.
8. Bloggers- Finally, given the fact that we’d instituted a refer-a-friend feature, we decided to extend referrals to bloggers. We compiled a list of bloggers focused on the New England Patriots, and sent them a note about the promotion. If they were interested in posting about the contest, we would create a special URL for the blogger. That way, any reader that signed up for the contest as a result of clicking the link in their blog post would give the blogger an additional entry.
All of these promotional techniques can be utilized in any user acquisition program. Whether you have great prizes to attract the masses, or simply have a great product in need of a user base, using these social media tools is a great first step in driving user signups.