Social Media Contests: Good or Bad Idea?

photo 2A few months ago, I entered a contest on Twitter to win a free spa getaway at the lovely Mayflower Grace in Washington, Connecticut. Excited and shocked to learn I was the winner, (I rarely win things) I immediately shared my excitement on social media.

When we arrived at the hotel, we were greeted by friendly staff, and escorted to our beautiful room with a breath-taking garden view. Everything was exquisite, from the delicious food to the out-of-this world spa. At dinner that night, we were asked by our waiter what we did to deserve to win such a great prize. “I think I entered my email address and retweeted something,” I responded. The waiter looked less than impressed, expecting my answer to be a bit more long-winded and involved. His response got me thinking – what is the true value of a contest on social media? Let’s start with the benefits. While I’m not sure if this was intentional or not, Grace Hotels chose a winner that happens to live about 1.5 hours from the property – perfect for a weekend getaway for not only me, but all my local friends and family who I shared my experience with. If it was intentional, well played, Grace Hotels. If it was random, it was a perfect coincidence. As a result of the contest, I posted about my experience on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram multiple times, reaching all of my friends and followers. I raved about it all and shared photos, reaching a group of people that may not otherwise know about the property. I returned from my trip relaxed and rejuvenated, ready to tell everyone how fantastic it was, and ready to plan my next trip to their spa with my friends and family.

Now onto the downfalls. There are obvious costs associated with the prizes given away during a contest. In this case, the Mayflower Grace covered the costs of our room, dinner, and spa service for two – which isn’t cheap, even if you factor in the fact that it was their off-season. The contest organizers gambled on the fact that I would tell people in my network about their fantastic hotel and perhaps return again myself. They were right about both of these things, but I could have easily walked away from it telling no one about my experience and never returning again…and I’m sure there are people out there who would do just that.

photo 1So what’s the verdict? Are contests a good idea for your business? My vote is yes – go for it. The Mayflower Grace spa will now have a new customer for life, they’ve reached a network of people that wouldn’t have otherwise been reached, and they received one more excellent review online which can impact someone’s future decision. Sure, it’s a gamble. But if you’re looking to increase brand awareness, gain potential future business, and make someone very happy in the process, it may just be worth the investment.