This post is sponsored and written by Formstack, an easy-to-use online form building solution.

One in three universities find that social media is more effective at attracting prospective students than traditional marketing strategies. That said, social media contests are a great way to increase your university’s visibility. Too often, though, marketers are disappointed when a giveaway does not seem to result in valuable leads. While contests are a great way to add some fun to your marketing strategy, they still need to be executed tactfully to bring value to your university’s efforts.

Consider these key points if your team wants to execute a contest that translates into an increase in actual leads for your university.

Choose an Attractive Prize

It might seem obvious, but the better the prize, the better the buzz. If the desire for the prize is greater than the perceived inconvenience of entering the contest, you will gain significantly more entries. Some social media users think nothing of entering any contest that comes along, and those people tend to lose credibility with their followers. They are also less likely to have much interest in your university, leading to lost opportunities down the road. University-specific prizes help to narrow down potential entrants.

Target Your Audience

Big numbers aren’t everything; fewer targeted leads are better than many uncommitted followers. Better targets are more likely to enter higher-value contests that line up with their interests. When considering your goals for the contest, think about where your targeted audience hangs out. As more and more Gen-X-ers and Boomers take to Facebook, the younger crowd is seeking other social outlets. If you want to reach millennials, consider using Twitter or Instagram for your contest. These sites also allow you to use hashtags, which you can customize to the contest or event that you are promoting.

Be Share-able

If your goal is simply to increase social media engagement, a multi-platform contest is more efficient and effective. Each member of your target audience has hundreds of friends and followers on social media. If your contest requires shares, retweets, and tags, you can increase visibility with their friends.

Seventy-five percent of prospective students check Facebook at least once per day, making it a great place to include shareable content as a part of your contest. Use high-quality, branded images that stand out from the feed. Users tend to respond to images more than text, so strong graphics are a must. Some successful contests offer bonuses for daily entries, meaning your entrant’s friends and followers have a higher chance of seeing and remembering your brand.

Follow the Rules

Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have frequently-changing rules regarding social media contests and promotions. To protect yourself and your followers, be sure that you are abiding by each company’s terms of service. Alternatively, use a software program to help you work around social media restrictions. Some online form builders allow you to link to external webpages to run your contests. Another reason to consider working outside of the bounds: as Facebook continues to increase restrictions on business activity, contests might become less and less effective.

Collect Data Properly and Nurture Your Leads

After all this work, the last thing you want to do is lose a warm lead. Forty-five percent of high school students have been influenced by personal engagement efforts by a university. This is where supporting software like an online form builder can be a big help. You can link to an easy-to-submit online form; as a bonus, online form builders can help you manage the data you collect from contests. Some even integrate with email marketing programs, making it easy to communicate with students long after the contest is over.

Be up-front with entrants and inform them of your intent to subscribe them to your email marketing. Many will happily join, which will gain you more loyal fans. Don’t just award a prize and do nothing with the information you have collected: nurturing your leads will ensure that you maintain a relationship long after your contest ends.

How do you build buzz for your school contests? Even more, how do you nurture those leads after the contest is over? Let us know in the comments!


About the Author:

Laura Thrasher is a writer at Formstack, an online form building platform that makes it easy to capture and manage data. Based in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, she taught English at the University of Alabama and enjoys sharing what she knows through speaking and writing. She is originally from the Midwest and enjoys good restaurants, cheesy jokes, and running the occasional half marathon. Follow her on Twitter (@lauranav) or Google+.


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