Up to 65% of customers claim to like/ follow/ connect with brands through social media for games, contests and promotions. Social media may have opened doors to a creating bigger, more interactive competitions and reaching a far wider audience. However, it is still a new area and, as a consequence, marketers are often breaking ground, experimenting and learning. But brands need to plan well. The risks can vary between embarrassment and lawsuits.

1)      Plan Ahead

Without proper planning your competition can land in legal difficulties or brand embarrassment. Don’t follow the example of Mountain Dew’s disastrous 2012 ‘Dub the Dew’ Campaign. The entire promotion had to shut when they were unable to prevent offensive names swamping the competition. Thinking through potential consequences and planning ahead can save your brand from a potential disaster.

2)      Protect Yourself

Terms and Conditions define the entire parameters of a competition. 2012 was the year of increasing action being taken over social media offences: from Lord McAlpine to The Leverson Inquiry. Further laws surrounding the use of social media are bound to follow. Keep T&C clear. Co-Op’s 2011 competition asking people to design a unique sandwich ran into trouble when a runner-up challenged whether the competition had been administered fairly. The complaint being that the winner breached T&C by receiving multiple votes from individuals. Co-Op, despite using cookie-based tracking to register votes, was unable to prove otherwise. The full case can be read at:

https://www.asa.org.uk/Rulings/Adjudications/2012/3/Co_operative-Group-Ltd/SHP_ADJ_178904.aspx

3)      Don’t let cheaters win

Vote rigging has become increasingly common. Professional “compers” or, even more worryingly, automatic competition entry websites are rife. For as little as £59.99 a year they enter thousands of competitions with no heed to company, brand or even prize. And, if the reviews are to be believed, they win too. Don’t damage brand perception by letting the cheaters win. Take simple precautions: well written terms and conditions will reduce the ability for automatic entry websites to submit excessive entries and, especially when combined with simple data analysis, can justify the disqualification of such entries.

In summary, competitions can add real value in social media. They have the potential to attract a large, new audience to your brand and engage fans and followers. However, you need to constantly consider reputational and legal risks well in advance. Don’t allow yourself to be caught unawares: prevention is always best.

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