Contests are a great way to grow your fanbase and increase engagement online. When planned and executed correctly, a contest can help you expose new listeners to your music, boost action and excitement from your fans, and convert interest into album and ticket sales.
Done poorly, however, they can end up logistical nightmares that cost more in time, energy, and sanity than they deliver in results. Here are our top three tips for musicians looking to run a successful online contest.
Define Your Ideal Results
Before you start planning, ask yourself what exactly you hope to achieve. If all goes well, what happens? Grab a pen and paper, and write down your answers to the following five questions.
Who are your contestants?
For musicians, successful contests engage current fans and help target new listeners. Which core group in your fanbase represents the ideal contestants? And what are their interests?
What do you want them to do?
This depends on what’s working for you and your fanbase. Provide incentive for people to follow you on social media or sign up for your email list. Encouraging contestants to share their entry with friends is a great way to spread your reach.
When will the contest take place, and for how long?
Think strategically. Launch before an important one-off show, nationwide tour, album release, or other major event to funnel the attention generated from your contest towards sales, and give participants a natural next step to take.
Where will people enter?
Are you hosting the contest on social media or on your website? Your fans should be able to enter easily and without signing up for a new service. Enable people to enter natively rather than making them click away to another platform or site. The easier you make it for them to enter (minimizing hassle, time, and overthinking), the more people will do it purely out of curiosity!
Why should people enter?
Because the prize is awesome, obviously… but what else? Beyond downloads, tickets, and merchandise, what would motivate a contestant to want to know more about your band?
Last but definitely not least:
How will you stay connected after the contest ends?
Encourage contestants to submit their email address as well as follow and like your social media pages. The more you can connect, the better.
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Keep It Simple
An ideal contest is easy to enter and even easier to manage. Although, that doesn’t mean sitting back and waiting for submissions to come in! For best results, fans should be able to enter in a few clicks, and you should be able to select a winner and organize entry data quickly and easily.
Don’t attempt to collect, organize, and manage a contest with a spreadsheet you created yourself. We have the technology! There are plenty of contest and giveaway apps to choose from, but for musicians on a budget, I recommend checking out Gleam.io and Rafflecopter.
Here’s a screenshot of one of the menus in Gleam.io. Everything is laid out for you, somewhat like running a Mailchimp email campaign.
Use the Contest Momentum
This is the biggest mistake I see people make with online contests, and unfortunately, it happens all the time. After it’s all over, musicians who have just gained a ton of new followers suddenly go quiet. You’ve been given the microphone and put in front of a whole new audience — it’s time to show them what you’ve got!
Once your contest is over, start reposting some of your most popular content. Advertise upcoming events and crowdfunding campaigns. Tease sneak peeks of your new work, or show off photography and album artwork. Whatever you decide to fill your social media content calendar with, make it your own.
A successful contest has clear goals, is easy for both the contestant and contest creator to use, and works to kickstart momentum in a long-term marketing plan. But don’t just take my word for it — get out there and start planning your own!
Jessica Hackett is a writer, marketing consultant and content strategist who helps artists and creatives find their voice on the internet. When she's not drafting campaigns with clients, leading workshops or scribbling ideas onto the backs of old receipts, she's hiking around America and eating burgers. A former 5th grade clarinet star and reformed college musical theater diva, her tastes have evolved to include exclusively sad, strange female vocalists and Missy Elliot.