Blog - Written by on Monday, July 20, 2009 12:35

Contests and Giveaways Move To New, Fast Terrain of Twitter

The Wall Street Journal
By DANA MATTIOLI

On July 1, Moonfruit was a below-the-radar Web-site building company with 400 followers on Twitter. Just a few days later, the London-based company had acquired 47,000 followers on the micro-blogging site, traffic to its home page had increased by 1,300% and the word “moonfruit” was popping up all over the Internet.

The 52-employee firm says its new-found recognition was the result of a Twitter contest that went viral, and it’s a marketing tactic increasingly being used by small businesses.

Online retailer Chickdowntown works to engage customers through giveaways offered to those who follow the owner’s Twitter comments.
While companies have used traditional contests for years to generate buzz, a Twitter contest is superior because “retweeting” spreads brand awareness even quicker, says Dan Zarrella, a social-media consultant based in Boston. Case in point: for three days “#Moonfruit” was on Twitter’s trending topics list, which tracks the most popular words on the site.

“People like free stuff and you can often motivate them to do a lot for it,” Mr. Zarrella says.

Social media and marketing experts say the combination of freebies and Twitter’s inherently viral nature is particularly powerful in building a name.

To celebrate Moonfruit’s 10-year anniversary, marketing director Wendy White thought up a contest where Twitterers could win one of 10 Apple MacBook Pros over a seven-day period. The cost of entry was a creative “tweet” — a 140-character or shorter message on Twitter — that included “#Moonfruit.”

Moonfruit announced the contest on its site and also tweeted it to its followers as well as Ms. White’s 300 followers. In addition to creating a much bigger following, Ms. White says trials of the firm’s products have more than tripled and paying customers have increased by 20%.

Online retailer Chickdowntown.com sporadically lists items and gift certificates that followers can try to win by responding to owner Amy Reed’s tweet about why they like the item. People who follow Ms. Reed also receive a friendship bracelet and are entered to win a $500 gift certificate to the site that’s given out every few days, an added incentive. Most recently, Ms. Reed launched a 100-day “Twilight” jacket giveaway that requires contestants to follow her and then message her saying why they want the jacket or love Robert Pattinson, the lead actor in the “Twilight” movie.

Since May, when Ms. Reed began tweeting regularly, she says her following has grown to 4,100 from 300 with on average 200 new people following her each day. Twitter followers account for 5% of traffic to her site whereas her email blasts, which reach 100,000 people, account for 4% of traffic.

Clickbooth, a publisher affiliate network with roughly 100 employees based in Sarasota, Fla., is also enjoying the success of a Twitter contest. Clickbooth, whose parent company is IntegraClick, teamed up with blogger John Chow to begin a two-month contest in June. In order to enter the contest, contestants must follow both Clickbooth and John Chow and then retweet a post.

As Clickbooth reaches different milestones in terms its following, they will give out more prizes. Eric Schechter, Clickbooth’s social media manager, says since the contest launched there has been a spike in Twitter traffic and they have brought in new publishers.

Gaining recognition through a contest, however, is just the beginning for a small business. Moonfruit realizes that it’s buzz may be short-lived — its followers have shrunk to 34,000 — and must act now to engage its new followers. Ms. White says: “It’s important we keep communication with them going.” Similarly, Mr. Schechter goes to great lengths to keep his followers engaged. “I try to have a one-on-one approach with followers and use it as a customer service touch point,” he says. Although he says it’s likely that some followers will “unfollow” once the contest concludes, he plans to cultivate the ones that remain.

For companies looking to replicate successful Twitter contests, Mr. Zarrella says part of Moonfruit’s approach is worth noticing. The company chose MacBooks and later iPod touches as its prizes, which resonate with potential clients and reinforce the firm’s high-tech image.

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