When Facebook Contests Go Bad

A while back I entered my dog, Maybelle, in GNC's Healthy Pet, Happy Pet Photo Contest on Facebook. I had not previously "liked" GNC, but I did so for the purposes of entering the contest and possibly winning $5,000. I keep telling Maybelle she has to earn her keep, and this was the only way I could see that happening.

I uploaded her picture and filled out a bunch of information. Once I was done, I started sharing the contest with my Facebook friends and family, urging them to vote for Maybelle. This is where the contest went terribly awry. At first, we couldn't actually find my dog. It took about 24 hours before her picture appeared at all. When it finally did show up, I tried sharing the direct link to her profile. But no matter what I did (i.e., grab the link, use the Share button), anyone who clicked on it ended up somewhere other than Maybelle's voting page.

When I actually used the Share buttons on the page, anyone who followed the link ended up on an error page. When I just grabbed the direct link and shared it myself, people ended up on the main page and then had to search for Maybelle by name. As you can imagine, most people don't care enough about my dog to do that much work. You can't blame them--even if she is adorable.

Not only was I annoyed that I probably wasn't going to win the contest, but it got me to thinking about what happens when a Facebook contest just isn't executed properly. Of course, it's my job to think about these things, but I can't imagine I was the only one who was frustrated. People love sharing pictures of their pets, but when a contest makes it that hard, they're bound to get ticked off.

Hardly a month goes by that we here at EContent aren't reporting on the potential pitfalls of social media marketing. It seems so darn easy, but isn't it usually too good to be true when something seems that simple? I came away from the contest feeling frustrated and ready to unlike GNC. This, I'm guessing, is not what the company was hoping to get out of its social media marketing.

The devil, as they say, is in the details, and it's no different when it comes to social media marketing. One of the wonderful things about social media is how (relatively) easy it makes reaching out to the masses. In fact, it seems so deceptively simple that too many companies just sit an intern in front of a computer and say, "Have at it!"

In this particular case, we're talking about something more complicated than pushing content to a Facebook page. Contests are more ambitious endeavors and often require bringing in outside help to build the applications. But even the professionals get it wrong sometimes.
Actually, they get it wrong a lot.

Social media is still the Wild West of marketing territories. Everyone is an expert, because no one really is. Many of the professional social media marketing gurus out there focus on the wrong metrics. Concerned with only how many likes they can score for their clients, it apparently doesn't matter if their contests-or other campaigns-fall flat and infuriate the people they were meant to turn into fans. Any social media marketer worth his weight in Facebook coins will tell you that it doesn't matter how many people like your page if they're ignoring you.

But don't just take my word for it. EContent columnist Scott Abel--aka The Content Wrangler--wrote in a web column, "Who cares if 1,563 people clicked the ‘like' button on your Facebook page? Seriously. What does that mean, exactly? Come on, I challenge you to translate ‘likes' into something meaningful--sales, leads, something tangible."

Having people simply like your page and then proceed to ignore you is like having people walk into your store and walk out without buying anything. Sooner or later you'd think about what you're stocking in your store, and if people aren't actually interacting with and sharing your Facebook content, you should rethink what you're putting on your social shelves. 

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It's time to put a stop to the content marketing amateur hour on Facebook. Seriously. It's really embarrassing. Begging people to "like" your Facebook page is not only pathetic, it's a waste of time and money.It's also unprofessional. Who cares if 1,563 people clicked the "like" button on your Facebook page? Seriously. What does that mean, exactly? Come on, I challenge you to translate "likes" into something meaningful -- sales, leads, something tangible.You can't. Can you?