• Heidi Aho

Why should you include Instagram giveaways in your marketing strategy and how to do so

Should you run an Instagram giveaway? Strategy is the key to figure out whether to run a giveaway on Instagram, and to supercharging your giveaway so that you gain the maximum amount of relevant followers, increase your social presence, acquire leads for your business and increase sales.

Should I run giveaways on Instagram?

Should you be doing a giveaway in the first place? Find the answer by asking the question: why did you set up your business?

Do you want people to know who you are, and like you enough to buy your products/services? The answer is probably yes, but bet your bottom dollar your competitor would answer that too. Everyone's trying to get their name out there, but for small to medium sized businesses marketing can be the thing you do in between the other stuff. Especially when things get busy, you might be doing marketing in short bursts whenever you have a spare moment.

So then why are we starting with strategy and not just getting down to the good stuff, the how-tos? Surely that's a time waste? Well, it's going to become clear by the time we’re done here that getting started without the strategy bit, well, that's the time waster. If you don’t think about the big picture you might as well not be doing a giveaway at all.

Never run a giveaway without linking back to strategy

Marketing strategies aren't just a document that used to gather dust in a folder and now gathers pixie dust up in the Cloud. Rather, they're a golden opportunity for you to take the time to get to know your audience. The magic is that when you do put your audience first, more people like them will be drawn to you too. Which equals momentum and more sales!

To put it bluntly, if the way you promote yourself doesn't line up with why your business exists and what it's meant to be doing, you're leaving it to dumb luck at best and scoring an own goal at worst, with a whole lot of wasted opportunity in the middle.

But how does this relate to giveaways/sweepstakes on Instagram? Even small giveaways are an investment in time and stock. If you line up your giveaway right the first time around you'll be able to see what the hype behind Instagram competitions as a marketing tactic is all about. Which will inspire you to even more Instagram sweepstake success stories.

What is a marketing strategy and why does it matter?

How you plan on telling the world about your business and its products now, in two years time, in 5 years time, is called a marketing strategy (in its simplest form). It sits within your business' strategy about what kind of products you make/services you give and why. It's very likely your company already has a business strategy.

But shouldn't that be enough? Can't we just use the business strategy as a guiding light and start getting the word out there, think on your feet?

Well, that would be kind of like keeping your google maps zoomed out when you're cycling to a farmhouse on holiday. Yes, it's still showing you where you're going in the form of a blue dot, but it would be a whole lot easier if you could see the crossings. Especially if you're running late.

Marketing strategies provide those specifics when it comes to you publishing content about your business. They make sure you're thinking about your competitors and how to make your business better than theirs (competitive advantage). They help you plan out campaigns into the future, so marketing doesn't get squeezed when things get busy. Marketing strategy also means you stay focused on what you want to achieve, so that nothing you do is just for the sake of it or because it “looks good.”

Where are you now, where are you going, and how are you going to get there? These are big questions that a marketing strategy answers, in a way that lines up with your business' goals. Given we're going to have to get to the giveaways at some point soon, this won't be a comprehensive guide into how to write a marketing strategy. But here’s an outline:

  1. What is your target market/target audience?

  2. What is your value proposition (what they'll get when they buy your product)

  3. Your organizational resources and skills

  4. Opportunities and risks

  5. Purpose of marketing activity

  6. How you know you've gotten to where you want to be (your key marketing metrics and performance indicators)

As mentioned, your marketing goals and activity should line up to your company's overall strategy and purpose. For example, if the people who are most likely to buy your products are 50 years and older, then growing a Snapchat following might not be the best idea.

Finding your audience

Fast forward to you sitting there with your marketing strategy, ready to go. Now that you know who your target audience is, it's time to find your people and tell them why your product meets their needs.

But to find them, we need to know where they spend their time.

Back in the day, this might have been the village square. You wouldn't have set up your bakery on the peak of a mountain abandoned for its bone-chilling winds. Not too long ago, people may have found stuff out in their local newspaper or by word of mouth.

These days, they find things online.

And more specifically, on their phones.

In 2017, people spent up to 4 hours a day on their phones in the States (conservative estimates of well over 2 hours a day). In the UK, it's over 2 hours. And thanks to the new iOS update, a lot more of us may be realizing how much time we spend on our phones.

And what exactly are they doing on their phones? They're on social media connecting with the people and brands that mean the most to them.

Instagram is one of those channels, with 1 billion monthly active users in June 2018. The type of audiences that like to spend time there include Gen Z and millennials, with half of Instagram's user base being 18-29 years old in the States.

Why should businesses market themselves on Instagram?

Ok, so people are spending a lot of time on Instagram. But let's say your business doesn't have an Instagram account. Why should you go through the effort of making one and posting on it, let alone doing a giveaway?

Let's start with the nature of the time people spend on Instagram. It's a very visual platform, where people scroll through pictures and are encouraged to like the ones that give them a dopamine rush of laughter, connection, or beauty. Lots of the time people go there to relax or forget about the worries their day has thrown at them. That makes it one of the most magazine-like social media channels out there (Pinterest and Tumbler are others) which, by the way, used to be the meccas of selling consumer items. 60% of people said they learned about a new product or service on Instagram.

It's also why 98% of fashions brands have an Instagram account. Given how visual Instagram is, it can act as a shop front for your brand, where you introduce potential customers to new products and new arrangements and ways to use your product.

Instagram is also a great way to reach out to new people, even if they haven't 'bought' your magazine yet and followed you. You can do that through hashtag research for your posts, Instagram stories with a location tag/hashtag, and advertising. But more on Instagram tactics later.

Instagram also has the added benefit of allowing you to learn more about your audience. By following them yourself or just keeping tabs on your followers every once in a while, you can gain insights about their lifestyle that will help you promote your products better, or maybe even develop new products.

You can then use that knowledge to have conversations with customers and connect them with content they want to see and share (aka content marketing).

Last but not least, even though Facebook owns Instagram as of 2012, Instagram hasn't been affected by Facebook's algorithm changes of early 2018. That change saw businesses be pushed aside by a more family and friends-focused formula and having to pay for most exposure they get from audiences.

This, however, is not the case on Instagram. Businesses can have their most popular content appear organically on Instagram's feed. Instagram also boasts a 'shop' function, which appeared in March 2018 in the UK and acknowledges the fact that people do buy things on Instagram.

How can I promote my business on Instagram?

So that's the good news: Instagram is a popular channel, people spend a lot of time on there, and people shop there. The bad news is that you're not the only one in the world who's realized this.

95 million pictures and videos go up on Instagram every day. This means your post isn't guaranteed to make it onto the feed of someone who's scrolling through Instagram, even if they're your follower. Instagram's algorithm prioritizes engaging content, populating people’s scroll down the block with a mix of content from different points in time, whether from friends, family, and businesses they like. Only your most engaging content is going to make it onto the coveted spot in front of your audience's eyeballs on their commute home.

There are multiple ways to win that attention. The first is to create content that's so engaging that your audience loves it. The second is to pay for people's attention by running ads. But this can be seen as disruptive, and so the audience match needs to be on point as does the message. Influencer marketing is another form of Instagram promotion that works well because the people following the influencer have a vested interest in caring about what they say. And you'll have to pay a pretty penny for it.

Why are giveaways the most engaging type of content on Instagram?

Giveaways, contests, sweepstakes and freebies on Instagram are one option among many. Giveaways, also known as sweepstakes (the legal term for this type of promotion), randomly choose a winner among those who entered, handing out a prize to the winner. This is different from a competition or contest where you judge the best submission according to a set of criteria.

If your aim is to build connections with your audience so that they feel something for your business and products, a great place to start is a form of connection almost all of us have experienced before: receiving a gift. Societies have seen people give each other gifts for millennia because it forms a bond. When you get given a gift, it often comes with the feeling of wanting to give one back in return. In a way, you're 'in debt' to that person in the form of gratitude. It builds a bond of trust and spreads goodwill. It's also the reason why charity fundraising packs you get through the door may contain a free pen or free stickers: you're more likely to donate (“give back”) if there's a gift in the pack.

People love getting free stuff. It makes them feel better. Sometimes, there you are innocently scrolling away on Instagram when you see an annoying post from one of your friends that gets you down about a recent setback in your own life. In this context, businesses that provide audiences with an opportunity to win something also give them the chance to feel like a winner.

It's no surprise then that giveaways are some of the more engaging content businesses can place up on Instagram. Companies that hold giveaways on Instagram grow 70% faster on the platform than companies who don't.

Why relevant giveaways are the only giveaways worth doing

Have I convinced you that running a giveaway on Instagram might be a good idea for your business? The answer to that question should be: NO! Because this is where all that strategy talk comes in.

The ugly truth on the beautiful platform that is Instagram is this: if you do your giveaway without aligning it to your marketing strategy and goals, you might not need to bother doing it at all.

Giveaways, just like any other tactic on social media, should be done to meet your company goals. Giveaways should never be just about growing your Instagram following. They should be about increasing your relevant Instagram following. Thereby extending your reach into your target market.

Where giveaways become very interesting is when people who you reached thanks to your giveaway buy another one of your products, maybe the next time you launch a product on Instagram. But there's little chance in you doing that if the thing people could win in your sweepstake had nothing to do with your company. They may have wanted to win a watch, but what reason does that give them to stay for your soap? They're allergic! That's an unfollow. And a waste of time.

Dive back into your strategy and that target audience analysis you did. What are they thinking, what do they like? What would cheer them up on their commute home, what would be a logical precursor to them one day buying your products?

If you're stuck, search for a handful of people online that belong to your target group and have a snoop. What kind of products feature on their profiles? Do you have a friend or colleague or neighbor who belongs to the target audience? Brainstorm potential giveaways with them. More on prizes later, but right now let's just underline that strategies aren't meant to gather dust. Instead, they're a compass that will help you optimize everything you do on the marketing front, including the swanky giveaway.

Because you've been warned: if you aren't thinking about your audience first, you're not getting the business benefits you want.

How to use strategy to supercharge your giveaway

How you want to be positioning your business as a brand or your businesses many brands will determine the value and frequency of the giveaway. If your product is a luxury, then giveaways should be high value and sparse (remember that demand/supply diagram from high school? The lower the supply and higher the demand, the higher the price! Which is also why luxury brands burn their stock, by the way).

Product/service launches are also a good thing to consider. Given the attention giveaways reap and how popular they are, and the fact that they're product-centered, it would make sense to do one whenever you launch a new product.

You could also do a giveaway to tide you through the off season. Are you a stand up paddleboarding company? A giveaway in February will get your audience thinking about the summer and all the SUP surfing they want to do.

Don't trample on strategy when considering partnering up for a giveaway. More practical tips on how to do this later on, but it deserves mention now. Even if the partnership is lucrative, it's worthwhile reconsidering it if the prize they're offering isn't relevant to your audience. It hurts to say no to an offer, but the time you spend on that giveaway could be better spent on something that is more relevant to your business. Because (broken record much?) it's all about putting your customer and their needs first.

Some of you may have figured out that an Instagram giveaway isn't for you at this moment in time. The rest, with feet itching to get on with things, wait no further! Let's get cracking on the rules you need to follow to give away free stock on the pretty little platform we call Instagram.


Heidi is a writer living in Helsinki via the Netherlands, Hong Kong, and England. Putting thoughts to words gives me life, so please do get in touch! @notheidibutheyd

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