Social media promotions can be a lot of fun, especially when you can see the results in real time. And a great way to get people excited about the promotion is to make it a game. I recently encountered a photo-tagging promotion at a large sporting event, but when I asked about it I was essentially told that the promotion was for other people, not for me. Here’s what happened.
Race Day vendors have captive audience
Earlier this month I was at the NU Hartford Marathon, racing in the half-marathon (because I’m only half crazy, nyuk-nyuk!). This race is a huge deal, with 15,000 runners and all of their friends and family cheering them on. The race headquarters was set up in a park where lots of vendors, sponsors, and charity groups had set up displays. For direct marketing to runners, you can’t get much better than being at the pre-race gathering place/finish line, can you?
When I arrived that morning, I realized that I had forgotten to bring lip balm. Now, I am crazy for lip balm. I have tubes of the stuff in my purse, my computer bag, my car, and stashed around in various locations at home because I can’t stand having chapped lips. I could sense that my lips were drying out, so before the race began I walked among the vendors, hoping that one of them was giving away promotionally-labeled lip balm.
How to blow off potential customers
At last, I found my vendor! She was busy setting up her booth, putting out signage and arranging dozens of beautiful tubes of lip balm on her table. I went up to her and asked “May I have one of those, please?” Without missing a beat, she said “No, those are for people playing our online game.” She then turned away and continued working on her display. So off I shuffled, empty handed. Later on, I circled back to her booth and read the sign she’d set up. It turns out that her company was sponsoring a photo-tagging game. They were looking for photos with various themes such as “team spirit” and “strength.” If you uploaded them to Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter with her company’s hashtag, you were in the running to win valuable prizes. Including lip balm, apparently.
Do you see the problem here? She gave off the vibe that the players for her game had already been selected and that I’d missed the cutoff, making me unqualified to participate in her promotion. But that wasn’t the case because by reading the sign I learned that it was an ongoing promotion that people could enter on race day. By shutting me down immediately, she ensured that I would never, ever buy her product. Was that lip balm really worth as much as shunning a potential customer that belongs to her target demographic?
My main message to you is that if you are conducting a promotion at a major event, make sure that everyone can join in and that everybody in your booth has an open, welcoming attitude. Don’t dismiss people out of hand, find out more about what they want and tell them how to participate.
That’s not to say that closed promotions are a bad thing. They can be valuable because they imply that the participants belong to some kind of elite group, apart from the masses, and that they’re being rewarded for their loyalty. But when you’re at a public event, your promotions had better be public and your event staff better know it. Otherwise, the only thing you’ll be promoting is that your company isn’t looking for new customers.