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The Most Successful Viral Social Media Contest I’ve Ever Seen

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A little over 3 years ago a small ski company caught my eye. Based in Salt Lake, Bluehouse Ski Company was less than 6 months old but already had an awesome following. They hand delivered skis to locals, were legitimately community driven, and were doing some unique things with marketing that were paying off.

A few months ago they wanted to hit 5,000 fans on Facebook…who doesn’t. Sitting around 2,000 fans it seemed like a tall order but they were confident. The contest was simple, a pair of free skis to a lucky winner. Nothing new so far, you’ve seen contests like this a million times, but one tiny tweak set this contest on fire and helped them hit 5,500 fans in less than 4 days.

The System
The tweak was this, instead of entering yourself by clicking “like”, the only way to enter the contest was to be nominated by a friend. When they drew the winner, if that winner wasn’t a “fan” of Bluehouse by clicking the “like” link, they drew another name.

The Beauty
That may seem simple, but remember, the only way a friend can nominate you is by writing on Bluehouse’s wall. The only way you can write on a wall is by “liking” that page. At first, I thought there was no way this contest would work. If you have to be nominated, how will you get people to nominate you?

The Results
Instead of trying to find someone to nominate them, everyone started nominating someone else. Who, in turn, nominated them back. Before long hundreds of nominations were pouring in. As people wrote on Bluehouse’s wall, this event was showing up in their feeds visible to friends and family. The contest took off.

Now What
I suppose the temptation would be to simply copy what Bluehouse did and see what happens, and, I would support that in moderation. This is a clever tactic that worked well and is easily duplicated. I doubt any of you feel guilty for offering 2-1 passes or early season pass discounts, even though you didn’t come up with the idea. But let’s look at a few principles behind this contest and see if that doesn’t spark some ideas for our own. If I had to break down the critical factors they would be:

  • The prize was extremely valuable and useful
  • Entries required someone else to get your name in the hat
  • That “someone else” had to “like” the page to enter someone
  • Entries were visible on every entrant’s wall feed

Got any ideas?

UPDATE (11/11/10):Looks like this contest doesn’t quite fit the latest (last year) update of the Facebook promotion guidelines. Check the comments for details.

The workaround? Use an off-site system where you can nominate people but still require them to be fans which is, apparently, within the rules. You lose the appearance of each nomination in the feeds of the nominator but posting frequent updates and lists of nominees on the Fan Page wall might help keep the viral factor up a bit.

About Gregg & SlopeFillers
I've had more first-time visitors lately, so adding a quick "about" section. I started SlopeFillers in 2010 with the simple goal of sharing great resort marketing strategies. Today I run marketing for resort ecommerce and CRM provider Inntopia, my home mountain is the lovely Nordic Valley, and my favorite marketing campaign remains the Ski Utah TV show that sold me on skiing as a kid in the 90s.

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