When we first saw the Social Madness competition hosted by The Business Journals, we were happy to sign up. Helping companies use social media more effectively is part of our mission, and we do a pretty good job of it, if we say so ourselves. So we thought this would be a great chance to demonstrate how we continually expand our reach and influence by employing good social media practices. (We’re also pretty fond of the Portland Business Journal, and rely on it for excellent local business reporting.)
Today, our marketing manager, Kristina Weis, got an email from the contest that made her decide to withdraw our name from the contest. Everyone in our office agreed and supported her decision.
Here’s the part of the email that seemed so un-social:
Call us purists, but we think a social media competition should be based on which companies most improve their reach and engagement during the contest period. And they should accomplish that by using social media in the way that’s most effective for a business: Offer content that’s genuinely interesting to your audience, and engage in real conversations with real people – in public, where your audience can watch you.
Somehow, the idea of winning points by asking your friends and followers to vote for you on the contest site – and placing a badge on your site, linking to the contest site, to encourage more votes – doesn’t seem very social. It feels more like link-building, or like pay-per-click advertising. It feels especially like a branding campaign for Spark Business from Capital One, the contest sponsor.
Don’t get me wrong – we’re all for companies promoting themselves online with innovative new tactics. We just think a social media competition should encourage the best practices that make social media most effective for business.
Update, 5 June:
Egg on face. It turns out that the top three national winners of the Social Madness competition will each get the chance to direct some donated cash to the charity of their choice. That feature of the competition isn’t mentioned in the official rules, and it certainly wasn’t mentioned in the email that Kristina received after signing us up. In fact, we didn’t find out about the charitable component until a company we know and love, Outlier Solutions, told us that’s part of the reason they entered – that and their hope of winning more followers while having fun.
We searched for a while and finally found the charitable donations mentioned in an article published by the Philadelphia Business Journal. Now we’re feeling all curmudgeonly and embarrassed. Sigh.
But we still feel that our points about a social media competition being more – well, social – are correct.
Aliza Earnshaw is vice president of business development at AboutUs. A former business reporter and editor, Aliza still indulges her love of great writing and working with creative writers while pursuing business opportunities for AboutUs.