AMC Theatres ran a compelling contest in which they were to going to give away a free year of movies to four different people who tweeted with them during Comic Con 2011. The barrier to entry was extremely low. Contestants had to use the hashtag #amcsdcc in a tweet sharing a favorite movie memory from their life. In theory this would make the contest simple to enter and would ensure high volumes of participation.
The very low barrier to entry resulted in a response of over 200 tweets on the first day alone. On Friday, the second day, they only had 100 tweet entries, including an ambitious potential winner who was posting close to 50 times from one account. This person was filling up the hashtag stream, and became all the more noticeable because no one else was tweeting entries into the contest.
@free posts about the offer at 5:04 PM and within the next ten minutes, 39 @free readers have posted entries. By 5:28 PM I see so many familiar faces posting entries that I tweet that we are blowing up this previously dormant hashtag. 70 entries in 24 minutes. Two hours later and there are over 400 tweets on the #amcsdcc hashtag, and over 75% of the tweets are from @free readers.
@free readers were not only entering the contest, but they were sharing this offer with friends. @free’s tweet got close to 20 retweets and the AMC contest tweet I linked to got an additional 20 tweets from @free readers. As the @free audience continued to spread the word, they also used the general ComicCon hashtag #sdcc. Several other Twitter accounts including a prominent local San Diego TV station that had a ComicCon only account took notice. They then retweeted the post to their 800 plus Comic Con audience. Four hours later the hashtag was still getting used every two minutes. While only 25% of tweets were from @free readers by that point, the burst of close to 1000 tweets was seeded with one tweet from @free and the responses that came after it.
Reason for the success of this wave of tweets included:
- A very compelling prize of free movies for a year.
- Lower barrier to entry. Just have to use a hashtag.
- Seeding the campaign with an @free tweet so a large and highly engaged audience would participate.
- The seeding led to many entries based on the initial @free tweet. In addition, the cross use of the Comic Con hashtag (#sdcc) that AMC originally used help spread the contest to a broader audience that could not help but notice the high volume of tweets that were involved while following this hashtag. This led to interest in checking out AMC via RT’s in the stream and then prompted RT’s reaching the original desired audience who was aware of Comic Con.
Great prizes, but no reason to share
@free readers served an important role by spreading this contest, however this is not an isolated event. On the day before, one of our own contest tweets (just one of them) achieved 944 unique retweets as tracked by Crowdbooster.
The term “viral” is thrown around far too much, but @free is able to achieve it to a degree by building viral elements into our contest and having the wide appeal of an account that is focused on providing free.
AMC suffered from a lack of viral elements. The barrier to entry was low, the prize was great, but there was nothing built into the contest to help share the message. Another person would have to be interested enough to look at the hashtag and figure out what the contest rules were. AMC did pay to have their tweet promoted via the Twitter ad system, so those using the hashtag would find it. But the lack of a viral element hurt them in keeping the momentum going to spread the message. @free’s promotion of the contest was able to overcome this by sheer volume of entry tweets that used the hashtag. In the end, two of the four prizes were won by @free readers.
Creating contests that actually reach your target audience
This use case provides a compelling reason to consider seeding your promotional contest through established accounts, such as @free, that have a track record of high volume followers willing to take action for adequate prizes and generate real buzz.”
It is easy to go from reading to action
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