Social Media Contests

Do Consumers Who Engage in Social Media Contests Buy More?


Our researchers analyzed how customer engagement in social media contests affected their purchase behavior, thanks to the data supplied by the Air Miles Reward Program. Air Miles shared a database that linked what consumers posted and viewed on its social media site and their subsequent purchase behavior across all the categories in which Air Miles rewards can be earned.


Companies used to be in sole control of their brand message. Not anymore. Think of the Doritos “Crash the Super Bowl” contest. It challenged consumers make a Doritos commercial to be shown during the Super Bowl. Doritos uses this contest, social media and its website, to turn over some brand message control to consumers by allowing them to co-create brand meaning and advertising. Creating a Doritos commercial encourages consumers to think about what the brand means to them. Doritos then used that user-generated content to further connect with other Doritos consumers.

Spiegel Insight Proof Action Items for Marketers

Social engagement without prompts is very low.

In our study of the Air Miles social community forum, there was very little customer activity without prompts from Air Miles, and only activity around the most relevant prompts.

Plan a social media content strategy to include frequency of engagement that is relevant to the customer (not just what you want them to know) in the context of how they use your brand and category. Test this versus current engagement strategies.

Posters spend more in short and longer term.

Results show that posters increased their spending for four weeks after participating in a contest on Air Miles social media forum. One week after participating in the contests posters showed a 42 percent increase in spending over previous spending levels. Even four weeks after participating in the contest, posters increased spending 35 percent.

Post only the most relevant messages and content of real use to your audience in social environments (i.e. entertaining content, useful information, or product promotions).

Viewers spend (far) more when viewing relevant posts.

Those who viewed others’ posts but did not post themselves increased their own spending at 40 percent or more.

Customer engagement includes reading what others post. So, monitor your message strategy to understand how you are stimulating readers, not just posters.

Low spenders who engage impacted most (% not $).

In one contest, even three weeks after viewing posts, low spenders increased their spending by 46 percen

Test engagement strategies primarily designed to reach your least valuable customers.

The right message causing co-creation can be more valuable than greater price-oriented incentives.

We analyzed several types of contests and the effects they had on purchase behavior. One of the contests that lifted purchase behavior the most offered one of the smallest prizes – 10 Air Miles for answering the question: “What are you saving your miles for?” This is a great question for co-creation because it caused posters to reflect and create brand meaning.

Test inviting customers to elaborate on your brand’s meaning to them by answering questions, creating videos, or creating other content that causes reflection. Save advertising dollars on big giveaways that don’t cause the customer to think about what your brand means to them.

Posters who elaborate spend more.

In one contest, increases in purchase behavior ranged from 49% among those who posted using an average of 8 words, to an 80% increase in spending among those who averaged 73 words.

Use prompts that provoke and/or invite longer answers vs. just “yes/no” questions, “likes,” or “shares.”

Elaboration on experiences implies higher future spending.

People posting about experiences increased spending from 15 to 24 percent. In one contest, Air Miles asked people what they were saving miles for. Posters who wrote about experiences they planned to have versus saving for things increased their spending the most (i.e. saving for a trip to the beach v. saving for a vacuum cleaner).

Test messaging that provides a chance for users to reflect and write about their great experience with your brand on social media.

What Is the Key to a Successful Social Media Contests?

Social media contest are effective when companies prompt consumers to think about how a brand helps people achieve goals in their lives. Research Director Ed Malthouse discusses insights from Medill Spiegel Research Center’s social media contest study.

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