Survey Says: Polls and Showdowns Drive Brand Participation

Allen Bonde is co-founder and CMO of Offerpop, a New York-based social media marketing software company, and principal of Evoke CRM, his consultancy. His kids still know more about Facebook than he does, but he’s learning. Join his conversation on Twitter.

Everyone has an opinion about the best Beatles song or favorite beach or travel destination. And when push comes to shove, there is nothing like a showdown between two faves. Coke vs. Pepsi. Yankees vs. Red Sox. Lady Gaga vs. Madonna. So it’s no surprise that polls and showdowns have became a popular way to engage with fans on social channels like Facebook. In fact, half of the top 25 (non-entertainment) brands on Facebook feature a poll or two-way contest on their Facebook page.

The idea of a poll is pretty simple: pose a question, and give a few choices to vote on. Then let users see the results, and allow them to share their vote with their friends, or even publish the poll on their Wall. And it’s certainly easy enough to get started with simple poll apps from vendors like Kremsa Design or Poll Daddy.

Here’s an example from the Monster Energy fan page:

These basic polls are simple enough and reasonably effective at driving traffic. But you also get what you pay for. In most cases, the basic app may be free. But if you don’t want the poll to run on the vendor’s page (with ads), or want comments to appear, you have to start paying, which brings us to some more sophisticated apps.

Voting, Sharing and Driving Word of Mouth… and Social Commerce

Beyond simple polls, there are a growing number of more ‘marketing-oriented’ apps that enable polls, showdowns and voting on favorites on your Facebook page. Some of the vendors offering these tools include WebTrends, Involver and my company, Offerpop.

It’s beyond the scope of this post to evaluate each of these tools, but I’d like to highlight what we see as some of the keys to effectively using polls and showdowns to drive participation with your brand – regardless of the tool or app you use.

1. Make it easy to vote – this may seem obvious, but with a few poll and voting apps (not from the vendors above), the first question a user sees is not a poll question but rather a request to access their Facebook profile before being allowed to vote. To me this is a totally unnecessary barrier to participation.

2. Start a conversation – two of the most popular activities on Facebook are commenting and Liking. Most poll apps allow users to Like the poll, and some allow users to comment when then vote. But an interesting alternative is enabling users to actually vote by commenting using the Facebook comments widget.

3. Encourage users to spread the word – the best poll apps are brand-friendly, provide real-time reports for tracking participation – something that is critical to social campaigns, and make it easy to share your vote (and the poll) by posting to your Wall. Scheduling regular (weekly) showdowns with fun themes can also boost involvement and sharing. In fact we’ve seen some Tug of War campaigns generated as high as a 70% ‘share rate,’ where a majority of participants opt to post their vote to their Facebook profile.

4. Don’t forget to fan-gate – compelling polls and showdowns can be a fun and effective way to attract new fans by requiring them to Like you before joining in. Most of the leading app providers offer a fan-gating option, either included in the basic service or for an additional free (more common). And of course your creative on the ‘non-fan’ Tab should drive Likes. Here’s an example from Bravo’s weekly poll for the Bethenny Ever After television series:

5. Leverage product tie-ins – moving from engagement to conversions is a top goal for an increasing number of social media programs, especially those run by retailers or other online service providers (think travel, music, books etc.), as I’ve discussed in prior posts. Including a link to additional product information, say in your online catalog or even reviews, under each side of a 2-way product showdown is an easy and effective way to do this.

By following these tips, polls and showdowns can be a fun and natural way to engage with fans, drive word of mouth, get customer feedback – and even start down the path to social commerce.

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