Jenny Nielsen
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Contests are a core way to drive participation on your Ning Network and keep members coming back. For example, the folks at My Kicks on Fire ran a contest to win a free pair of Nike Air Yeezy sneakers. To enter, members were asked to help get the word out via Twitter. Friends or Enemies launched a t-shirt design competition, where the winner had their design printed and sold in the FOE merch store. To participate, members uploaded their proposed t-shirt design to the group in the comments section.

Other ideas for contests include polling members for their favorite member or voting on the most popular video or photo, where you can take advantage of the ability to rate photos and videos to give members the power to choose the winner.

While there’s no one right way to run a promotion, the following five tips provide best practices for success. All you really need is a little creativity and direction.

1. Relevancy
Make sure the topic or theme of the promotion is relevant and interesting to your members. This will help shape your promotion and ultimately drive participation. Provide creative goalposts to encourage the submission of compelling creative.

2. Keep it simple
Design the promotion to make it accessible to as many members as possible. Create clear and transparent rules to inform and aid in the vetting of submissions.

3. Spread the word
Send a broadcast message to alert your members to the promotion and provide timely updates.  Assign admins to manage the contest and respond to member inquiries.  Include links to rules, registration & more.

4. Compelling prizes
Attention and recognition prizes are often as valuable as cash prizes.  People love getting recognition, and featuring them or their content is an excellent way to offer it on your Ning Network. More important than the dollar value of your prizes is choosing something that is relevant to the goals of your Ning Network. For instance, Broadway Space gave away tickets to a Broadway show and Agentes 2.0’s promotion prize was a free a plane trip.  These prizes certainly attract the attention of many, but you’ll find that any prize, no matter how small, will make a contest fun and rewarding for members.

5. Measure your success
Predetermine a set of metrics prior to launching your promotion that will help you measure success, whether the goal is to simply drive member engagement or develop compelling content within your network. And be sure to evaluate member feedback. You can use this data when building your next promotion.

And remember — have fun with your social promotions and experiment with different ways to promote engagement. If you’ve done a promotion on your Ning Network that worked really well, let us know in the comments below.

Jenny Nielsen, Ning’s Sr. Marketing Manager, is looking forward to some warmer weather.