The whole point of social media is that it’s social. Sounds obvious, but most companies seem to forget this when they get involved on platforms like Twitter. Most companies just use social media as a cheap and easy way to shout about their product or to randomly chase after fans and followers. Thankfully Zipcar is not ‘most companies’.
For us, social media is a chance to start a conversation. Interactivity is a key part of everything we do - creating bits of content that are engaging for our audience and relevant to us as a car club. I’ll put my hands up and admit that we’ve not always got it right, sometimes we’ve missed the mark (I mean REALLY missed the mark) but that’s the beauty of social media - it’s still a new medium, experimental, with a short-term memory (so if something doesn’t work out, you can just try something else).
It was in that spirit of interactivity and experimentation that we started running weekly competitions on Twitter. Every Friday we would invite our followers to get involved in something fun and relevant, with a prize at the end of the day. We’ve been running these giveaways for about a year now, and in that time we’ve learned a heck of a lot.
It all started last year when we were inspired by Twitter’s hashtag games to start asking for movie titles. We asked entrants to give us a humorous spin on a famous film (‘A Zipcar Named Desire’ for example), then asked them to give us a synopsis of the film and then ReTweet our response, then we picked our favourite one to win a pair of cinema tickets.
It failed; it was way too complicated for too little reward. We received five entries in total and our requests for a synopsis and ReTweet were met with disinterest and Tweets such as ‘@ZipcarUK Way too much effort for some cinema tickets, no thanks #ZipcarMovies’. It was a disappointing start. We didn’t expect a viral revolution but we hoped for a little more than that. So we rolled up our sleeves and tried again.
We ran a competition almost every week. Starting at 9am on Friday, we’d ask for suggestions on topics like ‘What are the three best driving tunes?’ or ‘What books would you take with you on a roadtrip?’, then we’d get involved in a bit of banter with everyone who entered and give away the prize at the end of the day. People started to play along.
Each week was an experiment as we tried to figure out what floated and what sank without trace. It didn’t take us long to figure out that a big prize and a simple mechanism was the key to success. Well, what ‘most companies’ would call success anyway.
Our first big response was in September 2012. We Tweeted:
What titillating title would you give to your autobiography? Tell us & tag #ThisIsMyLife to be in with a chance of winning a @KindleUK #comp
Within seconds we’d received scores of entries, by the end of the day the entries were in the hundreds. I was on leave that day, but got a call from Jemma in our social team, “This Friday Game is going crazy, we’re not going to be able to keep up with it.” I checked the stats and they were impressive, so I sat back and thought, “Great, we’ve cracked it”.
In a way we had. Lots of new followers, mentions and ReTweets. Thousands of people entertained and introduced to the brand. But then it hit us - the competition had nothing to do with Zipcar.
We’d set out to engage people, which technically we did, but only because of the value of the prize. In short, any brand can buy an iPad or a television and tell Twitter users to ‘do X to win Y’, and they do. Search Twitter for ‘#comp’ and see how many different brands are asking their followers to perform a simple action in return for an entry into their competition which has a high-value prize. It’s not just the little guys either, everyone is doing it, but they’re making the same mistake we made. A major soft drinks brand asks for the name of your first pet so you can win a 3D TV. How does that link back to the product? It doesn’t (unless you named your goldfish ‘Pepsi’ or your gerbil ‘Panasonic’ of course).
I’d be lying if I said we never use the foundations of this concept because we do. We use hashtags such as #contest and #giveaway so that more people see our Tweets. We offer fancy prizes and use simple entry mechanisms. But (and it’s a big ‘but’) we always try to connect things back to our product and the interests of our members, and we see every Tweet as an opportunity to start a conversation.
These days we have fun running our Friday games, trying something new every week. One week we might ask our followers to guess the cost of filling up a Zipcar, the next we might ask where the best places to eat are in London. Some fly and some fall, but as long as we keep the idea relevant and engaging, and enjoy chatting to the people who get involved, we’re happy. Even when we have the odd flop. It’s all part of finding out what works and, most importantly, what our audience enjoys.
Do you get involved in competitions on Twitter? Who’s doing it well, and who isn’t?