January 03, 2013
Case Study

Social Media Marketing: Startup achieves 900% Facebook fan growth through sweepstakes

SUMMARY: As a small startup founded in 2010, SnapKnot needed a way to trim the budget while growing business at the same time. Previously relying on Google AdWords, the company decided to move the majority of its efforts to social media.

This case study covers how SnapKnot turned a Facebook promotion into not only an increase in fans, but also in Twitter followers, visitors to its site and paying customers.
by Courtney Eckerle, Reporter


"We are always very cost-conscious. This year, while we had seen good membership growth overall, we weren’t seeing the kind of growth that we wanted," said Mike Rheaume, Co-founder, SnapKnot.

A directory for wedding photographers, SnapKnot encourages photographers to create a membership or an account on the site. Then, those photographers are directly available to consumers who wish to browse by price, area and visual style.

After little success with paid outlets like Google AdWords, SnapKnot looked for different marketing venues to explore.

The overall challenge was to increase membership, as well as fans and engagement on the Facebook page, which had been "pretty flat" for a few months, according to Rheaume.

"We had grown it up to about just under 8,000. It was good, but then it seemed like for whatever reason, it kind of hit a really flat growth point," he said.

SnapKnot had a myriad of marketing avenues, but not all of them were working the way Rheaume thought they should have.

"You know our main goal is to increase our membership, but we also wanted to provide a platform where we could have ongoing lead generation and then just build up that general brand awareness, specifically with photographers but also with the bridal audience," he said.


SnapKnot decided to create a social contest. The basic structure would involve fans enters by liking the Facebook page and giving basic information: their name, email and if they are a professional, a professional specializing in weddings, or an amateur photographer.

Each person can enter the competition once, but they earn bonus entries for sharing through a unique referral link. If someone they shared with enters the contest via that link, the sharer receives five bonus entries.

To give the sharing component that goes along with social media contest time to run, SnapKnot decided on a 90-day contest from Aug. 15 to Nov. 15.

The winner would have his or her choice of two high-end cameras: a Nikon D800 or a Canon 5D Mark III. Three runners-up would also receive Annual Diamond Memberships to the website.

Step #1. Adapt what other organizations have done

Looking to other similar companies helped with the contest idea, after seeing the success it had for others.

"We had seen the effects of certain Facebook contests or giveaways … in the wedding space, so … we knew we wanted to do something along those lines," Rheaume said.

The only problem looking at other organizations, according to Rheaume, was "it seemed that they were either very do-it-yourself low-end, or sort of major." The team encountered bigger companies launching major contests out of the price range of what SnapKnot could justify doing.

However, the team wanted to accomplish what the major players had, but at a smaller cost. Facebook provided a free platform, and Rheaume was able to reach out to another startup to create an opportunity where SnapKnot could create the contest aesthetic and set-up they wanted.

SnapKnot needed a contest that was "a little more custom help than some of the DIY tools out there," said Rheaume. The team was able to place a banner on its Facebook page with the contest, as well as a Facebook "Sweepstakes" app.

"It was attractive because we actually got our contest up and running for much lower than we would spend with one of the big guys."

Step #2. Understand your audience

SnapKnot has two prime audiences, engaged couples and wedding photographers, but for this contest, the team chose to specifically market to photographers.

"We also wanted to keep it basically open to anyone who is interested in photography, whether they are an amateur or not," Rheaume added.

It was key for the contest’s success for the prize to have a high-price value that was relevant to its photographer community.

Rheaume said SnapKnot considered having a camera company sponsor the contest, but knowing the fierce allegiance photographers have to camera brands, SnapKnot instead decided to offer the winner a choice of either a Nikon D800 or a Canon 5D Mark III.

"Photographers tend to be very loyal to their camera brands, and there is a pretty big Canon and Nikon divide," said Rheaume. "We figured that we would just give whoever won the choice of really a high-end camera."

Step #3. Set clear guidelines that encourage sharing

It is important to clearly define the guidelines for entering a contest so that the participants can take full advantage of it.

SnapKnot especially wanted to promote the sharing aspect of this campaign, so the rules stipulated that
each person could enter the competition once, but could earn bonus entries if they shared the contest through a unique referral link. If someone they shared with enters the contest via that link, the sharer receives five bonus entries.

Note: Social media contests are subject to the rules and guidelines of the social network, as well as government laws. Before launching a contest, make sure you understand applicable rules and laws.

Once admitted into the contest, share buttons to Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets were easily accessible.

This sharing component was integral to the contest, according to Rheaume. He said, nearing the end of the contest, that sharing accounted for "a huge amount of the overall entries," estimating that around 80% had come in via a referral link.

To contribute to the goal of adding membership, after entering the contest, entrants could acquire a promotional code that entitled them to a free month of SnapKnot’s Diamond membership.

"For the people who are entering the contest, who are photographers … it’s a great opportunity to [take a] trial of the site," said Rheaume.

Step #4. Promote through current membership, social media and partnerships

The team promoted the contest using its pre-contest number of about 8,000 Facebook fans and 8,500 Twitter followers, as well as sending an email announcing the contest to its list.

"I think the key is … once you have this sort of contest going, you really want to try to feed it as much as possible. And we did, once we saw how well it was working," said Rheume.

With the ball rolling on the its own, he said paid advertising was tested on Facebook and Twitter to keep the contest momentum going.

SnapKnot also approached a popular photography forum, Photography Talk, for promotion. Having worked with the forum in the past through banner ads and a vendor membership, the team knew the traction and popularity it held in the photography sphere. SnapKnot posted the contest through the forum, and were mentioned through Photography Talk’s own social networks of more than 200,000.

"[Photography Talk] has a huge, huge reach. … I think the key is finding — whether it’s a partner or a paid opportunity — if it’s relevant and targeted it could really help drive that contest," said Rheume.

They also reached out to Clickin’ Moms, a site targeted toward photographers who are mothers. This outreach connected with its audience of both professional and somewhat amateur photographers. SnapKnot posted about the contest on the site's forum, as well as was mentioned through the site’s social media channels.

Rheume said the team learned paid promotion is not always worth the cost. After testing paid Facebook and Twitter ads, he said the outcome wasn’t what the team had hoped to see.

"Those were a little too expensive for what we saw. They just didn’t work as well, and we just tested small amounts of budget for both of those," he said, adding that they also did a paid email blast to a professional photographer list, and "the results were fairly mediocre for that."

Step #5. Announce contest winner

SnapKnot announced the contest winner on Nov. 19, via its website and social media accounts. The official blog post also listed the three winners of the free one-year Diamond membership to the website, as well as reminding all entrants they were eligible for a free month's trial.

The post made sure to thank entrants, as well as informing them of upcoming contests:

"If you didn’t win, try not to be too disappointed — we will continue to hold contests with awesome prizes for our fantastic followers! Continue to like SnapKnot on Facebook to see what’s up next, and remember you can also follow us on Twitter, Google Plus, and Pinterest.

"If you are not yet a SnapKnot photographer, consider taking a couple minutes to check out what we have to offer you. We would be delighted to help you book more weddings."

The post received 22 comments, most of which were congratulating the winners and requesting more contests from SnapKnot. Rheaume also said the morning SnapKnot announced the contest its website went down for an hour because it was so overwhelmed with traffic.


"It’s been wildly successful, far beyond our expectations," said Rheaume, adding that more contests are in the future for SnapKnot. Most likely, the next one will target its other audience — engaged couples.

"We haven’t all the details yet, but it will be similar in terms of high-price value, similar sharing component," he said.

SnapKnot saw these results from the contest:
  • 900% Facebook fan growth

  • 64.5% Twitter follower growth

  • 60% increase in unique visitor traffic to SnapKnot’s website over the contest period compared to the three prior months

  • More than 250 photographers came in via the free month included as an entry bonus

Although SnapKnot is relatively young, Rheaume advises having some experience with your business and consumers before launching a contest like theirs.

"We were in a good place when we launched the contest. We had that seed in place to really help. I think if we were just starting out, something like this would not have been nearly as effective, and we have also been able to build up relationships," he concluded.

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Creative Samples

  1. Banner of grand prize

  2. Facebook post of contest

  3. Winner announcement on blog

  4. Comments on winner announcement



Related Resources

Social Media Marketing: 7 steps for using contests and sweepstakes to promote your brand

Social Media Marketing: 7 steps for using contests and sweepstakes to promote your brand

Social Email Marketing: Contest adds 200% more Pinterest followers and engagement

Social Media Marketing: Viral sweepstakes targeting moms grows Facebook audience 4,488%

Social Media Marketing: How to ensure Facebook doesn’t tear down your wall

Social Media Marketing: A look at contests from the customer’s perspective

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