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Expand Your Brand with Viral Sweepstakes

Creating a viral online sweepstakes is a great way to increase the visibility and popularity of your business and your brand.  A sweepstakes is a great addition to existing social media marketing campaign, but many business owners may wonder how exactly the concept of a sweepstakes ties in with the idea of social media marketing.


The idea of “viral” ties in with the use of social media to reach a large number of consumers by creating a post—or in this case, a sweepstakes—that is shared and shared again an exponential number of times.  Marketers use the term “viral” in two different ways when they are talking about internet marketing strategies.

One way that they use the term viral is to describe the massive engagement that can occur when you create a viral activity, like a sweepstakes.  This means that droves of people are exposed to the sweepstakes and sign up for the offer, or get otherwise involved.  This type of viral post involves action on the part of the consumer.

On the other hand, the term also refers to posts that go viral simply by being viewed by consumers on the internet.  Things like memes and funny cat videos can go viral, and they do not require any action on the part of the internet user other than a click and view.  When a post goes viral by simply acquiring millions of clicks and views, this also often spreads awareness for products and companies.

Creating a viral sweepstakes can benefit your business by utilizing both of these types of viral social media categories.  Social media users who follow your site may see the sweepstakes that you have posted and be driven to participate in the sweepstakes, which keeps those current customers involved in your brand and rewards them for their loyalty.

In addition to this benefit, those existing customers who are happy with your brand, especially after being rewarded with the possibility of free products or other prizes, will share the sweepstakes post with their friends.  Once these customers have shared the post with their friends, this sets off a chain reaction, and the possibly for the post to be viewed by all of that customer’s friends, in addition to their friends’ friends, and so on and so forth.

As the sweepstakes gains views and popularity, your brand gains familiarity with a large number of online consumers, and by gaining familiarity, gains traction.  Out of that exponentially increasing number of customers that are now becoming familiar with your product, some of them will be driven to action by being enticed by your sweepstakes.

When they participate in the sweepstakes, they become even more familiar with your product and brand, and are rewarded with the possibility of winning prizes.  This begins the process all over again, as these, now loyal, customers will share the sweepstakes with their friends, and the exponential growth cycle repeats again and again.  This is how a post, including sweepstakes, goes “viral.”

Call to Action

A sweepstakes has the opportunity to go viral even faster than a simple photo or video post because it utilizes a strategy that marketers refer to as a “call to action.”  This means that customers are rewarded for sharing the brand with their social media friends and followers.

With a photo of a cat or a funny video, a Facebook user may share the photo or video for the simple reason that they want their friends to enjoy the photo or video with them.  This in itself is an effective method of producing a viral internet product, but it does not use the most effective way of convincing internet users to spread the word, which is the call to action.

With internet sweepstakes and other user-participating internet events and activities, the participants are often given other reasons for sharing.  This can include incentives, like “Share this sweepstakes and receive an extra sweepstakes entry.”

Calls to action in internet sweepstakes often involve incentives based on how many people a particular sweepstakes participant is able to recruit to join the sweepstakes.  In this way, your business can reward the people who are the most helpful in making your sweepstakes go viral, and make this activity more appealing to others, thus increasing the overall number of shares.

Sharing Outlets and Modes

The method that you use to allow sweepstakes entrants to share the information of your sweepstakes and encourage others to enter the sweepstakes is also important.  You can set up the sweepstakes so that the mode of sharing is “passive,” meaning a post is shared to the participant’s Facebook or Twitter showing others that they participated in the sweepstakes.

This is also referred to as “evidence of participation.”  Viral quizzes also use this type of marketing to quickly spread across social media platforms and become viral.  By allowing sweepstakes entrants a simple option, after they have entered the sweepstakes, to post a link with an enticing photo and description of the sweepstakes to their Facebook, along with the suggested tagline, “I just entered this sweepstakes, check it out,” or something similar, sweepstakes participants don’t have to exert any extra effort to let their friends in on the action.

The sharing mode of a sweepstakes can also be “active,” which means that participants would be rewarded for sending a message out to their friends and actively recruiting more participants.


The goal of running an effective viral sweepstakes campaign is to maximize the value created by increasing brand recognition and customer acquisition.  One of the most popular ways that business are doing this is through a sweepstakes strategy called the “soft share.”  This is a minimally invasive way of running a sweepstakes, as consumers simply receive a reminder that they should share the contest with their friends.

Another way that businesses implement sweepstakes into their online marketing strategy is with the “direct share.”  This is a very common type of getting the word out, and it involves presenting the participant with the option of sharing the sweepstakes with their friends by posting it to their social media site directly after participation in the sweepstakes.


Finally, the “incentivized share” strategy gives consumers more responsibility to actively participate and actively share the sweepstakes by offering incentives for those who recruit more participants.

Whichever method you choose to use for your viral sweepstakes, deciding to run one is a wise step in marketing your business in the technological age.

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About Sean Donahoe

Sean is one of the most recognized industry leaders in business and marketing. As a popular speaker, author, consultant he has helped over 50,000 students world wide find success in their businesses and has consulted with Fortune 500 companies and businesses of every size grow and thrive...

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