Ah, that first moment when you have that spark of inspiration. The perfect idea for a contest that will meet your marketing objectives perfectly, whether it be to increasing awareness of your brand, building loyalty, attracting new users to your website, increasing followers on your Facebook page or promoting a new product or service, or all of the above. You are inspired, full of energy and eager to get started.

The second key moment comes just after you’ve set up your promotion and are about to click “Publish now and activate all communications and advertising campaigns”. This is always nerve wracking. Will it work? Will people understand what to do? Will they take part? Because if you build it, they will come, right? You’re about to find out.

The third and possibly most climactic moment is when you start to analyze the results. If the promotion has gone as well as you’d hoped, you’re likely addicted to hitting the refresh button to see how many new participants you’ve attracted each time. It’s fun and exciting.

…But… what if nobody is participating? Or if you’re not attracting as many participants as you’d hoped? This is when organizers often get that “sinking feeling” in the pit of their stomachs as all that initial excitement turns to disappointment, stress, and worry.

But don’t despair! All is not lost.

The issue could be as simple as a broken link, or as specific as the message you are sending. The good news is that both can be fixed quickly, you can recover and your promotion can still be wildly successful. You just have to know where to start.

First, take a look at the number of visits to each page of the promotion, specifically

  1. Total visits and unique visitors: The number of total visitors and the number of unique visitors to the promotion or contest homepage.
  1. The visitor-to-participant conversion rate: In other words, how many promotion visitors have actually registered to participate?

Depending on your answers, here are some next steps:

Issue One: Your promotion is attracting very few participants.

  • Check Your Links: If you have publicized the promotion and invested heavily in advertising, and the number of homepage visits is also low, consider the techniques you are using to bring traffic to the promotion. Check that the links used to publicize the promotion are working and ensure that the links are compatible with mobile devices.
  • Step Outside Your Promotion: Put yourself in the shoes of a target participant and look at your advertising from their perspective. Ask yourself the following questions: Am I sending the right sort of message? Is the image I selected appealing enough? Are we giving enough importance to the prize (do I need something better)? Is the call to action clear enough?
    Double check every small detail of your communication and distribution activities, giving particular attention to the (1)Contents and (2) Segmentation.

Issue Two: Your promotion is bringing visitors but few convert to participants (less than 35% conversion)

What constitutes a low conversion rate? Obviously this varies a great deal, depending on the mechanics and objectives of the promotion. For the purpose of this article, let’s focus on the most common type of online promotion – a sweepstakes offering an attractive prize which users can have a shot at winning by completing a registration form. For this sort of promotion the average visitor-to-participant conversion rate is between 35% and 40%. If you’re running this type of sweepstakes and find that the conversion rate is lower than 35%, you should consider asking yourself some important question:

  • Does My Prize Stand Out? Imagine you’re a user and ask yourself the following question: Is it obvious that I’m offering an amazing prize after reading for just two seconds? Don’t forget: the prize is the one thing that should always stand out – consider if your prize aligns with your target audience, and if not, adjust.
  • Is my Image Attractive? Consider a bright, attractive photo which displays the prize clearly will always attract more participants than a small, pixelated, hard-to-make-out image. This is an easy fix, do it.
  • Do Participants See Me As Trustworthy? The user should be able to tell within seconds whether or not this contest is legit. Encourage trust and confidence by making it clear that you are the official organizer and by providing a link to your Terms and Conditions.
  • Am I Asking For Too Much? It’s a fact that the more information you ask for in the registration form, the lower the conversion rate. You’ll need to find the right balance between your promotion objective and your data quality.
  • Am I Encouraging Sharing? Did you know that 54% of users who register for a sweepstakes then share it? It’s vitally important that you put as much effort as possible into designing messages and images for users to share across the social networks. While best practices dictate that you should not make sharing your contest mandatory for participation, sometimes teasing the idea with a mention is enough to get things moving.

We tested these theories ourselves by running two Facebook sweepstakes which received the same number of visits but generated very different results. By following the advice of the second scenario, the visitor-to-participant conversion rate jumped to 47%. The Facebook sweepstakes that didn’t follow these guidelines converted only 25%.

Remember, just because you started out bumpy, the simplicity of managing a Facebook promotion like a sweepstakes makes it equally simple to tweak and manage the promotion for optimal results. Happy promoting!

A similar version of this post was originally included on the Easypromos blog.