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Community manager explains gamification

Proof You Can Design a Giveaway that Supports Community Growth

Giveaways are flashy ways to encourage engagement, but they’re short term. Should you use one in your online community? Learn to use giveaways in a way that encourages long-term engagement.

The research is undeniable—gamification increases participation and engagement across practically any digital platform. On the users’ side of things, online giveaways are one of the easiest to join forms of gamification because the steps are simple: 1) Complete task. 2) Get reward. As a community manager, however, you want to design a giveaway that will actually support your community’s growth in the long run by enticing your members to invest more than the bare minimum.

Here I’ve broken down two giveaway case studies—one that identifies pitfalls to avoid and one that exemplifies strategies that can take your giveaway to the next level.

Case Study 1: The One-Year Anniversary Giveaway

Here’s how it worked: The community team and I designed a month-long giveaway to celebrate our community being one year old. At the beginning of the week, participants were given a new task to complete, and each new task increased in difficulty. We gave out a prize each week and had a grand prize drawing at the end of the month for anyone who completed all four tasks.

Here are three significant pitfalls we encountered along the way.

Complicated structure

Each week the participants sent me an email to let me know they had completed the task and wanted to be entered for that week’s drawing. Then they had to come back the next week to see what the new task was, do the task, and email me again. We started with 565 participants the first week and ended with only 10 participants on the fourth week. While our idea was to encourage members to check back in the community on a regular basis, there were too many details for the participants to keep track of.

Teaching too many behaviors at once

We attempted to teach our community members one new behavior per week—uploading a photo, uploading a library document, replying to a discussion and starting a discussion. However, none of these behaviors were guided by an overall goal. As a result, participants were pulled in too many directions.

No follow-through

After the giveaway ended, there was absolutely no effort made to encourage continued engagement within the community. We had a 59.3% increase in unique logins the month of the giveaway. Many of our members entered the community for the first time ever, but since we didn’t reach out to them again, they had no reason to come back.

Overall though, it wasn’t a complete bust. I’m happy to say there were some beneficial results from this contest. And don’t get me wrong, it’s not that one-year anniversary giveaways are the problem, but it’s that we didn’t focus on the long-term.

Looking at our engagement metrics, we saw a significant increase throughout the giveaway month compared to surrounding months. However, as you can see, that engagement didn’t result in any long-term boosts.


Community chart

While I didn’t set up automation rules directly related to the contest, we do have one already in place to go out to people who haven’t posted in 90 days which invites them to post something new. Our conversion rate jumped from 6.97% to 24.39% three months after the contest ended.

The biggest benefit, by far, was the huge increase in profile completions. I consider this to be our biggest win.

Growth per month in community

Case Study 2: The Annual Conference Networking Giveaway

Here’s how it worked: We designed a month-long giveaway leading up to our annual conference to encourage in-person networking on site. There were two ways to enter—either start a thread asking people to meet up or comment on a thread that asked people to meet up. Any thread with the special giveaway subject line and four or more replies was entered to win one of two $100 gift cards.

The subject line we asked them to use was “Let’s Meet: [Topic].” So for example, it could be “Let’s Meet: Canada.” People from Canada who wanted to meet up at the conference would all reply on the thread and then figure out a time and a place to meet. As long as four people replied, that thread would be entered.

We recently ran this for the second year in a row, and it’s the most popular thing that happens in our event community each year. Here are some growth strategies you can use for your own community giveaways.

Set one major goal and hone in

Our goal for this giveaway was to use the community as a tool to augment in-person networking at the conference. By the time the giveaway ended, we had 93 people planning to meet up, which is 3.5% of our total attendance. If we look at it in financial terms, we spent about $2.15 per person to help our attendees forge long-lasting professional connections with their peers.

Focus on the behaviors, not the numbers

I know I just broke down the numbers for you, but that wasn’t really at the heart of what we wanted to accomplish. It was about teaching our attendees to use the community as a tool to connect with each other. When I went to give a gift card to one of our winners, he said, “I didn’t even know I had entered a giveaway! I just wanted to meet people.” My little community manager heart exploded with happiness right then and there. He’d simply followed the example of his peers and unknowingly entered himself and his group into the giveaway.

Stay in touch after the giveaway ends

Implement strategic automation rules to engage your giveaway participants. For example, with this giveaway, I sent a simple thank-you message to all of the participants a week after the conference ended. In that email, I asked them to send me any feedback they have to make the giveaway better next year. I’ve already received several great ideas! I’ll be keeping my eye on these 93 members to see if they stay engaged over the next few months.

Challenge Yourself and Challenge Your Members

It can be tempting to host a giveaway just because it’s a thing that people do on the internet. Unfortunately, if there’s no deeper purpose driving your decision to host a giveaway, there will be no deeper purpose behind the actions of your participants. Most of them will enter hoping for a quick win and completely overlook the real value of your community.

I challenge you to go deeper. If you can figure out a way to highlight the value of your community and weave that into the actions your members must take to enter the giveaway, they will instinctively grasp what makes your community so valuable. They will begin to see it as a great asset to their interests and as a tool they can use to accomplish their own personal goals.

The growth will flourish from there.

Download the Engagement Trends Report 2020

Courtney Howell
Courtney Howell is the Community Manager for the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. She stumbled into content marketing in 2013 and quickly unearthed her passion for it. She has experience in social media management, content management and community management. She’s also obsessed with reading, writing and Krav Maga. Like, super obsessed.