Come Christmas and there’s magic in the air!

One may exclaim that ‘tis the season to be jolly, but brands are probably thinking “’tis the time to start engaging customers by spreading some holiday cheer.”

One of the most popular ways of doing so successfully is by launching riveting contests centered around the upcoming holidays. Several brands have done this in the past and are continuing with this tradition. Organizing exciting and interactive online contests and campaigns is a great way to acquire and hold audiences’ attention.

If you’re a new startup, you may want to seriously consider making the most of the holiday time by investing in promotional contests, games and competitions. If you’re wondering how to get around that, we’ve got a few ideas to help you capitalize on the Christmas spirit to engage customers and keep their loyalty:

1. Run a Holiday-themed Campaign

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With Christmas in the offing, you will do well to run a campaign that encapsulates the spirit of this joyful festival in your holiday contest. Consider adding elements from the upcoming holidays into your ad campaign and marketing gimmicks. Organize in-store Christmas soirees and Santa visits to make it a family affair.

Tie up with charitable organizations and offer to donate a part of the Christmas sales to their cause. This is highly instrumental in bringing about a sense of unity, harmony and good cheer. Further, these kind of contests are great because they target families, and not just limited sections of the audience.

Coca Cola, for example, is already hard at work. It has its ‘Holidays Are Coming’ campaign on air, its truck is busy touring the UK, and the ‘A Coke for Christmas’ campaign (a young boy giving bottles of Coca Cola to his mother, father and a store employee, thereby spreading the holiday-season cheer in his own small way) has also beenlaunched. It has also tied up with FareShare to help the needy get a decent meal, and store the surplus food and drinks properly.

2. Run a Festive Quiz

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Tap social media to devise and run a fun and interactive quiz. By doing so, you can figure out what your followers are looking forward to during the holiday season and use these discoveries to your advantage.

Ask multiple choice questions to enable them to select the answer they relate to the most. Make sure the rules of participation are simple to encourage maximum involvement. Frame questions in a way that enables you to gain insights into customer preferences.

3. Wish-Fulfilment Campaign

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The holiday season is a time when we all want to send gifts to our loved ones. Use this knowledge to your advantage by creating a campaign around this idea to spread your goodwill. Ask your audiences to express their holiday wishes to their loved ones on your website or social media page. Announce that for every wish sent, your company will donate a certain amount of money to a good cause.

For instance, UPS delivers millions of gift packages, which begin with a wish. In keeping with this, UPS launched the ‘Your Wishes Delivered’ campaign, through which they encourage their customers to share their holiday wishes. For every wish shared on their website and social media pages with the hashtag #WishesDelivered, UPS donates $1 to charitable institutes.

4. Selfie Contest

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Who doesn’t enjoy taking selfies? Why not turn this fun activity into a contest?

You can ask your audience to get into the Christmas spirit and take selfies alongside Christmas trees, with Santa Claus or a snowman, in a Santa hat or costume while showing off your product. Ask them to upload their entries to your social media page(s) and win prizes.

5. Express Your Gratitude

If your business is available on social media, chances are that you’re well connected to your customers. How about thanking them for being loyal to you? The holiday season is the perfect time to express your sincere gratitude to your audience and engage them in some seasonal fun.

In December, 2014, British Airways launched a video thanking their flyers for travelling with them. The 70-second clip featured a host of holiday pictures to acknowledge the travels that their passengers undertook through the year and was displayed on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, and British Airways’ in-flight entertainment systems.

6. Be-Santa-to-Someone Contest

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This holiday season, give your audiences a chance to do something nice for someone they value in their life. Ask your followers to comment on the Christmas posts on your website or social media pages with the name of the person they think deserves to enjoy some festive magic. The person named then stands a chance to win a prize.

7. Gift-Vending Machines

There’s something about vending machines that makes us want to use them over and over again. The anticipation of receiving something helpful from it probably has something to do with this fascination. This brings me to my point: Why not use vending machines to distribute Christmas gifts as well?

To illustrate, London’s Not On The High Street placed two Twitter-supported gift vending machines inside the busy Paddington and Waterloo stations with the aim of assisting last-minute shoppers with buying suitable Christmas presents. Participants were required to stop at these stations and tweet @notonthehighstreet with their location and personality type of the receiver of the gift (options included #Gardener, #Foodie and #PetLover). For example, the tweet could look something like ‘@notonthehighstreet #waterloo need help with a present for my #PetLover friend!’ The vending machine then dropped a gift according to the chosen personality type.

8. Make-a-Wish Contest

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Everyone has a secret Christmas wishlist in their mind. Ask your followers to spell theirs out by selecting a product (offered by you) that they wish to receive on discount or for free within a limited time period. Let them have the product as your Christmas gift to them.

9. A Christmas Present with a Message

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How about using the holiday season to spread the message of preserving the environment? This is be a great time to get your efforts to protect our planet noticed. This will not only earn you tremendous customer goodwill and trust, but also strengthen your brand credibility. This can done through a simple direct mail campaign.

For example, the primary objective of Toyota’s 2008 direct mail campaign was to highlight its environment-friendly stance by wishing a merry Christmas to its top clients and VIP endorsers. A box with the word ‘Fragile’ written on it was delivered. Upon opening it, the receivers found a spherical object with the world hand-painted on it. The message on that read, “The world is in your hands. Treat it well. Merry Christmas from Toyota”.

10. Name-Your-Favourite-Christmas-Movie Contest

We all have at least one Christmas movie that’s close to our heart. This is the movie we watch every year during the festive time. Your followers will surely love to talk about their favourite holiday movie. All they will have to do is tell you the name of their chosen Christmas movie along with the reason to be able to win some irresistible prizes from you.

11. Create a Calendar

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Who knew something as simple as a calendar could be used to build anticipation among the audience and keep them wanting for more from you! This aspect is crucial to customer engagement.

Cadbury’s Advent calender came into existence to build anticipation. It shows Cadbury workers packing up trucks, set to be deployed from Bournville, home of Cadbury, to spread joy everywhere they go in the run up to Christmas. This was translated to real life with 24 purple Cadbury trucks being sent to undisclosed locations throughout the UK, each one packed with a surprise. The chocolate-making giant records the reactions of the people visiting the trucks and plays them online, on TV, and through video-on-demand.

This is a great way of leveraging real-life content to increase brand awareness and spread joy.

12. Comment-and-Win Contest

One reason why social media is addictive is because it gives people the opportunity to express their thoughts, wishes and opinions in the form of comments.

This opens up tremendous scope for running a comment-and-win contest on your social media pages. Announce an attractive prize and ask your followers to tell you why they should win it by commenting.

13. Long-Term Sweepstakes

It isn’t easy to keep customers engaged and earn their loyalty. However, make the right moves and you’ll have audience eating out of the palm of your hand. Well-thought-out loyalty programs tend to keep customers glued to a brand. Have your customers enrolled with your loyalty program and watch the magic!

For example, members of Starbucks Rewards loyalty program can participate in the annual Starbucks for Life sweepstakes, and stand a chance to win a grand prize of “free drinks for life” for up to 30 years. This is the third year of this promotion and its annual nature is bound to make customers wait for it with bated breath every Christmas season.

14. Caption Contest

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A great caption can lift your campaign like nothing else can. Having trouble coming up with one? Get your audience to create one for you, as you keep them engaged with your brand simultaneously. Simply post an intriguing photo on your social media accounts and ask your followers for interesting captions, which will qualify them for winning a grand prize.

15. Holiday Selfie Campaign

Ask your followers to submit their best holiday snaps to your website or on your social media page. Put the photos together, create a collage and display it to create a sense of community. You can also include voting, wherein the photo that gets the maximum likes, wins.

Let’s look at Lenovo’s #Holiday360 selfie campaign, in which it asks its customers to create a ‘360°selfie video’ which encapsulates the holiday spirit in their city. These videos can be shared on Lenovo’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts along with the hashtag #Holiday360 and the tag @Lenovo. Lenovo then compiles the videos to create “the world’s first global 360° selfie”.

These kind of campaigns are highly effective in enabling engagement between brands and their online followers.

16. ‘What’s-Next?’ Contest

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One of the best ways of keeping your audience engaged is by giving them what they want in a bid to solve their problems. However, how do you know what they’re looking for? Run a ‘what’s-next’ contest. Declare that you’re looking for ideas for your next product and ask for winning suggestions from your followers.

17. Online Christmas Greetings

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Use your website as a platform that visitors can use to send out personalized messages and gifts to their loved ones this holiday season. This will help you increase your website traffic as well as keep your audiences involved in your brand initiatives.

Take a cue from Ferroro Rocher’s multi-platform campaign on its Chinese website, which allows customers to cutomize, share and send Christmas greetings (virtually) along with a box of Ferrero Rocher chocolates with just a click of a button.

The personalized messages can be shared via email, on social media, and can be printed. Participants can win a Ferrero Christmas box and card, which is delivered to their doorstep by a Ferrero brand ambassador. The advertising message that accompanies this is, “Light up the golden moment and cherish this special occasion”, which is sure to strike a chord with customers.

18. Video-Sharing Contest

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The holiday season is when most people inundate their social media accounts with holiday videos that focus on the celebrations at their home and office. Capitalise on this and ask your followers to share a video of Christmas decorations in their home/office to win prizes.

19. Snapchat-based Contest

If millennials form the majority of your target audience, then this kind of a contest can work wonders for your brand. Snapchat has become a favourite among social media-savvy people, who enjoy uploading snaps that disappear after a few minutes. A similar campaign will surely have lots of takers.

BMW launched a Snapchat-inspired social media campaign and website called Snowchat, wherein pictures shared by visitors disappear after a few seconds. The campaign is aimed at young consumers. The Snowchat site shows a BMW window covered in snow. Visitors can write messages and/or create virtual artwork on the window, which disappear after 5 seconds.

The simplicity of use and the transient nature of the scribbles can go a long way in motivating users to share their messages with their loved ones, thereby ensuring the success of this campaign.

20. Follower-of-the-Week Contest

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This kind of a contest will go a long way in building audience engagement for your brand. All you need to do is choose the most active person from among your existing followers as the winner of this contest.

21. Christmas-Game Campaign

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A great way to use social media to keep customers engaged during the holiday season is by getting them to partake in holiday-themed online games that revolve around your brand.

Ted Baker’s Instagram-based game for the Christmas season has been a huge hit. It features Santa’s 7 elves, who have suddenly gone missing. They were last seen in an #elfie taken by none other than Santa.

Fans can find the elves by visiting @TedsElfie on Instagram and participating in the adventurous game therein. The three-week campaign offers several opportunities to win prizes.

22. Holiday Sweepstakes

This can be a limited-edition Christmas-themed contest. To enter it, your followers will need to submit their email ID, and Like and Follow your page. This should help increase your number of followers and leads. Make is easy for them to participate, and ensure to run one sweepstakes a day to encourage more participation.

23. Give-Back-to-the-Community Campaign

People tend to feel thankful and generous during the holiday season. You can leverage the holiday atmosphere to help the needy, while engaging your audiences.

Cisco’s 2012 ‘How Do You Give Back?’ campaign on Facebook is a great example of a company using the holiday season to give back to the community. It worked like this: every time a visitor would post a comment on their page, Cisco donated four meals to the World Food Programme. After that, Cisco made their followers aware of their good deed. The page also acknowledged other people who gave back to the community.

Through this campaign, Cisco managed to involve people and encouraged engagement on social media. They also made their followers feel good about themselves. No wonder this campaign was a success!

24. Vote Contest

Set up a new vote contest every day and ask your followers to pick between two displayed products and mention the reasons for their choice in the comments. The products can be related to the holiday season, such as stockings versus Santa hats, eggnog versus hot chocolate, or candy cane versus gingerbread man.

25. Refer-a-Friend Contest

Get your followers to refer a friend or ask their friends to Like and Follow you on social media. Track this and up your offerings accordingly. Give increasingly better deals to those who do this successfully. For instance, offer 50% discounts to people who refer 5 friends and 70% to those who refer 10 friends.

26. Singing Contest

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Host an online music contest and ask your followers to upload recordings of them singing Christmas carols and other festive songs to your website or through SoundCloud. Entertain only holiday-themed music and get a professional singer to pick the winner(s).

Conclusion

Running well-executed campaigns and contests on the right platforms can help brands and audiences connect better. Festive campaigns can be highly instrumental in not only keeping customers’ engaged, but also in appealing to their emotional side, thereby capturing their share of heart. The holiday season serves as the perfect opportunity to get in touch with your existing customers and gain new followers.

Here’s wising all you readers a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!