Setting up social media challenges is a fun thing to do. You get an opportunity to activate your following and interact with new customers. It’s the perfect way to present yourself as a social company. Unfortunately, behind every good intention, there’s also a flip side. While numerous entries are rolling in, some might be conspicuous or downright fraudulent. These are entries from price hunters (PH’s), people who do nothing else than scheming ways to beat online challenges. Here’s what you can do about it.

 

Inside the mind of a Price Hunter

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To prevent something from damaging your challenge, you firstly have to understand who it is you are dealing with. Price hunters are individuals that often belong to communities specialised in researching ways to win online competitions. The degree of trickery has varying forms. On an almost innocent level, there are Facebook groups where people share likes; if you like my entry I will like yours etc. However, on a more distasteful level, the cheating is quite advanced.

Popular prices such as a weekend trip to New York can have a monetary value of 800 Euros. When, for example, the competition depends on an amount of shares and likes, price hunters employ click farms. These are overseas companies that sell Facebook likes. For 20 Euro’s, you can easily receive up to 500 of likes. If you look at it from a PH’s perspective, that’s a cheap deal to ensure winning a trip across the Atlantic.

Some internet challenges get turned upside down in other ways. In 2012 Taylor Swift launched a campaign where the school with the most votes would receive a free concert. When this got the attention of the internet trolls, they band together and made Horace Mann School for the Deaf in Boston the top winner. That was perhaps not her intended audience.

For all things that can go wrong, one thing has to go right and that is preparing yourself.

The Rule Book

Once a campaign starts rolling, you don’t want it to go downhill. Often participants flood your inbox with questions, remarks and complaints. It is in these hours of uncertainty, that the rule book offers the best foundation. It is not uncommon for price hunters to rigorously read through them, trying to spot weaknesses. The last thing on your mind is an attorney’s letter pointing out a flaw that works in someone’s benefit.

Have measures in place that address all qualities of your competition. Include a rule that participants can only have one entry or cannot enter when they won a previous challenge in x-amount of months. You can also make it obligatory that the winner needs to be able to identify themselves and match with their registered account.

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An air-tight rule book ensures you won’t give the price away to someone who doesn’t deserve it.

Avoid Scripting

Technology-based competitions are open to many forms of manipulations. Even when you decide not to base results on Facebook shares or likes in fear of click farm, price hunters also employ other tools.

A popular vote manipulator comes in the form scripts or programs that generate or use fake e-mail addresses. Often these e-mail addresses are a string of numbers followed by an unknown @ overseas domain. Familiarising yourself on this front is necessary.

Use E-mail Verification

Most online competitions let you register by just entering an e-mail address. This gives price hunters with an e-mail script quite the advantage.

One solution to that problem is having a two-step e-mail verification process, where users need to accept a confirmation e-mail and then log in again on your website. This might seem like a hassle for genuine participants but it slows down wrong-doers.

Filter IP addresses

To avoid participants from voting multiple times you can also add an IP address filter. Most homes are connected to one IP address which doesn’t change often. Limiting one address per entry prevents people from clicking their way to the top or using multiple e-mail addresses from the same computer.

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Unfortunately, price hunters by-pass these measure with the use of proxy servers that mask their original IP address and convert it into a new one. Hereby, they repeatedly vote on their own entries.

The Voting Process

Now that we covered most ways of voter manipulation, let’s not become too pessimistic. It’s good to be aware of the dangers but social challenges still need social media to create buzz.

In the voting process, it’s best not highlight the need for views, shares or likes. These metrics can be kept in the background. When you enter a competition a few weeks later than other participants, it can be unpleasant to see the steep hill you need to climb. This lowers the threshold of people joining in. But more importantly, it prevents PH’s who can estimate how many votes they need to win.

Select a Jury

Who the eventual winner will be, doesn’t need to depend solely on voting. Creating a jury is a guaranteed way to credibility. They can be compiled out of members of your company or for example, an outsider. The latter can be somebody who is a well-known person or related to the theme of the prize.

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Juries are the face of your rule book. They can give weight to why some entries are better than others. Even if it doesn’t sound too democratic, you can still divide your price between the jury’s decision and a Public Choice award.

Low Entry Challenges

Giving away big prizes is seen as the ultimate social campaign. Nevertheless, they also generate loads of entries and it makes it harder to decipher a clear and genuine winner. When you consider employing social challenges as a marketing tool, try using a strategy of smaller prizes but on a regular basis.

Instead of a trip to NY, you can announce a weekly or monthly store discount give away. This will entice your current following and naturally spark interest in new customers. Meanwhile, it is also a deterrent for Price Hunters who might be less interested in low stakes prizes.

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What Attracts Authentic Entries?

Social media challenges are a great marketing tool. Before launching them, we have to remember their strengths are also their weaknesses.

Technology-based competitions are vulnerable to:

  • Buying likes and shares through click farms
  • Scripting of entries with fake e-mail addresses
  • Using proxy servers that bypass IP Filters

One deterrent is giving your challenge social safeguards:

  • Make an airtight rule book that includes voter manipulation
  • Winners must identify themselves and match with their account
  • Give out lower stake prices that attract fewer price hunters
  • Use a jury! It’s the best way to keep your challenge credible in finding a genuine winner

If you want to create a social campaign that includes all the measures mentioned above, try out our free trial here.

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