When I started researching and writing my book You Can’t Win If You Don’t Enter I got a good picture of where the hobby had been and where it was in the mid-2000s.  I knew the hobby would be shifting and changing.  I just didn’t know where it would go next.

Let me begin with a brief history lesson.  The hobby began as lotteries in biblical times slowly shifting to contests.  Fast forward to the 1900s.  There were very few entrants and about $15,000 was offered in prizes.  (NOTE: The figures I am quoting in this blog post are for the U.S. only.)  In the 1910s it is reported there were 100,000 entrants with companies giving away $500,000 in prizes.  That’s quite a jump in both figures in less than a decade.  By the 1930s the number of entrants was reported to be around 12,000,000 and companies gave away $100,000,000 in prizes.  (Remember, these figures are for contests, not sweepstakes as we know them today.)

In the 1960s companies began shifting from offering contests to offering sweepstakes as a way to engage with their prospects and customers.  (Read The Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio to understand the shift.)  They were less expensive to operate and since they were far easier to enter, they were able to connect with more people.  Remember, at this time all entries were still mailed in.

In the 1990s sweepstakes began to shift online.  Again, the shift was dictated by the sponsors as it was less expensive for them to offer an online promotion vs. an off-line one.  Jump to 2009.  The number of entrants didn’t jump as high as the use of sweepstakes as a marketing tool.  It’s reported there were 55,000,000 entrants and companies spend just under $2,000,000,000.  Yes, that is billion!  That number is expected to double in the next few years.  WOW!

At first, the type of sweepstakes offered online was exactly like a mail-in entry except it was digital.  As technology gained both power and popularity sweepstakes began adding in other components: permission marketing, quizzes, games, viral marketing, etc.  In the past few years, social media marketing (@SMOjoe) has really taken off.  I remember when it was a big deal to have an email address, now everyone wants to be friends and follow your tweets.   I have seen an explosion in sweepstakes offered on both Facebook and Twitter over the past two years.  eMarketer (@eMarketer) stated that 57% of tweets sent from Fortune 100 companies were promotions and contests.  Many of the promotions offered are even exclusive to those marketing vehicles.

Are you using social media to find, enter and win contests and sweepstakes?