Understand What Motivates Participation

Participants typically fall into three categories: they want to win something, they want to be recognized for their behavior or efforts, or they truly care about something. "The more you can tap into those three things, the more effective any online effort will be," Ghanem says.

Recognize People's Passions

People tend to be more passionate about politics, sports, and fashions than consumer brands and goods. "If I were to run a campaign to get user-generated content about the war, lots of people would enter that even if there wasn't a prize," Ghanem says. It's far more difficult to get people excited about consumer brands, such as dishwashing detergent. That's where prizes become an incentive for participation.

Pick the Best Format for the Demographic

Video is better suited for a campaign targeting Gen Y skateboarding men. When the History Channel targets baby boomer men, a contest that uses text makes more sense, says Ghanem. A young man is more likely to pick up a video camera and shoot a friend skateboarding, and a middle-aged history buff is more likely watching television, reading books, or writing a blog.

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