Smart Canada Contest

Case Study: Facebook Sweepstakes Demonstrates that Social Media Can Help Cleantech Go Mainstream

Anyone who still doubts the relevance of social media marketing, including for cleantech companies–who is still not convinced that it should be placed front and center in the online marketer’s toolbox–should look no farther than Smart Canada’s “Electric Drive Giveaway” sweepstakes. The sweepstakes is part of the Smart Plugged In Tour, which is basically a knock-off of Nissan’s Drive Electric Tour for the Leaf, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

This wildly successful campaign is ripe for a case study on how social media can be used to market cleantech products. Smart Canada’s perfectl executed Facebook contest, has increased it’s fan base by 498% in just one week. Indeed, the growth curve is so steep it would make Ed McMahon turn green (and I don’t mean he’d rush out and by an EV). Just one week ago, Smart Canada had seemingly reached a plateau at only about 600 Facebook fans. At the time I started writing this post, it had about 4000 fans, and right now, just an hour later it is at 4400. I will revisit this sweepstakes in a few weeks to see if this growth can be sustained–my prediction is that it will be a while before we see a plateau.

Update: There’s no plateau in sight. As of August 23, 2011, Smart Canada has a whopping 25,300 Facebook fans. Do the math, and Smart Canada has added an average of 417 fans everyday since the contest began about 2 months ago, with a growth rate of over 450%. Wow!

Indeed, social media and sweepstakes are a match made in heaven. People’s innate tendency to find irresistible the prospect of getting something for free compels them to enter the sweepstakes, and social media makes it exceedingly easy to share the opportunity with others. Add cleantech evangelists to the mix, and this is surely viral marketing at its finest. And yet, for every success story like this one, countless other social media marketing campaigns struggle to gain traction. What is it about this campaign that is making it work so well?

  • A good iframe app: Smart Canada chose to use the aptly named Wildfire Interactive’s robust, award-winning app.
  • Good graphic design: This adds visual appeal that engages consumers.
  • A mandatory “like” button: To enter the sweepstakes, Facebook users must become fans (this is a paid upgrade feature, but the ROI is clearly demonstrated).
  • Timing: Knowledge of electric cars is on the rise due to plenty of buzz resulting from the recent release of mass-market EVs such as the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Volt.
  • Relevance (a really cool prize): Who in Canada, a much more environmentally conscious country than the US, wouldn’t want to win a free electric Smart Car? Canadians are also more supportive of cleantech than are Americans.
  • An active and engaged fan base: they paid attention to and participated in the contest, even if there were only 600 of them. These are the people who kicked things off, who recommended the contest to their friends at the outset. Our research shows that cleantech evangelists, including electric car enthusiasts are extremely active across all social media.
  • A low barrier to entry:  To enter the sweepstakes takes no more than a few minutes. The Facebook user must agree to become a fan of Smart Canada and then proceed to give basic contact information. Contests that require people to spend more than a few minutes typically fail to go viral–even if they have the time, people just don’t have the patience. How many people are going to enter a poster contest where they must spend many hours to create a poster that stands any chance of winning? On the other hand, such a contest could be quite useful if you’re crowd sourcing content for a new marketing and advertising campaign, but it will never result in rapid growth. Ecoped E-bikes (Canada) is in the final stages of running one, and it has resulted in some lovely posters that bring creative ideas for Ecoped to draw upon.

What else do you think is making this into such a successful social media sweepstakes? We will revisit this later and will also explore what the value of this contest is to Smart Canada as a business, and why other cleantech companies should seriously consider leveraging social media.

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Remy Tennant has over 10 years of professional experience in marketing and communications. He has been involved with cleantech since 2009, and has worked with various cleantech organizations including Getaround, ChargePoint, Rising Sun Energy Center, The Clean Tech Open, Commuter Cars, Plug In America, CalCars, Jonway International, EV Battery Forum, Dufrense Market Research, and ElectraDrive. He holds a B.A. in Liberal Arts from the University of California at Santa Cruz, and an MBA from San Francisco State University with an emphasis in High-Tech Marketing.