Marketers constantly create online schemes cleverly employed to trick people into giving up their details, but with the new Sweepstakes app on Facebook, at least this time we get something in return. At first glance, the new giveaway forum would appear to be the ultimate destination for anyone looking to win trips to foreign countries or get  hooked up on all sorts of free goods. The real winner in this game, however, is the contests itself.

App of the Week

The Sweepstakes for Fan Pages app enables companies to easily create and launch branded sweepstakes within minutes. There are all kinds of coupons, giveaways and lotteries going on, sorted by categories from beauty and fashion to travel and culture; love and dating to pets and automotive. In order to obtain any prize (or attempt to at least), players must give away their personal secrets, some contests demanding more  than others. Currently, there are 730,000 users, and I imagine this figure is growing steadily based on the outreach strategy.

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The first contest I checked out was “Artist of the month,” a sweeps in the music section. This month, the spotlight was on Tim McGraw; those who entered the contest were eligible with either the grand prize -- a collection of the country star’s best works -- or the runner-up consolation gift -- a copy of his next album. In order to do so, you were required to provide your birthday, email, phone number and mailing address. At the end of the entry form, there was a note warning you, “By providing your email address, Great American Country (GAC) may email you company updates and announcements.”

I opted not to go through with this one, as the thought of all the ways country music could reach me was alarming, but what an incredible way to find out where I live, how old I am and probably everything else about me for little offering in return. All my data in exchange for some excess stock? It was a simple effort with incredibly lucrative analytical profits.

(Editor's Note: Check out other Facebook Apps we looked at)

The next campaign I browsed was by Fardoulis Chocolates, who were advertising a Valentine’s Day giveaway. Those who entered could win US$ 250 worth of chocolate and a ticket to the movies. This was perfect for me since I would be alone on the holiday, thus it would give me something to do and eat. Fardoulis only requested my zip code, email and birthday; I figured a promotional coupon for bon-bons every so often wouldn’t be so bad, so sealed the deal.

After completing the sign-up offer, I was given the option to invite some of my Facebook friends to partake in the promotion. I also immediately received an email confirmation with a link to the company website, and was prompted to share the news with my contacts on Facebook and Twitter. I imagined the chain reaction that could occur if I merely picked one person to invite, they picked one and so on. I could build a database for Fardoulis all on my own. Again, the trend was a modest gift in return for contacts, files, and some third-party marketing help.

The last promotion I looked into was a coupon giveaway from Swanson Health Products: five bucks to spend on their merchandise by installing their app and submitting my basic info and “likes.” Actually only users who “liked” Swanson products were eligible for the offer, therefore linking you and your entire network to the company.

We’re All Winners Here!

Considering there aren’t many winners in these campaigns and a whole lot of data to be mined, the biggest winner in the Sweepstakes app is definitely not you or me. Businesses shrewdly acquire a giant collection of records, which they can manipulate and monetize, managing existing customers, leads, and potential targets while orchestrating branded promotional efforts through Twitter, Facebook and email.

Social networks are now the premiere spot to understand how customers think and act. Along with interests and tendencies, the sweepstakes concept additionally helps to uncover things like whether clients are interested in free gifts vs. coupons; if they prefer experiences to memorabilia; whether or not they are single on romantic holidays. Further, the well-placed encouragement to Tweet and pitch friends also serves as an enormously valuable tool. Get someone else to do the work for you, that’s always my motto.

The Nitty-Gritty

So let’s get to the logistics then -- how much does it cost and how difficult is it to administer? In fact, the sweepstakes are relatively inexpensive to build.

Here’s how the pricing structure breaks down:

  • Basic plan: US$ 5/promotion + 0.99/day -- not customized
  • Standard: US$ 25/promotion + 2.99/day -- includes a custom header banner and entry forms
  • Premium: US$ 250/promotion + 4.99/day -- includes a custom design and on-the-call email chat or phone support

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App campaigns are created through Wildfire, a DIY promotion builder, which allows you to grow and engage fans through social promotions. The software program facilitates whatever campaign structure you’re looking, featuring customization items like a social page builder, and landing pages for Facebook, websites, etc. You can use one of their designers or your own, and they aim to help you “streamline communication between fans and followers and track what they say about you.” The results are measured via a social performance calculator on their dashboard.

The Verdict

I give this one a B+. For businesses, it’s a simple way to get a lot for your money, and users at least feel a little compensated along the way.