Connect With A Motivated Client

Recently I was asked by the enthusiastically acclaimed San Miguel Writers Conference (SMAWC) to create and run a series of social media contests for their 2017 February event. An event that featured the likes of  singer songwriting legend Judy Collins,  U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins, writer Naomi Klein and a bevvy of other popular and amazing writers, poets and journalists.

The SMAWC skews to a more mature audience without a lot of native social media savvy. Our goal with these campaigns were to:

  • Build awareness of the brand
  • Build goodwill between the conference and its audiences
  • Have some fun in the process

All three goals were accomplished.

How The Social Media Contests Were Run

Contest Purpose

There are several key reason to continue running SMAWC Social Media Contests. Among these are to:

  • gain brand exposure across the networks of those who post using our hashtag to reach new audiences
  • create good will
  • build a network of connection between SMAWC, attendees, faculty and other participants

Improvements From Year Previous

Based on the experience of the 2016 social media contests some new practices were adopted for this year to improve engagement in a variety of ways. Among these were:

  • Let participants donate prizes
  • Created a special album through the SMAWC Facebook page to hold photos as well as donor promo links and info, shared and tweeted link to this album throughout
  • Simplified instructions
  • Simplified contests
  • Use one tag consistently throughout
  • Provided instructions for making Facebook posts public (tweets and instagram tagged images already are)
  • Created a manned prize area in the book store tent
  • May have had the contests announced at the podium at least one time?
  • Included instructions with every prize awarded for how to thank donor
  • Winners were not only announced on the platform or post tagged, but also in an updated list posted in the contest area every morning and on our Facebook Prizes album linked here.
  • Kept good record of winners and who picked up what prize

Below is the flyer I designed with all the salient info. It was included on the SMAWC website as well as in print included with every participant’s official info packet, and available in the prize area itself.

2017 Social Media Contests Engagement

Four times more than 2016!


On Instagram alone there was an improvement over 2016 in quantity of posts up four times what it had been the year previous.


On Twitter there a more robust participation all 5 days of the contest run, though their interface doesn’t provide a tally of tweets using a particular tag, you can get a sense of the activity by scrolling through the results in this link:


Facebook offers a similar tag search result, though they are more custom tailored to the individual doing the search. Facebook will prioritize results from friends and pages liked first, and then offer a more general result feed.

The posts on Facebook were charming

Feedback Received Directly to Date

While by no means comprehensive, the feedback received from participants themselves was altogether positive, happy and supportive.


  • Liked the chance for a little free publicity on the WC Facebook page in an album created especially to hold photos, links and descriptions of their donated items.
  • In several instances loved meeting the contest winner who selected their item for their prize.


  • Liked the easy to remember and use hashtag: #SMAWC2017
  • They also liked that there was only one hashtag to remember and use (unlike 2016 when we had a unique hashtag for every day)
  • Loved receiving an audio download as a runner up prize

Prize Alchemy

Em Walsh and Cathy Cassady Sylvia

Sometimes a little bit of magic happened as prize winners came to pick out their prize. Here’s one that was particularly enchanting:

Here is the text from a SMAWC Facebook post:

How cool is this story?!

The Instagrammer and writer Emma Walsh has been posting using our hashtag #SMAWC2017 on her Instagram account. She won her choice of our prizes, donated by fellow conference participants, authors, speakers and artisans.

Now read Em’s story:

“Perhaps the most magical moment of my first writers’ conference happened today when I won this book written by Neal Cassady’s wife from the social media contest.

When asked to pick out my prize, I immediately knew I needed this book. I’ve been coming to San Miguel since I was 14 and more than once brought a Beat Generation book along with me.

As I grew older I discovered that Neal Cassidy – Dean Moriarty in On the Road – died in San Miguel, putting an imprint on a city I had been frequenting often and falling in love with. Little did I know that upon receiving this prize, the daughter* of Neal and Carolyn Cassady, Cathy Cassady Sylvia, would be there and that I would be lucky enough to talk to her for a bit!

She even signed the book saying “Enjoy the story of my Mom and Dad and ‘Uncle’ Jack and Allen.” So surreal! It took everything in me not to gush on and on. You can certainly bet then this will be my next read, especially since I’ve always been looking for a woman’s perspective from the movement.

What a magnificent way for the universe to bring my writing world full circle Thanks for sharing this with me Cathy! I will treasure it forever! 💕

Way. Too. Cool! Curious about the book? Check it on Amazon:…/1590201043

  • Cathy Cassidy Sylvia, the daughter of the author mentioned was one of our amazing book store volunteers, and was right there when Em came to select her prize.

Pictured below is winner Em Walsh’s Instagram post:

Social Media Contest Logistics

I constructed a prize area in the book store tent and was graciously allowed some table space to do so by Book Store Manager Raisl Rich.

It was comprised of:

  • two blocks and shelving I brought from home
  • A small bulletin board
  • several plastic sign holders to announce times and rules
  • printed extra Donor Intake Forms
  • printed extra General Info flyers
  • printed a generic thank you form to include with each prize awarded (see Appendix)

Daily Logistics

  • Winners were selected every early morning
  • A list was generated and posted in the prize album of the SMAWC Facebook page as well as printed and posted in the prize area.
  • Each winner was also alerted on their winning post or by direct message when available of their winner’s status and given instructions how to claim their prize.
  • Prize table was staffed 12p – 2pm every day to award prizes, take photos, give out info and explain details to any who asked.


This wasn’t scientific nor random. Judging was designed to maximize the feel-good aspects of this endeavor for all involved as well as improve visibility of SMAWC on the 3 social media platforms used (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram)

Winners were selected using the following criteria:

  • Number of posts
  • Post enthusiasm
  • Post creativity
  • Whether or not this user had won yet or before

What We’ll Do Better for 2018

Suggested Improvements for Our 2018 Social Media Contests

While we definitely saw an increase in participation in our 2017 contests, I still think we could have an even better result if we worked on several key aspects.

Pre Conference

  • Actively engage in all 3 social networks well before the actual event.
  • Establish ongoing dialogue with active followers who identify themselves by commenting, messaging and tagging the SMAWC in their posts
  • Maintain a robust presence on Facebook and Twitter at the very least
  • Engage, Entertain and Educate followers all throughout the year, din addition to advertising and promoting events
  • Add Contest info to any newsletters that go out with conference info
  • Make sure faculty is clearly aware of the contests and our active social media platforms
  • Set up a Contest Page or Post on the main website and keep updated as prizes are donated and winners announced. Give it an easy to copy URL and use that
  • Get a wide variety of easy to pack or downloadable prizes
  • Lay in a good stock of SMAWC audio download coupons

During Conference

  • Make the Prize area a little more substantial
  • Collect photos of winners more religiously
  • Have hashtag more prominently displayed on conference materials, banners and posters (flanking podium so it appears in others’ photos, for example)
  • Have announcements made at the podium from time to time
  • Add contest slides to the intro slideshow that plays as people fill ballroom
  • Post winners on official contest post on SMAWC main website in addition to Facebook album page
  • Have a budget to boost posts on Facebook and then do so every day highlighting winners on site and people participating ‘off campus’ so to speak


Social Media Contest Donor Intake Form


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