Engagement is key in social media.  It's where brands strive to connect with their audience in a way to inspire them to take some sort of desired action. Educational software company Blackboard had the goal of driving representatives of educational institutions to their website, in order to download “Building Blocks,” their partner programs.

A secondary goal for Blackboard was to raise awareness of their service and encourage institutions to adopt digital content as part of their curriculum.

Their strategy on Twitter was to use a contest to generate interest and engagement, but they realized they would need to reach out beyond their existing network for best results. The contest, Blackboard System Administrator Superstar, required participants to download, install and provide instructor access to at least three publisher “Building Blocks.” Each entrant had the chance to win an American Express gift card, a great incentive for cash-strapped educational organizations, and a recognition badge to use on their website.

Once the contest was in place, Blackboard decided Promoted Tweets were the right social advertising product to help them increase their exposure and target the people most likely to enter their contest. The day before they launched the contest on Twitter, @Blackboard tweeted and promoted a teaser, urging people to check back in later for news. In the contest announcement the next day, they promoted tweets linking to both the blog post with contest information and the entry page itself. To get the most relevant leads, they didn’t promote the prize, but the resources themselves, using hashtags to target specific search results around the topic.

Use relevant content and hashtags to promote engagement.

Throughout the contest, Blackboard continued to use Promoted Tweets, though their focus was not that participants could win something, but that they would be providing a valuable service to their students by using “Building Blocks.”

This strategy worked incredibly well for the brand; engagement with their Promoted Tweets was as high as 4%. Average daily brand mentions increased 78% and they surpassed their contest participation goal by 50%.

How can you use a similar strategy to engage your social audience and convince them to take action? Blackboard shared their 3 Keys to Success in a recent case study about their experience:

1. Reach beyond your follower base. Help Twitter users discover your brand and services by appearing in their search results or in their feed with your relevant information.

2. Seed interest. Tweet teasers to your upcoming promotion and pique your audience’s curiosity.

3. Keep them engaged.  Blackboard’s strategy was a clever approach to a contest; brands can reduce the amount of entries by people simply looking for a prize by focusing instead of the value of the offering. Use relevant content, either original or curated, to provide interesting information to your audience, in addition to the contest tweets, throughout the promotion.

Blackboard achieved their business goals and drove real, targeted, converting traffic to their website using social ads. Have you used Promoted Tweets or another social ad product? Share your experience in the comments!