By Ian Cleary, Contributing {grow} Columnist

Engaging with your fans or followers through social media dialogue, polls and interactive competitions are quite popular, but they are not easily discoverable or linked to revenue generation – These online competitions are generally run in isolation through a Facebook page, website or other social media platform.

Clearly that is the essential goal for any business — connecting all this social activity to business goals. I discovered a great example of success in this area when I caught up with Andrew Hossom, vice president of marketing and consumer insights for Fox Sports Digital (he recently left his position to set up his own consultancy)

Andrew wanted a solution that allowed his marketing team to set up online competitions without any development help. He also wanted to run them simultaneously across many sites on the web and mobile platforms and bring in a sponsor to offset expenses for the opportunity of engaging brands with the fans of FOX Sports.

It was also important to aggregate results across all sites and platforms.  So for example, the same leaderboard in a competition would be displayed wherever customers access the site.

Fox launched a suite of apps provided by Voices Heard Media (VHM).  Instead of creating a new and sometimes artificial destination site less likely to attract users to competitions, they integrated these apps into the existing channels that consumers were using in addition to the sites of the sponsors. What I like about this approach is that Fox deployed once and the contest data is all coming back to one source without nay artificial manipulation.

VHM provides an easy tool for setting up the competitions and great analytics to monitor results.  What surprised me is the sophisticated level of functionality available at a price affordable not just to Fox, but to any type of business.  Here’s an example of a Quiz currently running on Fox Sports: This quiz was sponsored by CitiBank and can be displayed on many sites across the web – Fox Sports sites, Citi sites, Mobile Sites, Facebook pages. I think this is an interesting application because advertisers are increasingly looking for more than just an impression through a banner ad.

In this case study, the advertiser is providing fun, social engagement in a relevant, integrated, and compelling web experience. Just seems like a much more effective type of sponsorship, doesn’t it?

But even if you’re not bringing in a sponsor to your web activities, what about offering a discount for your product and service based on the contest participation?  Or just collecting the name/e-mail address for another mini competition and then adding this person to your email subscriber database?

What makes this type of innovation interesting is that the industry is starting to push beyond the vanity of fans and followers to integrate revenue generating opportunities as part of our social promotions.  And all the data from every channel is put together in one easy to understand dashboard for your advertiser and internal management team.

I like Voices Heard Media as an affordable social media tool that connects the dots between social engagement and customer metrics.

So what is your experience running similar social engagement applications?  How have you turned fans and followers into dollars? What other applications have you come across that allow you to engage your customer in interactive competitions wherever they are on the web? We’d love to hear your feedback.

Ian Cleary is founder of RazorSocial an award winning website that provides social media training on social media management tools.  Follow Ian on Twitter @iancleary

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