By Beth J. Bates, New Media Special Correspondent

I am a sucker for contests, especially contests that require me to be at a certain place at a certain time. I will admit that I’m uber competitive, so beating out the next guy for a prize, no matter how small, is pretty gratifying.

Recently I’ve participated in several contests held on Facebook and Twitter, and they were really fun and exciting. They not only provided that competitive edge that I love, but also brought fans of a particular brand together. Let me give you a great example of why contests work as part of a social media campaign:

MailChimp is a great, “almost free” e-newsletter solution that has a great branding and marketing team. As part of a recent promotion, MailChimp held a contest which offered free MailChimp t-shirts to folks who completed an online form. Getting a t-shirt wasn't quite that easy, of course. The form was only available at random points during the day and only for very short amounts of time. MailChimp only announced when the online form was available through Twitter and Facebook, so to get a t-shirt you really had to pay attention to the company's posts throughout the day.

During “non-contest” times, MailChimp posted information about their services, upcoming webinars and tips for e-newsletter marketing, while fans posted comments about how much they love MailChimp. The contest was really a win-win for everyone: MailChimp got to spread the love and raise brand awareness while fans got free t-shirts (I nabbed 2 of them!).

So as you develop your social media plan, consider running contests; they can be a lot of fun and can create considerable buzz about your brand.

Beth J. Bates consults with Hinge on social media tool selection and strategy and helps its clients find effective ways to leverage these new mediums to meet business goals.