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Mothercare has grown both followers and levels of engagement within its Facebook page (and that of sister brand Early Learning Centre) following a contextualised Advent Calendar Competition that ran last December. 

In the first two weeks the app added 31,266 fans across both the Mothercare and Early Learning Centre communities without any support from Facebook advertising, and led to a fivefold increase in the levels of engagement across both pages. 

The brand’s app development strategy, run by PR agency Diffusion, sources insights from the community (what mums want from the brand) and delivers this through solutions that are contextually relevant to the conversations taking place at the time.

The competition ran across both brand’s Facebook communities to ensure that both names were front of mind for consumers in the run up to Christmas, driving both online and instore sales. This was supported by blog and forum seeding, and email marketing to the Mothercare database.

Each day fans of Mothercare and Early Learning Centre were given the chance to win a prize or take advantage of an exclusive offer. People simply had to 'open' their advent calendar door, which became available on a daily basis within the Facebook application.

Mothercare and Early Learning Centre used their Facebook pages to identify which prizes would be in greatest demand by parents, asking which personal or family treats they wanted for Christmas.

Additionally in September Early Learning Centre launched a separate application that allowed mums to win their child’s Christmas list by sending it to Santa.

Tom Malcolm, head of the consumer division at Diffusion said that context needs to be a central consideration for any brand looking to use applications to grow their Facebook community.  

Brands need to think carefully about their app development strategy to ensure that their investment is tapping into conversations that their fans and potential fans are already having across social media.  Prizes alone will not generate long term brand loyalty – it’s vital that brands show an understanding of what they’re audience is actually interested in if they’re to form a lasting relationship with consumers online”

The Facebook application added an additional 32,473 fans across both brands (a 57% increase) without the support of Facebook advertising in the first two weeks, picking up 128,850 entries into the competition, which also grew a central email database.

From 1st – 12th December the average number of fans talking about the page went up by 520% for Mothercare, peaking at 10,531 unique fans interacting with the page over the course of a week.  Engagement levels increased by over 1600% across Early Learning Centre’s Facebook page during the same period.

Andrew Tyler, group head of Mothercare Media said that the growth of social media communities in the UK, in particular on Facebook, is key to the company's aim to remain relevant online.

This campaign has really demonstrated for us the benefits of listening to both the needs and interests of our existing communities in increasing the number of fans we have online.  This helped to ensure that both brands were front of mind for mums during a crucial Christmas period.”

Talking to your fans, and directly asking them what they want from you, is hardly rocket science. But it's still surprisingly underused as a tactic, especially as it's so easy to do, no matter the size of your online community.

Here Mothercare and Early Learning Centre have grown their communities, and given them exactly what they want - free stuff. We've spoken before about the power of 'stuff', and this is just another example of giveaways being put to good use.

Vikki Chowney

Published 4 January, 2012 by Vikki Chowney

Vikki is head of community at TMW. You can follow her on Twitter or Google+

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