Venmo Giveaways: A Case Study for Organic Social Media


How would you like to win $500?

We’d all like to look at our phones and discover we’ve just won $500. During the last week of June 2021, 100 Venmo followers (50 from Twitter and 50 from Instagram) had that exact experience. The #VenmoMe promotion gave away a total of $100,000 in $500 increments, the only requirements being that users had to: 

Retweet the post from the companyComment your Venmo handle on Venmo’s Post
Add your Venmo handleRepost the company’s post on your Instagram story
Add the #VenmoMe hashtag 
Tag Venmo 

Chances are if you were active on social media that week, you saw a flurry of posts about the Venmo Giveaway. In fact, you may have even participated in the funding frenzy yourself. That’s exactly why we want to spend some time discussing this viral marketing strategy, why it worked, and what you can take away from it. 

Although organic social media is a marketing must-have, it’s typically associated with a low ROI — campaigns like Venmo’s recent giveaways challenge that idea.

Remind Me, What Qualifies as Organic Social Media?

Organic vs Paid social media

If you find yourself asking why Venmo would give away 100k, the simple answer is organic social media. When it comes to digital marketing, “organic” refers to the non-paid side of digital marketing (think: having a website or a social media channel where customers can visit to learn more about your business).

Sometimes it’s easier to understand organic marketing when you compare it to paid marketing such as advertisements on Google, Instagram, or Facebook. These digital platforms give businesses the opportunity to expand reach (think: increase visibility) among target audiences. As these platforms have realized their advertising power over the last decade, so have many businesses — of course, it’s also catching the attention of some lawmakers, but that’s beside the point. 

With this realization, social platforms have made multiple moves to update their algorithms, favoring paid placement and devaluing organic posts. Simultaneously, more businesses have entered the digital advertising arena, driving up competition and cost-per-click for paid placement on social media channels. 

Businesses Fight Back


Due to the limited reach, lack of targeting, and difficult-to-crack algorithms, organic social media strategies are typically associated with a lower ROI when compared to paid social media. But there are ways businesses are fighting back against paid-social-media fatigue; in fact, you may have even encountered this yourself when scrolling through your social media feed. There are numerous other strategies influencers and businesses alike use to beat the algorithm, which brings us back to Venmo

Although Venmo is giving away money, they are using their product (read: money) to foster a positive image, increase access and awareness among their target audience, and grow their user base. And, they were able to achieve all of this without shelling out money to the “big box” digital advertisers listed above. 

Understanding the Marketing Genius Behind Venmo's Organic Social Campaign

Did it work?

Ask yourself: How many times did you see Venmo’s logo or a mention of the company during those few days? Even if it was just once, that is one more time than you would have seen otherwise. Venmo proved its organic strategy’s success in 3 main ways:

  • Increasing Organic Reach: 

By piquing the curiosity of organic social media users wondering what all of the posting is about, Venmo was able to drive more organic traffic to download their app, visit their website, or follow them on social media. The algorithm sees this organic traffic and starts serving Venmo’s content more frequently because users are more engaged with the content. 

The Venmo challenge increased reach, drove conversion, and increased future reach, all without ever paying for promotion. 

  • Serving the Community

In the #VenmoMe campaign, Venmo spent $100,000 in giveaways — which may initially seem like a large sum, but this number pales in comparison to the ad spend of many other large companies. Companies often spend 20% of revenue on marketing, with some spending as much as 50% of their overall revenue. For a company that made roughly $500 million in revenue in 2020, the $100,000 spent on this campaign was a relatively inexpensive way to increase traffic ($100,000,000 is roughly 20% of their overall revenue). 

If you are going to spend $100,000 on a marketing strategy, would you rather spend it in ads or giving it back to the community?

  • Another Giveaway?

According to Distraftify, this isn’t their first rodeo, and Venmo has continued running these types of promotions on social media since. Just after the #VenmoMe promotion, the company ran the #VenmoItForward giveaway, offering a total of $10,000 (in $100, $250, and $500 increments) to “help with rent this month.” Venmo has clearly found a way to capitalize on its product in order to expand its reach, increase engagement, and outsmart advertising giants.

It’s safe to say that we’ll be seeing more Venmo campaigns in the future. 

Introduce Innovation Into Your Social Media Strategy

While not all of us have $100,000 to spend on giveaways, there are ways we can use this case study to create an organic marketing strategy of our own. This is just one example of a way to increase the ROI for organic social media in a business — each business is unique, requiring a unique marketing strategy to cut through the noise of our digital age. This is what Brand Mark Digital does for our clients, and it’s what we can do for you!

Contact your friends at BMD to get your own social strategy!

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