Running a contest on your blog can boost traffic, increase sales, and raise brand awareness, among other things. But if you're going to do it, you'd better do it right – or it will do you more harm than good. Keep reading for some pointers.
I picked up these ideas from Scott Crowley's piece for Search Engine Journal. He wrote it from the point of view of what you should NOT do when you're running a blog contest, and covered more ground than I can here. It's well worth checking out.
First, consider what you're giving away as a prize. Is it something that people actually want? A ten percent off coupon – any coupon, to be honest – won't cut it; you can get that kind of discount in a lot of places just for asking. A flash drive at least has some real value to the winner.
Second, you should match the value of the prize with the amount of effort an entrant needs to go through to win. To win a flash drive, it might be enough to answer a trivia question online. For an iPad, it should be a little more difficult. For something really expensive, like a car, it should be even more difficult; you might have entrants submit videos and tell their friends about the contest. Interestingly, if you make it too easy to enter a contest for a valuable prize, entrants won't think the prize is all that valuable.
After you've worked out the rules and nature of the contest, and matched it to the prize, you need to make sure you're absolutely clear about all the details when you post the contest. That means you need to make sure that anyone reading it will know when the deadline is, how the winner will be chosen and contacted, who is eligible, what the prize actually is, and so forth. Leave out any details and you'll only confuse and frustrate those who want to enter, engendering ill will rather than making the positive impression for which you're aiming.
Going along with the point of not accidentally leaving something out, do NOT be deliberately vague about the nature of the prize. Just ask DJ Slick. As the night host of the Hot 102 radio station in Lexington, Ky., he held a contest in which he promised “100 grand” to the tenth caller. The winner was NOT amused to find that the prize was really a Nestle's 100 Grand candy bar, and not $100,000. She's now suing, and DJ Slick has left the station. Do not do this to your contestants; not only is it not funny, it's actually insulting.
So you've got everything set for your contest. Now you'd better make sure you follow through! What if you get too few entries? That's your fault, not the fault of the entrants. Don't punish them by extending the deadline because it turned out to be easier to win your prize than you had hoped. In fact, make sure you follow through with all of your contest commitments, explicit or implied. Crowley “witnessed a contest where the first three successful entrants were supposed to win (which suggested a very short-lived contest), but the contest holder waited 2 months before announcing any winners. There was an obvious disconnect and it frustrated a lot of people.”
There are lots of details you'll need to get right if you want to make sure your contests are fun for everyone and accomplish your goals. But following these recommendations should get you off to a good start. Good luck!
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