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If you’re considering running a contest on your blog, it can be a great way to get new readers, build links, earn community goodwill, and position yourself top-of-mind in your niche. There are countless ways to screw up your own contest though. Here are some of the worst offenders.
- Giving away something people don’t want. Guess how many people are going to enter your contest if you give away “5 shout-outs on Twitter?” A copy of that e-book you wrote is about as worthless. And don’t EVER give away coupons as a prize.
- Making the contest overly complex. Your contest should not cause migraines or seizures. And it should not have a ridiculous overabundance of failure points.
- Requiring too much. In most cases, people won’t enter if it takes a Tweet, comment, blog post, Facebook post, and an image upload just for a chance to win a $5 prize. The contest requirements should be in line with the prize value or you’ll have very few entrants and a large number of incomplete submissions.
- Not requiring enough. If entry for a valuable prize is too easy, it can actually make people value both you and the prize less. Similarly, I’ve seen many bloggers host contests on Twitter that didn’t even require the entrant to follow the blogger or navigate to the website. Those are huge missed opportunities.
- Requiring stupidity/embarrassment to enter. You may think it’s funny to make people tweet something ridiculous for their whole network to see or take a stupid picture to enter, but you immediately alienate a large portion of your community and the ones who do enter may end up regretting it and hold it against you.
- Not promoting enough. The best prize and contest setup can’t make up for a lack of promotion. There are a lot of ways to promote a blog contest and if your contest rules can fuel the promotion, even better. I just did a bacon contest where, for an extra entry, people could comment on who they would [hypothetically] share bacon with. I notified each of those individuals to let them know that they were named “cool enough to share bacon with,” with a link back to the contest page, which was very effective in fueling more natural promotion.
- Not building community. Is your contest structured to keep you and your blog on someone’s radar after the contest is over? If not, you’re not building anything for yourself. Great contests will at least employ some “captive audience marketing.” This involves making the entrant subscribe or at least follow via social media for a long enough period to really become familiar with the blogger’s writing and personality. If you’re only using that “window of opportunity” to promote your contest, you’re missing the whole point of having a window.
- Not giving enough contest details. Many bloggers leave out essential details about the contest, like deadlines, how the winner will be chosen and contacted, what the prize actually is, etc. This can leave participants feeling frustrated and confused, which leads to resentment.
- Not following through. Contest holders need to follow through with what they commit to doing as moderator of the contest, whether explicit or implied. This includes things like approving comments or updating leaderboards. I 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.
- Not sticking to the rules. If you change the contest rules part-way through, there had better be a good reason, and it better not hurt the chances (or the expectations) of those who have already entered. A good example is extending contest deadlines because you didn’t get the response you were hoping for. That’s your fault, not the entrant’s. Just accept the fact that someone won more easily than you liked.
- Being intentionally or unintentionally vague. If your contest is intentionally vague, then you deserve the flack. More often, contests accidentally frame the rules so that there can be a dispute as to who actually won or answered a trivia question correctly or submitted the right answer first. Make sure there are enough details in your rules to avoid controversy.
- Rewarding people who didn’t enter. I’ve seen contests where people were required to enter, but the ultimate winner was chosen from among all subscribers, Facebook fans, or Twitter followers – including those who had never even entered the contest. Major buzzkill.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle for bloggers when it comes to contests is designing the contest with their own end goals in mind. Bloggers need to decide what their ultimate objectives are (and they should be more specific than “I want to increase traffic” or “I want to get more subscribers”) and then accordingly align contest rules, entry requirements, and prizes with those objectives. Having said that, you may not even have objectives to your contest and that’s OK. If all you’re looking to do is reward your readers or say thank you or give back to your community using a contest, that’s fine. Just avoid looking like a moron in the process. Photo Credit: 3xhumed