Running a contest for your website, blog, e-newsletter, etc. can be a great way to:
* Increase awareness/buzz of your site/blog/etc.
* Increase readership.
The first two are obvious – a contest can help generate traffic, subscriptions, etc. And hopefully that increased awareness/buzz/readership helps you in other ways as well (increased business, new clients, etc.)
The third item above may seem less obvious, but don’t de-value the relationship you can build with contestants. Each person that submits an entry to your contest is a potential friend, someone most likely interested in what you’re doing, and someone you may benefit from in the future.
The trick to doing a contest is how you do it in order for it to be a success. Here are 5 steps you can take:
1. Come up with an appropriate contest. This might be the most complicated step of all. Here are some guidelines:
- The contest must fit well with your target market. Don’t run a contest asking for the silliest video podcast if your readership has no clue how to create a podcast. Don’t run a contest for serious fan fiction of the Superman movie, if your website isn’t about fan fiction, writing, Superman or all of those things.
Pick both the right type of contest and the right style.
A contest might involve: writing, answering trivia questions, creating videos, a treasure hunt, etc.
The style might be: serious, funny, absurd, raunchy, skill-based, etc.
- The contest can’t be too complicated. Contests that are overly complex, with too many rules or steps, will disinterest the casual person. If the goal is to attract a wider audience make the contest as open as possible, without diminishing it’s targeted value to your audience. Try and keep the steps involved to participate at 5 or less. Anyone should be able to follow 5 or less steps to understand: what the contest is about, why they should want to participate and how they can participate.
- The contest must engage people to explore what else you’re offering. Use the contest as a doorway to what you’re really offering. If you’re promoting a website, then make it so that the contest attracts people to look at the rest of your site. Or, if the contest is designed to get more people to read your e-newsletter, give them the option of immediately subscribing to your e-newsletter when they submit their contest entry. The contest shouldn’t be an island unto itself; it has to be well-integrated into your entire package.
- The contest needs a definitive deadline. This will depend on how long it takes someone to complete their entry, and how quickly you can generate enough attention, but give your contest a definitive deadline. Anything longer than 2 months might lose people’s interest as it stretches, plus you’ll have to keep promoting it throughout that time, which may be time consuming.
2. Research the legal issues. There may be some legal issues when running contests between countries, and certain states, provinces and countries will have specific rules related to contests (or sweepstakes, drawings, etc.) Check out contests being run online, and you can scan the rules to get a sense of what others are doing.
3. Decide on the prizes. The prize can be as important as the contest. A crappy contest might still be successful with great prizes. Here are some guidelines for prizes:
- Prizes don’t have to be HUGE. You don’t have to give away a $10,000 cash prize for your contest to be successful.
- Prizes should be special. Special can mean a lot of things, but think about the following, when thinking “special”:
- Is the prize easy to get elsewhere?
- Is the prize something that your community is REALLY going to want?
- Is the prize unique?
- Is the prize tied to any ongoing buzz?
- Is the prize related to something people infrequently do but always want to do? (i.e. think vacations, think get professional services that they can’t afford/don’t have time to seek out.)
- Prizes need to fit in with the contest. The more closely related the contest and the prizes, the better. If it’s a contest to find the best PR story, give away a book on PR or PR-related services. If it’s a video contest, give away a video recorder. Tie the type of contest to the type of prize.
4. Put the contest online. Blog or website, it doesn’t matter, get the contest online, explain it clearly (including why you’re doing it, the rules, how people can win, and the prizes.)
5. Promote the heck out of it. Now it’s time to promote the contest. If it’s a writing contest, you can find some places online to promote it, including:
Non-writing contests don’t have as many places for promotion, so you’ll need to use your blog, e-newsletters and friends to spread the word. But, you can also use:
Depending on the type of contest, you can “re-promote it” over time by publishing entries on your site/blog. It’ll hopefully show the style and quality of submissions and encourage others to participate.
If you can, I’d recommend that you find a way to give prizes to more than just the winner. Maybe you’ve got a runner-up prize or 2nd and 3rd place prizes. The more the merrier in my book, and anyone that wins (even if they don’t get the top prize) will be extremely happy, and more than likely become more loyal than before. So if you can offer a few prizes, do it.
Secret Tip of the Day
You can get people to donate prizes. It’s actually quite easy, especially if you’ve got a good online and physical network of contacts & friends. Just ask. The worst someone can say is, “No thanks, not interested.” But everyone likes free publicity, and that’s exactly what donating a prize to a contest does. For IGotNewsForYou’s Funny Fake News Writing Contest every prize you see listed was donated by someone. They were all gracious enough to do so, and they all recognize the value of the exposure. And, most of them I didn’t know before I started the contest – which proves you don’t even need a huge network; just go out, find people that may be interested in the contest, with things they can offer that are related to the contest, and ask. This is also a great way to network!
So if you can’t afford a big prize, or you want to give away a wagonload of stuff — get people to donate prizes.
IGotNewsForYou has run 2 contests (1 still going), and both have been a great success. We received some hysterical fake funny news entries, and we met some great people. So it’s worth it. Give it a try!