Everyone loves a good contest, both the webmaster and the users. It brings a bucket full of backlinks, a healthy surge of traffic, some admiring subscribers and your viewers will kept happier. Everyone would love to win some awesome prizes for something that took them all of 30 seconds to do online. However, if your contest is not planned or run well, it could even reflect negatively on your blog/website.

When Should I Run My First Contest?

You should keep in mind what your current popularity on the web is. If you are only attracting 10 visitors a day, with a small social following, a contest is probably out of reach for you at this point. However, with reasonable traffic and a reasonable social following a contest can do wonders for your blog.

Other thoughts such as the length of the contest and when it should start and end should be taken into consideration. People are most likely to enter competitions as they near their end, therefore should be at a time that the most people are online, after work or on the weekend would be my recommendation.

What’s The First Step?

Well the first step to creating a great contest, is to secure some great prizes. No one will want to enter a contest where the top 3 prizes contain items that have been lying around in your garage. Your prizes should be appealing to the demographic your blog or website is targeting. If you run a blog on trainspotting, prizes such as limited edition model trains, railway sets, special train tickets, event tickets would be of interest to your viewers. However, these kind of prizes wouldn’t be so popular if you are running a technology or gaming blog for example.

There are only 2 ways to supply prizes for your contest, you supply them yourself or a sponsor supplies them. Now obviously the latter would be the favoured choice, however finding sponsors isn’t easy, but it is possible. You can start by skimming across the web for other contests, finding out who sponsored their prizes and get in contact yourself.

What Are You After?

The is a reason for every contest, even if it was just to entertain your viewers or to improve your brand identity, there will be a reason behind it. Make sure that you clearly decide what your goals are before you begin your contest. Here are some examples of goals: -

  • Improve your Twitter following
  • Increase Facebook likes
  • Get lots of backlinks
  • Add to your subscribers
  • Promote your business

After setting out your goals, you need to decide how to measure the results. E.g. Aiming to achieve 500 Facebook likes, measuring before and after the contest to record the impact.

Make It Simple

When it comes to getting people to enter, it needs to be clear and simple. The world is moving fast and no one likes to wait for anything anymore. Making the competition entry process long and tedious will just put people off entering. Look back on your goals to decide how you would like your audience to enter. E.g. If you are after increasing your presence on Twitter, you could ask people to retweet a sentence with your @twittername & a hash tag relating to your competition.

“Hey @webdevluke I want to win an iPad! #webdevipad!”

Do You Want A Contest OR Competition?

Which would you prefer? A contest is probably less effort, but a competition gives the user the feeling they are more likely to win if they get the answer correct. The difference is a contest is randomly chosen from a list on entries and a competition is chosen from a list of entries who have answered a question correctly or submitted the best work etc.

Designing The Contest

Now obviously the promotion is what gets users to the contest originally, but it is the styling, ease of use, content and the overall appearance which attracts them in and makes them “need” to enter. So what are the key factors to address?

  • Easy To Understand – Make sure that your contest is easy to understand how to enter, when it ends, what the prizes are.
  • Easy To Share – Make it as easy as possible for your viewers to share your contest across many different social channels.
  • Eye Catching Make sure that the contest catches your eye, colour titles, great images and styled content
  • Call To Action Make the viewer feel like they need to enter the contest straight away

It is important to emphasise to the viewer what they could be winning and how they can enter, these should be the 2 main focal points on the page.

Promoting The Contest

Once your contest is sitting pleasantly and patiently, waiting to go live, everything is as perfect as you can make it. It is time to start promoting it. I would recommend trying to make some hype about the contest a week or so prior to the actual competition starting, this will give other blogs, forums, social networking profiles chance to mention and discuss your upcoming contest.

How do you create hype about your contest? It may not work as well as you hope, but you need to lead on your viewers, telling them about the upcoming competition, tell them what the prizes are. You should do this in stages, keep them guessing what the prizes are, then how & when they can enter. Push this news though your blog, social networking accounts, forums, social bookmarking, comment on other blogs, do whatever it takes to get your contest known. Hopefully from this, other blogs and forums will pick up about your contest and write about it themselves, linking back to you.

When it comes to actually promoting your contest, when you feel the time is right to release it, here is an example list of places to promote your contest.

  • Social Networking
    • Facebook
    • Twitter
    • LinkedIn
    • MySpace
  • Social Bookmarking
    • Digg
    • Reddit
    • StumbleUpon
    • Delicious
  • Pinging Your Blog (RSS)
  • Posting comments on related subjects
  • Forum posts in relevant niche
  • Newsletters
  • Email and Forum Signatures
  • Friends & Family

Summary

Overall contests are a very powerful way of achieving huge numbers of backlinks, social followers or likes and brand recognition over a short period of time. However, they need careful planning and a good backbone to run from.

If you found this blog post useful or interesting, please follow me: @webdevluke

Have you run any successful or unsuccessful contests? Please share your experiences