One technique that an increasing number of bloggers have been using over the last year to create a buzz on their blogs is to use competitions.
In this post I’ll share 9 tips for running a successful competition on your blog – but first why would you want to run one?
Two benefits of Running Competitions on Your Blog
- New Readers – competitions are potentially good for drawing new readers to your blog if you have a way to get the message out.
- Reader Stickiness – those readers who are already regulars on your blog can become more loyal, more engaged and/or feel more ownership over your blog after a competition.
My own experience with competitions is that both can be achieved – if you design your competition properly. I’ve been running one over at DPS that attempts to get new members of my forum and to get readers submitting reviews (content) to the forums.
It’s been going OK – but I’ve learnt a few things in doing it that I’ll do differently next time.
Here are 9 tips that come to mind on running a good competition (looking forward to reading your suggestions too):
1. The need for traffic
Sometimes when launching a project that requires readers to DO something you need to have a critical mass of readers before launching. This includes competitions.
I’ve seen a number of competitions in the last 6 months that were launched with the hope of propelling brand new blogs into popularity but which failed to succeed because the competition had no traction because either no one knew it was on or the percentage of those that did were not motivated enough to participate.
This doesn’t mean you need to have an old blog with lots of traffic to have a good competition however. If this is you you’ll need to find someone else’s traffic to leverage to draw people in either by calling in favors from other bloggers, doing something to get attention (a big prize for example) or some other link-baiting type technique.
2. Identify Goals
Before you design your competition you need to work out why you’re having it. What is your aim? How will you measure the competition’s success? Potential goals for a competition might include:
- Increase RSS subscribers
- Increase Newsletter subscribers
- New members for blog/forums
- Increase feeling of community among current readers
- To reward loyal readers
- To create new content (use generated)
Once you have your goals you can then make better decisions around the competition format, prizes, promotion etc
3. Choosing Prizes
A number of thoughts come to mind when choosing prizes for a competition.
- relevant prizes – match the prizes that you offer to the readers (or potential readers) of your blog. If you have a blog about gaming which is read mainly by people in the US don’t offer a cooking lessons in Australia as a prize (ok, crazy example – but you get the point).
- worthwhile prizes – the better your prizes the more buzz you will potentially create.
- don’t over capitalize – which big prizes are great – don’t make them too big without knowing what sort of response you might get. I’ve seen a few competitions that have failed leave bloggers and their sponsors heavily out of pocket when you consider the small response they had.
- sponsors – one way to share the load with a competition is to have a sponsor/s for it. If you have a decent sized readership you might be able to find a sponsor simply by asking for one – otherwise you’ll need to hunt. The best place to find one is to find a company that closely relates to your blog’s topic. To get sponsors you need to be up front and transparent about what they’ll get out of it and how you’ll promote them.
- affiliate links – another way to help cover the cost for prizes if you have to pay for them is to buy them yourself is to choose prizes that you can promote using an affiliate program. So on the DPS competition that I’m currently running the prizes are books at Amazon. Last time I ran a similar competition I offset the cost of prizes quite a bit with those checking out and buying books.
4. Make Requirements Achievable for Participants
One of the lessons I’ve learned over the past few years is that people can be lazy and unless you have a good way of motivating them you need to make what you ask them to do to be in the running to win your competition achievable. If you do you’ll have a much higher ‘entry’ rate than if you ask too much of your readers.
I saw one competition on a blog a few years back that asked participants to write an 2000 word essay, provide a head shot of the author, link back to the site running the competition, join a newsletter list and all for the chance to win a $20 book.
If you want participants to do something to enter – choose one thing, make it simple, natural and easy and you’ll find the take up to be much better.
5. Make Requirements Achievable for You
Don’t under estimate how much work a competition can be for you as the coordinator. When you get a lot of entries that require you to sift through them all, moderate them, judge them etc it can take a lot of time.
If there’s any way for you to automate processes or find others to help you with the logistics – think about this before you start.
6. Make Entering Valuable
To really get readers excited about entering the best competitions ask them to do something that they’d do whether there was a prize up for grabs or not. My ‘group writing projects’ (examples here and here) are an example of this in that participants get a few things out of participating whether they win or not (ie they get links from ProBlogger to their blogs (and quite often from other blogs), they get to find new readers and they get a little motivation to write something that they might not have thought to write). In fact the first few times I ran these projects there were no prizes but people still participated. Adding prizes to an already valuable thing can clinch the deal.
7. Set a Reasonable Competition Length
Getting the length of a competition right is important. On one hand you don’t want it to drag on for too long (and make your readers sick of it) but on the other hand you want it to be long enough for readers to enter, for the word to spread about it and for sponsors to get their money’s worth.
8. Promote your competition
Unless you promote it – no one will know your competition is on.
Start your promotional efforts with your own readers via your blog and any newsletter list you might have. You might also find it useful to design a button that promotes it in your sidebar or below each post. Write about the competition a number of times over it’s course – without going overboard and making your regular readers sick of it.
Also consider how you could promote your competition to readers from elsewhere. This might include pitching other bloggers, mentioning it in forums, releasing a press release and even advertising it using systems like AdWords or BlogAds.
9. Consider adding a Viral Element
The best competitions let those participating spread the word in some way. This can be difficult to achieve but again the ‘group writing projects’ here at ProBlogger have an element of this in that most participants include a link back to the competition in their entries – which lets their readers know what is going on.
I’ve run a few competitions over the last few years – but am still learning how they run best. Any other tips that readers have from the experience of running (or entering) blog competitions would be gratefully received.