This guest post is by Nathalie Lussier.
Whether you’ve got a new blog or want to jump start your existing blog, you have two options: 1) keep blogging and hope it pans out, 2) try something different.
In this post you’ll learn how to run a blog contest with panache. Just like you want to organize a great party that everyone continues to talk about weeks after, your blog contest should create a great experience for everyone involved.
People love participating in contests: it makes them feel like they’re a part of something special, whether they win or not.
Before we dive in, let’s look at how running a giveaway on your blog can shift your blog into high gear.
Nurture what you’ve got and watch it grow
Ever notice how people who are good at taking care of what they have tend to get more of it? For example, people who are great at saving and investing money tend to make more of it? The same is true when it comes to taking care of your audience.
A new way to look at blog contests is to consider them as:
- a way to thank your existing readers for their loyalty
- a way to bring in fresh new readers.
Most of the advice on contests is about creating a buzz and getting more traffic to your blog. But I think it’s even more important to remember that, with a contest, you’re saying thank you to your existing audience.
Contests are also the perfect way to ask people what their challenges are, which will give you an idea of what topics to cover in future blog posts.
Contests create social proof.
If your blog is brand new and you want to build up social proof right off the bat, then consider setting up a simple contest. You will get more comments, social media props, and testimonials than you thought possible.
Giveaways increase engagement.
Ever publish a blog post only to hear crickets chirping? Yuck. No fun.
With a giveaway you’re sure to get lots of responses—if you do it right. The trick is to make your giveaways simple to enter, so you remove the barrier to entry and get more people to participate. The more people participate, the more likely they are to come back for more of your content and become loyal fans.
Start a buzz.
How do you know when something is creating a buzz? When everyone starts talking about it. People love sharing things that are useful, relevant, and fun. If you build your contest with these ideas in mind you’re going to give people something worth spreading.
Share your products or services in a fun, non-spammy way.
One creative way to use contests and giveaways is to offer your services or products as the prize. Structuring a contest around what you offer is a great way to make people aware of your products and services. If people like what you’ve got and they don’t win, they may decide to purchase.
Create a contest with panache
Now let’s look at how to structure your contest to ensure it’s a win-win for everyone involved.
1. To get sponsors or to go it alone?
Depending on the size of your blog, you might be approached by sponsors to offer their products as the contest giveaway. My rule is that you must feel like it’s a good fit for your audience, and stand behind the product, if you’re to give away an external party’s product.
For one giveaway, I mailed out two of my favorite books, so there was a values match there.
You could also approach sponsors that you think would be a good match for your audience. However, like Darren demonstrated in a previous article, it’s actually easier to give away your own products or services if you have them.
Delivering digital products is much easier than following up with someone to ask for their mailing address, and it’s also a great way to debut a new product or service.
2. Keep it simple, sweetie.
The easiest way to invite people to participate in a giveaway is to have them comment on a blog post. The easier you make it for them, the more likely they are to participate. You want people to participate and get excited about the contest.
I also recommend emailing your newsletter and directing them to the contest blog post so they can enter, even if they haven’t visited your blog in a while.
3. Add a social media component.
It’s easy to assume that people will be so excited about your giveaway that they’ll be shouting it from the rooftops. But unless you ask them to spread the word, they probably won’t. We’re all busy and after someone enters a contest they’ll probably be off to the next thing. One way to get the most bang for your contest buck is to build social media sharing into the contest.
Ask participants to tweet, Facebook like, or blog your contest for extra points. If it’s just a matter of clicking a tweet button, they’re a lot more likely to take action.
Be clear that sharing on social media sites (using a hashtag so you can track it, for example) will give them a greater chance to win.
4. Ask people to get creative.
If you’re offering a more highly priced, valuable prize, and you know people will be chomping at the bit to get it, then make them get creative.
The perfect example of this is Marie Forleo’s contest, where she gave away a seat to her live event in New York City, complete with accommodations. Marie was very clear that she wanted to get people to take action in a way that would get them moving toward their goals, whether they won or not. So she fashioned the contest in a way that rewarded people who filmed creative videos. This got many people to post their very first video online!
5. Decide on the winning criteria.
Often the easiest way to identify your winner is to select someone randomly, using a number generator. That may be the most egalitarian way of giving out a prize, but I think you’ll get a lot more engagement if you set selection criteria. For instance, you might let readers know that you’ll pick the response that’s most passionate.
You can also set up your contests using a two-step process, if you’re having a hard time choosing a winner and the prize is substantial. First, gather the contestants and have them comment or film videos, then set up the finalists in a poll. In this case, the numbers will clear show who the winner is. Having a poll will also get the participants to share with their networks to gather votes, thus bringing in more visitors.
Being clear that you’ll be the final decision-maker is just as important as the rest of the criteria I’ve mentioned here.
6. Keep to a timeline
One of the biggest mistakes I see new bloggers make is to have a contest every week. Unless your blog is set up to be a contest blog, you want to build contests in as a fun surprise and not a regular occurrence.
The problem with too many contests is that you’re essentially bribing your readers instead of giving them good value through your content. I recommend running contests once per quarter.
Most giveaways run best with a deadline that’s about a week away. This gives people enough time to enter and to share the contest with friends. The timeframe’s also a short, so it won’t get lost or forgotten on a to-do list.
Your contest giveaway action plan
Here’s a quick recap that you can use as a checklist to plan your first (or next!) contest:
- Choose your purpose: good will, buzz, engagement, launch.
- Decide whether you’ll go with a sponsor, give something you possess/buy, or offer a product or service you provide.
- Choose the scope: make it super-simple or ask people to put some skin in the game.
- Pick a time frame: no more than a week, and no more often than every quarter.
- Kick off the contest with your social media network, blog, and email newsletter.
- Keep the energy going after the contest ends by giving everyone who participated something really cool like a free ebook or special piece of content.
Have you ever used a contest on your blog? How did it go?
Nathalie Lussier is a contest loving blogger and a finalist at the Infusionsoft contest, who will love you forever if you vote for her Raw Foods Witch here. It takes less than 5 seconds, and you’ll see how to run a high-end contest at the same time! Tweet her at @NathLussier.