A guest post by Jodi Friedman from MCP Actions.
Do you have contests on your blog? Do you ever wonder why so many blogs are doing contests now? One of the reasons is that, when done right, they are a win-win scenario. You can increase your traffic and readership, create excitement, and help promote companies and products.
If you are new to contests, you may be lost and wondering how to get started. Having run very successful giveaways for both national companies and smaller businesses on the MCP Actions photography blog, I have learned skills to make them even more effective. You can see some of my past blog contests and winners announced here.
Before running a contest, work on building your blog traffic and your presence ion social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. While there is no magic number, you want confidence that you will get entries, making it worthwhile for you and the sponsor.
Next, you need to find companies that want to give away products or services. After doing contests for a while, companies find you. But to start, you may want to try the following:
- Contact your advertisers – this is a great opportunity for more exposure than a simple banner.
- If you have affiliate ads on your blog, contact these companies. Again it is a great way to get them more exposure.
- Have a button on your website or blog that leads to a page explaining the benefits of donating prizes for a contest. You can see one in the right column of my blog.
- Make a list of items you feel your readers would like to win. For example, since I run a photography blog, prizes I look for range from lenses for SLR cameras, to Photoshop products, to camera bags, to marketing materials for photographers.
- Once you identify these items, contact the company via email or even phone, and explain what you are hoping they will donate and what you will give in return.
- Clearly show your web statistics, using a tool like Google analytics.
- Explain how the contest will be conducted, links you will provide to their site and any advertising you will include.
- Describe how you plan to publicize the contest.
- If they agree to donate prizes, make sure to keep them posted during the contest. They may end up sending traffic your way too.
- Send a thank you note when the give-away concludes.
- Use your own products for a give-away – if you sell a product, chances are your audience wants to win it. So make sure to give them occasional opportunities to win.
Once you have prizes, you need to organize the contest. How? What? When? Where?
- Where to host?
- Blog – My contests work best directly on my blog, using the comment section for entries.
- For short length contests, Facebook and Twitter are also great venues.
- Forums – if you have a forum, this is an excellent place for holding contests. But remember, not everyone will be able to see it. It can be a great way to get people to join the forum if you publicize it well at other venues.
- Mailing list/Newsletter – you can utilize your newsletter for contests, though where to have people enter can be trickier.
- When to have the contest? How long should the contest last?
- When to start and end a contest: there is no magic to this. So much depends on your traffic.
- I like to start contests on my peek volume days, Tuesday and Wednesday. And I usually end them on a Sunday, which is my lowest traffic day. I often take Saturday and Sunday off from blogging, so this is a “free” space on my blog. Plus it gets people coming to check when they might not otherwise.
- I occasionally have vendors ask if they can do a 1-day contest, which I will allow. The perk to a one day contest is people feel they need to participate right then. Also, no other posts cover the contest up on my blog. This format works great on Facebook and Twitter as well.
- I shy away from 2-day contests, since they would begin and end in prime time on my blog. I have not found a reason to end at a time of high traffic since these posts are often not filled with content.
- Again, this is what works for me. You may find something completely different works well for you.
- How people will enter?
- Darren wrote an article about competitions and said that keeping it simple is most important. And I agree with this, especially on the entry side of things.
- On my blog, I ask a simple, yet meaningful question (or sometimes a few). To enter, people answer the question(s) and add your entry to the comment section.
- Of course if you want to have a photo contest, for example, then you need clear instructions on where to upload photos to, etc.
- Consider offering additional entries for spreading the word, joining your Facebook Page or following you on Twitter.
- How can you publicize the contest? Of course there are dozens of ways to get the word out. Assuming it is a blog contest, I usually do the following:
- Make sure to link to the company providing the prize(s). Remember, you need to add value for the sponsor.
- Post to Twitter.
- Post to Facebook.
- Post to any other social media networks you use.
- Give extra entries to others that post to social networking sites.
- For my biggest contests, I will send out a newsletter, but I reserve that for just a few times a year at most.
- Thousands a day read my blog so many see the contest just by their regular visits or RSS.
- Ask the person donating the prizes can also send out a post or tweet and Facebook about it.
- When will the contest winner(s) be announced?
- Make sure to let your audience know where and when you will announce the winner(s).
- You can announce winners in a blog post, or to get people on your social networking sites, consider occasionally announcing winners on Twitter of Facebook.
- Announcements can be short or you can use them as an opportunity to talk more about the products and company that sponsored the give-away.
- How will you pick the winners?
- In picking the winner, you can choose based on content, voting or random draw (and possibly other ways but these are the ones I have used).
- For content, this could be picking the “best” photo or the “favorite” comment. This is subjective and sometimes can lead to frustration. But I see this done a lot on blogs.
- Voting: On the rare occasion that I do a photo contest, I usually narrow down to the 10-15 best entries (in my opinion). Then I open it up for voting. The perk to this type of contest is contestants help spread the word for you. They tell friends, family and social networking contacts to come vote. This can be very viral.
- Then there is luck… Picking based on random drawing. Most of my contests are this type. I use either a random picker (like random.org) or I have my kids pick X amount of numbers between 1 and the end number of the contest. This gets my children involved and makes things more personal. For huge prizes, like camera lenses and such, I tend to use the online picker so I can show the results in a screen shot.
This post was an overview on running contests. While it is not a full e-book on how to run contests, I hope you picked up some useful information. Please share what works for you in the comments and expand on ideas explained here too.
This post was written by Jodi Friedman, who runs a successful Photography and Photoshop Blog. Jodi is the popular creator of Photoshop actions and Online Group Photoshop Trainings for Photographers. MCP Actions provides great products and resources for both hobbyist and professional photographers who want to improve their post processing and take their photography to the next level. If you are serious about the quality of your images or your photography business, visit MCP Actions.