When a month ago I’ve announced that I will be participating in the Reader Appreciation Week I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Since I have never ran a blog contest before I had absolutely no clue as to what kind of contests I should run, what rules to set, what prizes to give away and most of all, how to motivate people to not only read my blog but also participate in these contests.
I ended up creating 5 contests on my blog, outfitting each of them with five different rule sets and prizes. As it turned out I didn’t have to go through all those troubles and it would’ve been enough to set just one rule, for example – comment on my blog and each day of the week I’ll randomly pick a winner and award him/her with a different prize. This would’ve been the easiest way to go about running the contests and quite an efficient one, but being a rookie blogger I went down the thorny path and learned my lessons the hard way.
But this means that I can share with you some thoughts on how to run blog contests and perhaps you can ascertain a thing or two from my blogging experience.
Encourage visits to your blog
It’s really gratifying to have a big number or RSS subscribers and know that people are reading your posts. But it’s even more reassuring to have readers visiting the actual blog – perhaps checking other posts or commenting. Personally, I prefer visiting some blogs live and reading the posts there rather than in my Google reader. So my First Contest‘s goal was to see how many people actually visit my blog and explore it. But rather than asking my readers about the past changes on my blog, I should’ve set a specific timeline to pay a close attention to the blog’s interface and structure, and afterwards quiz them on that. This way I’d be encouraging the readers to visit my live blog at least within that timeframe, rather than having only a few people participating in the contest.
Stimulate visitors to brainstorm
My Second Contest has received the biggest number of responses by asking readers to suggest some non-monetary prize ideas they’d like to receive from me. The only downside of this concept is that you might receive so many good prize suggestions, that you’d feel bad for rewarding only one or two of them and disdaining others.
Reward the comments
One of the easiest way to encourage people to comment on your site is run a contest and reward the Top Commentators. However, make sure that you carefully consider various scenarios of people commenting on your blog and don’t make the same mistakes I did in my Third Contest. Some people are very eager to get the coveted prize, especially a monetary one, and will do everything to achieve the Top Commentator’s status. So rather than automatically rewarding the 1st place, make sure to
- clearly state the rules for the quality of the comments
- create some additional rules like
- the winner will be randomly picked from the Top 5 (8, or 10)
- the commentator should have had commented on the blog prior to the contest (this will work well for rewarding your loyal readers/commentators, but won’t encourage the new commentators on the blog)
- the commentator with the highest average number of words in the comments wins
Set simple rules
It’s always beneficial to get a blog review/critique from readers, however don’t assume that everyone has time or desire to spend extra hours researching and studying your blog’s content and the interface. Nevertheless my Fourth Contest rules have resulted in 710 visits to my blog on the first day, and in two really great blog critiques. Next time around, I will however make my feedback rules simpler motivating more people to give back a quick criticism.
Inspirit RSS subscribers
Thanks to Ronald for planting the idea in my head for the Fifth Contest. The rules were very straightforward and simple to follow which resulted in many participants. It didn’t make my RSS feed count to go to the roof, but the response was great.
Set a reasonable timeframe and expectations.
It is very important to give enough time for blog readers to participate in the contest. However the golden rule applies here as well: don’t make it too long so that people lose their interest, and not too short to get as much response as possible. Clearly state the deadline and follow it yourself as well. If you’re running several contests in a row, it’s easy to lose track of time, so make sure that you spread the events and deadlines evenly.
Don’t build your hopes too high – running contests is not the best way to increase your blog’s readership and RSS feed count. Nonetheless, blog contests bring more fun and personality to your site and help build friendly relationships with your readers.
Collaborate with other bloggers.
I cannot overemphasize the significance of the interaction with your fellow bloggers. There’s always something new to learn from each other. And don’t forget that some of your readers are bloggers too. Who’ll better understand and relate to what you’re going through than someone who’s in the same boat as you are.
It’s never too late to correct the mistakes.
Despite of reading several articles on how to run blog contests, I still made a few mistakes. As it turned out, it’s never too late to adjust the contest rules if you realize that something went wrong in unanticipated way. Just make sure that you do get the approval from your audience.
Please, let me know if you have any questions about running the blog contests. I’ll be very grateful if you provide me with some feedback as well, and point out other mistakes in hosting the contests.