What I Learned Running a Contest

5 Contest Must Haves

As a marketer, it’s important to assess every marketing campaign to see how well it did against your goals. Also, documenting the experience will add to your company’s collective knowledge and help improve your marketing going forward. To help my readers, here’s what I learned running the We ♥ Bloggers Contest in February.

Contest Scorecard

From a “How am I doing” perspective, here are the We ♥ Bloggers Contest goals and related results.

  1. Celebrate bloggers. By using a #BloggerLove hashtag throughout February to honor bloggers who add to the collective good through their blogs and related contributions. The #BloggerLove hashtag was chosen for its association with Valentine’s Day.
  2. Promote 125 Free Blog Topics. I created the contest to get readers to use this list of titles. Specifically, the goal was 100 tweets each for the 125 Free Blog Topics and the We ♥ Bloggers Contest posts. The 125 Free Blog Topics Post received 88 tweets, 12 tweets short of its objective.
  3. Engage readers. The contest required entrants to write a column using one of the 125 Free Blog Topics. The goal was ten submitted posts (with a worst case scenario of five posts.) For participants, that’s a lot of activity. The results were amazing. There were nineteen posts total!

3 Insights from contest participants

After reading the contest posts in the contest roundup, here are three take-aways.

  • Find a way to stand out. Daria (aka Random Chick) noted that she always tried to be first in a contest because that was something she could control. What do you do to distinguish yourself as a blogger?
  • Don’t procrastinate. To my surprise, about half of the contest entries were posted early in the month and very few waited until the dreaded last day. Bloggers exhibited good planning and integrated the contest challenge into other parts of their editorial calendar. For example, there were several contributions that were also part of the #UsGuys #UsBlogs weekly challenges. What can you do to boost the effectiveness of your blog posts?
  • Use a variation on a theme. Three entrants used Dr. Seuss for inspiration. Have you read a blog post that you found exciting and it got you thinking how you would spin the topic? Chances are that it’s different from the post you read. Remember this when you’re having difficulty coming up with a new topic and try getting inspiration from something you just read. #UsBlogs picks a topic and the members of the group all write about the same thing.

5 Important learnings from the We ♥ Bloggers Contest

Before launching a contest or any other marketing campaign, you need a plan to promote it across a variety of platforms. Here’s what I learned from this contest.

  1. Make the contest fun. Get prospects excited about participating. Focus your contest on something that’s fun to do.
  2. Have an attractive prize. To entice participation, the reward has to be valuable to your target audience. The prize must make the winner feel important and/or unique. In this contest, each contributor won. Their post was linked to and promoted in the follow up content results post. This link-love was the real win for every blogger. That said, the prize, the book, Trust Agents, could have been promoted more.
  3. Make it easy to participate. This contest required participants to write a post and link it to the contest post. Given the level of work required, I was blown away by the great entries. In the future, I’d consider having two levels of winning, one for promoting the contest and one for actually writing the post.
  4. Continually promote your contest or it’ll die. From a marketing perspective, this translates to having an on-going calendar of promotions to advertise your contest. The We ♥ Bloggers Contest was promoted on this blog and on Twitter. Next time, it’d be helpful to expand the promotion through other channels.
  5. Have sufficient resources. A contest takes work before, during and after the event. It’s easy to underestimate the amount of effort a contest requires in terms of on-going promotion and follow up.

Would I do another contest on this blog? You betcha! Of course, I’ll fix the issues that I had this time (but, my marketing experience tells me, there will be different challenges for the next one.)

Since we had so much fun spreading BloggerLove, we’re going to keep this hashtag alive to promote bloggers all year long. Please join us in spreading the love on Sundays. That’s when bloggers congregate on BlogChat at 9.00pm ET.

What suggestions do you have for creating a better blog contest? Please add your suggestions in the comment section below.

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen

Big tip of my hat to the We ♥ Bloggers Contest participants: Allie, Beverly D, Brian Inman, Dana, Daria, Joe Pulizzi, Joellyn Sargent, Karen E. Lund, Margaret Page, Mark, Parissa Behnia, Paula Lee Bright, Renee Malove, Sarah Mitchell. And Tom Moradpour

BTW, if you still need inspiration to get writing here are some helpful articles:

Photo credit: Icrontic.com via Flickr

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