Virgin Blogger Notes is having its very first contest this week, so now seems like a good time to talk about how to run a contest on a blog and why you should even bother.
First, let’s get into the why you should bother part.
Simply put, contests liven things up and can boost your blog in lots of ways. A well-planned and well-promoted contest can:
- Create a buzz on social media, forums, and other blogs to draw in new visitors.
- Entice readers who get posts in an RSS reader or via email to visit the blog, which could lead to product sales.
- Grow a blog’s subscriber base or email list.
- Add more social media followers.
- Get links back to your blog from other sites who are talking about your contest.
- Increase comments on a blog.
- Build relationships with other bloggers if you offer a product of theirs as a prize.
Not to mention, contests are just plain fun, and who doesn’t want to have more of that?
If you decide to have a contest on your blog (and I hope you do, and I hope I win), here’s how to make it a winner:
Know Your Objectives. Obviously, you want your readers to have fun and someone to win a cool prize, but you want your blog to benefit too. Spend some time thinking about exactly what you want to accomplish. Do you want to:
- Bring new visitors to the blog?
- Build your email list?
- Add subscribers to the blog?
- Get reader feedback for an upcoming project?
- Get more Facebook fans?
- Reward existing readers for loyalty?
- Have more people follow you on Twitter?
- Get readers comfortable with commenting?
Pick the Prize. Once you know your objectives, it’s time to choose a worthy prize. It doesn’t have to break the bank, but it does have to be something that’s appealing to readers in your niche. You might even want to see if someone else will donate a prize or sponsor the contest. Just be sure if you go that route that you have a solid agreement on things like shipping, advertising, and promotion. If you’re feeling stuck for prize options, I did some Googling and found that blogs had recently given away things like:
- Books and ebooks
- Gift certificates
- Tech gadgets
- Free passes to courses and membership programs
- Tickets to entertainment events
- Free consultations and other professional servies
Set the Rules. When you know your objectives and the prize, it’s easy to create the entry requirements. Just be sure to put yourself in your readers’ shoes to make sure you’re not asking them to do anything unreasonable or overwhelming. Depending on your objectives and the prize, you might have entrants:
- Retweet the contest post.
- Follow you on social media.
- Subscribe to the blog.
- Opt in to an email list.
- Write a comment or essay explaining why they should win the prize.
- Provide feedback on something.
- Enter a piece of writing, picture, or some other item for readers or judges to vote on.
Set a Deadline. This is often determined by the entry requirements. If people need to write or create something, make sure you give them enough time.
Communicate. Read over your contest notice before it’s posted. It should include:
- An attractive description of the prize.
- Clear details about the entry requirements.
- A firm deadline.
- How and when the winner will be chosen and notified.
Promote. Your objectives will determine your promotion strategy. If you’re seeking new visitors, you’ll promote the contest more heavily off the blog. If your goal is to encourage existing readers to participate in a creative contest or provide some sort of feedback, most of the promotion will take place on the blog or in emails. Either way, a contest is like a party on your blog, so make sure the right people know they’re invited and how to get there.
Post Regular Content. Don’t think that running a contest is a ticket to write nothing but, “Hey, check out our contest” posts every day. Make sure readers get the same quality content they deserve while adding in occasional reminders either with the regular content or as additional posts.
Wrap Things Up. Announce the winner and deliver the prize exactly as promised. Be sure to thank everyone who participated.
Evaluate. When the contest is over, take a peek at your stats. Were your objectives met? If not, can you pin down a reason? Not enough promotion or maybe promoting in the wrong places? Too many hoops for readers to jump through to enter? A lame prize? If things didn’t work out so hot this time, that’s okay. There isn’t any failure here – there’s only feedback.
Try Again. Hopefully, contests will be part of a long term strategy to grow your blog and keep things fun and interesting for your readers.
Your turn: Have you had a contest on your blog? What things have you seen given away in blog contests?
Image by LuMaxArt