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7 Ingredients for a Successful Online Competition

It’s well-known that online competitions have social benefits for brands, but did you know that they can also be a great part of an SEO strategy? We’ve had success in running giveaways to obtain links from ‘hard-to-get’ websites. The deal is, we run a competition on a third party site, contribute the prize and promote it; the site gets exposure, and so does our brand – and we get the link. The perfect solution for somewhere that doesn’t want to publish a guest post, feature a video, offer a discount, or whatever.

Simon's Cat image

Image: Simon’s Cat

If you’re going to the trouble of running a competition, though, you don’t want it to fail because nobody enters. This post looks at seven key ingredients to include when you design your comp. These will ensure that, with the right promotion, your giveaway will be a big success.

1. An epic prize

Your prize needs to be big enough, expensive enough and sexy enough to make your target audience hungry to enter. It makes sense to use your company’s own product or service, because then you can take the opportunity to big it up while running the competition. If your client’s offering is worth thousands and they are reluctant to donate it to the cause (e.g. because they’re sceptical of the return on investment), find something smaller that will go down well. iPads seem to be a popular choice right now!

2. A cool angle

Your competition will be far easier to promote if has a creative angle rather than being yet another ‘Like Our Page to Enter’ giveaway. You could get entrants to take part in a game of skill, vote for their favourite object or design something. All are great ways to stand out from the crowd. I actually wrote a Verve post looking at some examples of creative online competitions.

You also want to explain why you’re running this precise competition right now. Just as a journalist needs to justify that every story they write is timely and relevant to their readers, you need to do the same for your competitions. Maybe you’re running a giveaway to celebrate the launch of a new product or you’re offering a winter’s break in the Caribbean to get some much-needed winter sunshine.

3. A low barrier to entry

Have a cool angle, but at the same time, don’t ask too much from the user or they won’t bother taking part. ‘Design a t-shirt’ or ‘design a logo’ are great ways to get business assets crowd-sourced for free from your fans. But don’t expect loads of people to enter. It depends on your objectives as to whether you go for a high barrier strategy like this or not.

4. Simplicity

Nobody wants to be made to think. Instructions on how to enter should be crystal clear, tweets should be pre-populated so that all the user has to do is click, and there should probably be no more than two steps to entry. ‘Like our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter, share this blog post and vote for your favourite photo’ is definitely too much.

5. Virality

You’ll be doing yourself a massive favour if you design your competition in such a way that it goes viral on social media. This process can be helped along by requiring users to tweet or share the competition on Facebook as part (but not all) of the entry requirements.

6. Rafflecopter

This isn’t a paid mention, Rafflecopter is a really cool plug-in which lets you manage competition entries. Just embed it on your page and it’ll tell users how many people have entered, how long they have left to go and randomly pick a winner when its over. I think it also gives users a sense of transparency, as they don’t always know what’s going on with online competitions (“Have I actually entered?” “Is it still running?” etc).

7. A long time frame

One of the biggest reasons why many online competitions fail is because they don’t run for long enough. No one actually discovers them until it’s too late. Don’t let that happen to yours. See if you can run your comp for at least four weeks, which will give you plenty of time to promote it and other people time to discover it.

There you go, those are the most important ingredients for a successful online competition. If your giveaway has all of these hallmarks, then it should be well on the road to success. All that remains is for you to promote it properly! Hit me up on Twitter if you have any comp-related queries.

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