You would think giving away a free trip would be easy, right? After all, who doesn’t want a free ride to something?
But it turns out that running a contest or giveaway takes more than just ready cash. If you want to use it to get noticed and inspire action, you need some detailed knowledge of how to execute a contest that will deliver the most viral juice.
Let’s look at the currently-running contest by Once in a Lifetime (part of Stand By Us), a non-profit that promotes better understanding of Israel. To apply for their Free Trip to Israel contest, entrants must create a 1 minute video about why they should be chosen and fill out a detailed questionnaire.
I’m guessing that the idea is to bring a few influential and passionate students and bloggers to Israel, show them around, and let the intense natural beauty, mind-boggling archeology, and surprising normalcy speak for itself. Not a bad idea all around.
And, to their credit, their YouTube video has already gotten a more-than-respectable 10,000+ views. Most companies would be ecstatic with this result. All the more reason to make sure the contest is executed as well as the video promotion. It wasn’t.
Here’s how to do even better:
1. Be Clear About Who You Are Targeting: The You Tube landing page built for this contest doesn’t know who its audience is. Read the landing page and it suggests that influential bloggers are being targeted. Click to the website and the entry form though, and it’s clear that the target is actually students. Unless you want a lot of irrelevant entries — not to mention annoyed supporters who will share the link only to be told by interested contacts that it wasn’t appropriate — the target needs to be clear to everyone.
2. Make the Application Process Relevant: I’m all for specificity, but the questionnaire for this contest was shockingly old-school. Look, anyone worth giving an all-expense paid trip overseas to should have a public Facebook fan page, a Twitter account, a public blog and devoted set of followers. Ask them for the specifics about THOSE things, by all means, and you’ll have more than enough data to make a decision. Does this mean you actually have to read everyone’s blog? Yup, but that’s the downside of ANY contest that involves asking people to enter with a “pick me because…” theme.
3. Create an SEO-Friendly Landing Page That Includes Comments: This can be as simple as an optimized blog post about the contest, but a key-word rich landing page offers multiple benefits. At the very least, you want someone who has heard about the contest to be able to Google it to find it.
Plus, giving entrants a place to publicly comment and ask questions is efficient, since questions are inevitable. A public forum allows you to answer everyone at once.
4. Make Sharing a Requirement: If you want your contest to spread faster, ask your entrants to help you. Make tweeting it or sharing it on Facebook (or whatever key network you would most like to access) a requirement for entry. The mom bloggers and coupon bloggers are the absolute queens of this. Here’s what it looked like when Mamavation Founder, Leah Segedie, ran her free trip to Blogher contest on behalf of the BoogieWipes brand (don’t ask).
There are a variety of simple ways to track this including hashtags on Twitter and a nifty new tool that covers both Twitter and Facebook called Kurrently.
5. Start Early: You can’t assume that everyone will learn about your contest on the day you announce it. So, give people time to share the information and even more time to respond to it. The Stand With Us email (that was forwarded to me) announcing this contest went out on July 4, just 3 days before the entry deadline. Even for Israelis, this is ridiculously late.
6. Publicize the Contest Through Your Own Networks: I couldn’t find any recent mentions of this contest on Stand With Us’ Twitter Page or their Facebook page. Come on, if you want your peeps to share your contest, you certainly have to.
7. Tweet the Contest Using Hashtags Frequented by Your Target Community. Look beyond the obvious on this. Of course a group like Stand With Us can go after hashtags like #Israel. But I would have encouraged them to target #TBEX, the hashtag for a travel bloggers conference called Travelers Blog Exchange, which took place in New York City while this contest was running.
Or why not try #tcot, the tag for True Conservatives on Twitter, a huge audience that includes many supporters of Israel, who would probably love to blog, vlog and tweet about a once in a lifetime trip there. The point is, no matter who your contest is targeting, be sure to seek out the richest niches and spend your energy there.
Of course, if this contest really is just for students, then they would need to look for different niches too. All the more reason to be crystal clear on who you are trying to reach.
Got a contest you’d like me to check out? Post a link to it in the comments here, and I just might use it to share more ideas on how to get more out of online contests.