Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Are You Going To Try An Online Contest? Read This First.

I hear a lot of talk lately about "doing an online contest" as a way to crowdsource, do something playful and interesting online, and because people think it's easy.   Having done my fair share of those let me be the first to say that it is NOT easy.  If they aren't successful, you worry about getting votes, entrants, and publicity.  If the technology isn't planned out correctly, you will worry that the votes aren't being counted by the interns correctly or that people are uploading submissions but you can't see them.   If the contest is successful you will take calls all day from people who have trouble uploading, don't understand your site, don't understand the rules, or want to let you know that someone is cheating.  (The number of people who will call you, certain that the person or group with the leading votes are cheating, is just mind blowing. )
My friend Patrick Dillon of Artistichub is an online contest expert, all around cool person, and I wanted to share some of his insights on contests.  Artistic Hub focuses solely on contests online and has had some wonderful successes for their clients. 

            1)  What types of companies / industries are best suited for an online contest?

Organizations that have a large fan or customer base online.  This is anyone from brands to sports teams.  We’re even seeing great results from running generic/humorous contests online for local advertisers, developed and run on media sites like SDNN.  “Football Fan Photo Contest” for a cable provider, or “Cutest Holiday Pet Photo contest” for a local pet related store. 

2) What are some main things to keep in mind when coming up with a contest?

                Contests have 3 necessary components to make them successful. 

CONCEPT + METHOD + PROMOTION.  A lot of big organizations fall short on the method because they think they can “whip something up in house” and a lot of smaller companies fall short on promotion, because they think their internal team (usually 1 person) can handle all the necessary distribution and messaging.  We help clients discover loopholes in their concept all the time.

Tripods only work if all 3 legs are the right height.

            3) What are some of the most interesting contests that you've worked on or heard of? 

Our Raiders Fan Football Photo (for the Oakland Raiders) contest was really fun.  Ran for 30 days and created 1.23 million votes, and 1,656 photo submissions.  They had run contests like this before on their own, and had never received more than a hundred photos. 

I hear of other great contests all day long, but I really get into the design focused ones.  Red Bull did a can sculpture design contest last year that was so cool.

4) What is the most common mistake you see companies making with online video / photo contests?

Either they move too fast creating the method (how they are going to run and manage it), or they fail to put a solid plan together for marketing it.  The other big issue is they fail to make the contest “transparent”.  Users want to see what’s going on, and they want to be able to share and participate with it easily.

5) How long have you been doing contests?

                3years in this way, 5 years before that doing traditional offline contests and
                promotion for a big direct marketing company.

6) What kinds of results can people expect from an online contest?  What should their objectives be?

Site engagement measured by time on site, page views, votes.  Content acquisition measured by submission quality and quantity.   Database building measured by new user emails captured.

7) What are your top 3 blogs that you read?
                Mashable, Smile Like You Mean It, Killer Startups

To add my own 2 cents to this (and when don't I?) I'd add that the prize has to justify the effort.  You can't ask people to go out and create a video for you if the prize is a $50 gift card.  The better the prize, the more effort you can expect people to make for their submission.  
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Blogger Royce said...

Man as a consumer, I never get interested in online contests. They always feel vaguely scam-ish and lame to me

February 2, 2010 at 9:00 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

I think the reason most people feel contests are a scam is because there is no interaction. Half the time its a "submit your info and we'll let you know" type of thing. I've actually participated in a contest for sandiegobrideandgroom.com that Artistic Hub powers because I can see other peoples photos and votes happening in real-time so I know its real.

February 2, 2010 at 9:07 AM  
Blogger Caitlin said...

Royce - I agree they can look spammy, particularly if they aren't explained well. I think the concept has to be interesting and the transparency that Patrick mentioned is key.
Also, getting some higher profile bloggers or site owners to participate can help with street cred.

Mike - That's a good point, being able to see submissions side by side and vote on them really shows that it's not a scam.

February 2, 2010 at 9:23 AM  

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