Competitions on blogs: who’s the real winner?

Blog Competitions and Prizes At 6.40pm last night, I logged on to Twitter, to see if anything interesting had happened while I was doing the bedtime routine.

What struck me was how many of the recent Tweets related to competitions. Scrolling down to see just two hours worth of Tweets, I saw posts to win cupcakes, tickets to a business networking event, some sleep-related kit, a tricycle, a BlackBerry Curve, some kids’ glasses and a selection of personalised baby gift boxes. Not to mention my absolute favourite: LASER EYE SURGERY. Cos that’s just the sort of thing I want to enter a competition to win from a random stranger on the Internet.

It got me wondering though: who wins when blogs run competitions?

I’m not sure it’s the reader. For every person who wins a prize, there must be a lot of people like me who just feel a bit irritated at constantly being told to visit this site to win that prize, or to RT (re-tweet) the link and follow the blog and name my second child Horace (just kidding) for extra entries. You know what? It’s a £15 box of cupcakes – I’d rather nip to Waitrose and buy my own, thanks.

I’m not sure bloggers really benefit from competitions, either. I recently wrote about a blog that was promoting a £400 competition prize – and the link received 20 clicks from the UK. If you think about what goes into arranging a competition: devising the rules, writing the blog post, setting up the link from their blog to their website, handling the entries and selecting a winner – I’m not sure those 20 clicks justified the effort for the blogger (or the brand providing the prize). More importantly, the contest didn't score the blog a single new subscriber or Twitter follower. So what's the point?

Interestingly, after I’d posted about the competition, the blogger went on to post the link on a specific website where it immediately attracted hundreds of entries from people who trawl the internet looking for competitions and freebies. However, I’m just not convinced this constitutes success either: virtually every one of those entries will be a ‘click and run’ from someone who entered the competition and is already looking for the next contest to enter.

Ultimately, I’m not sure that a day or two of transient traffic that isn’t especially relevant to your blog or business can ever offset the extra effort involved in dealing with the thousands of incoming emails that are generated when you post a competition link onto certain forums or websites.

In fact, we decided against running competitions on the Great Toy Guide website for just this reason – I don’t think the traffic generated by competitions is ‘sticky’ enough (this is web speak for visitors who don’t stick around) to justify the effort involved in putting most competitions together.

I'll freely admit I'm not an expert, and I'd never say 'never' to running a competition, but I do think bloggers should think very carefully about what a competition does for them before agreeing to get involved – what do you want to get out of a competition and what information will you need to know whether that's been achieved?

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