There are lots of techniques for bloggers to use contests and prize giveaways to increase readership, page views, reader engagement, and social networking connections. Prize giveaways are also used by product vendors to increase product awareness, promote new products, build traffic to their sites, and to sell product.
At EverydayEMSTips.com I have tried a few different prize giveaways with products such as Magnum Boots USA, EMS Monopoly, Rip Shears, and several different iPhone apps. These are some of my lessons learned.
- Have a primary purpose to benefit the blog. The giveaway needs to do one or more of these things for the blog – increase page views, reader engagement (comments), Facebook page audience size, and or advertising revenue.
- Meet the needs of the product vendor. Some of the product vendors contributing contest prizes are already advertisers and I want to ensure an ongoing relationship. Others are potential advertisers. If I can deliver a successful contest that increases their traffic, page views, and or sales I hope to continue to work with them towards being an advertiser.
- Clear language about the prize and the participation rules. Readers need to clearly know what they are trying to win and how to best participate. I limit participation to legal US residents to avoid excessive shipping charges and other international shipping complexities.
- Higher level of engagement yields content. When told, “reply to this email” (a weekly blog broadcast) dozens of readers simply replied flooding my inbox with simple responses like, “I want to win.” When asked to submit a health, fitness, or wellness tip for the Magnum USA Everyday EMS Athletes prize package only a few readers respond, but their contributions are valuable content that enriches the blog and adds value for other readers.
- Multiple ways to enter should require relatively equal effort. Many blog contests allow multiple entry methods – like a Facebook page, send a Tweet with a specific hash tag, or comment on a post. In addition to being difficult to track, those methods require different levels of reader effort. Submitting a comment that is answering a question or call to action requires more effort than liking a Facebook page. I generally have just one entry method per contest.
- Set the period to enter. When I have had contests with entry periods of several days I notice that most comment submissions, replies, and likes happen in the first few hours of announcing the contest with a few more during the first day. There is very little additional participation after 24 hours. I recommend keeping the contest entry period short, less than 24 hours, to build urgency and also allow me to move on to other projects.
- Picking a winner. I have picked prize winners with several different methods. When asked to reply to a blog newsletter broadcast I simply announced the winners would be the first, seventh, and tenth email replies. I have also picked a winner from a group of Facebook status comments by randomly picking. I use the Random.org random number generator. I enter the number of comments as the range and then just use the random number comment to select a prize winner. When a contest requires subjective judging, for example the best or most useful comment wins, I try to defer that responsibility to the provider of the prize or some other person or panel. I know many of my most regular and engaged readers and don’t want to be seen as picking favorites.
- Shipping the prize. Delivery of the prize is best done by the product vendor. On several occasions I have received product, shipped to me, and then given away that product to readers. Thus I incur all of the shipping and handling costs. On all of my recent contests I have the product vendor ship the prize. This obviously lowers my expenses and time involvement. It also gives the product vendor the opportunity to bundle promotional and ordering materials with the prize.
- Keep it relevant to the blog and the readers. I only run contests for products that I have used or might use as an EMS professional. The products need to be relevant to why readers visit my blog. I generate a lot of posts and page views related to patient assessment tips, EMS education, EMS professional fitness, and smartphone apps. It makes sense for me to giveaway products in these categories. The more relevant the product is to my readers and what they expect from EverydayEMSTips.com the greater the participation in the contest.
- Disclosure. Before doing a product giveaway make sure your blog has a disclosure policy. Contests are often part of an advertising package that I have entered into with the product vendor. Readers should realize that the contest and their participation in it may be a revenue generating activity for the blog. Also make sure the contest rules/notes include any relevant information about who is eligible to win, how a winner will be selected, and how quickly the product will be shipped.