A lot of times in emails or comments I get asked why sites have contests. Usually phrased like “What do you get out of having a contest?”
I try to just have fun with contests and they usually have a way of working out. I am a huge fan of contests. We have innovated lots of different types of contest from the successful current comment contest to some diasasters like the “Can you outrank me for shoemoney” contests a couple years ago. Then there was the RSS Contest with John Chow which we did some really creative contests on our side.
How To Get Sponsors
First off you are going to need sponsors if you are going to have a contest. IMO its a bad idea to try to fund it yourself. There are tons of companies willing to sponsor contests. I wrote earlier this month about how to get sponsors for your blog and the same concepts can apply to contests.
Be Very Clear On The Rules
Lay out the rules for people very clearly. Have your friends, (the shadier the better) go over them and try to find holes. It SUCKS when the contest comes to an end and you have several people claiming they won because they misinterpreted your rules.
Get Prizes From Sponsors Upfront
The first couple contests we had here we got stiffed when it came time for the users to receive thier prize. We of course ended up covering and paying it out of our own pocket but make sure if its a tangible item OR cash you get it before you announce them as a sponsor. Its embarrassing to me when a contest winner does not receive their prize from the sponsor. I always cover it out of my own pocket and write it off as a loss but I wanted to write about what dirt bags these companies were that left us hanging like that. It costs me more to track down the company and connect them with the user then just to do it in the first place. ANYWAY the point is to get the goods upfront ;). Don’t risk your reputation with your users with some fly by night company promising a big screen TV only to never hear from them when the prize is awarded.
Rules and Regulations
Always check with your local laws and your attorney if possible about your contest. There are many laws regarding contests, sweepstakes and raffles. I know people who have been fined for having a internet contest which was interpreted as a raffle because of the rules (they required users to do something to get a chance at entry) and they were fined over $75,000.00. I don’t think you want to take a hit like that so please be careful and check local laws. You should probably also have a terms of service and a ton of legal jargon people agree to. I have never done that and hopefully that does not come back to haunt me some day.
Don’t Require Links
This is just a tip from the many contests we have had. I have never demanded someone link to me for a contest. If the contest is good people will link and talk about it on its own. I know ShoeMoney.com readers are pretty savvy to Google’s policy on Search Engine Manipulation and demanding links is a way of ranking higher then you normally would and a bad deal. Especially in our industry I think its a lose, lose situation for the contest participants (who can easily be penalized for taking part in the linking scheme) and also obviously for the contest holder who is soaking up all the link juice.
Take Good Care Of Your Contest Winners
Send them an email personally congratulating them. Most winners are very proud of their winnings and will be a fan for life! Every night we give away a t-shirt in the comment contest and every night an automated email is sent out congratulating the winner. If people miss that email or whatever and find me through twitter or other means I respond usually within minutes with the original email.
You are building reputation with your users for future contests and these people who have won take this very seriously and so should you. Its your responsibility to take care of them.
Contests are an incredible way to gain new readers/visitors to your website or blog. I highly encourage you to try them.