Don't Run a Twitter Contest

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I should clarify a bit. Don't run a contest where you use Twitter as the main way for people to enter the contest. Unless you already have a large following, you will be disappointed.

Why? Twitter is polluted with accounts that exist for no other reason than to enter contests.  And you know who follows these types of accounts?  More of the same.  So you get into a continuous feedback loop of people entering your contest that only care about the contest. They're not going to turn into a regular reader or visitor.  They're not going to care about what you have to offer.  

Tomorrow, they will have moved on to the next contest and forgotten about you. Because that's all they do. Enter contests.

I found this out when I ran a contest for my site LCDTV.net. We gave away a brand new TV, and the main way to enter was via twitter. People could also "like" us on Facebook or write a blog post about the contest to increase their chances.

We ended up gaining over 350 new twitter followers.  Not exactly viral, but nothing to sneeze at, especially when you had started at zero.  But what kind of followers were they?  Not the kind that would pass on new LCD TV reviews and news. Not the kind you can engage with.  In other words, most are worthless followers.  Parasites.  They were only interested in contests, tweeting about nothing but how to win a new washer and dryer from LG, or crossing their fingers when tweeting about the latest iPad contest every single day.  Their streams are a never-ending flow of spam. So we marked this contest down as a failure.

I don't want to kick the baby-blue bird while he's down, however. Twitter is a great supplement to running a contest.  Have people who have already entered tweet something to increase their chances of winning, or something like that.  The upside is huge with almost no downside, since you have already engaged the user elsewhere.

So what should you do when running a contest?

  1. Be sure you get an opt-in email address as a condition for entering. This allows you to connect with them later. Drupal already has a great system allowing you to do this easily.
  2. Have them provide something of relative value to be able to enter. A photo contest comes to mind.  This creates a barrier to entry that separates the wheat from the chaff, and gives the user a greater sense of involvement. They're more likely to remember you.
  3. Give them a greater incentive to share.  Basing the contest on the number of votes their entry receives is a good way to do this, and beats them just dispassionately hitting the retweet button. Making them want to share without you even having to ask them is a good thing to shoot for.  But you should still ask them explicitely, of course.
What ways have you found that Twitter is actually useful?

 

Comments

I totally agree with you Matt - you need to make Twitter interaction more personal. Look at what some of the people from the DrupalCon were doing with Twitter alone.

One company Twaiku - asked people to write a haiku - keepinh it short and personal. I tried my best, did not win, but had a great time trying. It was also easy for the campaign directors to follow the #hashtag and pick their favorites.

The limitation on characters means you need to think Twitter vs thinking other social platforms. Like you mentioned above - using Drupal to capture the email is great - same goes with Facebook - using FB connect you can quickly gain a larger distribution list just by running a well planned campaign.

Good luck with LCDTV.net - that sounds really promising.

If you need more Twitter followers - make sure to follow others in that industry - often times they will follow you back. This is not exactly the end goal as they are probably too big to actually benefit you, BUT more often than not new accounts or people trying to establish their Twitter accounts will find that person - then look at all the people THEY follow (you) and so they decide to follow you as well. Its a bit organic, but easy to do.

PS - loved the pitbull site.