Blogs, Contests & Comments

The Vancouver Blogger scene is incredibly well tied-in with the Vancouver PR Community. I generally think this is a good thing – they scratch each other’s backs, and I get to stay informed via voices that I know, trust (or not) and are consistent. And more often than not, this leads to contests, wherein a blog reader wins stuff, or tickets to events or whatnot. Both Miss 604Hummingbird 604 run contests regularly. I recently won a contest on Outdoor Vancouver‘s blog. So these are good things. Usually, entering the contest consists of a)tweeting a specific message b)leaving a comment and sometimes a third option on Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, etc. The tweeting I get – it makes the contest (and thus the message) viral. Most of the time, I don’t mind abusingmy twitter account to do this, but just recently I’ve decided to create a separate twitter account that I’ll use just to enter contests – while I might want to enter all sorts of contests, my friends might not be so interested (I differentiate between followers & friends – I tweet for & with my friends – followers can come and go as they please), and I don’t want to spam them. But I understand, from the point of view of the blogger & sponsor why tweeting for a contest entry is good.

But then we’re often asked to comment on the blog itself. And this seems odd to me. I’m of the opinion that blog comments are for conversation, for response to ideas put forward. But contest-entry comments are inane and usesless – the vast majority exist solely to fulfill the requirements of the contest, and add nothing to the conversation. This is especially true if the contest winner will be drawn at random, rather than via a subjective evaluation of the ‘best’ response. Look at the ‘Cirque Du Soleil KOOZA: Win Tickets” post on Miss604 (I’m not, it should be noted, picking on her in particular – this is just a great recent example) – there are (as of time of writing this) 178 comments – each one an entry into the contest. The contest runs for 3 weeks, and we the public are allowed to comment once a week for an additional entry. So there’ll likely be well over 500 ‘comments’ on the post – but all will be simple contest-entries rather than any substantive content. So what’s the point? It many ways, it (for me at least) reduces the appeal of the blog as a whole – while I’ll read the posts, there’s no point in reading the comments because they’re more or less spam. And comments, retweets, Facebook links, trackbacks make up your blog’s social sphere. There’s power in having that sphere be ‘clean’ I think, which having useless contest-entry comments simply detracts from.

But, again looking at Miss 604’s site, read her post prior to the contest “A Does of Vancouver” It has but one comment, but it’s a real comment, a response to the post itself. And useful – adding something to my experience of the post. But and so, what is the answer to all of this? Here’s my suggestions to blogs that run contests, to keep your blog’s social sphere “useful”:

  1. If your contest-winner will be drawn at random via a number-generator, don’t use your comments for entries. Use a polling system perhaps – but make people register to “vote” on the poll just like leaving a comment. Then choose 1 or more votes to win.
  2. If you require specific content to be in the post, but it’s still a random-draw, use  a separate data store for that – so it’s clear throughout your archives what are contest entries, what are comments.
  3. Just use the external viral engines like Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, etc.

If you’re someone who runs contests on their site, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this – not running contests, I’ve never had to put my own ideas into practice, so maybe there’s valid reasons for using the comment system that I haven’t thought of.