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.

6 Replies to “Blogs, Contests & Comments”

  1. Hi Steve,

    Thanks for this. Yes, both Rebecca and I run contests quite frequently (and really, for the love of the readers, because we love to give away stuff!). In my case, I love to run contests where participants drop comments because I do think they improve the post itself. For example, in my recent Father's Day giveaways, I wanted to add context and have the participants share their experiences.

    A few months back, I asked contest participants to tell me who would they bring on a secret mission to Paris, to win tickets to Les Miserables. I think that post was one of the best contests I have run.

    A few weeks back, Rob Cottingham suggested that RT'ing wasn't the ideal form of additional entry, but that we should aim to retweet meaningful stuff. I think both Rebecca and I are striving to make the contests valuable for our readers and not spammy (I'm speaking for her here, but I'm confident she shares the same opinion).

    Again, I appreciate the linkage and the highlight of my work 🙂 I blog for fun, and I do contests because I love giving away freebies to my readers. Running contests is A LOT of work, trust me on that one.

  2. Hi Steve,

    I agree that contesting is getting a little crazy, hence why I remove the Twitter entry for contests I anticipate getting many entries. I could use Contest Machine, and have in the past, but sometimes my contests require actual comment responses (see the Commemorative 2010 Book contest). There people shared their favourite moments from the Olympics. VANOC saw the post and shared it on throughout their networks. The yoga contest I ran recently also had some great comments about yoga in Vancouver in general. The sponsor studio was so happy they offered a free 1-week pass to all that entered.

    As previously mentioned, I try to avoid the “Re-tweet to enter” on big contests since I do recognize the spam element. However, it's not about getting followers, it's just about getting the word out and sometimes helping the sponsor boost their presence (ie. Kidsport in the Triple O's contest).

    Thanks for the discussion!

    Rebecca

  3. Additionally, I'd like to know why having 170+ comments on a post specifically identified as a contest post makes the entire blog less appealing.

    I have thousands of posts, many of which are my absolute favourite pieces of all time, that have zero comments. So does zero comments make the blog *more* appealing?

  4. This is great food for thought and as a person who writes a blog and hosts various giveaways it has given me something to think about a little bit more. I hate hate on line contests that involve multiple entries to win the giveaway. RT this and RT that and enter three times, sign up for the newsletter. Thanks for the tips.

  5. This is true – I believe you're working pretty hard to find the right balance and generally do a good job of it. And I prefer contests that do require a response and are subjectively evaluated.

  6. So, seeing 100's of comments on a post makes me fear the site is digg-like, with endless trolls and useless twits. a few comments makes me think the site is likely engaging with its audience. This is a totally subjective thing stemming from my irrational hatred of forums and the like I suspect. But! I suspect that all of my favourite pieces by you are also commentless. But it's not that 1 post that makes a site less appealing. But if you run several contests in short order, all with hundreds of useless comments, that's something of a disincentive to keep reading, for me at least.

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