Last month at Digital Photography School I ran the biggest competition that I’ve ever run (on that blog). I put a $729 Nikon DSLR up for grabs for one lucky active member in my the forum attached to the blog.
The competition was successful in my mind but today while I was doing a little analysis on it I thought it might make an interesting case study for ProBlogger. I hope you find it useful as you consider the option of running competitions to promote your blogs. Note: I’ve previously written on How to run a successful competition on your blog – and much of my strategy for this one was based upon that.
The Goal - the aim of the exercise was simple. To sign up new members to my forum and increase page views. My hope was to have a bumper month but also get new members signed up to have an ongoing impact on overall activity going forward.
The Competition – The idea was simple. Every post made by a forum member put them in the running to win the DSLR. Every time they made a post it was another entry. I’d run these types of competitions before so I knew the principle worked.
My Concern and The Risk – What did worry me a little was that in putting up a prize to that value I could actually be spending more than I was going to make out of the increased traffic. I figured if I could increase ad sales by $24.30 per day over the month I’d break even (although any ongoing increase would mean profit).
I did try to find a sponsor for the camera so as not to have to shoulder the load alone but while DPS has good traffic (it currently does 1 millions visits a month) it’s still seen as a small fish by the camera manufacturers and retailers (if anyone knows anyone at Nikon or Canon etc – please shoot us an introductory email as I’d love to find someone in those companies who is interested in interacting with blogs).
The easiest way to measure the performance of the competition is to look at the Raw Traffic data. The following graph is for Pages Viewed on the forum for 2008 so far.
You can see that the forum was kicking along at a steady pace before 3 April when I announced the forum but that on the first day page views almost doubled. They then tapered off a bit during the month but stayed higher for the full month of the competition than they had been previously.
Here is the page views of the forum for the month of the competition) compared with the page views of the forum for the previous month (green). Over the full month traffic was increased 66.7%.
Interestingly the last 7 days since the competition finished we’ve seen a drop off in page views but it’s still 35% higher than for the 7 days before the competition so the longer term impact of the competition seems to have been to increase overall traffic beyond the competition itself.
Results: New Members
Recruiting new members to the forum was another goal of the competition. We’d had an influx in January of 1803 new sign ups as a result of a previous smaller competition but since had been around the 1200 per month. April however saw a boost in numbers by an extra 2823 members.
Now not all of them will convert to ongoing active members but they are all signed up and most have opted in to receive updates from the forums which means there’s a higher chance of drawing them back next time we do a promotion.
Another bonus related to increased traffic is the increases in user activity on the forum. Here’s the increase in new ‘threads’ to the forum (up from the 1500′s to just over 4000 for the month)
And here is the increase in new posts (up from 1400 per month to over 43000 for the month).
This increase in activity is good in my mind for a couple of reasons. Firstly it’s about reader engagement. Every time someone made a post they had DPS further enmeshed in their minds. When you post regularly to a forum for a month you’re more likely for that to become a habit, you’re more likely to remember the brand of DPS when they next need information on photography etc.
The other thing about new posts and threads is that it’s new pages of content on your site. Every time a new post and thread goes up on the forum you have another page of user generated content for the search engines to find, index and rank you for. Every new page is a potential new doorway into your site.
So did I make my money back? While seeing an increase in profits for the month wasn’t my main priority I did want to make at least enough back from the competition to pay for the camera that I was giving away.
While I’m not going to go into details of exact earnings of the site I can reveal that the increased activity on the forum did see it’s earnings go up by over the required $24.30 a day needed to pay for the camera. It wasn’t a great deal more but considering it is still up the impact of the competition will make it a profitable event into the future.
So far it’s sounding fairly rosy isn’t it. Increases in traffic, members, activity and even earning are all good. However there was two downsides.
1. Moderation Workload – I have an amazing team of moderators to DPS but the month of April was the hardest that they’ve ever worked. I totally underestimated the extra load upon them in setting up this competition. It has made me reconsider how I run future competitions.
2. Impact upon Quality of Reader Interaction – over all the increased activity of the site brought in some wonderful new members who are interacting on the site with genuine interaction. However a small number of new members were just there for the competition – even though I made it clear that spammy entries wouldn’t win. This impacted moderators workloads but also the overall morale on the site a little. I think we managed to contain it but again – next time I run a competition it’ll not be based upon post numbers but rather some sort of quality level of interaction.
Overall I think the competition was well worthwhile. Yes, I made a few mistakes but I’ve learned a lot from it and am looking forward to the next one I will run.