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8 Tips To Launch Successful Challenges at Your Blog

This guest post is by Celestine Chua of The Personal Excellence Blog.

Earlier this year, I launched a challenge called 30 Days To Live a Better Life (30DLBL) on my blog. This is a 30-day challenge where participants complete one task a day, for 30 days in the month, that will help them live a better life. When I created 30DLBL, it was breath of fresh air—I’d not seen any such personal development challenges around at the time, and it was fun to do something different rather than just write articles every week. I was very excited about my challenge, and thought I’d probably get about 100 people joining in, or 200 people max.

I was proven wrong. The minute the post went live, there were already a handful of participants. By the end of the day, there were over 100 participants. The number slowly exploded to 200, 300, 500, 800 … to over 1,200 excited participants all over the world, all ready to transform their lives in the next 30 days! Not only that, but people were tweeting about 30DLBL, blogging about it, sharing it on Facebook, and telling all their friends about it. Some readers even specially created new blogs just to blog about their 30DLBL experience. Needless to say, the response totally blew me away!

The 30-day challenge was extremely successful, and many participants’ lives changed in unimaginable ways that month. Many of them rediscovered themselves on a whole new level, set new goals, and created new plans for their future. It was so successful that I later launched a guidebook and a workbook on the upgraded version of 30DLBL. The book sold over 200 copies in less than two weeks of launch, and last month I did a second run of the challenge, with many more runs planned in the future.

Some bloggers have also been inspired by the success of 30DLBL and are launching their own 30/31-day challenges, and it’s great to see them getting down to engage their communities.

Why run a challenge?

First off, you might wonder, why run a challenge? There are four key reasons:

  1. Create a breath of fresh air: At that time I launched the challenge, I’d already been running The Personal Excellence Blog for about 1.5 years. After 1.5 years of writing article after article, I wanted to have a 30-day challenge as a breath of fresh air, as Darren did with his challenge, 31 Days To Build a Better Blog. The challenge was designed to complement what I write at the site. It was very much welcomed by the readers.
  2. Help readers apply what you teach: Even while we may be writing down the most important insights in our articles, it’s a whole different thing altogether to apply that advice to real life. Some readers may not fully comprehend what you’re writing, while some readers may not know how to apply your insights. A challenge helps them take action.
  3. Engage readers: A challenge lets readers become involved. It makes them feel like they’re a part of your site. Launching 30DLBL helped me get up close and personal with my readers in a completely new way. At the end of the 30 days, I’d developed a very close bond with many of my readers.
  4. Form a community: With the launch of 30DLBL, I saw the first signs of a true community forming around my blog—a community where readers interact with each other, care for one another, and really help each other grow. This made me very excited about what’s ahead.

Eight tips for running a successful challenge

Here, I’ll share with you eight tips to help you run a successful challenge on your blog.

1. Evaluate the role of a challenge in your blog

Some bloggers may prefer to write articles, which is totally fine. Challenges are not necessarily for everyone. Figure out whether you do want to run challenges as part of your blog, and how regularly you want to do them. It can be a once-in-a-while project—for example, Darren runs 31DBBB at Problogger about once every few years. Or it can be a regular affair, which is what I’m planning for my blog.

I love interacting with my readers, getting up close and personal with them, and growing side-by-side with them, and I see a challenge as the perfect platform for me to know them better. Last month I finished a second run of 30DLBL with great success, and it’s now part of my plan to have three 30DLBL challenges every year. On the other hand, I launched a new 21 Days To a Healthier Me challenge in January ’11, where people all around the world get together to live a healthier life for 21 days. I’m planning more new challenges in the months ahead, to get more readers to join in and participate. Through these challenges, I’ve gotten to know my readers on a much personal level than I had previously with just writing articles.

2. Ensure you have a sizable reader base

Before you kick off a challenge, you’ve to ensure that you have a sizable reader base. The last thing you want to do is to have a challenge that no one’s participating in! Bear in mind that there’ll always be dropouts throughout the challenge, so if you have 100 people signing up, you might very well end up with only ten people towards the last week, and that will pull down the momentum. So the more participants you can get starting the challenge on Day 1, the better.

When I kicked off 30DLBL, I had almost 10,000 subscribers. I believe you’re good to go if you have at least 5,000 active subscribers, though I’ve seen people launch challenges with only 500 subscribers and they went well. In those cases,  the outreach was smaller by comparison, and the community, while small, was tight-knit.

3. Offer a tangible, compelling benefit

Your challenge should have a tangible, compelling benefit that draws people to participate. Since people have to dedicate time to the challenge, the benefit has to be something attractive. For 30DLBL, the benefit is about living a better life, and that’s something which was very compelling to many. After all, as growth-oriented people, we’re always looking for ways to grow and improve our lives.

Your challenge should be relevant to the topic of your site. It’s going to be quite strange if your blog’s about cooking and you run a challenge that’s on making money! Since I run a personal development blog, 30DLBL was a great complement to what I’d been writing at the blog. It was a great way to reinforce the ideas and concepts I’ve been sharing since the blog started.

Besides it being a direct complement, your benefit can be a subset of your site’s offering. Think about what your site is about, then brainstorm on the various sub categories that fall under the theme of your site. Are there any noteworthy topics worth starting a challenge on? The Live a Healthier Life in 21 Days challenge I just ran this month has been a great success. While some may think that health and personal development are unrelated, it works as healthy living is part of living a better life. People who are interested in personal development are the same people who want to pay attention to their health and fitness too.

4. Allow enough time for people to join

I posted the announcement post for 30DLBL five days before it started, which provided enough lead time for people to find out about the challenge, share with their friends, and join in. At the same time, I think it would have been better if I posted it earlier. Overall, one week should be more than enough time for you to promote the challenge and spread the word.

5. Set a proper duration: 30 days, 21 days—whatever suits

It’s up to you to design your challenge the way you want. I recommend making it a daily challenge, since it’ll be easier to follow. Duration-wise, I recommend 30 or 31 days (where participants can dedicate a whole month to it), or 21 days if you think 30 days is too long. 30DLBL was, of course, 30 days long, whereas my healthy living challenge was 21 days long. Anything longer than one month will be too long—participants will be likely to lose steam before it finishes.

6. Create channels for participants to engage with one another

A successful challenge is one that allows the participants to interact with one another—not just to interact with you. Establish channels for them to engage with one another. With 30DLBL, I initiated a twitter hashtag of #30DLBL, so that participants can connect with one another. I also created a new forum, with a sub-forum dedicated to the challenge so readers could have their own space to interact with one another. This approach worked very well. Participants used these platforms to give each other support and encouragement, and at the end of the process, many new friendships and bonds had been formed. Many of them added each other on Facebook afterward, and stayed in touch through the forums and Facebook.

7. Make your challenge tasks easy to follow

If you make your challenge tasks daily (which I recommend), you want to make them easy to follow. Don’t set tasks which take a week to complete. If your challenge is too tough, your readers may get discouraged and give up mid-way. This will defeat the whole purpose of the challenge to begin with! Make the tasks easy to process—break them up into mini-steps and spell everything out in layman’s terms.

For example, when I first ran 30DLBL, there were several tasks that made the participants feel discouraged, because they couldn’t finish them on time. Subsequently, they kept putting off the tasks and eventually disappeared off the radar. Hence, in my upgraded version of 30DLBL, I revised the tasks such that they could be completed in 30 minutes to one hour, if the person made an effort to do so.

8. Be in tune with your participants’ needs

Your participants are the backbone of your challenge, so stay in tune with their progress every step of the way. Observe what’s happening at ground level. If there’s something going awry, step in to help out. Throughout 30DLBL, my site received over a thousand comments from readers. I read through as many comments as I could and replied to all the questions that they asked. I also made a point of responding to as many participant comments as possible, so that they would be encouraged to share more. This created a tightly-knit community around my challenge.

I also noticed after four or five days in the challenge, some participants were falling behind. Hence, I introduced a three-day break after the first week, so the participants who were falling behind could catch up. It was very much welcomed and many participants were able to regroup themselves and get back into the challenge after that.

Moving forward

Challenges can be resource-intensive, but they definitely pay off. Your readers become more engaged, you help to make a positive difference in their lives, and you can build a community for your site. It’s up to you whether you want to create one, and what you want it to be about.

For me, running 30DLBL has been an extremely rewarding experience, and it’s not going to end there. I’ve planned a series of new challenges which I look forward to completing with my readers. Have you ever run, or considered creating, a challenge for your blog? Tell us about it in the comments.

Celestine writes at The Personal Excellence Blog on how to achieve excellence and live your best life. Check out the life changing 30DLBL program and live a better life in the next 30 days. Get free ebooks 101 Things To Do Before You Die and 300 Inspiring Quotes of All Time now by signing up for her free newsletter.

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Comments

  1. I have been planning a challenge for my blog and will hopefully launch it in a couple of months. This information has been incredibly helpful to make sure I start off on the right foot!

  2. What’s up, Celestine!

    I’m a big fan of yours, so it’s great to see you featured on ProBlogger. KUDOS!

    I love to participate in challenges in general – even beyond Internet Marketing, even beyond the online world.
    They create a HUGE burst of momentum, that one can maintain beyond the challenge event itself.

    I loved your advice. The only caveat was the recommended audience size (at least 5,000 subscribers).
    I imagine that will leave out a good portion of the readers of this blog.

    I DO understand that just being a plain reality though! Ha ha!
    I ran a challenge in December, using the wonderful Contest Burner plug-in.
    And I suspect that my small audience size didn’t allow it to ever catch fire.

    Perhaps some suggestions on how to pull off a successful challenge, even when you don’t have a large audience yet, would be super.

    HAVE A GREAT YEAR, CELESTINE!
    Thanks for featuring her, Darren! We’d love to see more!

  3. Mike Lopez says:

    I’ve been planning to do something similar myself but haven’t decided yet as to what the focus of the challenge should be. I definitely need to do it perhaps by starting with 30-day challenge to myself first.

  4. A nice way to engage readers and change from the norm for a while.

  5. Nick Begin says:

    That’s a fantastic way to interact with readers. I need more subscribers before I can launch that type of project, but I’ll start brainstorming ideas for when the days comes.

  6. CJ Nguyen says:

    I am also planning an E-book similar to your 30DLBL as my first product.
    Your idea is very clever! This is a good idea if a blogger ran out of ideas to write and is also another way to generate more traffic. SUPER! Good post.

    • You’re right CJ. That’s also a great idea to generate traffic at the same time put to test all the stuff that’s been written.

  7. Cyberquill says:

    I may launch a challenge for people to stay completely offline for 30 days as soon as I’ve figured out a way to interact with my participants during those 30 days.

  8. ankit says:

    Hey very innovative techniques for promotion of you blog.I’m also planning to promote my blog.

  9. What a wonderful idea and congratulations on the success of your challenge. I am now working on my own challenge thanks to this article.

  10. Tisho says:

    Nice! I like a lot of the tip for these to make people to interact with one another because as we know Marketing 3.0 becomes more and more popular.

  11. That is exactly what most people want when starting out online

    They are looking for a step by step process

    look forward to hearing more and off to your blog now

  12. Dipesh Patel says:

    Great thoughts. Your tips will help thousands of visitors who will come to this page.

  13. Thanks for sharing your experience. I’ve been planning a challenge similar to your 30DLBL!

  14. Pete Carr says:

    Hi Celestine,
    Challenges are a great way to interact with your audience. I have taken part in a couple of blog challenges now and I really got a lot out of them. Time to start thinking about my own.
    Of course I have taken Darren’s 31DBB which I took so much from.
    Thanks
    Pete

  15. I guess I’ll just have to prove you wrong then. The challenge on my blog starts Monday (January 24, 2011) and ends on November 11, 2011. It’s called Switch2011 (#switch2011 on Twitter) and helps people with minimalism. Their goals are all different: freedom, save up money, free up time to get started on a superproject, etc.

    Minimalism just isn’t something you can ‘achieve’ in 30 days. That’s why I made the challenge last 10 months, but every week there will be a ‘miniswitch’: an ‘assignment’ or challenge for that week. My blog is called Minimal Switch (it’s in Dutch btw), hence the ‘miniswitch’: switching to minimalism in small steps to achieve something much bigger.

    We’ll just have to see how big this will turn out to be. :)

  16. Stuart says:

    Hi Celestine! I’ve heard about your blog before, and now after reading this, I think I’ll go check it out :-)

  17. Sudeep says:

    Interesting article about conducting challenges. I have been in the 31 days blog challenge when you first did it and yes I knew the exact benefit from that challenge. My blog is small so it would be nice to see how it works when I have small section of people reading the blog.

  18. Celestine,
    I am a newer blogger (a year in May). I blog about helping people live a balanced life, specifically from my recent learning experience from having a mental meltdown. I am glad I came across this post, but wish maybe I had read this info before running my own challenge. I am in week 3 of an 8 week Journey to Balance. I only post and give assignments 3 days a week, so as not to me a huge burden. I did not have an e-book at the beginning, but the material from the challenge along with some additional material will be put into ebook format for launch at the end. My blog has a much smaller subscribership, but the challenge has increased it so far. My readers comments are encouraging so far.
    My hope will be to run the challenge again later, and to also do online workshops, etc. All part of the learning process, one step at a time!
    Thanks for the guidance given in this post!
    Bernice
    Assess your life for stress

  19. This is actually one of the best ideas I’ve seen in a while. A Challenge vs. Contest, motivate people to do something with actual goals rather than a just open-ended do what you want. A contest usually invokes procrastination of those that want to participate but don’t know what to do but a challenge is pre-defined.

    Great Idea!

  20. Vivek Parmar says:

    Well you have to make sure that your blog gets a quite good amount of traffic and have a better communication within the community. All these things will help you to make your challenge successful otherwise it is like any other challenge which is not known by anyone of only few of them knows about it

  21. Togrul says:

    Thank you very much Celestine for such a valuable post.

    Cheers,
    Togrul

  22. This is an interesting idea but my blog is about NYC …photography of the city and it’s style plus desserts…I am not sure what type of challenge I would run that would have to do with my blog. I would like to try it to see what it does for the blog as I am trying to grow followers.

  23. Holy Canoli! This is one of the best ideas/blogposts/howto information I have EVER seen! Now I’m a follower for sure! Talk about a breath of fresh air~~I’m suckin’ in the ambiance right now!!

  24. Paula says:

    As a small scale book blogger I have found that challenges is a good way to drive traffic to my blog. The book blogging community is in many ways challenge-driven, so this might not apply to other niches.

  25. Toby says:

    Hey amazing the growth in numbers so quickly from a standing start. Bit radical for me at my stage of development but I love the idea. I’ll bookmark the idea and come back to it when I feel I could undertake a project like that. Brill idea

  26. Thank you Celestine! I’m running a challenge right now. It’s not about growth, but a photography challenge. As kind of a social media experiment I’m looking for favourite cups from all over. On all sorts of channels at disposal. Even though the barriere is low (almost everyone has a cup dear to one’s heart) and I do have a number of readers (on Blog, Twitter and Facebook) and there are sponsored prizes to win, I find it hard to spread the news. It’s not a self-runner as in your case. I guess that is because your challenge’s topic related to actual needs and wants.

    In case you’d like to know what I’m talking about. favourite cup event on food-blog multikulinarisches (in english): http://bit.ly/fFGMl0

  27. Good post. I always thought same but i have just started to walk into this field and have virtually zero reader base and hoping to grow by time and able to do some challenges.

  28. Thank you Celestine. You gave me some really great ideas for my blog.

    I write for other writers, and many of them have trouble staying motivated and inspired to write. I’m thinking for the future, when I have more subscribers, to give them a challenge to write their novel.

    Right now I have about 100. Do you recommend waiting? I know you said so above, but I’m wondering if there aren’t some challenges when just a few of us are in it together. Writing is such a solitary endeavor anyway.

  29. Aviva says:

    Very useful post! I have been wanting to start a photo challenge/contest for my readers who are also photographers/models where they submit their images and try to get themselves featured. I am not sure if it will work as I have just passed 100 subscribers…so maybe I’ll wait a bit.

  30. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed.

    Thank you for your work !

    Novie

  31. Hello Celestine,
    These are great tips! My goal for 2011 is to engage more with my readers and form a community…something I have been lacking due to my busy schedule as of late- but I will put more time into. I love interacting with my readers and feel this plays an important role in maintaining your blog.