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Use Twitter Contests to Find Targeted Followers

Few things will replace SEO, providing great content, posting frequently, or building relationships with your readers and with other leaders in your niche as ways to help bring visitors to your blog.

However, I’d like to introduce you to another way you can find targeted followers who are interested in the content, products, and services you create: Twitter contests.

Anyone can put on a Twitter contest. The actual steps you go through are not difficult. And anyone can find a lot of followers with a Twitter contest. But what I want to share is how you can craft a Twitter contest to find the people who are interested in your niche, and build excitement around them following you on Twitter.

What is a Twitter contest?

Simply, a Twitter contests is a marketing activity designed to cause people to follow you and tweet a predefined message in order to be entered into a drawing for a prize. At the end of the contest period, you randomly draw the winner from those who:

  • followed you, and
  • tweeted the predefined message you created for the contest.

The results, if the contest is crafted right, are a lot of new followers who are truly interested in the messages that you tweet. These are the people who will most likely stay connected with you on Twitter and take action on your tweets. These are also the people who will be most likely to visit your blog or website long after the contest is over.

Each Twitter contest I run yields between 20% and 25% new targeted followers over ten days. My contests are big, so I run them about a year apart. That way, they don’t become so commonplace that they lose their novelty and appeal for either the people who enter, or the sponsors who provide the prizes.

Elements of a successful Twitter contest

While I concede that there are a lot of reasons why a person or company may want to conduct a Twitter contest, the reason that I’m discussing focuses on the blogger’s desire to find targeted followers. All other things being equal, we would rather have 2,000 followers who are interested in the information we tweet, than 10,000 followers who follow us but have no desire to read our tweets.

Depending on how you craft your contest, you may spend a lot of time, energy, and money attracting the wrong people. Alternatively, you can take specific steps to attract those in your niche.

There are several essential elements involved in attracting targeted followers in your niche:

Be clear on the purpose of your contest

Before you go through the work of crafting a Twitter contest, make sure you are clear on what you’re looking to get from the exercise. With me, it’s more targeted followers, targeted being the operative word. Once I have them, I have other activities in place to move them to my blog, my books, and my products. If you’re not clear on the contest’s purpose, then you are setting yourself up for disappointment when it’s over.

Choose prizes wisely

This is perhaps one of the biggest mistakes people make when they conduct a Twitter contest. If you are looking for targeted followers, bigger is not always better—bigger can cost you a lot of money without delivering the results you are looking for. For example, $5,000 in cash may not be as good a prize as a $500 camera or a $30 signed photography book if you’re looking to find photographers as targeted followers.

Sure, $5,000 is empirically worth more than the other two prizes, but consider this: $5,000 may attract a lot of people to your contest who want nothing to do with photography. All they want is the prize—then they’re out of your life. And the truth is that not everyone is motivated to enter contests for cash. Don’t believe me? When was the last time you entered the Publisher’s Clearinghouse $10,000,000 sweepstakes?

When you select a prize for your Twitter contest, it needs to do two things:

  1. Encourage people in your niche to enter the contest.
  2. Discourage people who aren’t in your niche from entering.

Generic prizes like cash, electronics, and vacations appeal to a wide range of people without doing anything special to reach out and grab the attention of a photographer. A camera, however, might raise the eyebrows of someone in your niche, as would a signed book from a renowned photographer.

Spending time choosing the right prizes that appeal to your targeted Twitter followers can make or break your chances of contest success. It can also save you a lot of money by helping you focus on the prizes that your targeted followers really value.

Don’t offer only your own prizes

Here is another mistake that people often make when they launch a Twitter contest designed to find targeted followers. Instead of reaching out to others for help in providing cool prizes, they only offer a book they wrote, a product they created, or a service they offer. While your prizes may be worthy of prize status, you will be missing out on a huge opportunity to find new targeted followers if you don’t invite others to contribute prizes.

When you reach out to experts and leaders in your niche to donate prizes to your contest, you are in essence setting up a sure way that the sponsors will send their followers to your blog or website—where they’ll find out how to enter your contest. You’ll also capture a lot of their followers on Twitter when they enter your contest. These are targeted prospects who may never have known about your contest had it not been for the sponsor your recruited.

As an example, I recently launched a Twitter contest for my blog with nearly 20 sponsors. Each of these sponsors will play a huge part in sending traffic my way; and since I chose sponsors and prizes related to my niche, the quality of visitors should be in line with the target audience I’m aiming to attract.

Give away the spotlight

In order to get the best experience from your contest, you need to take a step back from the limelight during the contest, and make your sponsors shine. This will give them all the encouragement they need to enthusiastically promote your contest to their followers and subscribers. Remember—these people are business men and women who are constantly looking for ways to promote their business. If you set them up as experts with a prize worthy to win, then they will help you communicate that message.

Another way you provide value to your sponsors during the contest is by highlighting their prize, linking to it, and linking to their website. By doing this, you’re increasing the chance that someone who’s looking at your prize list will see something they like, and decide to buy it instead of waiting for the contest to end.

Make the contest period the right length

This is where some finesse comes in. If you make the contest period too short, it will be over just about the time that its exposure is ramping up, causing you to miss out on a lot of potential traffic. Conversely, if you make it too long, people will not get the sense of urgency to enter it now.

We all know that if we don’t get a prospect to take action when we have them on our page, the chances that they will come back to do so later are dismally low.

With my contests, I’ve found that ten days seems to be a good running period. I run them over two weekends and the week between, starting on a Friday and going through the second Sunday. However, the length and the days you choose may be different for your niche. Don’t be afraid to test the contest length to find the optimal one for you.

Plan your tracking system

You need a plan for tracking all the people who enter your contest. The worst thing you can do is run a contest and then realize that you forgot to track it. Or worse—find that the tracking system you planned to rely on doesn’t give you accurate results.

For example, if you rely solely on Twitter search to find your entrants, you may find that the results don’t go back far enough to capture all the entries.

I like to use redundancy by choosing two tracking methods and cross-referencing the results. There are a number of great services that can send you alerts whenever someone enters the retweet phrase you create for your contest. When your contest starts, you need to immediately confirm that your alerts are capturing data accurately.

Communicate who the winner is and measure your results

When the contest is over, you need to contact the winner and announce on your official contest page that the contest has been won.

I wait until I receive confirmation from the winner before I publish his or her name. I also give the winner seven days to respond to my contact before I choose another winner. The last thing you want to do is choose a winner who doesn’t accept the prize, or one who comes back a month later and wants to collect the prize package then. Be clear in your rules and you can avoid issues like this.

If you’re like me, the real fun begins when the contest is over. This is when you get to crunch all the numbers to see how well you did. The data you get can help your next contest become more effective.

Creating a great retweet message

As I said earlier, for a follower to have a valid entry in your contest, they need to:

  1. follow you on Twitter
  2. retweet a specific message that you create.

A great retweet message will look like this one, which I created for my last contest. This retweet message is not for my current contest, so please don’t retweet it! I’m using it for illustrative purposes only:

RT @tonyeldridge Win a $1300 book marketing prize package from top book marketing experts in the business: http://tinyurl.com/ljn7y6

A great retweet message has these elements:

  • It’s 140 characters long, or less. Don’t forget to make room for the URL when crafting your message. Some blog platforms won’t provide you with the post’s URL until after the post goes live. In those cases, you’ll have to grab the URL, shorten it, and edit your post with the complete RT message once you publish the post.
  • It begins with “RT @YourTwitterID.” If you don’t place something before your Twitter ID, then Twitter will treat the tweet as a reply, rather than a mention. This can limit your contest retweet message’s exposure.
  • It makes mention that this is a contest, and summarizes the prize. It’s harder than you think to craft a small message that packs a big call-to-action, but it can be done. Your goal is to craft a message that makes people want to visit your page to read more about this great contest you’re having.

Twitter contest launch tips

Based on my experience, here are some parting tips to help make sure your Twitter contest takes off smoothly:

  • Don’t roll out a contest on the fly. Until you get experience with running these contests, there are too many places for things to go wrong. A little planning goes a long way for a smooth contest launch.
  • Give sponsors plenty of time to respond. If you don’t have enough planning time, you will not give potential sponsors enough time to digest the benefits of donating a prize to your contest. Chances are, you will be the first person who has approached them about being a sponsor. If you give enough time for this process, you can truly win them over to this marketing activity.
  • Test all links to your sponsors’ pages. You will be reaching for the antacid tablets if you get a bunch of calls from sponsors saying that their links are broken. Broken links are a rough way to start a contest.
  • Make sure you understand exactly what your sponsors are offering as prizes. Here’s where you grab the rest of the antacids in the bottle. You post that your sponsor will donate a 60-minute, free consultation; they come back after the contest is live and say, “No, I said I’d donate a signed copy of my book.” You really don’t want to have to change your prizes after the contest starts, nor create hard feelings between you and your sponsor.
  • Don’t change the rules mid-contest. People expect rules, but they don’t like to see them change. It tends to make them feel like they’re not being treated fairly, or that they’re being taken advantage of. You don’t want to create ill-will by changing rules after the contest launches unless it’s absolutely necessary.
  • Tweet around the clock. Twitter is global, so make sure you are tweeting about your contest around the clock. Even in your own country, you may have target audience members working all hours of the day. Someone is always around to read about your contest.
  • Don’t charge for an entry into your contest, or require someone to purchase something to enter. In many places, it’s illegal to require someone to purchase something to enter a contest. The laws of gambling take effect then. To be safe, make a “No purchase necessary” contest.
  • Don’t trust your sponsors to promote the contest. Prompt them. I often create special tweets that highlight an individual sponsor’s prize and tweet it three or four times during the contest run. This almost always catches their attention and causes them to retweet the message, thus increasing their followers’ exposure to the contest.
  • Follow Twitter’s contest rules. Twitter contests are popular, so Twitter has weighed in on rules they impose for contests. Their rules are simple and very practical, so make sure you follow them. Here’s a summary:
    • Discourage the creation of multiple accounts. If your contest encourages people to create multiple accounts to better their chances of winning, you are in violation of Twitter’s Terms Of Service.
    • Discourage posting the same tweet repeatedly. While it’s okay to have one tweet that everyone needs to use, you cannot encourage users to tweet it multiple times to increase their chances of winning.
    • Ask users to include an @reply to you in their update so you can see all the entries. You can see this in my Retweet example earlier.
    • Encourage the use of topics relevant to the contest. If I have a Twitter contest about photography and I say, “Cool new Apple phone out now” just to get people to click on the contest link in the tweet, I’m breaking the rules. You can use specific hashtags in the tweets, but even the hashtags need to be relevant to your contest.
  • Have fun. You may find a contest stressful when you launch it, but take a breath and relax. I’m betting this will be one of the most memorable marketing experiences you’ll engage in!

Twitter contests, conducted correctly, can be a fun, viral way to uncover targeted Twitter followers and ultimately send them to your blog or website. If you conduct quality contests on a regular basis, you will find sponsors lining up to be part of your next contest, and you’ll build an eager niche anticipating your upcoming contests. Once you have these followers, it’s up to you to keep them, with valuable tweets that relate to their interests.

Have you had experience with Twitter competitions? How have they worked for your blog? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Tony Eldridge is the creator of the Marketing Tips For Authors blog and the author of the Twitter marketing book, Conducting Effective Twitter Contests, and the action/adventure novel, The Samson Effect, that New York Times bestselling author Clive Cussler calls a “first rate thriller brimming with intrigue and adventure.”

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Comments

  1. Thanks for the information. I never even thought about the possibility of having a twitter contest. Since i’m not too familiar about how to set one up i’d like to see how it works out for others. This may be a great marketing strategy if it works out well.

    • Esmir O, says:

      Yes, the article was very informative. Just like you I learned a lot about running a contest on twitter. I do wish though that the article was printed a few weeks ago when I ran my first contest that did not end too good.

      It is a great marketing strategies, I ended up making all the money I spend back though adsense.

    • Deepak says:

      I have tried a few twitter prize contests myself and once won free online usage of a proprietary software.

      Of course they are a great way to attract users to your twitter account and thereby to your blog. But Branding your twitter profile in the right manner is also very important to have a look of professionalism for your twitter followers or those just came for the contest.

    • Akos says:

      Totally agree. Twitter contests can be a great traffic source. They are better than paid traffic. You get targeted visitors to you blog by only giving a prize.

      • Boy this one is really indepth information about twitter.

        Not only information you have provided details about the mistake and how to overcome from it.

        Simply great.

  2. Kristi Hines says:

    I have a contest coming up and plan on using Twitter as a way to enter. It’s definitely a great way to get new followers and hopefully ones that will stick with you long after the contest is over. The key is to make sure you are doing your best on Twitter make them love you while they are most engaged and waiting for the contest winner announcements.

  3. Maaike Quinn says:

    Wow, this is a very decent post. Thanks! I used to think these contests were only for mommy bloggers offering stupid prizes I don’t want anyway, but now I am actually looking forward to start a contest myself :D

  4. You know, I’m awfully suspicious here… Every time I read a ProBlogger article, by the time I’m done reading and commenting, there’s a new article up. Do you guys purposely space your publish times to suck us in?! ;)

    Which services do you recommend for getting RT alerts? I’ve been thinking about doing some kind of contest, and doing one on Twitter seems like a great way to get my feet wet.

    • Hi Elizabeth- I am always testing different alert services. My favorite so far are TweetBeep and the alerts on SocialOomph. I’m trying Twilert for the first time with this contest. However, I still check everything at search.twitter.com. Good luck with your contest.

      • Sandy says:

        I wanted to thank you for taking the time to write this article & thank Elizabeth for asking about the tracking services. I’m new to twitter & had no idea how to accurately track entry tweets. I’m starting a new blog focusing on Bare Escentuals cosmetics & am planning to have a contest coinciding with the official launch of the blog. You have just made my life a 1000% easier with this how-to article! THANK YOU! :0)

  5. Doug says:

    Good tips, but lacking on some important hurdles in the implementation. “There are a number of great services that can send you alerts whenever someone enters the retweet phrase you create for your contest.” – so name some then, hopefully the good ones from experience. Also, aren’t there “tweet for X” packages that let you get or do something after tweeting? I’d love to hear more about those and the actual implementation of such a system.

    • Hey Doug- I’ve mentioned a few alerts on Elizabeth’s comment above. You’re right, there’s a lot more that could be said on Twitter contests. I actually wrote a whole book on conducting Twitter contests for marketing purposes. Trying to summarize it all in one post does have its challenges. About the “Tweet for X” packages, I’m not sure what you’re referring to, but I can say that there are services that will allow you to do just about anything with Twitter when it comes to integrating it with your online marketing activities.

  6. Tim says:

    Thank you for this post! This information is totally fresh and relevant. I had never heard of conducting a twitter contest to attract new readers. I will definitely look into creating my own contest. Thanks again!

  7. Fred says:

    Very thorough post, Tony. I’ve been planning on running a contest myself when my product launches in the next few months.

    Since my company hasn’t launched yet, we have a modestly read blog and a handful of Twitter and Facebook followers (~300 combined). How do I convince sponsors to donate prizes when I don’t yet have a huge network to promote them?

    • Hey Fred, I was in the same situation when I started my blog. If your Twitter contests evolves like mine, you’ll start off with a few sponsors and the more contests you conduct, the more people will want to be part of your next one. I started with 5 sponsors who I met in my niche through networking. We had small prizes, but then I started adding sponsors. On my current contest, I have 19 sponsors and turned away quite a few because the prizes they offered were not targeted to the followers I was looking for. One thing to keep in mind when you start is that a small prize like a signed book or an online product valued at $20 – $100 is a small cost for a sponsor who is looking for more marketing alternatives. If you can help them understand that a signed copy of their book (for example) cost them less than most other paid advertisements, it goes a long way to convince them to take a chance on your contest.

    • Fred, that is definitely a question I’d appreciate some input to as well.

      I guess that with a brand new website or product you’ll have to rely on your persuasiveness. You can lay out your plans, goals and strategies. But without a noticeable fanbase trust and persuasiveness is what is comes down to.

      What is your take on it?

      • Fred says:

        Hi Philipp,

        Without an existing fanbase, you just have to be honest with sponsors and ask as many as possible. Your failure rate will be higher, but you only need a few YESs to put together a decent prize. Hopefully, the contest will drive some traffic to their site/s to prove the value and make it easier to find sponsors for the next contest.

        • Thanks for the reply, Fred!

          Totally agree with this as well. Without a big name (as a blogger, brand or company) your have to go from door to door. But it will definitely be possible to put together decent prizes. Especially if people can feel that you are honest about your contest and not after quick traffic-boost.

          It was not a Twitter content – so it is a bit off topic – but I loved Tim Ferris’ book launch campaign. There was a lot to be learned from that. If you haven’t already check out his posts about that.

          - Philipp

  8. Nonoy says:

    Very useful post, Sir. I might try this. But what about hosting contests to increase subscribers? I mean right in the blog. Would that be a good idea?

  9. Chris Jones says:

    Thanks for the information on Twitter contests. After reading your post I am planning to do one myself. The prize will be a new music album released on that time.lol

  10. I really like the bit about offering a product or prize from a sponsor. Be nice to tie this in with a personal service that you can offer too.

  11. Keisha says:

    I’ve ran a couple of YouTube contests before for my other business and they increased sales greatly. I have been thinking about doing a Twitter contest for awhile now, but didn’t know how to go about it. I’m glad to say I no longer have that problem. Thanks for the info!

  12. ALlen Leis says:

    I’m allen leis from PH :)) please follow me xD

  13. jbledsoejr says:

    This is a really good post. Thanks for sharing! We are putting together some contests now, and you mentioned some things that we had not considered…like focusing on prizes that appeal to your targets.

  14. Great idea! I am new to twitter but as I grow my followers I would love to do this. I am constantly trying to figure out new ways to bring people and keep people interested in my Blogs. This is another great idea. Thanks so much

  15. I have been experimenting some with twitter contests lately actually and find this article full of helpful information. I’ll definitely be coming back to read it more throughly.

  16. I have never really seen a Twitter contests as appropriate ways to create targeted followers. This posts makes sense to me and I believe this might work. But there is one thing I’d like to add that I believe to be crucial to build longterm relationships with those new followers:

    Engage with them as soon as they enter the contest!

    I think it is most important that you show your appreciation of them entering your content and stating that they are interested in your niche and are willing to connect with you. A good way to eliminate the anonymity of all the people entering your content is to take the time to talk to each one of them. Right after they signed up send them messages thanking them for investing the time. Find out who they are. Start a conversation and start building a relationship right on the spot.

    This kind of caring and engaging will boost your chance of growing your number of loyal followers.

    • Kala says:

      That is actually really important, it’s about building relationships online. One could set up an auto-responder to thank them and include a freebie perhaps. Im thinking of doing a contest for my new website design business, aimed at small holistic business. It does take some planning but this is really helpful article.

  17. I have learned many useful knowledge from your article!

  18. Thanks for sharing! :) I’m about to release a Twitter contest soon so these are great tips :)

  19. It should be called a ReTweet to Enter content. Most Giveaways today follow that method only. When launching such a content, we need to make sure that our profile (bio, twitter handle & bg) + Tweets are attractive enough for others to follow us, else they will feel forced which isn’t good.

  20. hashif says:

    Wow, Great post..Twitter contest is a great way to attract lots of targeted visitors..

  21. Lots of great info here but I must disagree with one major part of it; the RT message. I find RT this to win contests lazy. Craft a contest that forces entrants to enter in a more creative manner. RT to win contests offer little engagement following the contest and are too easy to enter without looking into the business or Twitter user. Its akin to getting a like for likes sake; both are so easy to get and rarely produce an engaged audience. While your targeting methods will help with this, take the time to craft a better way to enter that engages more with the prize or your account. Instead of RT’ing to win a trip to Chicago (from a travel advisor) how about, “Tweet with your favorite thing to do in Chicago & include #soandso” A great way to track entrants is with a tool called http://twitstack.com/ its only in Alpha but it redirects tweets to a http://formstack.com form field. I dont work for Formstack but a good friend created the tool and its a valuable way to track entrants and followers gained from the contest.

  22. Jane says:

    Those are some pretty solid information right there. Thanks for writing all the tips in detail. I will definitely bookmark this.

  23. Excellent post-thank you. I have been working on an ebook for illustrators, and this sounds like a fantastic way to promote.

  24. Excellent article. I have run a few contests on twitter before but not put as much thought into the details as this article quite obviously points out.

    I like the idea of a more targeted prize which will probably disincentivise the new followers I am not looking to obtain e.g. a photography book rather than a cash prize.

  25. soubhiks says:

    great post..
    surely a great way to imprve traffic and sounds exciting as well…

  26. Slip says:

    Twitter is best in that and it has the tendency to bring revolutions. That is why twitter is gaining success more then its competitors.

  27. Nancy Shurka says:

    Informative and smart post! I believe in general that the tips are also important for Facebook contests which we all have seen in abundance. While contests are great they need to be planned out in order to insure quality over quantity. Thanks for your insight!

  28. datastage says:

    This was really awesome techniques to get good traffic to my blog. have implemented to my blog with your tips.

  29. Wow great article, I have never think about twitter contests. This is really helpful and it will certainly help me get more followers…

  30. smith119 says:

    Thanks for the insightful information about the contest hopefully I give it try and you will never know

  31. Zied says:

    thanks a lot for these tips. You just gave me a great idea for my new website. I think I will start small with a book related to the topic of my blog. Thanks for your insight indeed :)

  32. janwong says:

    Looks like a Twitter contest will be the next big thing! Just wondering, what are tools you would recommend to track the tweets (entries)?

  33. Karan Lugani says:

    This seems to be a very nice idea. It has a great output with less efforts put in but still we need to be careful of the spammers. I will surely give it a try.

  34. Everyone is mentioning about how to take contest and all … but this is one post which cover everything from failure to success and all.

    Really awesome … like where you talked in details about the prizes.

  35. Mikey says:

    Wow I would have never thought you could use Twitter contests to gain more followers. How do you plan on keeping these followers once the contest is over?

    Anyways thanks for the tip though!

  36. Joseph says:

    This are fantastic tips. I’ve been following Twitter contests and I’ve noticed several types: some just want a RT, others want RT + followers, and a third type sets a goal for winning. This third type will award the prize on the condition that they get X number of followers. Do you think that contest launch should have this condition particularly if you want to get targeted followers?

  37. John Duval says:

    Twitter contests can be easily created through social media management tools. I would recommend Hoot Suite or the upcoming Blossome (http://blosso.me)