This guest post is by Jeremy Statton of JeremyStatton.com.
Contests are an effective way to increase activity. Most websites run one of some type. If you haven’t, you should. Nothing attracts a crowd like the possibility of winning something for free.
But the standard contest that provides a free “prize” for those who enter may not be the best way to get your readers more involved.
That approach reminds me of credit card companies that throng college campuses in the fall hoping to get students to sign up by offering them a free T-shirt. Initially enthusiasm is high, but over time, your readers will get used to it. A T-shirt will never be more than a T-shirt, free or not.
What’s your goal?
The primary goal of our websites is to build an online community. A tribe. A group of people who share common interests and then interact with each other.
Increased traffic might be fun to see, but increased engagement is better. I would trade ten new readers who participate on regular basis than 100 people who have only signed up for a chance at free stuff.
These engaged readers are the ones who can help you find others who will benefit from your community. They are the ones who will keep showing up even after your content suffers from a bad day. They are the ones who will remained subscribed even after they receive their free gift.
A way to develop this type of reader involvement is to design a contest that reflects this goal. Instead of just giving stuff away, we need a contest that gets our readers more involved.
A new type of contest
My site is about living better stories. My readers and I encourage each other to step away from what most would call a normal life and step into a life full of risk, obstacles, and personal transformation. Instead of choosing comfort and ease, we have decided to make a difference.
As I interacted with my community, I discovered that many of them were already doing just that. I started asking questions, and the answers I heard were amazing.
So the “Secretly Incredible You” contest was born.
I asked my readers to submit the stories of people who are living these secretly incredible lives. It could be themselves or someone they know. The winners are featured in a blog post each Friday. At the end of 20 stories, I will collect them to make a book which will be printed and distributed to each winner.
The best part of this contest is that everybody wins. I get an incredible post and reach new readers each week. The winner is featured on my blog and has their story told.
How to create your own contest of engagement
If you want to create a similar contest for your site, here are four things to consider.
1. Reveal hidden treasure
The key to this type of contest is to discover what your readers are already doing that everybody else would be interested in. Find the place where your theme and their awesomeness intersect. My site encourages stories. A tech site might feature a best widget contest. A photography site could hold a contest with a different theme each week.
It doesn’t matter what it is. Find the hidden treasure and then give people a chance to show off.
2. Display the work
For traditional contests to work, you give out free stuff. But with this type of contest, instead of giving people stuff, give your readers the opportunity to show off their work on your platform. Since it feels and looks like a contest, they will do their best work with the hope of winning. And then they will give that work to you to display to the world.
By giving others a chance to show off their work, you can develop even better content then what you already have.
3. Make it regular
Your body suffers when certain necessities are not met with regularity. The contest is no different. Your tribe needs that same schedule. Instead of making the contest a one time event, consider doing it weekly or monthly. And then keep it running.
By declaring winners on a regular basis, you will create a sense of anticipation that keeps others coming back for more.
4. Reward winners even more
Go beyond featuring the winners on a blog post. Include them in something bigger as well. For my contest, I will put each post in a book and then have the book printed. I plan on sending the book out to each winner.
Give the winners something more than an opportunity to display their work.
Create contests that add value
The type of contest is a chance to not only bring new members to your tribe, but to also add value to your currents readers experience and increase user engagement.
Have you run a contest that increased engagement? Tell us about it in the comments.