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How to Create Contests that Increase Engagement

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.

Jeremy Statton is an orthopedic surgeon and a writer. When not ridding the world of pain he helps others live a better story. You can follow him on his blog or Twitter.

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Comments

  1. Great post Jeremy!

    I have not seriously considered contests until now. Lately I have been exploring ways to drive traffic to my content and contests sound like an excellent method. I also noticed another technique here:
    http://kikolani.com/post-panda-and-penguin-link-building-secrets.html

    It’s called the “Trophy Flipper”. In essence you hold a contest for the best 50 blogs in your niche then award trophies to all the winners. They will hopefully link to you during and after the contest ends.

    cheers,

    Pete

    • Great idea on the contests. I too have never thought of running a contest! What do you plan in giving away as a reward for your contest I can’t think of anything good.

      • For my contest, I am telling the stories of others. The “winners” receive recognition, being feature on the blog. Everyone gets to hear a great story. It is really fun.

    • I like the sound of the trophy flipper. Be careful, though. I have been invited in contests that are more like a pyramid scheme. In my opinion, those types aren’t worth it.

  2. Victor Steel says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts to every one..

  3. Jasmine says:

    Awesome idea! Have you found that there are any tricks to writing submission guidelines to make sure contestants aren’t driven away?

    • Great question. I have had to say no to some simply because their “story” didn’t fit. It can be tough, but you have to be willing to say “no.” Making guidelines as clear as possible up front may avoid this, but I think it is inevitable.

  4. Zach says:

    That is a great idea. I am going to give it a try. I think I will ask my audiance for pictures of their firearms. And choose several to display in a post once a month or so.

    Thanks for the great idea.

  5. A great post you’ve got here. Creating contest is truly helpful. I’ve used it on several of my blogs and I can say, it works. But we must stay focus and give away VALUABLE information and rewards.

  6. Ben Troy says:

    The tips or techniques that you have stated here will really help a lot and this will really increase engagement on every business who is planning to use this very interesting tips that you have stated here on your blog. Many will benefit from this aarticle that you have created. I will apply these methods

  7. I haven’t exactly run a contest, but I did offer a chance (on my last blog) for readers to blatantly promote their business on one post and I set it as a message in my autoresponder. I continually got comments on that particular post and a couple people that I worked closely with did say they got clicks from my blog. It was a win win situation.

    In the future, I plan on doing a weekly Q&A session on YouTube from questions people submit to me on my blog, YouTube, and Twitter which will be somewhat of an ongoing contest with the prize being a video answer to their question.

    This contest strategy is definitely powerful and the community building is well worth it!

    Thanks a bunch!
    -Gabe

  8. This kind of contest does a good job of taking the spotlight away from the brand or company and putting it on the community the surrounds it. It really makes community members visible and makes them feel that the company is genuinely interested in them.

    • I agree. This is one of the main points, to get everyone involved and to participate. I think these “customers” are the ones that can really make a difference for you.

      • Agreed! A community-driven contest will always yield fantastic results. People don’t care about companies, they care about other people – and causes.

        Awesome example.

  9. Law Blogger says:

    Great idea. Any suggestions on how to get more happy customers/clients to take the effort to go to the web and give you a review? That’s the kind of traffic I need.

    • To get a good review, I think you really have to offer something of value. I have had a few “winners” of my contests posts links to my blog multiple times.

  10. Zeeshan says:

    awesome.. keep it up :)

  11. PlasmaVsLed says:

    Okay, I clicked on update and the stats are now fixed. WOW

  12. Pete G says:

    Thanks for the post Jeremy! Some great information there.
    I used to work for a direct response marketing company and we featured many competitions in order to build an email list. I now provide free valuable content, but not quite in the form of a contest. However, I will seriously consider this as an option and come up with a way I can do this.

    Do you recommend this is something you do when you have a decent number of readers?

    • By the nature of it, you might need a certain number of readers. This type of contest depends on your readers actively participating, and if you don’t have many, you may not get enough involvement. I think the best strategy is to mix things up with different types of contests.

  13. Ann says:

    Contests is a great idea, thanks

  14. Ayaz says:

    Hi Jeremy! Great post and certainly creating valuable content helps the author to interact with the readers and you have provided great tips regarding creating a contest and how people will get interact with that. Thanks for sharing great article. :-)

  15. Slavko Desik says:

    This is exactly what I needed for my site, but never managed to figure it out.
    It answers both user engagement while creating brand advocates, as well as gives you a better content and stamp of uniqueness to your site.
    Not to mention the connections you will manage to make with players in your niche, and the tons of traffic that is not only to visit, but more likely to stay.

    I had an idea of making a guestbook section on my blog, but now the puzzle is complete. Being a blog about improving one’s lifestyle, I can encourage people to tell more about what lifestyle they are living, and tell readers more about themselves. Then I can feature them in an interview that goes live, let’s say every two weeks.

    Thanks very much for this idea. One of the most innovative things I’ve came across.

    • I think it will work. Plus you will have tons of fun doing it. I have found it to be more work than putting together a typical blog post, but worth it in the end.

  16. Amy Warden says:

    I have a handmade soap business, and my blog has attracted a lot of other soapmakers from around the world. I didn’t really do a contest, but I did a soap challenge for 11 weeks that attracted a lot of attention and had quite a few participants. I presented a new technique each week for the participants to try, or push the boundaries on it, then at the end of the week, I created a link-up for everyone to share their work. It was a huge success!

  17. Scott Dudley says:

    Some interesting ideas Jeremy. I am currently running a contest on my blog that offers a monthly cash prize. Giving people the opportunity to show off their work on your platform is an awesome idea, but I feel that this will only work for the A Grade bloggers and the other established blogs. It is probably not going to work for an up and coming blog that has not been around for that long and is not getting that much engagement.

    It is for reason that I decided on the cash prize, but once I build an audience who keep coming back, I will certainly be implementing what you have explained above. Thanks for the info :)

  18. Adonii says:

    definitely a great idea, keep it up.

  19. Hannes says:

    A really great idea, thank you, but it can only be the second step when you already have a comunity for the contest. Or are there any good platforms to publish your contest?
    Br, Hannes

  20. shahriar says:

    seems to be great idea.

  21. Julia Hailey says:

    Thanks so much for putting this together. We’ve been kicking around contest ideas for a few months now. I think we finally have a starting point. Yeah, great, a starting point after a few months ;-)

  22. I ran a competition on one of my blogs which basically asked my visitors to like our facebook page to enter. Worked like a dream.

    Nice Post Jeremy

  23. Dawn says:

    Jeremy, thank you for this article and your excellent suggestions. I’ve been toying with the idea of hosting a contest for my blog, but am more inclined now – thanks to your tips about rewarding with something of value and not merely another freebie.

    Separately, it’s always a bonus when new traffic visits your site as a result of a guest blog. One paragraph in your article particularly caught my attention and prompted me to visit your blog. “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.” My blog addresses similar themes, and I’m enjoying reading yours now, too! Thanks again.

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    After Google Penguin update, the need of quality content become more important as it has always been. But the question is how to develop even the acceptable content, the article in question is really good a piece of information in this regard.

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