They are common on Facebook and Twitter, starting to get a look in on Google+ and are a regular offering on the altar of blogger outreach.
There is a whole community of digitally savvy “compers” who spend hours each day tracking down the latest competitions. Their logic is sound: if you enter enough random draws then you will eventually win.
Once the comper community knows a brand or blog runs regular competitions they’ll keep a close watch for the next one.
In many ways compers are very useful. They’re a reliable source of interest and will help your competition look busy and popular.
However, many compers have Twitter accounts dedicated to just tweeting about competitions, or Facebook pages used exclusively for Liking brands and similar activities.
As a result the social sharing that some brands hope to achieve through competitions does not happen with compers. Few people see what a die-hard comper with dedicated social media profiles shares.
The danger is that lots of attention from compers can make a competition look too busy, too hard to win, to people who could amplify the competition and that they are scared off from entering.
1. Use hashtags
Competitions which ask people to tweet to enter should carefully select a hashtag to include.
A hashtag can piggyback on an appropriate trend or topic and can help add value to a tweet from an unpopular account.
Hashtags also help tweets stand out in Twitter.com and many popular apps.
2. Consider Google+
Google+ is slightly awkward for competitions as there API is limited (no way to automatically verify competition entry requirements have been met) and, like Facebook, Google+ have restrictions on incentivised activity.
However, it is possible to run a competition in conjunction with Google+ without breaking the T&Cs and there are far fewer sock puppet and competition only social profiles on the platform than on Twitter or Facebook.
Gains your brand makes on Google+ today will likely put greater distance between you and competitors tomorrow, too.
3. Use a ‘little and large’ entry system
Competitions generally need a very low barrier to entry to be successful. This represents the “little” aspect of running the comp. Ask for a little.
It is sometimes possible to let players have a way to earn a second entry into the competition and it may be appropriate set that challenge much higher. This is a large ask and might involve the players creating something like an image, blog post, video or similar for the brand. In this case entries from compers may be less likely than brand fans but would be equally valuable UGC.
4. Ask questions fans or researchers can answer
True fans will be able to answer questions about products and services. Compers and other people enticed in by a successfully social competition may be willing to research a little (usually only very little) to find the right answer.
The competition can link or point to other areas in the site that you want people to see. This could be a sales page designed to solicit social shares or a “click to reveal”. If you are selling page views then a mini treasure hunt through your site can help generate those ad impressions.
Equally, making it clear that the answer lies at the end of a short video is a good way to generate views.
5. Think twice about allowing daily entry
Some competitions allow customers to tweet an entry once per day. This can really help a competition attract lots of interest but keep in mind die hard competition fans are far more likely to do this than causal customers you might be trying to engage with.
6. Collect a Winner’s quote
If your blog or brand’s competitions tend to be dominated by compers then start asking for quotes and comments from the winners. Give the prize winner an easy but clear structure to follow, ensuring the topics you want covered are mentioned and steer towards a few keywords as well.
You can then use this quote, with permission, to help advertise future competitions with keyword rich UGC and social evidence of real winners.
It is also worthwhile keeping Facebook’s EdgeRank in mind while designing your competitions. If you populate your Facebook fans with too few true fans and too many “artificial” page Likes from competitions then your engagement stats may fall far lower than average and the EdgeRank algorithm will respond by showing your Facebook posts to fewer and fewer people.
It is important to remember that compers are generally a gift to anyone running a competition. They are a source of fuel for the competition and vital for many SMEs and bloggers. The challenge is to design a competition that accommodates a wide an audience as possible.