Blog contests and giveaways are a popular way to increase traffic. The most common blog giveaway is to simply announce it on one’s site and ask people to enter by posting a comment. You can build an audience this way, but wouldn’t you like to expand your reach even further? Increase not only the readers of your blog, but your followers on Twitter and other social networks? Let’s talk about ways we can do that.
The key to promoting your contest is to give your readers incentives to spread the word about your contest. This can either take the form of additional entries in the sweepstakes or earning points toward being the ultimate winner in the contest.
Before we go any further, let’s clarify some terms. Technically speaking, a contest is a judged competition. If you ask readers to leave a comment with a holiday horror story and you choose the best one as the winner, that’s a contest. If you choose one at random, it’s called a sweepstakes. If the first ten commenters win, it’s a giveaway. For brevity’s sake, though, I’ll just refer to all these as contests.
Accepting comments as contest entries is the easiest way to run a contest. Most blog software requires an email address to comment, which gives you a way to contact the winner. You should also accept trackbacks/pingbacks as entries — it may be a little more difficult to contact the winner, but having other blogs link to your contest will draw a bigger audience than just comments. Also consider designing a small image that bloggers can put in the sidebar of their site that links back to your contest. Give the blogger an extra entry for every click through from their site, which you can track through Google Analytics or another website statistics package.
Twitter can be a great way to promote your blog — and in particular your blog contest — as long as you don’t overdue it. Most people don’t mind the occasional tweet about your blog, but if that’s all you ever post they may go elsewhere. Be sure to announce the contest when it starts, and maybe remind folks once more before it ends.
Also, offer additional entries for people that tweet about your contest. Give specific text (or a #hashtag) for people to use when they tweet, so you can search for the entries at the end of the contest. It’s best if you set a limit on the number of entries that can be earned this way, though. Otherwise, some people might abuse it.
In a similar way, you can extend your contest into other social networking sites like MySpace or Facebook. By accepting comments there as entries, you encourage people to become your friend, and it’s another avenue to reach those people later.
There are many sites (Online Sweepstakes, SweepsGoat, Sweepstakes Advantage, to name a few) that list online sweepstakes. Some allow you to suggest a sweepstakes, but may or may not add it to their directory. Others will post any legitimate contest someone submits. Be sure to follow the rules for submission on each site. If the site accepts comments, monitor the ones about your contest so you can answer any questions that come up. (Full disclosure: My wife and I operate SweepsGoat.)
If you do offer multiple ways for people to enter, I recommend tracking all your entries in a spreadsheet, so that at the end of the contest you can more easily choose a winner. Also, be sure to post rules for your contest, including start and end dates, how often visitors can enter, and how and when a winner will be chosen.
Have you run a blog contest? How did you promote it? Let us know in the comments.