Having seen more and more contests coming up targeting netizens and the way these contests are planned and structured. And having planned and executed some of these myself, I do have some thoughts and reflections to share.

Having seen more and more contests coming up targeting netizens and the way these contests are planned and structured. And having planned and executed some of these myself, I do have some thoughts and reflections to share.

I’m going to split this post up into sections as logical as possible…
1. Planning an online blogging related contest.
2. Marketing these contest.
3. Executing and monitoring these contest.
4. Initial objectives Vs the final end product at end of contest.

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Planning an online blogging related contest

I’m referring to contests that are targeting the bloggers and readers of blogs. Be it a contest that requires people to write post on blogs, post comments on blogs, emailing the bloggers to take part or any form of engagement that uses blog/blogging as a tool for the contest.

For most of the people out there, these contest seem the easiest to plan and execute. But in actual fact, there are many things to consider too before announcing of such contest. Just to list a few common points to consider…

>> The type of quality and quantity of responses one is going to get for a contest like this.
>> How will the responses affect the branding and status of your company?
>> The bait (prizes) to attract more participants.
>> What if someone out there write bad things about the company or the contest?
>> What will the reactions of bloggers and readers going to be for the contest?
>> Steps to take to counter any possible problems or situations.
>> Will the end product for the contest be what was initially planned for?

There are many more things to think through during the planning of such contests. Especially the target audiences are free to voice their thoughts and opinions freely on their blog. And with it being openly available for anyone to search about such cases, it takes some courage for a brand to embark on the campaign. Especially if the company/brand is big and established. Unlike the traditional media where it used to be a one-way conversation from the publication to the audience, the new media now allows multi-directional conversation! One person blogs, 100 people reads, 15 people comments, 3 people pick up the story and reblog on their blog and another 300 people reads, 45 people comments… and the conversation may just get out of control! Imagine the damage control the PR folks has to manage!

So when you’re planning for a contest like this, it’s very important to have all the terms and conditions laid out as detail as possible and has to cover all angles that may take place. The planner has to be able to view the contests from the bloggers, readers and company’s point of view.

When you think you’ve got everything covered, someone, somehow will still be able to find a tinniest cut to dig out the unexpected sides of things. When that happen, be prepared to fight the fire!

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Marketing contests to target audience

With so many tools available for free online, departments will try to save on the marketing budget and try to get the contest out to as many people as possible through all these channels. But one big problem is that not everyone online are using these channels on a regular basis. Hence you’ve to either apply all to the campaign or you select those with the largest reach and stick to it.

Some of the channels commonly used:
>> Facebook groups – inviting their friends to the group and hoping for friends to invite more friends to create awareness. But often after awhile, the group become a spamming arena for members. The group lacks update and the team didn’t make full use of it. Facebook group also needs constant monitoring and one can use it as a marketing tool especially when you can send message to everyone in the group. But please do it moderately. Spamming too many messages out will just pissed members away and they’ll quit the group.

>> Facebook pages – these a little trickier as you aren’t able to invite friends to become a fan of the page. Hence you need to promote it on facebook groups or messaging personal friends to inform them about it. But everytime there’s an update on your page, fans get notified about them. This feature not applicable to the FB groups. And on FB pages, there’re also more things that you can do, like running a paid ad on facebook to promote the page, adding RSS of the official blog and adding applications to enhance the users experience and discussions.

>> Blogs and microblogs – You can either start a blog and use that to spread the words out or your engage bloggers to help talk about the contest on their blog. There’s also microblogging tools such as twitter and plurk where you can publicize the contest. But these channels take more time and effort as you’ve to first build your readership and followers of your blogs or updates. And in order to get bloggers to blog about the contest for you, you either have to be super good friend with them, or you set aside some budget to pay them as an advertorial post. Or entice them with fantastic prizes that make them want to blog about it for the contest.

And if there’s budget, one can always publicize the contest in the papers, on Tv and radio etc. Or go the online way, buy banner ads on high traffic sites, run ads on blogs and forums etc. But seriously, how many readers pay attention to ads these days? So why waste the money?

No matter which channel you use, there’ll be pros and cons. Especially with the new media tools, the team has to manage the campaign every minute and take action almost immediately should anything goes wrong. And this is a very tedious task. Imagine the number of hours spent checking and replying emails, reading blogs, twits and plurks and monitoring activities on facebook and forums!

Like in my case, I try to be online with all the sites I’m monitoring open in many many tabs in multiple browsers. And when I’ve to be afk, my mind will keep thinking about the things that might be happening while I’m gone. I constantly want to check back the sites and emails. It’s disturbing but I just can’t help it. If I can be online and watching them 24-7, I would! LOL!

So don’t just think about which channel you want to use for marketing, but do take note of the monitoring and usability of these tools too. Don’t use it because your competitor is using it.

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Executing and monitoring online contests

I remember long long ago I used to cut out coupons and forms from magazines to send out for contests. There wasn’t any website to visit or blogs to comments on then. There’s not as much monitoring needed at the agency side who’s running the contest. Its pretty direct and straight forward. And almost 99% of the forms and contest you take part, you’ll either forgot about it or don’t know the ends of it. Although I’m always interested to know who won that condo or car or that 40″ LCD Tv at the lucky draws. But how many of us really bother to look out for the results? If we don’t hear from them means we didn’t win. Simple.

But things has changed. With blogs, forums, plurk, emails and IM, anyone can just do a quick search online for contest results and details of winners etc! This make having a contest online rather intimidating. If there’s a lack of monitoring and something goes wrong during execution, someone somewhere just have to mention about it anywhere online, and soon tens and thousands of people might get to hear about it. Imagine the damage that might already have caused to your brand if its not handled in time!

For online contests involving bloggers and their blogs, I suggest you have someone to monitor it 24-7 and to react to any situation immediately when it happens.

And the scariest thing is, for the world online, there’s no rules. And ANYTHING can happen. Even right from the second you announced the contest online to the very last second of the end of it. Even some to the extend of months/years after the contest, someone may still dig it up to discuss. Headache right?

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Initial objectives Vs the final end product of the contest

What is the objective of your contest? Do you want the bloggers to find out more about your products and share their thoughts and feedback with you so that you can improve? Or do you want them to help you spread the words out for the product so more people can find you when they search or read blogs?

The objective of a contest or bloggers outreach campaign is very important. It’ll determine the direction of the campaign. But no matter what you plan, you still won’t have full control of what might happen during the execution. And often the end product might not be what you’d wanted. It may be better or worst. So is your brand ready for this? Many friends shared that this is the uncertainty that’s blocking their brand from taking the step to engage New Media.

In my opinion, if there’s a right team of people who’s dedicated to execute and monitor the campaign, there outcome of it could be pretty powerful and good. But if you’re going to leave the campaign to some agency or your team is not going to get their hands into the dirty work, than perhaps you’re not ready for it yet.

And do you know what is the scariest thing that may happen? Nobody takes part in the contest! Or the number of participants is too little to justify the cost of the campaign. When that happens, what will you do?

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Claud’s Disclaimer

I am a very hands-on and practical person, and is not good with expressing my thoughts cohesively at times. I try hard to make sense of my own thoughts and writing on my blog, but if some points doesn’t make sense, please pardon me. I wish I can write beautiful posts like many of you out there, but my english and writing skill is limited. I hope my sharing has not confused you more.

The above thoughts are all personal and does not reflect any comments or thoughts for any party I am or may be working for. If you disagree or have other thoughts on my above post, please feel free to contact me or leave a comment here.

Thank you for your time spent reading my thoughts. Hope it had been useful for you.