This post is appropriate, since Famous Bloggers is right now running a blogging contest. Maybe you are thinking of running one, too. The guest blogging contest I was coordinating for Credit Cards Canada just wrapped up. Most contests are about blogging or website promotion, but this was the first ever personal finance guest blogging contest. I was already familiar with guest blogging contests as a sponsor and as a reader/voter, but organizing one is a different matter. Here are a few things I learned.
Simple things are never simple
This whole contest thing is a lot more complex than it looks. There is a lot of highly detailed information to pull together for contestants, for sponsors, and for the website itself, with pages and posts linking back and forth to each other and considering the niche we were operating in. Once the contest was on its way, there was a lot of coordination, as each sponsor and each contestant is an individual with his own questions and her own approach.
Don’t go it alone
We did this one right. We had a small team handling the day-to-day aspects of the contest (credit is owed to Miranda Marquit, who did untold work for the contest behind the scenes), and we also drew heavily on Hesham of Famous Bloggers and Ann Smarty of My Blog Guest for advice and promotion. We also kept the sponsors involved (those who wished to be) throughout the process, helping immensely with promotion.
Getting Sponsors was easy
OK, not totally easy. We did have to work, we did contact a lot of folks, and we did get turned down by a lot of potential sponsors. But we hit our target much easier than I had “feared”.
Getting contestants was hard
Given that part way through the contest there were still more available prizes, all at least $100, you would think that everybody and their pet Chihuahua would be sending in a post. I mean, an almost certain chance of making $100 for a blog post, and even if you miss there still are those two links back to your website. I would have thought this was a no-brainer, but it seems I was wrong.
Sponsors can be amazing
Not every sponsor wants to be involved. They put their money down, like any form of advertising, and expect the publicity to flow from there. But several of the sponsors of this contest posted notices on their own blogs, tweeted the entries, and promoted the entries on other social sites. This probably counts as my “Happy Surprise” from the project.
Contestants don’t read the rules
Of course, many do. But several of them did not. As a result, there were rejected posts and disqualified entries. I’ll call this one my “Unhappy Surprise” of the project, although I suppose I should not be surprised.
Not everybody wants to win
Yeah, this came as a bit of a surprise. Points were awarded for comments. How hard is it for somebody – anybody – to ask five or ten friends to comment on the post? Points were awarded for votes received at certain social bookmarking websites, for tweets, and for FaceBook likes. How hard is it to submit your post, even if the title isn’t the catchiest or your network isn’t the biggest? Surprisingly, several people did not even submit their posts – in other words, they did not even vote for their own post.
On the other hand, several people promoted their posts all over the place. I can only call these people go-getters, because I noticed two correlations with these people. The big promoters of their own posts were often also promoting their competitors’ posts. In social media, the more you give, the more you get. And these go-getters really “get” that. There was also a strong correlation between the judge’s votes on the quality of the posts and those contestants who promoted their posts the most. I would venture to say that this means contestants who put the most of themselves into the writing also put the most of themselves into promoting. Hence, the label “go-getters.”
These are just a few of the lessons learned and observations from the personal finance blogging contest. So you might ask, what would we do different? Indeed, should we choose to make this an annual event, what will we do different? I think the main thing would be to place a little less effort on lining up sponsors and a little more on recruiting contestants. Oh, and not be so surprised about those things that caught us off-guard this time around. Surely there will be new surprises next year.