The Fine Line In Online Contests

August 25, 2010

The Globe and Mail’s Ivor Tossell recently published an article “With tweet-marketing contests, everyone loses.” This is an interesting article as both an online marketer and someone who is entered in the Virgin America Provocateur contest and soliciting votes for it.

In the article Tossell says, “On paper, they’re win-win propositions, enticing people to bag prizes while spreading the word about a product. In practice, however, they’re usually zero-sum games that ask users to promote themselves by badgering their peers.”

He has a few good points, but doesn’t offer a viable solution to the industry norm. So left a comment that hasn’t solicited a response from either Tossell or the other readers — so I will share it with you in hopes of a conversation.  Here’s what I said:

Hey All

I feel inclined to comment as I’m currently entered in the Virgin Provocateur contest (you can see my entry here and I’ve also won a lot of stuff via twitter: iPod touch, Bensimon running shoes, gift packages, free flights with Virgin Airlines (different contest, Klout) and much, much more.

I’m not here to brag or solicit more votes by any means, just to maybe point out someone who’s guilty of it to perhaps raise an understanding as to why.

I am also an online marketer… so I’m online everyday. I enter tons of these contests – some, like the provocateur one, with genuine interest in winning… and some out of sheer curiosity, understanding and inspiration. I want to see what everyone’s doing, dissect what works and what doesn’t, how I would do it, what I can take from it, and whether we could implement some of those best practices where I work.
But I have noticed a lagging in interaction… genuine response… real connection with the brand both with the majority of contests I enter, and from people who enter some of mine. And I ultimately agree with the opinion that sometimes these types of contests lack personal connection and basically read like spam in a twitter feed, thereby devaluing one’s entire following and possibly one’s brand.

My question is — where’s the fine line? Most marketers are aware of the fact that this is an impersonal way to garner “awareness” (and I use the term loosely) and are a-ok with it as long as they deliver the followers/contestants/entries.

What is the solution? How do we engage, reward those who engage, and keep everyone happy and stimulated with fun new free stuff — without diluting this powerful communication tool… and one’s brand in the process.

Please share your thoughts. Oh and only 6 more days to vote for me in the provocateur contest — so if you haven’t done so yet, please check out my entry and if it makes you laugh, please give it a thumbs up!


2 Responses to “The Fine Line In Online Contests”

  1. karimkanji Says:


    Online contests usually benefit the brand that is hosting the contest moreso than the individuals who enter it.

    For example, if you win the virgin provocateur contest, if will be up to you to make sure you “pay back” everyone who voted for you or helped you in anyway. A daunting task. If you lose, what of the people you have been “badgering” over the past month to vote for you?

    As per our IRL conversation with Saul, contests like these should be shorter in length so as to not piss our friends off. A month online is like a lifetime IRL.

    Hope this helps.

    And best wishes in your contest!


  2. Sean Says:

    Karim is right.

    I think the model that will emerge will be like radio station call-ins. Tweets will go out that the contest is happening at such and such a time and you have to be paying attention to Twitter when the tweet goes out to be eligible, kind of like ‘7th caller wins’.

    Mostly it’s still early and we’re still making this stuff as we go.

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