D'Arcy from Winnipeg
Solution Architecture, Business & Entrepreneurship, Microsoft, and Adoption

Case Study on Importance of Clear Contest Rules (But Matthew Good Is Still Awesome)

Monday, November 23, 2015 1:47 PM
Part of running a conference, or a trade booth at a conference, is holding contests for prizes. While this may seem trivial in its execution, its very important that you think through and communicate the rules of said contest - otherwise you could have some very unhappy participants. Let me give you an example.

Tonight I'm heading to the Matthew Good concert which I'm pretty pumped about. He's doing a contest at every stop by showing a landmark and getting fans to rush to the spot and post a pic of themselves - the winner gets a VIP upgrade to meet him along with some swag. So when they showed the location as The Forks, it was on! According to Twitter I was the first one to post a pic!

I guess it was just time to wait to find out if I was the first one to post, after all the rules said...

I noticed after lunch some other guy that had posted his pic well after me was tweeted as the winner?! This didn't make sense...and there were two other people who had tweeted @mattgood with their pics at the location as well before the "winner". 

Let's look at the #6 rule from the contest rules though...

I underlined the part about the Hashtag - that, it turns out, was the difference - the tweet had to include #chaoticneutraltour. I was 19 characters away from getting to meet Matt, which would have been awesome.

The problem with this is that the rules aren't clear. In #5 it says all you have to do to win is be the first person to find the location and take a picture. The next one (#6) tells you where to post to prove you were there. But the verbiage around the hashtag part is anemic. It should have said...

"You MUST ALSO include the hashtag..."

Here's what probably pisses me off the most about this - its less about giving something interesting for the fans and more to do with promoting the tour on social media. Ironically the guy that won seemed to create his Twitter account *just* for this contest so any social media reach they hoped to gain from this is nulled.

Is this sour grapes as my new best Twitter friend Aaron (@octobermidnight) suggests? It's more of an annoyance really. And here's where the lessons learnt come in...

People's Time is Valuable
Any time that you do a promotion that requires people give of their time, they are GIVING SOMETHING. Whether its taking a picture at a location, having them fill out an online form, or submitting a session survey, they are giving something of themselves.

Make The Rules Crystal Clear
We all hate legalese, but being too laid back with contest rules can be disastrous. If participants need to do certain things to enter, then explicitly state what they must do. And use that word MUST, otherwise it can be open to interpretation. "Don't forget to..." isn't strong enough. Don't be cute, be specific.

If Possible, Include All Participants
A great idea is to offer something to all participants regardless if they win. This validates and thanks them for giving of their time (which is valuable) and for helping you reach whatever your goals were by doing the promotion (creating a contact list, getting something out on social media, getting a product name out, whatever). This could be anything - discount offer, small branded item, etc.

Try to Avoid First-In and Win
The problem with the first person doing whatever being the winner is that there's no incentive for others to participate. For instance, if your goal is to get as much exposure on social media, why would you not want as many people as possible active online with your accounts/hashtag? Better to give a time span to let everyone who wants to participate have a chance and then draw from that.

So be clear in your rules and you and your participants will have a great time running your contest!

So About The Concert....
Now is the fact that I won't get to meet Matt going to ruin my entire night? Not at all! Matt will be awesome belting out old and new tunes, I'm going to pick up one of those swanky Chaotic Neutral t-shirts with the D20 on it, and leave having had an awesome time listening to one of the great Canadian musicians of our time.

His PR/Social Media team though? Well they rolled a natural 1 on this one.


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