The 6 best strategies on how to organise awesome online contests

People are not exactly obsessed with your product or contest, they are obsessed with themselves and how your product or service makes them feel. They care about the person in the mirror and they have their own problems (pain points) and their own goals (aspirations). So step out of your shoes and stop marketing like they care about YOU.

– Mirabelle Morah

In growth hacking, we learn that 3 disciplines come together to define growth hacking: Marketing + tech + psychology = growth hacking.

Uhm, but what exactly is growth hacking and what’s my business with this?

Growth hacking is an “umbrella term for strategies focused solely on growth. It is usually used in relation to early-stage startups who need massive growth in a short time on small budgets.”  —  Optin Monster

Much of what a growth hacker thinks about is growth. Will this social post lead us to get more people to sign up for our newsletter? Will this contest get us more followers, leading to more awareness and sales? Growth hackers experiment a lot because algorithms change, and different buyer personas or audiences have different needs and require different strategies to reach.

6 strategies for running successful online contests

Below are the 6 things to consider when putting together your online contest.

  1. What’s the aim? Why are you doing this to yourself? Why are you doing this? What are you trying to accomplish? Are you trying to sell off some products really quickly? Are you trying to get more followers? More email signups? Or are you trying to simply encourage a certain group of people by organising a contest so as to give them more visibility and encourage their skills/talents? Understand why you’re running a contest so you know what KPI (key performance indicator) to measure your results by.
  2. Understand what your audience wants and give relevant prize gifts: When I ran my first online contest for Z’axis Magazine, I had previously carried out a survey to understand what the BlankPaperz community really wanted and trust me, that survey was eye-opening, especially for content development. People wanted opportunities and scholarships. They wanted to know how to be better writers, storytellers and more.
  3. Collaboration is the new competition: Sani from Bridge Connect Africa Initiative (BCAI), an organisation helping women and youths in Kano, Nigeria, reached out to me and pointed out they would like to work together with Z’axis Magazine/BlankPaperz to get more people to read Z’axis Magazine. And together we worked! Through BCAI’s sponsorship, we set up an online contest and the rules were simple:
    • Like this photo & follow @bridgeconnectng @zaxismag @bpaperz
    • Download Z’axis Magazine and in the comment section below, tell us whose story on Z’axis Magazine inspired or resonated the most with you and why!
    • Share this post to your Insta story and tag @zaxismag + 2 of your friends (oh yeah we are seriously watching) and THAT’S ALL!
    • Win N10,000 and an exclusive interview of yourself (and projects) on BlankPaperz Media (@bpaperz)
      • By working together with another organisation or body, they can also contribute towards prize gifts you may not be able to afford, but your audience would love. Imagine collaborating with Google for a contest, they can give out free storage spaces, subscriptions etc. to winners. And don’t forget to make the benefits or gains of the contest mutual between the two parties. Are you thinking about sharing email lists with your contest partner? Uhm… think well about that, think before you leap and remember GDPR laws (General Data Protection Regulation) if they apply to you.
  4. Keep the barrier of entry between low to mid: Keep it short and straightforward/simple — except you’re giving away a million bucks! For the first edition of the BlankPaperz Short Piece Contest, the rules were simple.
    • Follow BlankPaperz on Instagram and Facebook. Then download our magazine for inspiration
    • Now in 100 words or less write about “the person you go love be” (the person you would like to be)
    • Submit it online and that’s it!
    • 5 winners get 20,000 each
    • In 2 weeks we got over 600 entries for this! What might have happened if we opened it up for longer and had more gift prizes? When you keep the barrier of entry low to mid, it gets a lot of people more willing to participate. Some people may not enjoy contests that ask them to canvas votes online. I for one do not enjoy this. But I must confess that it is a great marketing strategy to get eyes on your business page. Therefore if you’re asking for social media votes, tags and reshares, ensure that your prize/reward is sweet enough to inspire motivation. I don’t like stress and people don’t like stress too. If you’re running an online contest, you want to KISS — K
  5. Use psychological triggers: Back to growth hacking and traditional marketing, there are some strategies known as psychological triggers that people unconsciously respond to, and you can use these in getting more contest entries.
    • Trigger 1 — self: People are not exactly obsessed with your product or contest, they are obsessed with themselves and how your product or service makes them feel. They care about the person in the mirror and they have their own problems (pain points) and their own goals (aspirations). So the more you step out of your shoes and stop marketing like they care about YOU, and instead start marketing as though they care about themselves, the better for you. Let your contest and its prizes address/solve some of your target audience’s problems.
    • Trigger 2 — time: When people see time going, they get FOMO — the fear of missing out. Employ strategies like “24 hours left!” or “the contest has been extended for 1 more week to accommodate more entries”. Such statements remind people that they need to hurry.
    • Trigger 3 — progress: Everyone wants to get ahead and not be left behind so the more juicy your prizes are and the more your prizes make people feel like they can move ahead or get something better out of life with it, the more entries you may get.
  6. Share it widely: Of course, this one is the most obvious. Ask your friends, families and network to share details of your contest with their own networks!

And with these tips and strategies, you can organise a successful online contest.


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