How to throw a contest

Gift Horse Contest
Gift Horse Contest

Running The Pet Wiki is a lot of fun. I get to try new things all the time. As an experiment, I decided to throw a contest. This isn’t the first contest that I’ve thrown, but a lot more thought went into this one than the last minute contest that I threw together when The Pet Wiki turned 1 year old. This time around we went with a “Gift Horse” theme. It was fun to create the graphics and figure out how to put them in the site.

Here are the things that I’ve learned this time around:

Press Release – I’ve never had a press release before. I probably have had other opportunities to create press releases, but I never did. There are a bunch of free sites to post them to, as well as pay sites. This time around, I went for free. The pay ones are supposed to be much better for SEO. Next time, I’ll try those as well.

Here’s the list of free sites that we came up with:

How to schedule post to Facebook with images – This one was a tricky one. There are a lot of services that allow you to schedule updates to Facebook statuses, but there is only one that I found that allowed me to post url’s with images. It’s a bit unintuative, but Sendible lets you attach images to the post. After you set up a regular Sendible account, here’s how to do it:

  1. Click on the message tab
  2. Select the account that you want to send the update
  3. Just above the message area, there is an Add URL link, click it
  4. Paste your url in the url box and click the Load Images from URL button
  5. Check the image that you want to use
  6. Click the Attach to Message button
  7. Type what you want to say
  8. Click the Insert Only button by the url link
  9. Click the Schedule link (over the message)
  10. Set the time you want it to post

Make sure to include the actual link in your post (Step 8). If you don’t, all you get is the picture without the url. I learned this the hard way.

Not the smoothest process in the world, but it works. I figured out how to do this for the contest, but there is no reason that I can’t use this all the time. It’s great.

Preposting tweets – I’ve been preposting a few tweets a day for a while now. I like to announce the new pages that get added to The Pet Wiki. My favorite tool for preposting is CoTweet. There are other tools that allow you to prepost, but CoTweet allows you to set up mulitple users and multiple accounts. It’s great for sharing. I used to use Hootsuite, but I found the frames annoying. It also bothered me that it stole the url – I consider that a very important part of branding. CoTweet also lets you plug in your (url shortener) account and gives stats right in the program. Hootsuite has, and has its own stats.

Sending emails – I sent emails around Christmas time, but  wasn’t really happy with the way that they came out. This time around, I used MailChimp and I am so happy with the results. They made sending emails a breeze. I was able to use one of their templates and stick my logo and content in to make it my own. Really easy and really beautiful.

Blogging – The Pet Wiki has it’s own blog,  Omer’s Scratching Post, written by my cat, Omer. The little guy has been keeping his readers up to date for people to know what’s going on in the contest.

Contest sites – Besides posting to PR sites, we also posted the contest to some contest sites.

Prizes need to be relevant – I am looking for contributors. That’s the main focus of my contest. If I were to give a standard prize like a generic gift certificate, people who are not really interested in my site might try to get the prize, and I would not be in a position of creating a long term relationship with my users. I chose a great, inspirational horse book (is that the gift horse or the horse gift?)

That’s all I have for now. I don’t have incredible expectations for this contest, but it’s been a fun test and has expanded my knowledge of how to get things done. I can’t wait until the next one.