The answer to this question, like so many others I write about here is a definite…maybe. Here’s the problem: running a contest to get new readers for your blog (or for that matter for your website, Facebook page or anything else) requires a number of factors to go right for you. Here’s how to do it and when to do it:
Consider How Much Traffic You Have Already
Just because you managed to snag an iPad2 and you’re willing to give it away as a gift to one lucky contestant doesn’t mean that you’ll get lots of readers for whatever it is you want to promote.
If you have 2-3 daily visitors to your site because it’s brand new, you’re going to have a tough time getting the word out about your contest. Now you could use something like PPC to get the word out, but frankly, you’d be better off spending your PPC budget to simply promote the site to begin with rather than on promoting a contest.
Do You Need an Expensive Prize?
The answer is no – you really don’t need a very expensive prize in order to run a successful contest. Even just giving away an eBook can often be enough to grab readers’ attention.
Of course, if you already have a popular blog, you may want to increase readership further by offering an expensive prize. For example, John Chow recently offered an iPad2 (yes, that’s where I got the idea above) as a prize in exchange for a tweet about his blog.
However, he also has hundreds of thousands of unique visitors and an enthusiastic fan base who will happily shout at the top of their lungs how much they love him. This means that the cost of his prize will easily be justified by the added publicity he’ll get from it.
For most bloggers, a simple book or even an eBook will be all you need to give away as a free gift.
Make the Goal Achievable
People are busy and they realize they don’t have a very good chance of winning a contest on a blog, especially if it’s a popular blog with a popular product to give away.
This means that requiring that they create a 30 minute scripted TV show about how great your products are and then get it posted to ten different PR5 or better blogs is probably not something that most people will do, even if you are giving them an iPad2. And yes, I’m exaggerating, but the basic principle to guide your contest should be KISS (Keep it Simple, Stupid).
Remember You Have Work to Do Also
You should also remember that if you run a contest to increase readership or anything else, you’re going to end up with a lot of work. If you require everyone to submit a 10 page thesis essay on why your blog is so great, you’re going to have slog your way through all those theses to decide which one deserves to win.
Give Them a Reason to Tell Their Friends
Finally, if you are going to run a contest on your blog or website, you should ideally give them a reason to tell their friends about it. Maybe the requirement is that they tweet or put it on their Facebook page. Maybe you have them send in a funny 2 minute video about themselves which they can tell their friends about.
The bottom line is, your contest should have some kind of a viral element which gets people to tell their friends about their entry and about the contest. This will then build your own readership up and get more people to enter.