JupiterJasper's recent blog competition was a terrific experiment. Here's some of our thoughts and observations, starting with what our reasons were for having one.
Blog competition aims
(These were quite open, intended as a guide rather than absolutes - an open experiment was the most important aspect - see what happens if...)
1. Offer an opportunity for a small business to talk about and share their marketing experience, in a way that actually markets their business. One of the difficulties with content marketing on social media and blogs, is knowing how to draw attention back to your ultimate goal, which is to sell more of what you are doing, without crossing that sales talk line. This was an experiment in seeing how easily the average small business blogger could talk about their business in the abstract and position it well, without being salesy.
2. Drive traffic to the blog.
3. Create an opportunity to engage on Twitter and Facebook.
4. Add guest blog posts to the Marketing Ideaology blog.
5. Draw attention to our specific interest in small business marketing.
6. Share common marketing experiences.
7. Provide a bit of a PR opportunity for entrants, especially if blogger doesn't have as wide an audience on Twitter.
Some of our surprising (and unsurprising) findings:
1. Direct invites were more effective than general invites - even though most of the invitees had seen the tweets and various calls to enter, they responded to the personal call to act. Personalisation rules.
2. Many interested bloggers simply excluded themselves through lack of confidence in their own blogging ability. Why on earth? If you are blogging, you are blogging. You can only get better with practice.
3. Our entry guidelines were quite complex. This provided a barrier to encourage 'proper' entries, but was also an experiment in clear communication, whether people do take the time to read and properly respond to instructions for a competition of this nature. In the main, this was very successful, quite surprisingly. We added to the difficulty by referring to the guidelines in a follow up blog post, rather than repeating them, to see whether the extra step caused more problems. Negligible. I conclude that we'd have gotten more entries with simpler entry steps, but that the right target market is more than capable of following complex instructions if their incentive is right.
4. Many of the more accomplished bloggers we targeted didn't enter. Despite being small businesses, the opportunity to enter was clearly not enough of an incentive (with enough prestige, perhaps?). We were surprised that it wasn't viewed as an opportunity at it's simplest level, having a ready-made blog post idea with the added benefit of potential additional reach to new readers (and a set of prizes to boot!). An accomplished blogger could have simply made a few adjustments to an existing or already written blog post, as long as they could answer the topic. This supports the view that many small businesses miss easy marketing opportunities, but also echoes that you can't do everything, and you need to weight up which effort to work an opportunity to your best advantage will lead you to more business ultimately.
5. Most of the entries were 'on topic'. We did have a few lateral ones that were intended to be self serving but ultimately didn't really communicate what their intent was, so no harm done.
Nice bonuses to the exercise
1. Traffic increase over the blog posts/ competition: New visitors to our site went up by 16.8% compared to the previous month, overall visits were up 27% over the period, and pageviews were up 54% on the previous month. The two main blog posts are in the top 4 best performing blog posts for this year, with by far the most time spent on each blog post by a visitor, the one with instructions has an average of 8 minutes spent by each visitor. When considering this impact, consider that our promotional platforms were Twitter, Facebook and Linked In, with Twitter being the most used. The most Tweets sent in one day was 5 about the competition.
2. Facebook engagement and likes: post impressions went up 1,400%. Yes, that's right. Engagement went up 100% over the period. Bearing in mind that Facebook is not a core channel for us, this was a very interesting, and largely unplanned side effect.
3. Links back to JupiterJasper's blog.
4. Increased reach with RT's on Twitter to new audiences.
Please feel free to share your view on the competition in comments below. I'll be posting some of the entries on our blog over the next week.
Bronwyn Durand writes Marketing Ideaology for JupiterJasper, the on-demand marketer service for small businesses.