I wanted to address what I find to be a growing problem on Twitter, trivia contests.
For quite a while now, I have noticed various people on Twitter such as @microsoft_cares and @rahulsood among others give away some great prizes by running trivia contests on Twitter. I see several problems with this. Before I get going on my disagreements with it, I have won prizes via Twitter in the past, so if you believe that I am mad because I don’t win, you would be very wrong.
The first issue I have with this is fairness. While everybody certainly has a chance at winning, thanks to a slow (assuming its even up which is another complaint) Twitter web interface, people often wont be able to see the question at the same time and thus create a disadvantage for some users. This problem is even more evident today when Twitter was slow and up and down much of the day after a power failure. Contests such as this should be held in a way that problems such as slow website or api limit or whatever can’t effect somebody’s chances to win the contest. Contests like this can be won or lost in less than a second, so it should be based on a less time restricting manner.
My next issue with doing trivia contests on Twitter is that it is really a thinly-veiled attempt to up your follower count. Trying to up your follower account with such a cheap tatic is sad. I believe a followers count should be deserved, not bought. If you don’t have as many followers as you like or believe you deserve, you should do something so that more people will find you worth following. You should target a group of people that you think should follow you and go after them. For example, if you want to target people that love food, most of the content you post should be to things like recipies and restaurant reviews. If you people interested in cars to follow you, you should post a lot of stuff about cars. You should also follow these people. If they see you post about stuff they are interested in, they are likely to follow you back which is what you are after. Contests are a shotgun blast to get anybody you can when you should really be targeting a group of people who you can bring value to and who can bring value to you!
Now I’m not saying running contests on Twitter is a bad thing, but doing them the way I see most often is. Contests should be used to promote you and what you do to the maximum degree. Giving things away is a great way to earn brand awareness and a fan or two of a product, but the way many contests are currently done, they only have a fraction of the impact that they could have. If you want to get the most out of the contests, have people who want to win something do something for you. Have them submit something to your website or comment on your blog or something. If they are willing to google something to try to win whatever you are trying to give away, they will certainly be willing to do something actually useful to you for the prize. Sending people to your website or blog or whatever can do a much better job at educating people on what you do and what your product is than just having them answer some random trivia question and cross their fingers that they will get something. Hitting follow is not an action worthy of a prize either (I’m talking to you people that give away stuff when you hit so many thousands of followers).
Finally, if you still insist on doing a Twitter triva contest, at least make sure that the trivia question is related to you instead of just some random fact. Have your followers learn about your history or other products so that they can become aware of what you have to offer instead of asking something that can be easily found in a quick Google search. Give yourself the maximum possible exposure with a contest, don’t just give stuff away for the heck of it.
Anyway, enough of me ranting. This is my advice for running contests on Twitter. Take it or leave it. If you have any questions or want me to expand on this, respond in the comments.