Competition as a means of getting user-generated content

A high-quality unique content is getting an increasingly important component of any online resource that was designed to draw the consumers’ attention to goods and services. Social web and a growing fault-finding search for the sites content encourages marketers and promoters to focus on content more. But in this case creating content by yourself is not an easy task, and some people can not afford to hire a service agency specializing in content. One of the “budget” solutions is to organize content contests for users. You offer visitors to perform certain actions on your site. In case with content it is to send a text, photo or video and to take part in drawing of a valuable prize.

Why content?

Firstly, content is the “air” of the search engines. Regardless of the efforts made by search optimizers, the results are often full of a number of links leading to the sites with questions and answers, as well as comments and opinions left in the online stores and niche sites. This is – a purely user-generated content.

Secondly, in case of the text content, an average user often uses the keywords and phrases in his statements that can provide long lasting effect and rank the page near the top of LF queries.

Thirdly, the web today is very social, and a good content quickly acquires likes and tweets, getting on the walls and in the bands of hundreds of people, where it can be viewed by other hundreds and thousands. Moreover, social networks can be an integral part of the content-competition for users.

Reason number 4. A man is a social creature by nature, so it is a natural desire of the majority to show their skills / achievements to others, somehow to stand out. In the network the surrounding increases in several times, so people need only an excuse and the topic in which they are competent.

Example of a Competition

Competition “Littered Desk” by Shoeboxed

The competition “Littered Desk” was developed and conducted by the team of the author of the source material, Corey Post. Corey is the Vice President of marketing at Shoeboxed company, that provides services in digitizing, storing and organizing a variety of paper documents. As the name of competition says, to take part in it, users must send pictures of their Shoeboxed desks. The more littered the desk is, the better. The photos were published on created for the competition pin-board, the winner became a participant, whose desktop gained the biggest amount of repins. Also, the so called ” long-playing” post was dedicated to the competition at the company blog. The marketing company did not choose any original presents for the winners of the competition – the author of the most popular working disorder received IpadMini.

After brainstorming, realization of the competition started with the advertisement creation in the blog. Apart from the main prize, there was a list of wishes and requirements for those who wanted to take part in the competition:

1. Send a photo of your cluttered desktop to [email protected]

2. We’ll publish it in the Gallery of the competition and on the pin board.

3. Make your family and friends mark your desktop with repin. The winner is the person who gets the biggest amount of repins!

In order to promote the contest was launched a campaign on Facebook, that included a paid post (for 1 week). Thus, about the contest learned not only the 9000 of fans of Shoeboxed on Facebook, but also thousands of entrepreneurs and small business owners, at whom this campaign was aimed. In addition to the paid promotion, the company has also drawn attention to the contest via simple posts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.

The next step was mentioning of the contest in the newsletter, bringing information about it to all service users. The competition was described in details in a press release spread via PRWeb. Despite the fact that these services are considered to be not the best solution for the promotion, press release gained 155 backlinks.

The result was more than 200 images of excellent chaos on desks, sent to [email protected] within 48 hours. The pictures took a permanent place in the Gallery (company blog) and on the pin-board. Users can find this content using search engines and in the social networks by request of «MessyDesk», the Shoeboxed blog page is in the top 10 results of Google search, and the most popular pictures earned thousands of repins. Given the fact that the Shoeboxed service is designed to deal with desks, littered with different pieces of paper, MessyDesk is a relevant key for the company.

The competition lasted for one week and as a result was taken the decision to award two participants, whose desks received thousands of repins. The relevant blog post informed people interested in this event about the results of this event. Moreover, the company is going to record a video interview with the winners of the competition in order to involve into promotion potential of Youtube and other video sharing sites.

Content Competition: A Guide to Action

1. Goals and success of the competition

In addition to gathering of user-generated content, such competition may pursue other goals. However it is better to choose those that can be measured. In such way you can accurately define the efficiency and appropriateness of the event and appropriateness of occurring it in the future. Among the possible units of measure are the following:

exact volume of the gathered text, photo or video content;

number of the collected email addresses;

number of likes in the social. networks;

number of retweets;

number of received inbound links;

number of  attracted visitors;

the average time spent by visitors on the site;

number of sales.

Sales look like a good measurer of success, aren’t they? But we can not forget that, in general, the contestants are interested in receiving the prize, not ordering from your online store. Therefore it is better to look into the distant future and consider competition to be a means of contact and build relationships with people who are your potential customers. To some extent, a competition is the generator of leads. From this point of view content is a successful unit. Good content has a long lasting effect and continues to generate traffic / fans even after the competition is over.

2. Terms and Conditions of the Competition 


Content is one of your “incomes” that you receive as a result of the organization of the competition. Actually it is the main condition for participation: in order to participate a user must create some content. Conceiving theme for the competition, that will be the basis for the generation of content, consider the purpose with which you are conducting the event, and the niche in which you work. As it is noted above, when the contest is over, the content will remain, and it will bring you profit, if it brings the target audience to your online store. So, the users should be required to create that sort of content, that is right for your products and services. Having defined the topic of the competition, decide what kind of content you want. In general, text, photo video content is good for the competition. For example, you can ask users to use their fantasy and describe prams of the future in a couple of words. Or on the contrary, you can ask them to tell why they never wear a bow tie. If the prize is good and you will be able to convey information about the competition to a lot of online shoppers, some of them would show the wonders of imagination and delight you with some original ideas. Moreover, text is the natural choice when it comes to SEO. At the same time, images and videos take a more prominent position in the search results by Google. Visual content also requires less strain in perception (this is due to the popularity of infographics). In addition, photos can bring into play the potential of such sites like Pinterest, and video content – to reach out to users of the most popular websites in the world, such as YouTube – and other video sharing. So carefully weigh all the “pros” and “cons” when selecting the format of content.

The user data

Content – is not the only asset that you receive in the course of competition. You can also collect user data for future use. Moreover, if you want to know about your audience something specific, like age, for example, you can make an appropriate registration field form for the competition obligatory. A good prize will be a sufficient motivation for many consumers, who would not like to disclose such personal data in a different situation.

At least, collect email addresses. And do not forget to mention that participation in the competition means that you agree to receive newsletters from the online shop.

Time Frame

Decide on the dates of the competition. Talking about the duration of the event, there is no strict rules, but the general trend is clear: the longer the competition lasts, the more people will delay registration for taking part in it “for later”, what will lead to a decrease in the number of participants and the loss of vital interest to the event. The less competition lasts, the lower is the quality of the content for participation, because consumers can not rush in order to prepare well. According to Corey, a good period for the contest – from one to two weeks. During this time, participants have time to generate quality content and they will not lose interest in participation.


A prize is the main motivator, motivating to take part in the competition (secondary motivator – the desire to stand out, to show yourself). That is why the prizes should be interesting and useful for your target audience. A good choice for an online store – an exclusive coupon for a big discount at a partner store, or some top product. 

Terms of Conducting a Contest

Few people like all sorts of rules, so the competition marketers often pay little attention to the conditions of contest conduction. However, if to your product apply age limits and other criteria, learn the appropriate points of law (boring) or (better) consult a lawyer,please.

If the contest in some way involves social media, be sure to check out the terms on which they allow such activities on their pages. For example, the promotion rules and competitions for Facebook, Twitter, YouTube are on the link below:

Facebook Promotions Guidelines

Guidelines for Contests on Twitter


VK does not have clear rules and regulations for competitions, so the most important thing here is not to violate common rules of the network.

3. Search engine optimization

On a meta-level, search engines are looking for fresh content and links, so you should declare the contest, and place the user-generated content on your own website at first. In such way you pick up the authority of your resource, rather than a third party site. 

Regardless of what kind of content you want to get from the users in their reports relating to the contest, use the keywords that interest you in your messages. To choose the keywords use the appropriate tools provided by search engines. Do not forget to put these keys in the meta-data of pages.

SEO – is an important thing, but you conduct a contest for usual people, so focus on substantive issues and not spend too much time on search engine optimization. It is better to make sure that you give users the ability to share information about the competition in social networks using the corresponding buttons on pages, related to the event. Perhaps, links in the social networks do not raise the authority of your site much, but in such way you are sure to attract the interest of living visitors, and not the soulless robots.

4. Competition Promotion

A competition rarely has any restrictions, requiring the rejection of a particular channel or format of promotion. Almost always the main task of a marketer is to engage as many people as possible. Below there is a list of channels that can be used for contest promotion. 


Announce the contest having sent the newsletters all around its base. In order to draw attention to the letter and to increase the percentage of its views, write something attractive in the subject: “Do not miss your chance to win iPadMini!».


Coordinate launching of the contest In such a way that it coincides with the dispatch of the next newsletter. Add to the message body a picture of the prize – visual images are great motivators.

Banner Advertising

The CTR on banners is usually low, but there are popular theme sites that lend banner space at a low price. Consider using this channel of information delivery and make your banner attractive and informative: photo of the prize, logo of the online store, from two to four luring words about the competition (“Warning! IPad is looking for an owner!”). Link under the banner leads to the contest page.

Blog Entry

Of course, announce about the competition on your blog. If your online store does not have it, start a blog and publish in it two or three materials before to start the competition.

Press release

Press release is not the most popular form of promotion, but it should not be neglected. At least, posting your press release on specialized sites you will get backlinks, and as a maximum – you will not only attract the audience but also the writing brotherhood, but only if your competition is original and worth mentioning.


Forums have always been a place of communication for many users. Contact the administrator of the thematic areas of interest, check the conditions for placement of advertising positions, and / or “spy” but strictly in the context of the forum branches. Do not abuse this channel and do not get involved into the outright spamming, because it all is about the reputation of your online store.

Contextual Advertising

If after buying the prize you still have some money left in the budget of the competition, you can spend them on contextual advertising. It is not the cheapest way of promotion, but the possibility of targeting in modern systems allow a good inflow of the relevant audiences. 

Social Networks

Naturally, if you have already created your own representative in the social networks, use them to promote the competition of your online store. Social networks promise a viral effect, so be creative, not only in the development of the competition, but also in how you represent it. Take into account the specifics of social networks: a text is good for Facebook, Twitter, Vk and classmates, photos – for Pinterest, Facebook, Vk and classmates, video should be applied to video sharing sites.


Make a list of third-party blogs that conduct activity topically near to yours, and contact their owners to ask for placement of posts about your competition. Think about how you can motivate them to promote this event (coupons, banner exchange, special conditions for the people who came from the blog).

Search engine optimization

SEO takes time, but if you plan to conduct the competition on more or less regular basis, make it a permanent page and take time to conduct search engine optimization. Launching the same competition next time you will get a certain amount of organic traffic. The Shoeboxed, for example, made its competition MessyDesk periodic.

Attention: do not abuse any of the channels offered. It is easy to get branded as a spammer and get blacklisted, but to regain the good name is a much more complicated task. 

5. How to Choose a Winner  

A simple way to choose a winner – to choose a winner by yourself. That is you, the organizer, the authoritarian and undemocratic person, choose the winner by yourself. It would be considered to be good manners, if you at least explain the criteria according to which you took this decision. Lack of independence while choosing the winner will lead to accusations that it was originally planned, and the winners are affiliated with the online store, who won’t make them wait for too long.

A more effective approach to the winner selection is to use native for social networks voting tools: likes, retweets, repins. While having more or less considerable number of participants, you can significantly increase consumer awareness of your online store, as each participant will certainly be asking their social network friends to vote for him/her, putting the desirable like. You should allow to vote for any user on the competition page within your site. Simply place the like-button below the accepted to the competition content fragments. There can’t be too many likes.

One more approach to the winner selection is to involve celebrities. In such way you get an additional bonus as an association with famous people, as well as advertising your competition in their own blogs and / or social channels. 

6. Rewards

If possible, arrange as much noise about the awarding ceremony, as you can. Make it obligatory for the winner to place the record about the winner awards ceremony in all social networks that he uses. If you can arrange a private ceremony of awards – record the entire process on video and post it everywhere. If the prize is sent by mail, ask the winner to send pictures “pleased me and my prize.” Make a short list of questions, send them to the winner and make an interview out of the received material. Make a blog post about the results of the contest, mention them in the newsletter, publish them on the pages in social networks. In general, use the occasion to the maximum.


Content is the essence and blood of the network. Without it, it is impossible to achieve any significant success in resource promotion. Good content is not cheap. Competition, the cornerstone of which is the user-generated content, is a good way to generate a unique content and it has a number of other advantages: it involves interaction with the audience, its expansion, and enjoyable experience for all parties involved in the process. In other words, competition is a combination of business with pleasure. It is the earnest of success of every start.

Inspired by How to Use Contests and Giveaways to Get User-Generated Content


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