A few weeks back, we thought it might be fun to celebrate post #500 on our little blog with a contest. We invited readers to submit guest posts in exchange for the chance to win a $75 grand prize. Unfortunately, our sweepstakes was a total failure.
What does it mean for a blog contest crash and burn? In our case: a total lack of entries. By the first official deadline, we had not received any submissions. So we quietly extended the timeframe by another week and solicited more responses. Again, not a single person offered a blog post. Today, we were supposed to announce the top five finalists. That’s obviously not going to happen!
On a phone call yesterday, Ashley and I were scratching our heads trying to figure what had happened and what to do next. Certainly we had made a lot of mistakes in the process. Our most crucial failure was the assumption that we would receive several entries. Since we both expected this to be the case, we did not touch base throughout the contest on the status of the number of entries. We figured the submissions would be rolling in, so why waste time confirming this every day? By the time we determined that we weren’t actually getting responses, it was too late. A faulty assumption sunk our contest!
There might have been other structural problems as well. Certainly, these kinds of programs require deadlines, and we’ve talked before about how deadlines create problems. Furthermore, the last time we ran a contest, we openly discussed the nature of extrinsic motivators like prizes. We know that we should be careful about giving rewards at work.
One more theory might apply: the so-called homecoming queen paradox.
Courtesy DeviantArt user TheYellowGhost
The story goes that since everyone assumes that the homecoming queen has a date to the prom, no one actually asks the her to go to the dance! Maybe our blog contest had a similar problem. Perhaps many readers thought that our contest would be quite popular, and thus decided their chances of winning would be too slim. This is an optimistic hypothesis, but perhaps it has some merit.
Despite a big push, lots of personal requests over email, in-person and on Twitter, our contest was a failure. That’s okay. Failure is the secret to success! If you have thoughts about what went wrong, please share them in the comments below.
Thanks to everyone who hoped to enter! Maybe next time we’ll find a way to make this program work.