How to Get Votes for Your Contest Entries Without Breaking the Rules

Creative Ways to Get Votes for Your Contest Entries Without Cheating

Students holding buttons at voter registration
••• Ariel Skelley / Getty Images

When you enter contests of skill, like photo, recipe, or writing contests, you might think that once you create an outstanding entry, your work is done and you can simply sit back and find out if you've been chosen as a winner.

Think again. 

Many creative contests use voting to help determine their winners. Some use a voting system to narrow down the pack and pick finalists to be judged. Others go the opposite way, with judges picking finalists and a vote determining the winner.

And of course, some contests do away with judges altogether, and simply let voters pick the winners.

That means that if you want to win more creative contests, you need to have a strategy to gather votes. Simply asking your friends to vote for your entry might not be enough.

For example, many years ago, I wrote about a contest sponsored by ThePamperedPup. The company was accused of condoning cheating when a contestant seemed to surge ahead in votes overnight. The reason? One of the entrant's husband was a PGA executive. He sent a mass mailing out to thousands of people on the PGA mailing list, many of whom voted for his wife. The huge number of votes she received in a short period of time were legitimate.

You might not be lucky enough to have access to a massive mailing list of people you can call on to vote for you, but with some creativity, you can still get a significant number of votes for your contest entries.

If you'd like some creative ways to generate votes for your contest, read on.

Before you use these suggestions, make sure you read the contest's rules. Some contests let you use any available way to get votes. Others specify that you can only ask friends and family members. Some say that you can invite people to vote in the contest in general, but not ask for votes for any specific entry.

1. Ask Your Friends and Family Members to Be Your Ambassadors

Your friends and family members might not be enough to win every vote for your, but they shouldn't be ignored, either. Ask them to ask their friends, too, if they don't mind. You might have more people in your network than you think.

2. Make Friends with Other People Who Enter Contests

Join a sweepstakes club or sign up for a Facebook page about sweepstakes. There, you can meet and befriend people who can support you, and whom you can support in turn.

3. Put Twitter to Work for You

Twitter is a website that lets you connect with lots of other people, which makes it perfect for asking for contest votes. If you take the time to develop a network of friends on Twitter, you'll have lots of people that you can tell about your contest entry, and ask for votes.

In order to utilize Twitter well, don't be too commercial with your vote requests. Take the time to follow people who really interest you and who share interests with you. Post about things other than your vote requests, and don't go overboard with the number of times you ask for help

4. Generate Votes with Facebook

There are a number of different ways to build a network to help you get votes on Facebook.

You can join a vote exchange group (note, some contests specifically restrict entrants from using groups like this), remind your friends to vote on your wall, or create your own private voting group. If you play Facebook games like Candy Crush or Farmville, you can offer to trade in-game gifts for votes.

5. Change Your Forum Signatures to Include Your Contest Voting Link

If you participate in online forums, especially if they are sweepstakes-related, be sure to change your signature to invite people to vote for you.

6. Use Your Email Signature to Get Votes

How many people do you email each day? Encourage them to vote for you by changing your email signature to include a link to your contest entry

7. Visit Forums that Offer Vote Exchanges

Many sweepstakes and savings forums give you the opportunity to request votes for your contest entries when you support other forum members.

These vote exchange forums depend on a give-and-take. It's poor form to pop in, request a vote, and never return AND you won't get a lot of votes that way.

Be sure to not only make your own post, but to also vote for others, leave a comment that you've done so, and leave the link to your contest in the comment to generate maximum votes. Note that some contests specifically restrict the use of vote exchange forums.

8. Hold Your Own Giveaway

Some people have held their own giveaways, either by giving people who vote for them the chance to win a prize or by using them to spread the word about their contest entry. Be careful, some contests prohibit the use of giveaways to encourage votes, though!

9. Put Reddit to Work for You

Reddit is an online community with a ton of users who could help you win your contest. It's important to use Reddit respectfully, though, to avoid being banned. Here are some tips on how to get a post to take off on Reddit

10. Print Flyers

Design some funny, cute, and eye-catching flyers advertising your contest and why you should win. Make sure you make a tear-away area with the contest's website so that people will know where to enter when they get home or a QR code that people can scan with their smartphones. You can use Canva to make professional-looking flyers for little or no money.

Put the flyers up on free notice boards at your grocery store, your kids' school, your swimming pool, or anywhere else in your community where people congregate and flyers are allowed. 

11. What About Your Workplace?

Talk to your boss about whether your place of business can help you win your prize. Perhaps you could put a flyer up in the break room, spread the word on the company intranet, or spread the word in a newsletter.

12. Recruit the Media to Help You

This tip is only likely to work if you are in the running for a very large prize. But if you are, contact your local news organizations. They might enjoy a human interest piece about how a local guy or gal is in the running for a juicy prize and run your story on the radio, on television, or in the newspaper, which could get your community voting for you.

13. Turn to YouTube to Get More Votes:

YouTube is a powerful platform for reaching the masses, and with some practice, you could get those masses to vote for you. You could make a simple video describing why you deserve those votes, which you can link to from forums and social media. But if you are feeling a bit more creative, you can try to create a viral video and ask for votes in the annotations.

Viral videos can reach hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of people. If you are lucky enough to have a video take off, having even a fraction of those viewers vote for your contest entry could make a huge difference in helping you win.

Cheating for Contest Votes

There are many shady or spammy ways that people use to try to win voting contests. Some websites and Facebook groups sell them outright. Some people use sites like Amazon's Mechanical Turk to exchange micropayments for votes. Most contests consider buying votes to be cheating. 

Some people also try to cheat by taking advantage of weaknesses in the contest's design, like faking IP addresses or creating fake accounts to vote.

But think carefully before trying any of these sketchy methods of driving votes. Not only do they go against the principles of fair play, but they are often easy for the sponsors to catch.

Most contests have ways of analyzing the votes their entrants' receive. Getting a lot of spammy or illegitimate votes could disqualify your entry. It doesn't matter how many votes your entry receives if you are disqualified from winning, so be sure to stick to the rules carefully.