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.
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 outright.
That means that if you want to win creative contests, you need to have a strategy to gather votes. Simply asking your friends to vote for your entry isn't enough.
The Type of Competition You Might Be Up Against
Many years ago, a company called ThePamperedPup sponsored a contest, which took a bad turn for them. The company was accused of condoning cheating when one contestant surged ahead in votes overnight.
But it wasn't cheating. The reason for the big jump? That entrant's husband was a PGA executive. He sent an email blast about the contest to thousands of people on the PGA mailing list, many of whom voted for his wife. She received a huge number of votes in a short period of time, but they 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 lots 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 method 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.
Whatever the rules are, be sure to follow them carefully to avoid being disqualified.
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 you, but they're still the best place to start. Your personal contacts are a powerful resource — don't underestimate them!
You hope that they vote for you but also that they'll ask their friends for help, too. If they reach out to their own friends, coworkers, and acquaintances, that can add up to a lot of people. Furthermore, they can reach out to their social networks as well.
Overall, this creates a powerful ripple effect. With a network of people on your side, you gain votes more quickly than you think.
2. Make Friends with Other People Who Enter Contests
A great source of votes is people who really understand how much those votes mean — other sweepers. By befriending sweepers, you can get strong allies on your side.
One way to find sweepers to help is to join a sweepstakes club. You can also make virtual friends who can help by signing up for a Facebook page that centers around 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 lets you connect with lots of other people who share your interests, 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.
To be successful with Twitter, don't be too pushy 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 many 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, for example.
If you play Facebook games like Candy Crush or Farmville, you can even offer to trade in-game gifts for votes.
5. Use Your Contest Voting Link in Your Signatures
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. The same goes for your email signature. How many people do you email each day? Encourage them to vote for you by changing your signature to include a link to your contest entry. That makes every mail you send a little ad for your 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. Note that some contests specifically restrict the use of vote exchange forums.
These vote exchange forums depend on a give-and-take. It's poor form to join, request a vote, and never return — and you won't get a lot of votes that way, either.
Be sure to 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.
8. Hold Your Own Giveaway
What's a good way to encourage people who love giveaways to vote for you? How about running one yourself?
People have generated votes for their contest entries by giving their voters the chance to win a prize. Be careful with this, though, since it's a tit-for-tat exchange that might legally fall under "consideration".
Another option is to use a giveaway to simply spread the word about their contest entry, which has sounder legal footing.
Be careful with either of these methods, however. Some contests prohibit the use of giveaways to encourage votes, and will disqualify you for running them.
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 even has specific sections, called subreddits, for contests and giveaways.
If you choose this method, keep in mind that it's important to use Reddit respectfully. Otherwise, you could be banned from the service. 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. Be sure to add a tear-away area with the contest's website so people will know where to enter when they get home. Another option is to add 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 even have your contest entry included 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. This could get your whole 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.
For example, you could make a 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.
What Not to Do: 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.
And speaking of buying votes, there are plenty of low-quality sites out there that promise to trade votes for money. Avoid these. Your money will be wasted when the sponsor disqualifies your entry for cheating. And it really isn't hard for the sponsor to identify purchased votes.
Some people try to cheat by taking advantage of weaknesses in the contest's design, like faking IP addresses or creating fake accounts to vote.
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're often easy for the sponsors to catch.
Most contests have ways of analyzing the votes their entrants receive, and getting a lot of spammy or illegitimate votes will 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.