23 August 2012

Ten reasons why voting competitions are a BAD idea

Are you running - or planning - an online voting competition? Shame on you!
Most people HATE voting competitions, and here are ten reasons why.





1. YOUR FANS WON'T VOTE
The public won't give a damn about your voting competition. Seriously, why would they waste valuable time scrolling through 600 photos to choose the best one? Oh, everyone who votes might win a prize? Great, that might encourage compers to vote, but they'll only vote for their mates - they certainly won't bother reviewing all the entries.
Sorry, but the only people who vote are:
- friends and family of the entrant (usually begrudgingly)
- compers (but only when they've been asked)
- people who are paid to vote
- vote-exchangers who need a return vote

2. LOTS OF VOTERS AREN'T EVEN REAL PEOPLE
Your votes will come from Malaysia, India, the Philippines… pretty much anywhere except the UK! Look closely at their Facebook profiles and you'll see plenty of smiling glamour models, cats and cartoons. It's claimed more than 80 million Facebook accounts are fake, and a large number of those are set up for the sole purpose of voting in contests. You might get 1000 new likes to your Facebook page, but don't expect these Asian fake profiles to bring you their business when your competition is over!
Further reading: BBC News - Facebook has more than 83 million illegitimate accounts

3. PEOPLE CAN BUY VOTES
If your contest offers a big prize, then paying a few quid for votes is nothing. Your entrants can buy votes from fake profiles, but they might pay a bit extra for votes from real humans. But buying votes isn't really in the spirit of a fun competition is it?
Buy votes easily at: freelancer.com, fiverr.com, blackhatworld.com

4. ENTRANTS WILL TRY TO GET OTHERS DISQUALIFIED
It's super easy to buy or exchange votes from fake Facebook accounts. If you've been diligent enough to include a rule in your T&Cs to say that dodgy votes will result in disqualification, you might notice that the frontrunners suddenly get a rush of votes from obvious fake accounts. Or you might receive a link or screenshot of their request on a vote swapping Facebook group or site like www.getonlinevotes.com. This is likely to be attempted sabotage from an entrant lower down in the rankings trying to get the most popular entrants kicked out. Sound a bit far fetched? Well recently it's happened to Turtle Wax, Direct Holidays, Yazoo Milkshake and more.

5. THE BEST ENTRY RARELY WINS
The entrant who has time to spend on creating a brilliant entry rarely has the time or motivation to campaign for votes. Compers who know they can rack up 300 votes in 24 hours don't even need to do a decent entry, as fellow compers will vote regardless of the quality. It's a real shame to see some fabulous entries to voting comps go unrewarded. And an even bigger shame when a poorly thought out entry wins the top prize - like the Asda Stationery voting competition where the winning entry featured the word 'STATIONARY' made of paper clips. That giant spelling error is hardly suitable for a press release is it? So to get round this, you might put a judged shortlist to the vote. Even from a shortlist the most deserving entry rarely wins. If an entrant makes the shortlist they're a step closer to your prize - and much more likely to be tempted to use underhand tactics to win!
See the ASA adjudication on this Mercedes Benz shortlisted voting comp, where the finalists bought and exchanged votes to try and win a van.

6. THEY'RE A CHEAT MAGNET
If it's a photo or recipe competition decided solely on votes, cheats will Google for entries to submit. Why should they bother taking their own photo, if the competition isn't judged? Good cheats can easily get a thousand votes, so they don't need to waste time creating an original entry… They will also enter under lots of different names, and are probably vote-exchanging with other fakes. If you're judging from the most popular entries, look closely - several of them will probably be from the same person!
Further reading: Ikea and Yazoo sweep the cheating under the carpet, and the Yazoo Facebook page.

7. THE SAME NAMES WIN EVERY TIME
Even if you manage to keep the cheats out, the same compers will be sitting in the top spots for most voting competitions, because they've spent years gaining likeminded Facebook friends from all over the world who will vote for them in return for a vote in their own contest. It's great for them of course - but painfully dull for everyone else to see the usual suspects cleaning up in every vote comp.

8. THERE WON'T BE MANY ENTRIES
Most of us have seen it all before and know we don't have a chance in hell of winning a voting competition. We also know that they are enormously stressful for the entrants - I know people who have been reduced to tears in the last hour of voting! So we don't even bother entering. Pick a winner at random instead and you'll get lots more entries - pick your winner using judges and you'll see great quality entries too. Even better is to give out random AND judged prizes.

9. THEY'RE A HUGE #PRFAIL
People REALLY moan about voting competitions, and usually it's in public: on Facebook, Twitter or your blog. So you announce a voting competition on Facebook and expect to get gushing replies about how much your fans are looking forward to begging for votes? Hardly. They'll moan about the cheating, the plagiarism, the compers, that it's a 'popularity contest'. You'll get entrants spamming your timeline asking for votes, and others posting screenshots of vote-swapping. Block or ignore these people at your peril! The comping family is massive and when they start complaining on Facebook and Twitter, it's bad PR - particularly if they then report you to the ASA!
Further reading: CenterParcs and Ikea Facebook pages.

10. CHECKING VOTES WILL TAKE YOU AGES!
You've done the right thing and included a clause in your terms so you can disqualify votes/entrants with suspicious voting activity. But does that mean just vote-buying and multiple vote-exchanging? Is a one-for-one vote swap with a real person acceptable? What if the entrant you've DQ'ed was a victim of sabotage? What about people who log in from third party accounts to vote? What about an entrant who's asked their whole office to vote from the same IP address? What about people voting multiple times because of glitches in your system? Is it really worth the hassle - especially when the ASA might be in touch when it all goes wrong?
Further reading: ASA adjudication on the Co-op Design a Sandwich comp and the 118 118 Tache Off - and also this blog about a US Chrysler voting contest.

And after all that you're STILL insistent on running a voting competition? Then please take a read of my blog post on making voting competitions fairer for some tips….