Over on the Loquax blog I’ve written article titled Time For Twitter To Improve Contest & Competition Guidelines. The article outlines some of the problems that arise from Twitter contests and includes a few ideas on how things could be improved. As many merchants and affiliates use Twitter to give prizes away I thought it might also be useful to post some top tips for running twitter competitions.

1. Read The Twitter Contest Guidelines!
Twitter do have some brief and flimsy guidelines about running contests. Sadly not many people adhere to them and I’m not sure if Twitter even administer them (or even care). But, if more brands and promoters followed them then a nicer place it would be!

2. Prizes For X Followers
Try and avoid competitions such as “we’ll give away a prize when we get to X followers”. It’s pretty poor! I know you want to have loads of followers and loads of followers boosts the ego and possibly helps spread the word, but try and attract followers on merit, for quality of service, for having a decent site. Perhaps that’s a tad old fashioned in this modern marketing world?

If you must go down this route then be realistic about the numbers you can achieve. Exploiting people to promote your brand under the premise they might win something that you’re not going to giveaway is going to come back and bite you on the backside at some point.

3. Don’t Do The Next Tweeter Wins!
I don’t see the point of these kind of giveaways. You may as well just pick a follower at random. All you do when you do this kind of contest is alienate everyone who has little or no chance of being first, second etc. Not a good way to promote your brand imo.

4. Xth Follower Wins a Prize
Another pointless exercise as it encourages your followers to follow/unfollow when you get close to that Xth point. It also encourages multiple account generation and that’s against Twitter’s guidelines.

5. Look Out For Auto Entries
Oh yes, people will even now “cheat” to enter a Twitter competition. They’re not online but they’ve paid for a service to tweet on their behalf to enter a competition from a brand they’ve not even seen. Don’t let them win or you might just face the wrath of people playing fairly. Of course if you’re happy with auto entry services then don’t expect people who make the effort to want to waste their time with your brand. Your call!

6. Don’t Encourage Spam!
Another Twitter guideline that gets frequently ignored. “Retweet as many times as you like” is not a good idea. It might flood a few timelines, but it’s spammy and it’s not going to do you any good in the long run. Try and stick to one entry per person and follow Twitter’s guidelines.

7. Make Your Retweets Tweetable!
Not everyone uses the same Twitter client, so make it easy for everyone to retweet your message without them having to edit it. You have 140 characters for a normal tweet so remember that entrants will have “RT @Yourname” less characters – tailor your competition messages accordingly.

8. Can You See All Retweets?
Twitter advises you include your @brandname in the tweet that’s being tweeted. We’ve found that on some clients you might miss who’s entering and who isn’t. Make sure everyone who’s participated has a fair chance of winning.

9. Try And Avoid Retweet to Enter!
This is actually the topic behind the Time For Twitter To Improve Contest & Competition Guidelines post on Loquax. It’s time to get a bit more creative people!

Whilst I guess brands might like seeing their message RTed over and over again, it actually doesn’t create much interaction between you and the user, does it? So why not try and get them involved with you by perhaps answering a question, picking an item from your site they might like to buy, writing a poem… anything! Be creative, make your entrants work. It may get you less entries but you’re now having social interaction with the people.

10. Get Some Terms and Conditions
It’s oh so easy to post on Twitter “we’re giving away an iPad” and then flitting off into the distance never to be seen again. That’s not good and so some rules, posted on your website and linked to in a tweet, will give you more credibility, protect you in case anything goes wrong and it protects your users. Not enough brands do this at the moment for my liking.

11. Be Transparent About Your Winner
After the competition has ended, announce the winner, but make sure they’ve entered properly. If they’ve RTed 50 times and you asked for once you will get customer feedback! If they don’t follow you and the requirement is that they must follow then expect a bumpy ride too.

12. Let Loquax Know!
If you are running a Twitter competition – and it’s a good one – then do let us know at @loquax or add it to Loquax.

Hopefully the above gives some ideas to both affiliates and merchants looking to build their brands via Twitter.