Wednesday 26 September 2012

This post is probably only of interest if you blog... if you don't, and are still reading, don't say I didn't warn you.

It's over.  That children's story competition I entered, I mean.  Needless to say, I didn't win, and that's fine; I enjoyed writing the story and learned a lot about how to use Facebook in the voting process (in itself, not before time, I might add), so it definitely wasn't a wasted experience.  I certainly don't expect to win any competition that I enter; to do so would be nice, but there are plenty of writers out there who are far more creative and imaginative than I am.  I know that, and am OK with it.

However, I learned something else apart from how to use another type of social media as a result of this particular competition, which is that in future I won't be entering any contest in which the winner is decided not on the merit of the entry, but on number of 'likes' their entry gains on Facebook.  In hindsight, I should have spotted from the start that this was not a good fit for me; I don't 'work' Facebook the way some people do, never have and probably never will (although after this I do now see the benefits of it in a way I didn't before), so going into battle with only 50 or so followers for my (assumed) name was probably never going to be a success.

This type of mechanic is always going to be more of a beauty contest than about which was the better story.  That is not, of course, to say that the story which won was not better than mine; it's all subjective.  I prefer the story I wrote, of course I do, but the winning entry is very different to mine and if the decision had been made by a panel of judges, they may well have reached the same verdict that the voters on Facebook did.

However, the fact remains that it was not an objective group of people reaching the decision on which was the best story so much as individual bloggers mustering support through their readers, family and friends and asking them to visit the relevant page and hit the 'like' button.  And then how motivated their supporters were to do that.   And then, about the entrants tweeting, posting, and re-tweeting pleas for support until we (or at least, I) felt sick of the whole process and painfully aware of how this type of mechanic cynically exploits our individual will to win to drive traffic to the relevant site, whilst simultaneously spreading the name of the competition sponsor across the web.

You may wonder if this post is the result of sour grapes on my part.  Would I be writing this if I had won the £500 prize?  Honestly?  Probably not.  But I do think that the ultimate outcome - that I won't be entering any more competitions which select winners based on the number of Facebook 'likes' received  - would be the same.

I suppose that ultimately I'm writing this for two reasons, the first of which is to suggest to PR agencies that they may pull writers in once to do this, but are unlikely to get the same people interested in doing it a second time.

But mainly, I think I'm writing this to share my experiences and to open the debate for bloggers as to whether this type of subjective popularity contest is really an effective use of their time and creativity.  Because I know I've got better things to do than post and tweet 'Vote for Me!' - and I'm pretty sure that you have better things to do than to read those posts and tweets...

Answers on a postcard (or in the comments box), please...


  1. I get exactly what you mean. However when it comes to blogging I find I have to repost twice to three times in a day to catch people in different time zones who don't check their time lines.

    That said there is a big difference between bloggin and running a competition based on how many likes you have. Apart from anything there are multiple ways to cheat a competition like that by setting up phatom accounts to acumulate votes.

  2. It's very often the same with blog-competitions. I have had friends enter some (I don't remember specifics) where I could vote for them multiply times so it really boiled down in the end to how many friends one had and their perseverance and not necessarily with the blog's content.

  3. It's a tough one... I know Facebook makes you run comps where the only way to enter is with 'likes' now... There's so much focus on stats - I'd rather have 100 Facebook fans who genuinely followed and read my blog than 2,000 who just pressed like and ignored me for the rest of time in order to win something! If you work it right you can certainly give the impression of being very popular without having much of a 'real' following at all!

  4. Part of the reason I hardly ever enter anything. A friend of mine (won't go into too many details) won a blog competition last year and she hardly ever blogs. She has a ton of friends though and got them all to go to the relevant web site and vote for her. I felt sorry for the other entrants as they had painstakingly blogged about their subject and she came swooping in out of nowhere! Strategy is all.

  5. This is the reason I didn't enter this competition. I emailed the PR and told them that I felt it was unfair pitting bloggers against bloggers like this. Even worse I have been getting more and more request to do this with the children involved. I am happy to enter comps when it is judged by someone else.

  6. Measuring quantity over quality doesn't really work, does it?

    I can't remember how the various blogging awards work, but I seem to remember there is an element of "how many people can you get to vote for you" in those. It's very problematic, in my opinion.

  7. PS I thought your story was far and away the best.

  8. I was initially planning the competition, but I didn't send my entry through in the end, because I found it unfair that stories were posted at different times. So when story number 2 was posted, story 1 had already gained 48 votes - hardly worth even attempting catching up. I would have preferred an independent judge...

  9. It does seem unfair - more of a popularity contest than a fairly judged competition. I thought your story was great. You should persevere with writing for kids (and adults, of course!).

  10. What Iota said... and anyway, how about publishing some of these children's stories of yours? As I think I've said before, they're worth it!

  11. On this subject (ish), I've tagged you in my latest post.

  12. I know exactly what you mean - sadly an awful lot of blogging competitions are popularity contests which means if you aren't prepared to tell all and sundry about blogging (which I can't and won't) then you are a little, well, stuffed

  13. Agree, don't like the idea of this at all. Where can I read your stories?

  14. Sharon, I certainly tweet each post a couple of times (at least) but that felt different to this, somehow. Maybe because I was sending the traffic elsewhere!

    MCD - you said it.

    WM, indeed you can. And in any case, I would have preferred that this be about the story than number of followers. More fool more for not looking at it properly before-hand, really.

    EPM, I've certainly learned my lesson.

    Jen, I think that will be the criteria I use in future.

    Iota, thanks - and yes, I'm not sure what the answer is. I think a lot of the blogging awards though - nowadays, anyway - use votes for nominations and then a judging panel for the shortlist. Sort of a halfway house.

    Carolin, and mine was that No2 entry...

    NVG, thankyou!(Small matter of an agent, I'm afraid. And an illustrator. Apart from that, I'm good!)

    Tim, thankyou, and you have, I know. One day... (see comment to NVG above)

    Muddling Along - you and me both!

    KM, will tweet you a link to one of them. (Be careful what you wish for!)


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