12 Most Winning Factors For Hosting A Successful Blog Challenge
Hosting a blog challenge can be the difference between your blog remaining humdrum or blasting through the stratosphere. Benefits of hosting a blog challenge include positioning yourself as an authority; building your tribe; increased subscriber numbers; and exposure to new audiences.
To maximize these benefits, however, there are twelve critical factors to get right. During the London Olympics, I ran two blog challenges and doubled my subscriber numbers even though I made plenty of mistakes. Take the chance to learn from my experience so your challenge will be even more successful. Don’t let the number of steps put you off — let’s work through them together (just like a blog challenge).
1. Set a specific goal
Why? Why do you want to run this challenge? What is the goal you want to achieve? Are you seeking to grow traffic? Generate brand awareness? Satisfied you’ve got your goal?
Now let’s take a walk on the wild side. Why would readers want to join your challenge? What goal would be relevant to them? If you are unsure if readers would join in, ask a small group what they think of your plans before announcing and committing to it publicly. After all, if you haven’t got the support of your readers, why are you running the challenge?
2. Brand your challenge
Blog challenges are a fantastic way to increase brand awareness, so make sure any elements of the challenge incorporate your style, voice and image. Have you got a logo you want associated with the challenge? You could use something you already have or combine your brand colors with the theme of your challenge. For the London Olympic blog challenges, I had logos designed incorporating the Olympic rings theme but in the colors of my brand. Think how you can apply this concept.
3. Build community around a shared vision
ContentPalooza is a fantastic example of leveraging a shared vision. Kelly Kingman was a regular participant in NaNoWriMo each November where participants aimed to complete a 50,000 word novel. Kelly was a rebel, however, who wrote non-fiction content rather than fiction.
In 2011, she decided to create a dedicated blog content challenge. She did a guest post about writing a year’s worth of blog content in a month for ProBlogger, and ContentPalooza was born. Why was this so successful? Kelly had identified a common vision and filled a need. 100 rebels participated in year one and the group doubled in size this year.
4. Choose a platform your participants love
When choosing a platform for your blog challenge, make sure it’s somewhere participants regularly visit. Don’t make joining in harder than it needs to be. If your participants’ blog about interior design you might create a board on Pinterest with pins for each challenge task and shared boards for participants to pin their latest challenge posts.
Otherwise, email is a fabulous platform for hosting blog challenges as the tasks never get missed like they could in the constant stream of updates on Facebook and Twitter. Even if participants forget to check a Facebook group or your preferred community space, the email will remain in their inbox as a prompt to continue.
5. Make opt-in easy
Maximizing participant numbers requires opting-in to be simple. You need to be where your audience is, whether that is a forum, Facebook group, blog or somewhere else. Once your audience knows about your challenge, minimize the steps needed to sign up.
For example, if they’ve read a guest post about your challenge, add a link in your biography that takes them directly to an opt-in page. If the post is on your blog, have a signup area immediately under your call to action.
You might also like to add a Hello Bar with a call to action on each page of your website or an app for signups in the tabs of your Facebook page.
6. Participants spread the word
Now that your readers are signing up for your awesome blog challenge, you want them to spread the word, especially because they are likely to have friends with similar interests who may also be keen.
What’s the easiest way to make this happen? ASK. It’s human nature to help out where we can, especially if it’s easy. So have sharing buttons available before and after they sign up. Give examples of tweetables and status updates with your preferred link included. Have buttons they can add to their website saying, “I’m participating in… will you?”
7. Strong call-to-action
To increase your participant group for your blog challenge, you must have a really strong call to action. An effective call to action will get the bloggers’ attention and guide them to opt into your challenge.
Heidi Cohen says:
“Call-to-action drives participants into your conversion process. Ensure that you have processes and systems in place to meet their needs.”
Calls-to-action use phrases such as “Click to find out…”, “Sign up for FREE”, “Like What You’ve Read? Sign Up Now” and “Join The Adventure.” Make sure you match the language to your audience to maximize appeal.
8. Plan in advance
The beauty of being a blog challenge host is you know when it is happening. You can prepare well in advance. After all, if you are going to experience a spike in traffic and exposure you want to make the most of the opportunity.
You might set reminders to complete specific tasks in your calendar or have a spreadsheet of tasks to complete prior to the challenge. Spread the workload over as long a period as possible to avoid becoming overwhelmed.
9. Reduce barriers to success
Between work, partners, kids, exercising, volunteering and more, bloggers don’t have a lot of spare time on their hands meaning: it’s essential to make success as easy to reach as possible. Before they will commit to your blogging challenge you need to answer the question, “what’s in it for me?”
Their second question will be “how much work is involved?” This could relate to the tasks themselves or focus on how understandable the guidelines are. You need to be accessible and ready to answer participant questions promptly.
During the challenge, you want to encourage and motivate participants to fulfil their goals. You also want to encourage the group members to support each other. Be sure to comment on every blogger’s efforts at least once and highlight great content to the group.
10. Schedule basic content
Get the mechanics in place such as a template for communication with your participants, an auto responder series and schedule social updates in advance. Also, have all your blog content written and scheduled. You won’t have time to write epic content once the challenge is underway.
11. Reward participants
We aren’t talking about diamond rings here so don’t take fright and think “gosh I can’t afford this.” Simple and genuine appreciation is best. Give your participants a little bonus gift as a thank you for their participation — this can be anything from a free or discounted product or service, to a blog button (“I did this!”) they can post on their own website.
12. Funnel for participants
The path you offer following the blog challenge will depend on your personal and participant needs. For example, did you offer your blog challenge as a sales funnel for your latest ebook that teaches participants a skill they seek or to strengthen community ties?
Whatever you do, make sure your group isn’t left wondering what’s next. Your participants won’t come back once they’ve lost interest.
Have you considered hosting a blog challenge? Do you know your “why”? Share your plans in the comments!
Featured image courtesy of Philo Nordlund licensed via Creative Commons.