UPDATED: This post was written in 2014 – see my 2016 post How to run a Twitter giveaway for a new, step-by-step guide to running a fair and fun retweet competition!
‘How are winners chosen for a Twitter RT comp?’ is one of the questions I’m frequently asked. And I honestly don’t know! In most cases, promoters won’t tell you – because it’s not an easy job to collate ALL entries and pick a winner fairly and randomly from them. It’s costly and only really viable for big agencies or companies. In the majority of RT giveaways, I’d guess that the winners aren’t chosen fairly – and that’s not good at all.
I decided to run my own RT to win prize draw as an experiment. On 7th September I launched a RT prize draw on Twitter, so I could get a promoter’s experience of the process. Back in January 2013 Jane Willis ran a RT promotion and posted her findings on the Competition Grapevine blog – I wanted to know if I would encounter the same problems Jane had in tracking entries! Jane’s conclusion was that she would ‘NEVER run a retweet competition again’ – I wonder if I will feel the same?
Here’s my competition tweet:
— Di Coke (@SuperLuckyDi) September 7, 2014
On Saturday evening, immediately after the prize draw ended, I looked at the different ways I could track RTs and choose my winner.
Twitter tells me it was retweeted 1091 times. When I click on ‘Retweets’ under the tweet, I get a short list featuring the most recent tweeters – so that’s no good for choosing a random winner from ALL entries.
The Tweetdraw (formerly Twitterdraw) website can select a random retweeter, but there’s no way of seeing how many entries it is choosing from or extracting a list of the entrants, so again it’s not a fair way to choose a winner.
I have a free basic account with Hootsuite for social media management. My dashboard tells me I have 1091 retweets, but again, when I click the tweet it only displays a list of the most recent 100 tweeters – so less than 10% of the valid entries.
Tweetreach gave me a free ‘snapshot’ report (usually $20). This is limited to 1500 RTs and a 7 day period. The detailed report and CSV file showed me all the retweets (from the RT button AND manual/copy & pasted retweets) – with each username on its own line alongside the number of times they tweeted – there were 970 unique entrants in total.
What was interesting was that the tweeters were listed in order of ‘impressions’ – so, the number of followers that their retweet was exposed to. Top of the list was @M4ttr1987 – a tweeter famous for winning regularly (and occasionally accused of having questionable comping methods!), and I’m wondering if his success might be due to his following of more than 10,000? After all, we see popular bloggers winning RT comps all the time – is it because their names appear at the top of these reports due to their huge follower numbers? Also, those who had retweeted twice had ‘impressions’ doubled in the report – so multiple entries were pushing accounts higher up the Tweetreach list for influence!
Using Sprout Social (I have a 30 day free trial of this) I clicked on Reports > Sent Messages > Twitter to find my original competition tweet. I clicked on it to get a small report on the right of my screen. Sprout tells me there were just 768 retweets – a few hundred short of the Twitter total! To see my retweeters using Sprout, I have to scroll through a list on their website. I could copy and paste this list into a spreadsheet in order to choose a random winner, but what about my missing 200 tweeters who had featured on my Tweetreach report? Again, not a fair way to choose my winner.
Just out of interest, I clicked on the two usernames at the top of the Sprout retweet list, and checked my Tweetreach report for them – they don’t feature, even though I can see the competition RT on their timelines. So it seems my Tweetreach spreadsheet isn’t as efficient as it appears – damn!
I was frustrated at this point – I thought my Tweetreach CSV imported into a Google Drive spreadsheet would be perfect, until I realised it was missing entries. After an exchange of emails with the helpful Tweetreach team, I discovered this is because Twitter is filtering search results to remove spam – or what it believes to be spam. I knew Twitter did this – but hadn’t realised that retweets from these accounts would be ignored too.
I checked out a few of the users who were omitted from search results, to see that their entire timelines were competition tweets. It’s no surprise Twitter thinks they’re spamming! But these people don’t realise that their tweets and retweets aren’t seen by promoters, which is unfair!
However, there were still names on the Sprout retweet list that DID appear on Twitter search (some of whom had even replied to my original tweet and had a conversation with me), yet didn’t feature on my Tweetreach report. It just didn’t make sense!
The only way to ensure these extra names were included in the draw was to copy and paste the full Sprout list of retweeters, and add to those in my Tweetreach spreadsheet. Viewing in alphabetical order I could see at a glance the 31 names from the Sprout list which didn’t feature on the Tweetreach list, and I added these names to the original Tweetreach list. I still didn’t know if I’d got EVERY entry – but there was nothing more I could do!
- I still have no idea how promoters are choosing winners for their RT comps. I also doubt any of them will tell me, because they know their methods aren’t fair!
- My theories about how to win RT comps are probably right. My experiment does show that entering late and having lots of followers are likely to work in your favour – I’m sure that many promoters just pick a name from the first few on their Twitter or Hootsuite list! I doubt many promoters are tracking entries live and using a randomiser to choose a winner.
- You get a LOT of notifications when you run a RT comp. And I can see how promoters would get overwhelmed and lose important tweets amongst the ‘Ooh lovely prize!’ @ replies. In fact, I got tired of those replies pretty quickly – and the occasional more interesting reply definitely stood out. I can certainly see how some people claim that their (relevant and funny) chat wins them prizes on Twitter!
- I probably won’t bother with another RT giveaway. I’ll stick with creative competitions using a hashtag and @superluckydi, where I Like and bookmark every entry as it pops up in my notifications. It’s time consuming but at least I know I’m tracking EVERY entry! If I do attempt another RT promotion, I’ll check out the real-time RT tracking service that PromoVeritas offer, and let you know how I get on.
How promoters should run a RT giveaway
I’d like to see more promoters taking responsibility for the spam they generate with retweet promotions, and perhaps ditch them in favour of a reply, hashtagged or creative competition. These are also harder for cheats to win with automated RTs – and believe me, cheating is a big problem on Twitter!
- Promoters should read Twitter promotion guidelines, which state they shouldn’t post ‘duplicate, or near duplicate, updates or links’. They should ‘ask users to include an @reply’ when hosting contests, so they can track mentions.
- A single tweet should be posted for a retweet prize draw, and pinned to the top of the promoter’s profile page for the duration of the promotion (which ideally should be less than 7 days, so Twitter search has a better chance of tracking entries).
- Tweets should include a clear closing date and time, and ideally a link to T&Cs (this may not be practical, but without it, the promoter is in breach of the CAP Code) so it doesn’t continue to be retweeted for weeks after it has ended.
- When choosing a winner, promoters should use a paid service that tracks all retweets in real time, but if that’s not possible, use Tweetdraw but add a disclaimer to say ‘Due to Twitter quality filtering, it cannot be guaranteed that every tweet will be included in the draw’ so people are aware of the limitations.
Are you being filtered?
Concerned that your competition entries aren’t seen? Read my post Is Twitter filtering you from searches? for further guidance on how to make your account less spammy!
Have you ever run a ‘RT to win’ promotion? How did you choose YOUR winner?