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.

Further reading:

Yes, I still hate voting competitions.

32 Responses

  1. Charlotte says:

    Wish I had read this article before I entered this competition currently running https://breton-top.petit-bateau.co.uk/ You don’t even stand a chance of reaching the judging stage unless you get enough votes to put you in the top 20 and the top entries are now way into the hundreds. As I’m not very social media savvy I won’t be able to compete which is a shame because I put time, effort and heart into creating my design.

    I rather naively went ahead and entered thinking I’d be able to get people to vote by sharing my design on twitter and facebook but without having a long standing following there it’s pretty much impossible. Thanks for taking a stand on voting contests Di.

  2. tammi nutting says:

    i think you have a lot to answer for di. you say this yet promoting a voting comp as you being paid for it ! every day i have had compers asking for likes . http://www.nelsonsnaturalworld.com/en-gb/uk/our-brands/rescue-remedy/rescuemoment/shareyourmoment#view=gallery&for=QIaIzxzUi1c…. i asked you about this on fb and you blocked me. im just so disappointed in you i thought you was genuine and honest but you ain’t . if the price is right you sell ya soul

    • tammi nutting says:

      i have copied and will share . if you reply . you probably just black me so thats why im copying

      • I’ll leave your comments here Tammi. On that competition page the text states: “Share your moment with us for a chance to win £750 worth of Secret Escapes travel vouchers. The entry that most reflects the theme of ‘taking a moment’ will be the winner:”. This is a competition JUDGED on creativity. The voting element is separate, and I’ve recommended that people avoid it. I’ve also communicated with the marketing agency, who have strict T&Cs in place – and suggested they avoid any voting element in future. I’ve previously been paid to promote comps where there have been a combination of random, judged and voted winners – but always telling people to skip the voting. I’ve also turned down a lot of paid jobs for pure voting competitions, which I would NEVER promote. If you’re frustrated then please join me in contacting the promoters to let them know that voting comps don’t work!

        • tammi nutting says:

          i have done, as its been brought to me that the person that won has cheated !. its so wrong i do hope you wont be promoting these types in the future .

  3. Sophie Lily says:

    Oh I think I posted on a different blog entry yesterday but this is more on point.
    Maisons du monde is currently hosting a vote competition on designing a room with there products , lovely idea but it’s been open a few days and some have over 13k likes.
    The t and cs state you can vote for an entry, even yourself, once a day. I thought I could stand a good chance sharif it on twitter , asking my friends but when I saw this I was immediately bamboozled as to how on earth people could be so popular?
    My friend said that she could vote repeatedly using private browsing … and that’s another cheating hack for vote competitions.

    • Oh dear – there’s nothing in their rules/T&Cs about the voting really – allowing people to vote daily without leaving an email address or completing a captcha is a surefire way to ensure people can cheat!

  4. tammi nutting says:

    had a email asking to enter my pet . its a voting one . i have sent this link (hope thats ok). i hate them

  5. Brian Mcneil says:

    Easypromos has a game changing Fraud index that takes these issues out of the equation for voting contests. – http://www.easypromosapp.com/blog/en/2016/07/everything-you-need-to-organize-a-successful-voting-contest-in-facebook/

  6. Cecelia Allen says:

    Yet another voting comp. Have recommmended that Ocean Finance on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/OceanUK read your 2012 page about them. Sadly first round of this comp is voting.

  7. Sandy Ralph says:

    voting comps should be banned..

  8. Hi Di, I always find your blog so useful and a great read. I’ve nominated you for the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award http://blogmumjd.wordpress.com/2014/10/05/sisterhood-of-the-world-bloggers-award/

  9. Tracey Ashburn says:

    https://www.facebook.com/PlantMeNow?v=app_178776240420&rest=1 I have entered only because i love plants/gardening but i messaged them and this is the reply Hi Tracey, thanks for your message and concern with the #FabFlowerbeds competition. Please be assured that all votes for the potential winning entries are review by both our competition app and by us in the office. At the end of the competition we’ll manually check every vote to ensure that they’re genuine. Unfortunately it’s too late to change the way the competition works as some entrants have worked extremely hard promoting their entry to friends and family and it wouldn’t be fair on them if we were to change it now. We have run both types of competition in the past and also plan to in the future.

    Most of the entries have the normal few votes but one in particular has 322 votes.

  10. Pamela says:

    *SIGH* https://www.facebook.com/lowcostholidays.com have just kicked off a photo VOTING comp. I pointed out to them it will probably go pear shaped and their reply, predictably, is

    have chosen to involve voting in the competition as we want to
    encourage people to share their fantastic photos with everyone and have a
    bit of fun, competing against other entrants to see who’s photo gets
    the most votes. We can assure you that no votes will be bought, and the
    public only vote for the finalists – the ultimate winner will be
    decided by us. We hope this makes sense. Thanks

    • The terms are vague on this one Pam – it says “Once entrants have submitted a photo, they will be asked to vote for their favourite photographs. At the end of the competition, the photos with the most votes will be entered into a shortlist, with the ultimate winner selected by lowcostholidays.com judges.” – is it judged from the top 5, top 10, top 20 – or if the 21st photo is the best, are they going to judged from the top 21?! I’ve asked them to confirm. I would like to see it changed so that any photo with (for example) 20 votes goes to the judging panel!

  11. buttonf1fan says:

    I don’t enter votes competitions often. Generally i will only be tempted by a holiday prize. Something I can’t afford to buy, so I’ll have a go. I’m not complaining, i know its stressful and I’m trying not to ask much, or look at votes on it.

    How ppl can enter these often is beyond me.
    I wish my entry was being judged on effort, not just votes then final top 3 being judged.

    Would love voting comps to disappear.

  12. kay says:

    Amen! Exactly as Michelle said on your FB post. They’re a terrible idea, and very unpopular for all the above reasons. x

  13. Sarahmumof3 says:

    yadda yadda yadda blah blah blah it is the same old message all the time and no one listens,no changes are made, voting comps are still around and still being won by cheats, getting anyone to listen is impossible, even when like i did re mercedes, you try to get a change it proves nothing and all the ASA can do is jumble the facts and tell the company not to do it again… Really you would have thought the PR for big brands by now would know no one likes voting comps apart from the cheats :o/

    • Actually, people ARE listening! There are loads more photography and video competitions around now, and a very low percentage of them are voting. I’ve actually seen very few cheats winning vote comps lately because thanks to people sharing posts like this, the promoters are more aware of how people are cheating and they know what to look for. Big companies who ran voting comps last year – Tesco, CenterParcs, Jamaica Ginger Cake are just a few that spring to mind – are judging all the entries this time round, so lessons HAVE been learnt. Just this week a link to this blog post has resulted in Glorious Foods changing their voting comp to a judged one so it’s still worth complaining…

      • Sarahmumof3 says:

        opps, sorry, that sounded like I was complaining about people complaining! I didn’t mean to be ranty I know you do a wonderful job of getting rules changed and bringing awareness it just bugs me that there are still people thinking running a voting comp is good PR, but like you say if it is changing then thats a GREAT thing! 🙂 x

  14. Claire W says:

    A very interesting read – there is one of these on Facebook at the moment for Make time to play, only a few entries and you can’t see the votes but the last entry that was added is over the time length of the video to qualify, has made no effort (not that I should judge the content) and I believe is a seasoned comper getting all her friends to vote – I have a strong feeling I know who will win – not the best entry but the person who can drum up the most votes. I just feel sorry for the genuine entries and glad I never put the effort in to enter now – reading your post has really put me off voting comps for life!!

  15. Shows how small a world the internet is, the final postcscript of the Chrysler competition blog refers to an incident I watched unfold (online) reading the blogger whose work was plagiarised. Of all the blogs, on all the internets, in all of the world…

  16. Candi says:

    I just find them distasteful, but sometimes I feel I have to support a friend who is trying to win money for a charity or similar.

  17. Christina Curtis says:

    I love this thank you! So many companies still dont get it and when I mention it they blab on about how they will check everything is fair and its abit of fun and even more laughable they try to tell me its their likers which will vote so its fair. (no its whoever can nag the most people for votes) lol I would love to enter my dog into competitions purely because I love her to bits, she is pretty damn cute and I enjoy taking amusing/cute photos of her but sadly every Pet competition has been vote so we/she is yet to win any of them.

  18. veryboredincatalunya says:

    Great post, I don’t tend to do any voting competition purely because I don’t have the time to canvas for votes. As you say, a random winner or properly judged winner is the only way these competitions should be run.

    PS I’ve shared this post on StumbledUpon.

  19. Wendy Collard says:

    Very well put!

  20. Angie says:

    very well put 🙂 xxx

  21. Ktbennett says:

    fab … hope more companys will start ot take notice

    • Jilly Pearce says:

      I noticed a voting comp for the best carved pumpkin, with some amazing carvings entries, very elaborate for a simple comp. I then looked up pumpkin carving on google and saw what looked like two of the entries on web pages, not associated with the comp or the people who had entered them.

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