Home > General, Technology > How to NOT Run a Contest

How to NOT Run a Contest

Microsoft has announced anew contest called “Ready for Work”. I happened to come across this while reading a recent article on ComputerWorld about Microsoft broadening Office 365 Beta. The article stated that: “Five winners will receive a $50,000 marketing package, Office 365 and a day’s work from a Microsoft executive.” Intrigued, I decided to click the link provided. And that’s where things go wrong.

Let me just say I don’t blame ComputerWorld for the subterfuge, I think in this case, they were simply passing along the PR feed that came from Microsoft. Not a biggie. But with what Microsoft did is what I’d consider inexcusable and a horrible way to attract attention to the contest. Firstly, the url that was given is a seemingly innocuous one:  http://www.facebook.com/office365 Seems reasonable. Only it is a redirect to a FaceBook page. https://www.facebook.com/office365?v=app_177440328974903

OK, so MS is attempting to use social media for the contest. But when you look at the page you can see… or rather not see… there’s no details about the contest. All you get is that there is a contest, and if you want to continue you have to click “Like.” What?

So, to find out more about this contest that I may or may not participate in, I have to first “like” it. I’m sorry, but that’s not the way to run a contest. I think it is a perfectly good and valid way to PROMOTE it, but leave the details public, let me see what the contest is all about. THEN if I decide I want to participate I will. If I then also want to share it with my other friends, most of whom are not in the IT business, then I will “like” the page and promote it. But liking a FaceBook page should not be a requisite to being able to read the details of a contest.

And then I clicked the “Back” button on my browser. Which went back to the redirect, sending me right back to FaceBook. Yet one more strike. Click, click, click. Nothing. To get out, I had to dropdown the history list, select the ComputerWorld item.

Microsoft, I am not sure whose idea this was but I think they need to be flogged. I shouldn’t be required to like a FaceBook page just to get details of a contest, and when I click that Back button, LET ME OUT! Don’t trap me. Clearly, the redirects and the FB pages did not go through RC or CTP or any kind of Beta review. Next time, consider at least SOME kind of focus group review. Either way, this is an example of how to not run a contest.

Categories: General, Technology
  1. April 22, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    TechGnome: Thank you for you honest feedback. I run the Office 365 social media efforts and have helped launch this contest, and I’d like to give you a little insight into a our thinking so you can hear it from us. \

    First off, let me say that there was no planned subterfuge (or stratagem, deception, con, mischievousness) involved in our thinking. I cannot find the link in the ComputerWorld article (is that where you saw it?) so I can’t comment to the specific wording, but as you noted, the link was included with words implying the link woudld take you to the contest. As we didn’t have the URL for the contest until the moment it went live, we had to provide the Facebook homepage URL and then in FB settings, just change the default landing tab to the contest instead of the wall. This is common practice and as I noted, would be the expected behavior for a user thinking he was going to visit a contest on Facebook. Not sure where the suprise was there. It wouldn’t make sense to ask people to enter our contest and then direct them to a page that was not our contest, and hope they figure out how to get there.

    As for the keeping the details public, your point is valid. We can only provide so much information in a single page, but we are considering adding more information to this page to clarify. Again, there is no subterfuge here. We figured a simple like was worth the 2 min it takes to enter for $50,000 and many other prizes. Considering un-liking a page is simple and takes 5 seconds, that just wasn’t a concern of ours.

    As for the back button issue, that is not something we programmed in at all. Doing some digging, the FB auto-redirect causes the issue. If you hit back from the contest page, you go to Facebook.com/office365, which just redirects back to the contest. The fix is simple tho, you just have to click back a few times in rapid succession to overcome the redirect. I was able to replicate on IE, Firefox and Chrome.


  2. April 28, 2011 at 10:26 am

    Allen – First I’d like to thank you for taking to the time to read and respond my mini-rant there. I’d like to clarify a couple of points. First regarding the redirect – that in reality was a minor issue and completely understandable… it just goes to show how often we click on something and not pay attention to what is going on in our address bars. And I’ll admit that my use of subterfuge was extreme, and for that I’ll apologize.

    Regarding the FaceBook page, I have nothing against social media for promoting contests, activities or other events. I’m a fan (or what ever FaceBook wants to call it this week) of the MVP Page, as well as over a dozen other items, raging from Discovery Channel to my high school. I may be a rare type of user of FB, but I’m quite highly selective what I “Like” when it comes to pages. I’ve pared it down some as the updates that were coming from these pages filled up my news feed to the point where I couldn’t keep up. I prefer things to be simple.

    I realize there’s only so much you can fit onto a page. I just checked the http://facebook.com/office365 link, and I see the link for “Official Rules”… which takes me to a PDF. Which, when I look back at my screen shot, was there all along. I’m not sure why I didn’t explore that the first time around.

    If you’re open to suggestions, I think the following text might suffice as a brief explanation of the contest: “What is your business vision for the next 365 days, and how can Office 365 inspire you to get there? Share your story in 365 words or less and you could win one of several prizes including a Microsoft Executive for a day or Office 365 for a year. See Official Rules for full details.” At least with that, it’s a little more obvious that it’s an essay contest. That was why I had clicked the link initially. I was trying to determine if it was application development, or what.

    When I hit the FaceBook page, I stopped, because I didn’t want to like a page, just to get the details, then decide to participate (or not) and then my feed fills up with useless chatter from people as they post to the page’s wall. I’m an old(er) dog and I hate getting off the porch when I don’t need or want to.

    Thanks again for your time and again, my sincerest apologies for my rather knee-jerk reaction.


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