So I've had a look at how the entries for the Twitter competition which I ran last week were recorded for me.
I tweeted the competition three times, including a link to the terms and conditions in my tweet. And I set up my Twitter account to send me email notification of every retweet.
I then tweeted the message to be retweeted three times over three days. The first message for 161 retweets, the second only 7 and the third just 3. A total of 171 retweets (so far I'm only talking about RT button ones). How many emails did I get? Just 13.
To make matters worse, on the tweet that was retweeted 161 times, Twitter will only let me see the 20 most recent entries. I've searched all sorts of websites, even highly technical ones, and they all agree that the ONLY way to keep a full record of everyone who uses the RT button on a given tweet is to note them down as you go along, from watching for them appearing in your mentions, which luckily I did.
There are lots of ways of collecting copy-and-paste retweets. They appear in your @ mentions, they show up in a hashtag search (to my surprise, Retweet button ones don't) or you can use a service like Tweetdoc to collect them together in a handy (and rather attractive) .pdf document. There are 206 copy-and-paste retweet entries. Oddly, not all of them showed up in either the hashtag search or the .pdf document - I had to combine the two to make sure I had them all.
I've collected all 377 entries together and am about to draw and notify the winner. But what have I learnt from this? What tips do I have for compers and for people wanting to run competitions on Twitter?
First of all for Compers
- Try to find out how the winner is being picked. Some promoters will be collecting RT button tweets, some will be checking their mentions or a hashtag. Many won't know the difference!
- If they want entrants to use the RT button, leave it until as late as you possibly can before the comp closes, because if they haven't recorded entries as they go along, only the most recent entries will show when they search.
- If possible, enter twice, once using the RT button and a second time with copy and paste entry. Don't do this if entries are limited to one per person in case they check both.
- big companies may have their own systems that collect and record all tweets and retweets. This makes it safe to use the RT button at any time - but we have no way of knowing which promoters are using such a system. Small businesses won't have anything so sophisticated.
- If the promoter has a "tweet this" button on their website, for instance the way T3 do, USE IT. The chances are they are using an app that will collect entries made that way, making them easier to collect than ones done through Twitter itself.
- Don't get upset if you feel a RT competition hasn't been drawn fairly. The chances are very high that the person running it simply doesn't know what a minefield it is and is only collecting tweets one way.
- Look out for competitions that are NOT retweet ones, even if you are just asked to tweet a phrase to the promoter. Just that little difference makes it far easier for them to track entries.
- consider setting some task other than retweeting, to give yourself the best chance of seeing all entries.
- have a clear set of rules, including a closing date and time. Ideally put them on a blog or website and include a link to them in the competition tweet.
- use a hashtag to help keep track of entries. Do check that it's not being used for some other purpose at the same time - simply using #competition or #FridayFreebie will result in you seeing hundreds of entries that aren't for you.
- unless you are a business that uses their own software to collect and record tweets, you will need to make note of retweets done using the RT button as they come in
- don't run your competition over a long period of time, because older entries can vanish from Twitter search
- look out for people who set up systems to automatically retweet your competition every few minutes - something that really ought not to be possible if Twitter is doing its job properly. One entrant to my competition entered around once every five minutes, 24 hours a day. I can't believe they stayed awake all week, fired up by the excitement of potentially winning a prize worth around £30, so they were breaking my "No bulk, automated or third party entries" rule.
- make it clear whether you are only accepting entries from a certain country or all over the world. Although my rules said "UK only" I had quite a lot of entries from the USA. Goodness knows why they wanted some books about the UK driving test!
- You could really make life a lot easier for your entrants if you make it clear whether you want them to use the retweet button or a copy and paste retweet!