Why the Popularity Contest Doesn’t Play By the Rules

I want to apologize to all the people I harassed last week. For filling your inboxes with my cajoling, pleading, whining, begging messages of coercion. “Vote for me.” “Like my video.” “Just a couple of clicks. ” “Only takes a few seconds.” “Would mean so much to me.” On and on I went.

What’s worse, I knew how I sounded and I disliked that sound immensely.

In my defense, I wasn’t myself. I had been transformed into this politician/salesman/predator by a contest. But not the type of contest that’s judged by merit. Oh no. We’re talking about the type that requires VOTES to win.

The Popularity Contest.

This is how the popularity contest works, in case you were fortunate enough NOT to be one of my victims last week. You enter the contest, in this case, by submitting a 2 min video or 160 character written response to the question “What Inspires You?” on a facebook page, and then sit back and watch the “likes” roll in. The person who gets the most likes, wins. Actually, I lied about that last part because the “likes” don’t actually roll in, you have to go out and get them.

Getting “Likes”

I don’t like asking people to do things for me. I absolutely loathe having to ask for votes or “likes.” So I posted the link on my facebook page with a “Please vote for me” squeak. And that got me about 7 “likes.” So I posted it again. 3 or so more. Then I posted my request on group pages. Meanwhile, the girl I’d identified as my only real competitor was racking up the “likes.” I wondered how she was doing it. I posted on my family members’ facebook walls, asking them to vote. And here’s where it got tricky. Because every time I posted a link, that link appeared on the contest facebook page, too, and now people were confused about which of my posts to “like.”  Or, because I posted a video, people were watching it on YouTube and then liking the YouTube video. Members of my family would say “we “liked” it!” and I would respond, “Thanks, but I don’t see your like. Are you liking the right thing?”

Putting On The Pressure

I still wasn’t getting anywhere near enough “likes” and so I resorted to hourly tweets and facebook messages. I would message a group of 20 or so people at a time, trying not to make the number too large, because, if you’re familiar with messaging, you’ll know that everyone gets notified anytime anyone posts, and it becomes a real annoyance. Not only that, but I could see when people left the conversation, and, if they did it before voting, I wondered why…

It Gets Personal

It may well have been that the person who left the conversation thought they had voted, but had in fact “liked” the wrong thing. But of course I started taking it personally whenever someone didn’t “like” the video, wondering what I’d done to offend them and then getting angry and considering “de-friending” (the horror!) them on the spot. For the record, I didn’t de-friend anyone. It’s possible (and understandable) that people might have de-friended me during this insanity.

It’s a Contest That Isn’t Won Based on Merit

As I mentioned, for this contest I made a short video, explaining what inspires me. Here’s the thing: No-one needed to watch the video to “like” it. I could have made a video of myself eating chips and watching TV and it wouldn’t have made a difference. I could have said that I’m inspired by Jello and The Teletubbies and the “likes” would have rolled in. My point is, my video wasn’t judged, just my ability to make people do something for me. Granted, the idea was to get more likes for the facebook page, but that could have been part of the contest: Post your entry, get 25 “likes” in order for your submission to be considered.

If you’re rolling your eyes right now and just considering me a sore loser because I didn’t win, let me ask you this: If your child entered a contest at school and the winner was selected based on how many of their friends liked it, would that be fair? No, because the kid with the most friends would win.

It’s a popularity contest.

Look, I know it’s my own fault. I entered into this with eyes wide open. My best friend Lisa messaged me when I lamented how few votes I had: “Stop doing contests where people have to vote for you.” She knows how much it hurts.

Let’s take a look at recent winners of such contests. A fellow runner and blogger recently won a voting contest by getting a relative to use a listserv to e-mail people asking for their vote. People who didn’t even know her voted for her. Some of them probably didn’t even know what they were voting for. I’m sure some of my relatives were wondering what they were “liking” and whether they were actually signing up for something they didn’t want.

One Final Plea

To companies and organizations who run contests: please stop making them popularity contests that aren’t based on merit. I understand that you’re looking for exposure but you can do that in other ways. Judge people’s entries. Make them feel that what they wrote or said was worthwhile, that it wasn’t just empty words on the page or an unheard voice on a screen. Ensure that their effort to win is put into producing their entry, not into campaigns to get people to vote. I spend an hour or so scripting, creating, and editing my video but many more asking people to vote. That’s not how it should be. This isn’t what makes a good contest.

It’s a popularity contest.

Let’s leave the voting to Presidential Elections and American Idol.

*I do want to express my thanks to all who “liked” the video as well as the company running the contest, which actually awarded me 2nd place for getting over 100 votes, even though there wasn’t originally a second place prize. And I want to assure them as well as you that I’m not a sore loser, just a fierce competitor.

Thoughts? Ideas? Criticisms?


  1. NICE post! The world has gone mad. PLEASE, as a person who cares deeply about you, never enter one of these again. I hate seeing you hurt, you’re a amazing person and athlete, you should not be judged by the number of people you know. You have quality friends, and not a quantity of acquaintances; thank goodness, as it should be. Glad the company saw how much effort you put into it. xoxo
    Lisa McClellan recently posted..In an instant my Dream becomes a RealityMy Profile

  2. Thay’s why I don’t enter contests like that. All those feelings of not being good enough left over from childhood rise right back up to the surface. Very well stated and with just enough humor to make me smile. Of course, I’m not one of those you harassed last werk :-).
    Debbie @ Live from La Quinta recently posted..#Vegan Product Review: Daiya HavartiMy Profile

    • Racingtales says:

      Ah Debbie, you’re a lucky one to escape my widely – and wildly – cast net! Thanks for the comment…good point about the leftover childhood feelings!

  3. Love your post. I have seen some companies start doing 2 prizes … one for the “people’s choice” and one selected by the brand. I think that is a happy medium so they still accomplish what they want to do in regards to marketing but then also someone who truly deserves to win does also.
    Madeline @ Food Fitness and Family recently posted..One YearMy Profile

  4. Well stated…apology accepted.

  5. I hate the like contests as well. I just avoid them completely and don’t participate as a viewer or contestant. Nice post.
    Donloree recently posted..On The Disabled ListMy Profile

  6. First time stopping by your blog from FitFluential…and I am impressed. Love this post, and I am happy you wrote it. Stay true to YOU always and first!
    Sarah Kay Hoffman recently posted..#Gutsy Blood Tests and #OptimizeHealthMy Profile

  7. Very well stated. That’s what’s always kind of irked me about these contests – that people don’t actually have to watch the video or read something. It’s just about racking up the votes. Isn’t it supposed to be quality over quantity? I too am glad that the company recognized your effort.
    Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted..Kelly vs. Dane – Quikpro France 2012My Profile

  8. I’ve participated in a couple of these as well. One of them was a really humongous effort on my part (a full length, edited video!). Despite my best efforts to get people to watch/view/comment/like I didn’t get nearly the same number of responses as the winner did. I decided that either (1) I wouldn’t enter another contest like this (my fragile ego got bashed up) or (2) I wouldn’t place so much stock on winning if I did enter again.

    I never won popularity contests in high school, so why should I expect to now? LOL!
    Tamara recently posted..High intensity interval workout: welcome to #FatblasterFriday!My Profile

    • Racingtales says:

      Sorry to hear you had a similar experience to mine! Let’s take our fragile, damaged egos and vow only to enter contests that are based on merit!

  9. i think that is why i never do contests. some people do it quite well and love the social interaction, the competition with… themselves? But good for you for staying true. It’s all about trial and error in this social media stuff anyway. I like ya!

  10. Great post. Always stay true to you 🙂
    Kierston recently posted..3 Weeks Out: Getting My Stuff Together!My Profile

  11. I so agree. I hate harassing people to vote for me. I wish there was some other way.
    Abby @ BackAtSquareZero recently posted..Breaking PointMy Profile

    • Racingtales says:

      Hey Abby! Well, maybe it’s a stretch but I’m kinda sorta hoping that people will take note and stop running these types of contests. Or, if we stop entering them, that might help!

  12. What a great post! I really don’t mind voting in these contests for people whose work I admire (i.e.: yours) but I totally agree that the methods are wrong. I’ve yet to enter any of these contests for this reason–I just am not up to bugging people for votes. There has to be a better way!
    misszippy1 recently posted..Resisting temptationMy Profile

  13. I’m so glad to see someone else with this viewpoint. Online popularity contests are intriguing and also proliferating…

    I entered an online popularity contest a year ago, and like you, I uncharacteristically harassed everyone I knew. From the top ten, which I landed myself in, the company then chose the most “inspiring” person based on a written blurb. It’s tough on two fronts: 1) None of us can be reduced to a “blurb;” 2) the person who came in 124th? She probably just doesn’t have friends on social media, and her blurb is probably just as interesting as mine.

    • Racingtales says:

      Hey Stephanie, thanks for your comment. Good point about the “blurb” – I think also we tend to write what we think the company wants to hear when asked to do this, rather than being 100% honest.

  14. I agree I am really tired of the contests where someone needs to vote for me! I did a couple and then realized what the heck I’m going to ask people to vote on a weekly basis?? and heck even people who are friends sometimes couldn’t be bothered to take the time, which honestly hurt my feelings…then I realized you know voting for me isn’t a sign of friendship! 🙂

    Love this post!!
    Amanda @RunToTheFinish recently posted..VO2 Max for HR Training Zones with GarminMy Profile

    • Racingtales says:

      Hey Amanda! Oh yeah, those ones where people have to vote for you multiple times are the worst!! I did the Refuel with Chocolate Milk one once…never again!

  15. I entered a couple of these contests before learning my lesson. I really despise asking for votes and it goes against everything I believe in. Never again because its just not fun to beg for votes. I agree that companies should judge entries sincerely.
    Lynda @ Hit The Road Jane recently posted..Winn-Dixie Holiday Recipe: Spanish Chorizo & Green Olive Bruschetta RecipeMy Profile

  16. How right you are… It’s embarrassing to beg for votes. It makes people look uh desperate!

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