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.
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.” Â Or, because I posted a video, people were watching it on YouTube and then liking the YouTube video.Â 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?