Monday, 31 December 2012

2012 - how was it for you?

Many of you will know that 2012 has been rather an up and down year for me. My mother has been in and out of hospital, which has meant being away from home looking after her several times, and with no computer or internet in her house (and of course no access to my Grape Vine PO Box) much of the time in between has been devoted to working on GV rather than to my own comping.

So it has come as rather a surprise to look back over the year and see just how much I have won.

Right at the beginning of the year, I won a really wonderful prize of a pop-up restaurant  in my own home, thanks to Peroni. That was a really amazing experience, one of the best prizes I have ever won.
 
 
In February, I won a three-month supply of weekly veg boxes from Abel and Cole -  a prize we enjoyed so much that we now have a veg box and a fruit box delivered every week. If the point of the promotion was to gain new customers, theirs was a tremendous success!
 
In April, despite  spending most of the week away from home, I had a real winning streak with an Oriental Banquet  from Blue Drsagon, which we took in October,  a Danube cruise from Waterstone's, which we are taking this coming summer, a pair of business class flights to Vienna which we used for a birthday trip for me back in August and a spa break at Lifehouse Spa - much needed after the stress of Mum's illness!
 


For a while things quietened down after that, although I won lots of  smaller prizes such as books, toiletries and wine glasses. Somewhere over the course of the year, I have managed to win THREE hampers, a HD camcorder and lots of gift vouchers too. But the real highlight of my comping year was when, thanks to Cadbury's, I won tickets to the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games. I took Claire, who blogs at Ninja Killer Cat  and we had a wonderful time - fantastic seats, a superb spectacle and a great time together (even if we DID try to get into the wrong hotel in the early hours of the morning..... but that's another story).


In October I won a "Grape Night In"  - a food and wine matching evening for ten people. We held the event in the flat of a London based friend, and the Grape Night In girls   came along and produced a delicious meal with wines to match every course.

November brought joy then disappointment. A winning email for a superb trip to Barcelona turned out to be a mistake - 9,000 other people had received the same email,  and in the end all we got was £10 worth of Boots Advantage Card points instead.

December ....... well.  what can I say? I've had an absolute deluge of prizes. None of them massive, but each and every one welcome, and as I've spent most of the month battling a  chest infection  they have really cheered me up and brightened up Christmas. With a few hours of the year left, so it may not be complete yet, here is my list of wins for the month:

a tripod from the My memory advent comp
a box of metallic pencils from Derwent Pencils monthly comp
a hand made vase worth £28 from a Facebook comp

2 x £50 See Tickets voucher and 4 x £5 gift voucher from the Republic crackers  game on Facebook
a silver and pearl necklace, a Christmas mug and a £5 voucher from M&S pass the parcel on Facebook
a year's supply of pens (120 pens) from Citrus Office on Twitter
a Lumie Bodyclock from Lumie's Facebook page
a £250 Co-op travel voucher from their Facebook page
a 32Gb Wi-fi drive for the iPad from Kingston Technology on Twitter
a satnav from TomTom on Twitter
a Christmas decoration from one of the crafters on Twitter
a bucket of lollies from a PR company on Twitter
an Indian tiffin tin from The Curry Guy's blog
an apron from Fish is the Dish on Twitter
a pack of biscuits from Fudge's bakery on Twitter
a concealer pen from Aldi on Twitter
an advent calendar from Party Pieces on Twitter
a box of Charbonnel et Walker chocolates from Appleton's Rum on Facebook
a Mickey Mouse jigsaw from a blog
a Hotel Chocolat goody bag from a blog
3 different books all of which have turned up out of the blue with nothing
to say where they are from

£10 Amazon voucher from  Lantmennan Unibake  on Twitter
bottle of whisky (Facebook)
Vine adoption (Amber wines, Twitter)
James Bond books and postcards (Curzon cinemas via Pinterest and Twitter)
lanyard, bag,  2 x t-shirt, flag and badge (Brothers cider)
Variety pack (Kelloggs)
bar of chocolate x 4 (Tesco/Twitter)
£12 gift token x 3 (quiz)
Waffle maker (Huffington post)
Set of 3 Nail Rocks sets from 44 Fashion Street  on Facebook
can speaker from Pringles facebook page
Two craft books from the National Trust advent calendar
travel shaving kit from the Wilkinsons advent calendar
Method cleaning kit from Method facebook page
bottle of Copella (Copella Facebook comp)
Calendar (Happy Egg company)
Disney Blu-Ray and  2 x game download from Wreck it Ralph on Facebook
Japanese Recipe book signed by the author, from the author’s own Twitter comp
Samsung Galaxy – Phones 4 U cracker game on FB
£25 iTunes  voucher – What I Got For Christmas

(apologies if the font appears to have changed in the middle of the list - Blogger, in its infinite wisdom, insists that it hasn't done!)
 



 

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Do you tick all the boxes?

Something I'm often asked about is whether it is "safe" to opt out of further information when entering a competition. Although the law says that entrants who opt out, if given the option, should be treated equally with those who opt in, there is always a sneaky feeling in the back of your mind that maybe your entry will be ignored if you opt out. After all, one of the reasons a promoter may run a competition is to help them to build up a database of potential customers.

However any reputable promoter knows that, if challenged by an authority such as Trading Standards, the ASA or the IPM, they will need to be able to prove that the draw or judging was completely fair, so if you choose to opt out of further information it should have absolutely NO EFFECT on your chances of winning.

But before you go ahead and opt out, lets have a look at some of the pros and cons of doing so.

The obvious benefit of opting out is that it can reduce the amount of unwanted emails you get.  Advertising emails that you have opted in to are technically not spam, but when you log in and find a hundred of them lying in wait for you it can feel as if they are! The real spammers, though, get hold of your details by far less legitimate means, ones that you can't opt out of!

However there is also an advantage to receiving these advertising emails, a comper-specific one quite apart from the fact that you will be kept informed of sales and offers. Have you ever stopped to look closely at them and see how many of them include competitions, sometimes only open to members of the mailing list? If you tend to delete them all unread, try setting aside some time to open a batch of them and scroll right through. You may find some surprises, often lurking in the last few lines of the email. In fact you may find that you are included in a monthly draw simply by virtue of staying subscribed to the email list.

Once you have decided whether to opt in or out, read the entry form carefully. The boxes to tick or untick can be very misleading. It's quite common to see two boxes, one to opt in to further communications from the promoter and the other to opt in to them from "carefully selected third parties" (I always take that to mean the third parties are selected according to how much they are prepared to pay for the mailing list!). But BEWARE - sometimes you have to tick the box in order to opt OUT rather than in, and sometimes you even have to opt IN to one kind of communication and OUT of another.

Some promoters make opting in a condition of entering - this has been challenged and been found to be acceptable as long as you have the option of opting out after the competition has closed. In fact any mailing list should include opting out instructions somewhere in every email they send you.

And just a few promoters seem to try to confuse you by giving complicated instructions including double negatives and long winded terms - if I see something like this, my suspicions are raised and I don't enter the competition. I feel the promoter is just looking for an excuse to bombard me with emails from themselves and every Tom, Dick and Harry who wants to buy their mailing list.

But on the whole, I opt IN to further emails from the promoter and OUT of further emails from other businesses. And by doing that, I've won lots, found lots of new competitions to enter (and sometimes win) and even, simply by being on a mailing list, won a VIP trip to Wimbledon!





Saturday, 29 December 2012

Following a blog with Google Friends Connect

Several people have asked me questions about using Google Friends Connect in connection with comping. I'll try to answer the ones I've been asked here - please comment (with our without using Google Friends Connect!) with anything you would like to know that I haven't covered.

Note that anything I am saying here about following blogs and viewing them in Google reader ONLY applies to blogs hosted by the Blogger platform. Blogs using other platforms such as Wordpress are not able to offer the service.

How do I join?

When you enter a competition on a blog, very often one of the tasks, or even a condition of entering, is that you follow the blog using Google Friends Connect, or add the blog to Google Reader. To do this, you will need to be registered with Google. You probably already are, if you have ever wanted to refine a search, contribute to a newsgroup or use a Gmail email address, but if you aren't, simply go to any Google page such as www.google.com  and register.

The blog will probably have a "Join this site" button in the left or right margin, with some photos of existing members below it, just like the one  in the right hand margin of this blog. To subscribe using GFC, simply click on the button,  log in to your Google account if necessary, choose whether to follow publicly or privately and then click "done".  The difference between following publicly and privately is that your photo may show in the "Join this site" area if you follow publicly but not if you follow privately. If you follow some blogs publicly and some privately, anyone who looks at your profile through following the link on a blog you follow publicly will only see those you follow publicly, not privately.

If the blog owner doesn't have a button showing,  their post asking you to join may include a link to a sign up page, which works in just the same way.

Why should I join?

Well, first of all, because you want to enter the competition! But there are lots of other reasons for following a blog:
  • When you comment on a post, your Google name shows next to it, so you don't need to give your name and email address or post anonymously. If you are entering a Rafflecopter competition, it makes it easier for the blog owner to check that you have actually commented when you say that you have.
  • If you win a competition and the blog owner hasn't used Rafflecopter, which collects your email address as part of the entry procedure, they will need a way to contact you. It isn't a good idea to EVER leave your email address in the text of a public comment on a blog, as there are "robots" out there combing millions of sites and blogs every day looking for email addresses to send their nasty spam to. But if you have commented using your Google profile, the blogger can contact you through that ans long as you have included your email address in your profile.
  • Once you have followed a blog, you can keep up with everything that happens on it without actually having to visit the blog! Every time a new post is made, it will appear in your Google Reader. You can visit it at www.google.com/reader and see every new post that has appeared since your last visit by selecting "All items" from the left hand menu. I love to sit down with a cup of tea in the morning and read through the latest posts on all the blogs I follow (about 300 of them!). The titles of the posts are listed, so it is easy to skip over one that looks as if it won't interest me and open and read the others without leaving Google Reader. Then if I see a post I would like to comment on, or one that contains a competition I would like to enter, I can just click on the title and it will take me to the actual blog post where I can interact with the blog owner.
There are lots of other ways to follow blogs, and lots of other ways to use GFC and Google Reader, but this is a basic introduction that should help you to get started. Why not give it a try by joining THIS blog?

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Another lovely competition from Chocolate Log Blog

Hello again  everyone. Apologies for the recent blog silence - I've been suffering from a nasty chest infection as well as trying to get ahead of things for Christmas  and to get as much as possible of the January Grape Vine finished so I can take a few days' break.

But today I have dropped in to tell you about the latest lovely competition from Chocolate Log Blog. Don';t make any New Year's Resolutions about giving up chocolate, because if you win this you really won't be able to keep them!

The prize is a hamper of Guylian chocolates containing two chocolate bars, SEVEN boxes of chocolates (is that one for every day of the week?) and a chocolate fondue dip.

 
To enter, head over to the site and use the Rafflecopter widget to get up to eight entries - plus extra entries for daily tweets. The closing date is January 19th.
 
A merry Christmas to all of you and, if I don't blog again before then, a very happy and lucky New Year to all of you.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

The best time to enter a competition

I've been a comper since the dark ages. The days when the only way of entering a competition was to send it by post. And in those days, you could pretty much rely on the fact that if you posted something first class, it would arrive the next working day, and second class a day later.

In those days, compers were divided into to two schools of thought when it came to posting entries for draws. They either entered right at the last minute, on the assumption that all the entries would go into a sack so those that arrived late would be nearest to the top and have a better chance of winning, or they entered right at the very beginning thinking that the same sack would be tipped out on to the floor to make the draw, so the very first entries would come to the top.

Neither method guaranteed a win, of course, but we all like to do what we can to help our chances!

Times have changed,  but postal competitions still exist. Is it still worth adopting an early or late posting policy? Well, the majority of postal entries are now logged on a computer as they arrive, and chosen using a ramdomiser. Piles of postcards tipped out on to office floors, like hands plunged into sacks, are largely a thing of the past. But competitions with a  lower profile, like those in local newspapers or small circulation specialist hobby magazines, might be drawn by hand so early or late entries to those might just give you an edge.

But remember, post these days is often slower than it used to be, especially if you are sending it to a PO Box. My own PO Box  seldom receives a delivery on a Saturday or a Monday, followed by a deluge on Tuesdays, so even if there is somebody working at the promoter's premises to handle a last minute entry for a competition closing at the weekend, last minute posting could let you down. I try to allow a clear week for postal entries to arrive these days.

However far more competitions are entered electronically that by post these days - online, email. text. phone, and by various new apps that are appearing. Are there any timing tactics you can use with these?

If the competition is a straightforward draw, forget any ideas about the timing of your entry. A randomiser will be used to pick the winner, and the timing of your entry will have no effect on it. BUT if you enter right at the beginning, you might experience teething troubles with the system, so you may be left unsure as to whether your entry has actually gone through. And if you leave it too late, you may find that due to technical issues or a deluge of spam entries from an automated entry service, the competition page has had to be removed and you've missed your chance.

So I recommend entering fairly early in the comp, but if it runs for more than a few days, leave it a day or two for teething problems to be ironed out.

For many people, weekends are the most convenient times to comp, but if a site develops a technical problem there may not be anyone around to fix it, or even to notice the problem exists, so if you do experience a hitch, wait until Monday evening before trying again. Why evening? Because even for UK based sites, the techies might be in America and start work a few hours later in "our" day...... and then they will need time to sort the problem out.

Some competitions give out a prize every hour, at other fixed periods. In this case a dose of insomnia can pay off - the quietest times are usually from around 3.30am to 5.30 am. If you are entering an "instant win" promotion where the prize goes to the first entry after a randomly pre-selected time, you also have a better chance in the silly hours of the morning,  because even if you miss the exact moment, fewer entries can mean that nobody has entered between the critical moment and your entry, whereas at a busy time if you miss the moment by the same amount, dozens of others could have entered before you. But for hourly draws or winning moment promotions, do check the rules carefully! Some promoters are now only picking winning moments between certain hours, like 10am to 10pm. If they are doing that, they will say  so in the instructions, so don't be caught out and waste a code by entering at a time when you have no chance of winning!

Finally a word about a group of competitions that are probably taking up a lot of your time at the moment - all the daily Christmas ones, whether they call themselves Advents, 12 Days of Christmas or whatever. Those of you who chat to me on Twitter and Facebook probably know that I am at my comping best at around 5am. This is NOT the best time of day to enter these daily competitions!
Many of them still show the previous day's one, and it is impossible to tell whether an entry made at that time will count as valid for the previous day, or whether all entries received after midnight will be deleted before conducting the draw.

Some run just during the working day, some open at 10am or noon, some close at 3pm, 10pm or midnight - anyone entering at the extremes of the day could fin

If I had unlimited free time (what a dream!) I would do these competitions in the early afternoon every day, and if you are lucky enough to be free at that sort of time, I suggest that’s when you enter.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Deck the....BEDROOM....with boughs of holly!

Warren Evans are looking for Britain’s most festive bedroom. If you have donned Christmas decorations around your bedroom, all you need to do is tell them about it on your blog for your chance to win a Riverford Christmas Hamper.
Full details about the competition and how to enter can be found here: http://www.warrenevans.com/blog/deck-your-bedroom-competition/?id=25 Closing 17th December

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Win a radio controlled Rattle Snake

I am an ophidiophobe. I am absolutely terrified of snakes. So terrified, that I can't even look at a picture of one without feeling ill.

So if you are lucky enough to win this competition from Deviltronics, please don't bring your prize anywhere near me! The prize is a radio controlled Rattle Snake, and it looks realistic enough to give me a very nasty fright. The designers have enlisted the help of the Natural History Museum to make sure it moves realistically....... just the thought of it is making me shudder.

But if you are less of a wuss  than I am,  head on over to their competition page where you can  enter up to four times, using Facebook and/or Twitter. The competition closes on December 14th.  

Win Brabantia's top ten Christmas Gifts

Brabantia have created a list of their  top ten gifts for Christmas and want you to vote for your favourite. One lucky voter will win all ten gifts while ten more will win one product, the one they have voted for. The gifts are

  • Digital Kitchen Scales in Matt Steel
  • Get Together T4ONE Set
  • Salt & Pepper Crusher Set in Matt Steel
  • Wine Cooler in Matt Steel & Black
  • Quickpull Corkscrew
  • Garlic Press in Stainless Steel
  • Dip Server - White, Grey & Lavender with Party Plate Dip Server
  • Egg Cup with Dish in Matt Steel & Grey
  • Kitchen Organizer (S)
  • Lavender Napkins & Napkin Rings in Matt Steel

  • and all you need to do is pop over to their Facebook page  and pick the one you'd most like to find in your stocking. But hurry, your entry needs to be in by noon on December 17th so that if you win you will get your prize in time for Christmas.

    Monday, 10 December 2012

    Deck the hearth to win an iPad mini

    Gr8 Fires  have a "Gr8" new competition with an iPad mini to be won. You can read all about it, including the full terms and condiions, here but in a nutshell, all you need to do is to post a photo of your festive fireplace on their Facebook page. Your entry needs to be in by 11.59 pm on Friday December 14th.

    Friday, 7 December 2012

    Win an iPad mini with Recipe Mash

    Most of you probably already know that as well as a comper, I'm a keen cook - and maybe you sometimes look at my food and craft blog, Onions and Paper.

    So you won't be surprised to hear that I was very pleased to read about a new site called Recipe Mash that is building up a searchable collection of recipes from all over the world.  And even more pleased to see that to introduce themselves, they are running a competition to win an iPad mini. To enter, just pop over to their competition page and complete the tasks on the Rafflecopter widget. You have until December 31st to enter, but you can get extra entries by tweeting every day so it's worth entering sooner.

    And because they have nothing in their "Indonesian" category yet, here are a couple of my own Indonesian creations for you to drool over!


    Friday rant - Congratulations, you haven't won!

    If you have ever entered a competition,  you have probably held out hope of winning right up until the moment you know it couldn't possibly be you because it was somebody else. So it is good to be notified of who has won, because you can give up hope (or maybe if you are really lucky, celebrate) then move on to the next one.

    So why do so many promoters raise our hopes then dash them again with their emails to entrants? They send them out with subject lines like

    • Congratulations winner!
    • Winner announced!
    • Winner's news!
    • Competition Winner!
    Once you open the email, you probably need to visit the website to see that you are NOT the winner, you are just being told who has won. And at the same time, are being offered, as a special privilege for having lost, a 5% discount on something you could have had a 10% discount on if you'd gone through a voucher codes website.

    The danger is that we will get so used to receiving emails like this that we will delete, unread, all emails suggesting in the title that we have won something.......even when we HAVE. 

    Why can' t promoters be less misleading and use subjects like
    • Competition results
    • Non-winners discount
    • Sorry you didn't win but....
    I'm linking this up to Ranty Friday over at Mummy Barrow


    Thursday, 6 December 2012

    Another chance to win with zulily

    There's another Instagram based competition running at zulily this month.

    At zulily, they love, love, LOVE, Christmas and as it’s time for another Cuties competition.  They'd like to see your little ones get festive! Whether they’re sporting Christmas jumpers, tinseling up the tree, helping (or hindering) you wrap prezzies or covering themselves in Christmas pud, they want to see your Instagram snaps!
     
     

    Their favourite photo wins a £100 zulily voucher, a Big Furguson bear from Melissa and Doug and a First Balance Bike from Big Jig toys (for ages 3+). That’s one festive toy package!

    How to enter:

    1. Upload an Instagram snap of your little cutie in December getting into the Festive spirit.
    2. Make sure your profile is public, so that they can see your photo.
    3. You need to follow zulilyUK on Instagram (@zulilyUK) and tag your picture with three things:

    • #zulilyUKFestiveCutiesCompetition
    • @zulilyUK
    • and either: #zulilynewbie (if you’re new to zulily) or #zulilian (if you’ve already joined zulily)

    The competition closes on Monday 31st of December. They’ll be shortlisting on Wednesday 2nd January and if you win they’ll contact you via Instagram comments to let you know. The winner will be announced on their blog no later than Friday 4th January. The Ts&Cs are here.
     
    You can see the November winner's lovely photograph here

    Wednesday, 5 December 2012

    The Twitter Unfollow Bug Strikes Again!

    Have you ever  suddenly found that you weren't following somebody on Twitter who you just KNEW you were following? Or maybe discovered, to your dismay, that one of your friends appeared to have unfollowed you?

    Perhaps you have noticed a sudden drop in the number of people you follow, or your own follower count?

    Well, you are not alone  - it appears that the Twitter unfollow bug has reappeared. Raising its head from time to time, this bug means that Twitter occasionally unfollows people from your account at random, without you being aware of it. And just to make it more complicated, sometimes you just appear  to have unfollowed them when you are really still following!

    How can you tell whether you have unfollowed somebody? Well, if you notice they are missing from your timeline at times when they are usually around, that's a possible clue. Or if the person is involved in a competition that uses Rafflecopter, when you get to the "follow on Twitter" task the follow button will have the Twitter bird in blue rather than grey. But the only way to be certain is to go to their own  Twitter profile page and see whether the button on the top right says "Follow" or "Following". If it says "Follow" then the Twitter bug has struck and you will need  to follow them again.

    On the same page, if they are following you it will say "Follows you" next to their user name, so you will be able to see if they have unfollowed you. But often the first news we have that somebody has unfollowed us is when we try to send them a direct message, as it isn't possible to send one to somebody who doesn't follow you.

    So if you find that a friend has unfollowed you, or that you have unfollowed them, or you notice a sudden drop in the number of your followers. don't be alarmed or hurt - it's just the Twitter unfollow bug striking again!

    Accident Advice Helpline bring you two new competitions

    Accident Advice Helpline are giving you two chances to win great prizes, in competitions that close on Christmas Eve, December 24th.

    First of all, head over to their Facebook Page where you need to answer the question in oder to enter the draw to win £2,000. Once you have entered, you can invite friends and each one that accepts will give you a chance to win an iPad.

    Secondly, retweet this tweet about the competition - and be entered into a draw to win a £100 Love to Shop voucher.

    Now, if I get this right (I'm making no promises!) you should  be able to see the tweet below, along with a follow button (if you aren't already following them) and the retweet button..... lets see if it works.....


    Monday, 3 December 2012

    Win £100 to spend with Ella Georgia

    The Christmas Shopping frenzy has started in earnest today, but those lovely people at Ask Her Friends are giving you a chance to win £100 to spend with Ella Georgia, who have a gorgous range of jewellery and accessories. If you win this, it could solve some of your Christmas shopping problems - or better still be a great reward to yourself for having shopped so much for everyone else!

    To enter, pop over to their competition page and complete any or all of the tasks in the Rafflecopter widget - the more you do, the more entries you have into the draw. The competition runs until midnight on Thursday 13th December (ooh posh! They've upgraded their Rafflecopter account so that they can choose the finishing time instead of having to close it at silly o'clock in the morning!)

    I've been having a look around the Ella Georgia site and if you know me well, you won't be surprised to learn that my favourite item is a bracelet - this bracelet in fact, Isn't it gorgeous?

    Saturday, 1 December 2012

    Win a Hotel Chocolat Christmas Cracker

    Another gorgeous competition from Chocolate Log Blog - they are certainly keeping us busy with competitions at the moment! This time the prize is a cracker full of truffles - and to make it into a proper Christmas cracker, there are hats and jokes too.

    Entry is over at Chocolate Log Blog and the competition closes on 11th December

    Friday, 30 November 2012

    My Christmas treat for you!

    Tomorrow is the start of December. And for compers, that means the start of the frenzy of Advent Competitions.

    I'm not going to give you advice on coping with them - everybody has their own way of dealing with it and besides, I've done that in  previous  years.

    I'm not going to put together a list of Advent competitions for you - I'll be too busy entering them myself. And so many websites and forums compile excellent ones that my contribution would be unnecessary.

    So what AM I going to treat you to? Well, everything, even comping, is easier when you are relaxed, and listening to music is a great way to feel relaxed. So I've chosen a different piece of music for you to listen to every day from December 1st until Christmas Day itself. Music to put you in the Christmas spirit. Music to sing while you comp.

    I'll be tweeting out a link to the tune for the day between 08.45 and 09.00 every morning (thanks to a bit of confusion with the scheduling, a couple of days have TWO tunes) so keep your eye on my Twitter page  or look out for the hashtag #singwhileyoucomp

    And if you get a chance to look at the videos in the links, please do - some of the ones I've chosen are ones I've picked because they are unusual, interesting, funny or simply awe inspiring!

    Good luck everybody!

    Friday rant - promoters who don't make the instructions clear

    Last week my Friday rant was aimed at compers who don't follow the instructions - but what about those times when the instructions are so vague that they are actually misleading? You may actually believe you are entering a competition and not entering at all!

    The place this seems to happen most is Twitter. It's very hard to explain a competition lucidly in 140 characters, and often the phrasing of a tweet can make it look like a simple "Retweet to enter" competition when it isn't.

    Have a look at these tweets:





    Every one of them looks at first glance like a simple retweet competition doesn't it? And yet actually for each one of them, you need to follow the link in the tweet and enter on a website, sometimes giving an answer too. Just retweeting the competition doesn't get you into the draw, in fact despite the implication in the tweet, it isn't even a condition of entry! They just want those retweets  to get the word out about the competition.  But lots of compers are retweeting the messages over and over again and may never even have visited the site to make that single entry which is the only one that will count. Even some of the new sites that list retweet competitions have been caught out by some of these.

    HOWEVER OFTEN YOU TWEET, YOU WON'T BE IN THE DRAW IF YOU DON'T ENTER ON THE WEBSITE!

    There's no way we can tell whether individual promoters are being deliberately misleading in order to get extra exposure or simply hampered by the shortage of characters, but it's always worth checking out a link in a competition tweet, just in case that is the REAL way to enter, especially if the phrase "RT & enter" is used.

    I'm submitting this to Ranty Friday over at Mummy Barrow.




    Thursday, 29 November 2012

    Lots of ways to win Zulily vouchers

    If you have children or grandchildren, you are probably already familiar with Zulily, who have such a fantastic range of children's clothes, and now there are lots of ways you can win £25 to spend with them. All of these blogs have competitions at the moment:

    EvinOK closing December 5th
    Diary of a First Child closing December 3rd
    My Mummy's Pennies closing December 4th
    Chelsea Mamma closing December 8th
    Baby Budgeting closing December 5th
    Tired Mummy of Two closing December 2nd

    What's more, Zulily's latest Instagram competition - a  Christmas one of course - will be starting next week. I'll bring you news about that one nearer the time

    Wednesday, 28 November 2012

    A Delight-ful new competition

    There is a lovely new competition over at Kitchen Delight  - you can win  a host of beautiful gold-themed dining table accessories to decorate your table with, along with a package of luxury Italian deli items and a tub of Bertolli Gold to enjoy. The prize package value is over £350. Just think what your Christmas dinner table could look like!

     
    To enter, visit the competition page  and follow the steps in the Rafflecopter widget. Note that sometimes Rafflecopter doesn't work very well in Internet Explorer - this is an issue they are trying to resolve, but for the time being if you get any problems such as the widget not loading, try using a different browser such as Chrome.

    The competition closes on December 13th (as usual, at some strange hour of the day thanks to Rafflecopter!)

    'Tis the season..... to be scammed!

    As Christmas approaches, the scammers redouble their efforts to line their pockets. After all, they want loads of extra money to have themselves a very merry little Christmas, don't they?

    Some scammers don't even want to make money out of you, like the traditional "good old fashioned" virus writers, they just want you to waste your precious time. And at this time of year, when everyone is busier than ever, it gives them some kind of perverse kick to think of all those complete strangers whose time they are wasting.

    We  compers are particularly vulnerable to scams. After all, there are thousands of perfectly fair and legitimate competitions out there, so it can be very easy to go ahead and enter a fraudulent one by mistake. 

    Fake comps are popping up more and more as Christmas approaches, especially on Facebook and Twitter, so here are some of the things to look out for:
    • no profile. The "about" section either hasn't been filled in or has some very sketchy info, with no website, no contact details and no signs of it being an active, legitimate business.
    • nothing but competitions. Nothing else in the timeline - no chat, no adverts for products and services, and often no chat with friends and followers
    • no external links, or only links to very similar pages. No sign that they are doing any kind of business with anyone else
    • prizes that are too good to be true. Often highly desirable things like computers, TVs and phones, and yet there is no obvious sign of how they are going to pay for the prize as there are none of the above signs of them being a business
    • no closing date. Often a sign that the competition is simply never going to close - that way nobody can accuse them of not having played fairly!
    • no terms and conditions. Again, you can't accuse them of not having stuck to the rules if there aren't any! 
    • a general bad "feel" about it. This is something you can only pick up  from experience - there are businesses who are new to social media, and new to running competitions, who might tick all the above boxes, simply because they ARE new to it all, but somehow their page will have a more genuine feel to it..... you'll feel comfortable that there is a real human being trying their best to get noticed by potential customers.

    One way to check whether a competition is a scam is to send a message, either by tweeting or writing on the wall, because if it's  just been set up by a scammer and left to run automatically there won't be anyone around to read and respond to you.

    So why do these scam competitions matter? You may be thinking, "I enter loads of competitions that I don't win - what harm could a scam one do to me? It will just be one more that I don't win, so why waste time checking that it is real?"

    Well, except in the case of those produced simply as a time waster, the scammers DO want something from you, and if you enter their competition they will get it.
    • They may want your data. Once you have liked, followed, shared and so on, they know your account is active, and they cans ell lists of active accounts to other scammers and spammers. If you have used an app that gives them access to your email address or other personal info, they will be even happier as they and their customers have multiple ways of spamming you and your friends or followers. For instance, one recent one on Facebook resulted in entrants getting spam advertising dating sites.
    • They may want to get you involved in what is known as a "survey scam" where you are sent short, often single question surveys with promises of prizes. Not only do the prizes never arrive, they will at some stage ask for your mobile number and then you could start to receive unwanted texts  that can cost you several pounds each.
    • They may want access to your profile. If you authorise an app that allows them to post on your profile, as  we do with so many competitions on Facebook and Twitter, they may not draw the line at just "Jane Willis has entered this competition - why don't you?". You could log in one day to find that you appear to have spent the last few hours trying to sell your friends diet pills, unique business opportunities or photos of Britney f***ing! Each message, of course, will contain a link to their website.
    • They may even be trying to get hold of enough information from you for identity theft or to hack into your account and take it over completely.
    So, exercise a little caution and avoid any competitions that give you an uncomfortable feeling. And remember to change your Facebook and Twitter passwords regularly, make sure the two are not the same, and review all the apps you have authorised from time to time, revoking access to any that you don't recognise or no longer use.


    Tuesday, 27 November 2012

    Win an iPad Mini with My Social Radio

    My Social Radio's  latest competition is a text entry one with a lovely prize of an iPad mini on offer. There can't be very many Christmas wish lists that don't include one of those!

    You can read full details, including the terms and conditions, here but this is what you need to do:

    For a chance to win… first you need to correctly answer this question:

    Steve Jobs was the CEO of which world-famous technology giant?
    A. Apple
    B. Blackberry
    C. Nokia
     
    Grab your mobile and text the word MYSOCIALRADIO followed by a space and YOUR CHOICE of A, B or C.
    Send that to 60 999.
    Texts cost £1 + your standard network rate. One entry per household. Open to UK and Ireland.
    Lines will stay open until midday (GMT) on December 14th 2012

    Monday, 26 November 2012

    Play the game to win Skype credit!

    If you are reading this post live on the blog, have a look over there on the right >>>>>>>>>>>>>>> and you will see a game from Skype. Click on the tiles to remove them and if you are a lucky winner you will get a pop up message to say you have won Skype credit to the value of £2, £20 or even £50 which can be used for things like calls to phones, international SMS messages  and access to WiFi hotspots worldwide. If you can only see an ad for Skype prepaid cards, it means there are no prizes left for the current time slot, so come back later when the prizes have been topped up again.

    The game goes live with a new prize pot three times a day, at 10am, 2pm and 8pm, so if you don't win this time, come back again later and try again. It will run until December 7th

    There are a total of 8.840 prizes to be won, so lets see how many of them can be bagged by readers of this blog!

    If you are reading this by email, Google Reader or an RSS feed you will need to actually visit the blog to play  - but it's well worth it. I heard of two winners just while I was writing this post. Do comment here or tweet me if you win - and very good luck to all of you.

    Win a Gugelhupf

    You've got to hand it to Chocolate Log Blog, they run some of the chocolatiest competitions around! And here's another from them, with a luxurious Gugelhupf cake to be won in time for Christmas.

    What's a Gugelhupf? I wondered that for years. In fact I wondered what a "Guggalump" was, because that's what my mother misheard when she was given a slice by a friend and raved about it. I scoured recipe books to see if I could find it, but there wasn't a Guggalump in sight. (Actually it sounds like a great name for a character in a children's book. You can have that idea free!)

    Eventually I bought myself a Bundt baking tin, the traditional circular shape used for Gugelhupf, and  the little recipe leaflet that came with it  made everything clear.

    But you don't need to scour recipe books or buy special tins, you can read all about this delicious cake and enter a competition to win one by going to Chocolate Log Blog's competition page. The competition closes on December 8th



    PS the Blogger spelling checker, always a  temperamental beast, has gone into meltdown while checking the above post!

    A new blog for compers

    Earlier today, after reading a tweet, I came across a new blog written by comper Kirstie - you can find it at Random Reviews, Rants and Revivals and I will be adding it to my list of favourite blogs, over on the right.

    Kirstie's only been a comper since January and a blogger since October but my word, she has already notched up a great selection of prizes, and has blogged about some great competitions. In fact she is running one of her own with a super collection of prizes.

    But what I really recommend to you is her two-part article about Facebook comping, which you will find here and here. Lots of you have asked me questions about Facebook comping, and while I do my best to answer, it isn't really my arrea of expertise. While I "get" Twitter, Pinterest, Rafflecopter and all sorts of mobile apps, Facebook seems so big and overwhelming that it makes my mind goround in circles. So it's a great help to me to be able to read good clear explanations like Kirstie's. I'msure many of you will find her articles useful.

    Plus she loves cats, and that's recommendation enough for me!

    Win £75 to spend with Peaks of London

    As a granny, I've watched my daughter struggle to find stylish clothes to  wear while breast feeding her two babies. Hitching up a baggy old t-shirt might be OK in the privacy of your own home, but when you want to look smart and fashionable you can't just leave the baby to go hungry!

    So I'm delighted to be able to tell all  of you breast feeding mums, soon-to-be breastfeeding mums,   partners, parents, and friends of breastfeeding mums about the latest competition brought to you by Ask Her Friends  who are giving you the chance to win £75 to spend  with Peaks of London who specialise in stylish fashions that don't get in the way of discreet breast feeding.

    To enter - and to read about how to get a 20% discount code  - pop over to the competition page  and fill in the simple Rafflecopter form. The competition closes in the early hours of the morning (that's  Rafflecopter's idea of a good time!) on Friday December 7th, but the sooner you enter the better as you can gain extra entries for daily tweets.

    Friday, 23 November 2012

    Friday Rant - entrants who don't read the instructions

    When I'm not writing about competitions or entering them, I can sometimes be found setting them. And I'm in touch with a lot of other people who set and judge competitions. And one thing that surprises us over and over again is seeing the number of people who think they have entered a competition when they simply haven't read the instructions!

    Over on the Grape Vine website there is a monthly competition (although it will be moving to this blog very soon) and every month around one in four entries are not valid. ONE IN FOUR. That's an awful lot of people sitting back and hoping to win when they simply don't stand a chance. Other people have reported a similar number of incorrect or disqualified entries.

    You could be spending hours of every day entering competitions and never winning a single thing, all because you didn't take a few extra seconds to make sure you were doing the right thing.

    In my own competition, I ask entrants to give three words starting with the LAST letter of their surname. Lots of you use the FIRST letter instead (YOU! Looking guilty! Are you one of them?) but I get quite a lot of entries that are wrong in much more creative ways! Someone whose surname was Jones once gave the answer "Three Blind Mice" , one entrant every month simply writes "answer" and some people create lovely - but not valid -  tiebreakers about why they would like to win. And none of them goes into the draw.

    One of the biggest bugbears among people who use Rafflecopter to run their competitions is the number of entrants who just barge in without paying attention to what they have to do. The first task is often to comment on a blog, and in the Blog Comment section of the Rafflecopter form you will be told what sort of comment they are looking for. And sometimes the answers simply do not fit the question. For instance......

    If you won this hamper, what is the first thing from it you would eat or drink?
    • Please pick me
    • lovely prize, thanks for the comp
    • My Mum would really love this but I'm broke and can't afford one
    • Liked and shared
    None of those will win!

    Another issue for Rafflecopter users is the "Tweet about the competition" button. It looks simple enough - hit the Tweet button then go to your Tweet, copy the link and  paste it into the space provided (a total wossname to do on a phone or tablet, I know, but the way I get round that is to email a link to myself then go back to the form when I'm at a computer and paste it in then). Yet a HUGE number of entrants either leave the space blank, just insert their Twitter name or paste the text of their tweet into the space instead of the link.

    When the competition is over, the person running it logs in to their Rafflecopter account and is presented with a spreadsheet showing the full details of all the entries, including what was in each box, so if the Tweet box doesn't include a proper Tweet URL  your entry simply won't count!

    So to sum up, if you want to be one of the 75% who go into the draw and  stand a chance of winning a prize, and not one of the 25% who are guaranteed to lose, then whatever competition you are entering, READ THE INSTRUCTIONS!

    I'm joining in with Ranty Friday over at Mummy Barrow - if you have something you'd like to get off your chest (and I don't mean a Bra Bunny) why not join in?


    Thursday, 22 November 2012

    Win two tickets to the premiere of The Hobbit!

    What a wonderful prize this would be for any Tolkein fan. The first film in The Hobbit trilogy has its premiere in Leicester Square on December 12th and thanks to The Bluffers Guide you and  a friend could be there.

    All you need to do to enter is visit their competitions page and sign up for the mailing list. The competition closes on December 5th at 12 noon.

    Wednesday, 21 November 2012

    Lots to win with Supportive Business Mums

    There are so many wonderful things to win and so many ways to enter that I'm going to hand over to them to tell you all about it:

    WOW 6 prize bundles up for grabs in 3 Separate Give Aways! Multiple ways to WIN!!!

    Give Away One...Supportive Business Mums have put together a brilliant online Christmas Gift Guide full of gorgeous gift ideas from fantastic small businesses. Browse the guide and share via Twitter and Facebook to be in with a chance of winning one of four great Christmas Gift Prize Bundles! http://www.supportivebusinessmums.co.uk/christmas-gift-guide/christmas-gifts-from-light_direction-win-prizes-sb_mums-xmas-gifts/

    Give Away Two…having teamed up with IcedJems we bring you some great "Christmas Baking" ideas to inspire you to do some easy baking with the kids this festive season. Share a photo of your cakes with us to be in with a chance of winning a lovely prize bundle of gifts.

    Give Away Three…colouring Christmas pictures is great fun and if you share photos of your Children's Christmas Art and Craft Activities with us, they will be in with the chance to win a £25 FireStarToys voucher and a lovely art set from Supportive Business Mums.

    Our gift guide features lots of lovely small businesses bringing you great gift ideas for family and friends. Something for every budget and taste. On behalf of all the small businesses and crafters featured in this Christmas Gift Guide… Each time you buy from us, share our feature pages on twitter and facebook, LIKE US,FOLLOW US, and tell your friends about us, YOU are our marketing lifeline and WE THANK YOU… person to person… for choosing to MAKE A DIFFERENCE THIS CHRISTMAS!

    Tuesday, 20 November 2012

    Win a Gift Experience!

    My Social Radio are giving away a gift experience - and the winner will have 520 experiences to choose from, ranging from a helicopter ride over London to a thrilling driving session at Silverstone or even a meal at a Michelin starred restaurant.

    All you need to do to  enter is pop over to their Facebook app and fill in your details. You must live in the UK or Ireland and can only submit one entry per household.

    But hurry! The competition closes at noon on November 23rd.

    Monday, 19 November 2012

    A Pretty Dandy prize to win!

    AskHerFriends (http://www.askherfriends.com/) is giving away a £50 voucher to spend with Pretty Dandy (http://www.prettydandy.co.uk/), a wonderful online boutique selling the best in handmade, designer and vintage home accessories. The competition opens on Monday 19 November and runs to the early hours (owing to the vagaries of Rafflecopter) of Friday 30 November. Just pop over to the competition page and follow the simple instructions on the Rafflecopter widget.

    I've been having a browse thought the pages of Pretty Dandy and I think the £50 would go a long way! I've got my eye on these gorgeous Christmas Tree baubles.

    Saturday, 17 November 2012

    A chance to win a Kindle Fire

    I suppose it's no use me saying "Please don't enter this because I want to win it" is it? No, I thought not! A Kindle must be at the top of many thousands of Christmas lists this year, not just mine.

    So it's great news that UK Bifold  are giving you the chance to WIN one!

    All you need to do is pop over to ther blog and follow the instructions to like them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter and retweet their tweet and/or follow them on Google+. They have provided links that take you exactly where you need to go to enter, even right to the very tweet you need to retweet. No comments to leave, no forms to fill in - it simply couldn't be easier!

    You have until December 9th to enter. Good luck!

    Friday, 16 November 2012

    Friday Rant - Those dreaded Captchas

    I bet you were all expecting today's rant to be about Boots, weren't you? After all, I was one of the thousands of people affected. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you can read about it here (I can't believe that I've just willingly posted a link to the Daily Mail website. And the ground hasn't opened up and swallowed me. Yet)

    But I think enough ranting has been done on that topic now. I'm feeling very sorry for the person who pressed that first "Send" button and who, at this very moment, is probably polishing up their CV while scoffing their third giant bar of chocolate. Or bottle of gin.

    No, I'm going to revisit one of my regular ranting topics - Captcha codes. You can read about how cross they make me in my old post, Do Captcha Codes Make You Cross?  where you will also find some tips to help make them easier to cope with. Do you know that with the traditional two word ones, they aren't case sensitive? That you don't need to include any of the special characters or punctuation you may be shown? Or most importantly that one of the words is actually a dummy and you can type more or less anything in its place? If  you think that learning any of these would make it quicker for you to comment on blogs or enter competitions, that post is the place for you.

    Sometimes Captchas make me laugh out loud - just try googling "Crazy Captchas" and you'll see what I mean. And sometimes they make me superstitious. Only today I had one that included a number - the same number as the very first phone number I had as a child. Well, there is no way I am NOT going to win that competition now, is there? (If only!)

    But most of the time they make me cross. Undecipherable ones make me cross. Ones that are rejected over and over again make me cross. Ones that look like real words but aren't make me cross. Ones where upper case, lower case and numerals make me cross - when you see a l, for instance, is it a number one, an upper case i or a lower case L? The spammers that have made them necessary in the first place make me cross.

    And do you know what makes me crosser than ever? The fact that while we are struggling to decipher them, to decide which letters or numbers to use, even to make then out when the typeface is obscure or tiny, those spammers  that made them all necessary in the first place can simply subscribe to a Captcha-cracking service like Captcha Monster and have all the hard work done for them!

    I'm linking up with Ranty Friday over at Mummy Barrow

    More lovely chocolates to win

    I don't know about you, but I'm already deep into Christmas Shopping Mode, and with several chocoholics on my shopping list, I'm looking out for something out of the ordinary. A subscription to a monthly chocolate box sounds like  the perfect solution - especially for my Mum! She loves chocolate, but if I bought her one big box she would eat the whole lot in one sitting. Monthly boxes mean she would have something to look forward to every month and she couldn't scoff her whole present in one day.

    Over on the Chocolate Log Blog you can read all about a sevice that provides just what I am looking for, a monthly chocolate box, and at the same time enter a competition to win some gorgeous French chocolates. Enter by following the simple instructions in the Rafflecopter box. You have until December 6th to enter.

    Win driving lessons every day!

    Red Driving School is giving away sixteen two hour driving lessons in your area,  EVERY DAY until December 16th.  That's a whopping £10,000 worth of prizes!

    All you need to do is pop over here and fill in your details. Job done! What's more, you only need to enter once to be in every draw until it closes.

    Maybe I ought to sign up for a refresher course..... I got my first ever speeding fine last week.

    Wednesday, 14 November 2012

    Win weekly with The Victoria Centre

    The Victoria Centre, Nottingham, is giving away a different prize every week until Christmas. To enter, go to their Facebook app and "Like" the page then answer the question.

    This week's competition runs until Friday, November 16th and the prize is a £15 voucher for The entertainer toy shop. Future prizes will come from retailers such as Boots, W H Smith and Millie's  Cookies, so bookmark the page for weekly visits.

    Tuesday, 13 November 2012

    Win a woodburning stove with Gr8 Fires

    The nights are drawing in, the evenings are getting chilly and winter is just around the corner. It’s the time of year when a wood-burning stove is the perfect option to raise your spirits as well as the temperature in your home.

    Gr8fires.co.uk is giving you the chance to ensure a cosy Christmas for your family. They’re giving away a Rocky 6kW multi-fuel stove to one lucky competition winner.
    To be in with a chance of winning, just follow these very easy steps:

    1. Visit their Facebook page and ‘Like’ it.
    2. Write on their wall: “I’d love a free wood-burning stove.”

    Job done.

    The competition closes at 11.59pm on Friday, November 23. They’ll then put all the names in the digital equivalent of a hat and pick a winner at random.They'll announce who’s won on their Facebook page the following Monday, so keep your eyes peeled.

    What are you waiting for? Head to facebook.com/gr8fires to enter.

    Please note: the stove can only be delivered to a UK mainland address and multiple entries will not be counted. Full terms and conditions available here.

    Monday, 12 November 2012

    Win a £20 Amazon voucher

    NarpsUK are giving you a chance to win a £20 Amazon voucher in a fun caption competition. To enter, go to this tweet and follow them, if you don't already, then  tweet them with a caption  to the picture (it's actually a very short animation) they link to.

    You can enter once a day until the closing date of December 4th.

    And even if you aren't a fan of caption competitions, I urge you to go and have a look at the picture. It's so incredibly cute that at the moment the only caption I can think of is "aaaaaah...."

    Win £250 of books with The Works and On The Road

    The Works are looking for travel bloggers to enter their latest competition which celebrates the film release of Jack Kerouac's book "On the Road". The winner will receive a £250 book voucher.


    You will find full details of how to enter at http://www.theworks.co.uk/travelbloggercomp  but in a nutshell, you are asked to blog about a memorable reading moment you experienced while travelling, and then nominate three other bloggers to join in. Full details of how to submit your entry for judging are on the site, and you have until November 30th to complete your entry.

    I'm not planning to come clean about any of my travelling  reading moments..... I'll just say that my choice of "literature" while travelling tends to consist of books that I really, REALLY don't mind losing or leaving  behind.....

    Thursday, 8 November 2012

    Win 6 months supply of knickers!

    One of the most common search terms leading people to this blog is  "Vibrating knickers" so I know you all want to read about knickers. This competition, then, is going to be right up your street!

    The Knicker Issue is a subscription service, delivering a pretty pair of knickers in the post once a month, accompanied by a trends/style article and an optional personalised note, making it the perfect gift (especially for Christmas).

    The competition is aimed at men, offering them the chance to win their girlfriends a 6 month subscription to The Knicker Issue. Women however are more than welcome to enter of course.

    To enter, go to this tweet and follow them by hitting the Follow button, then use the Retweet button to retweet the tweet.  For a second entry, and to read more about the competition, sign up to their newsletter here

    The competition closes on December 15th.

    But if you really came here looking for vibrating knickers, I don't want to disappoint you so here is a photo of the ones I won several years ago. I promise you, the ones at The Knicker Issue are MUCH prettier and more tasteful!


    This month's Frugaller Forum and Win Prizes competition

    Frugaller Forum and Win Prizes have a new competition with a prize of an £80 Amazon voucher - and I am delighted to tell you that last month's winner found the competition through the Grape Vine blog so I hope you will keep up the good work and one of you will win again this month.

    To enter, you need to be registered with either or both of the sites and then simply click on the "thanks" button  on this post and/or this one. There are extra ways you can add to your entries, by commenting, sharing and tweeting but these are optional.

    The competition closes on November 30th.

    Wednesday, 7 November 2012

    Win £50 to spend at Two Red Trees

    At AskHerFriends  they are always trying to showcase the best in individuality and design, because they believe that these makesthe very best gifts. So they’re excited about working closely with one of their favourite boutiques, Two Red Trees - so excited in fact that  they’ve decided to give s away £50 tospend with them.

    Win a £50 voucher to spend on anything you want at Two Red Trees – and it’s very easy to enter, just  head over to the competition page and follow the simple steps in Rafflecopter. The competition closes at 5am Saturday 17 November. - if you are thinking that's a  strange time to close, it's because Rafflecopter lives in America!
     
    I've already decided what I'll spend the voucher on if I win - many of you will already know that I'm addicted to bracelets and this pretty one costs exactly £50   - sorted!
     
     

    Tuesday, 6 November 2012

    Win lots of baking goodies with the Chocolate Log Blog

    The Chocolate Log Blog has a super competition at the moment. You can win a huge selection of chocolate-themed baking goodies. The prize contains all these:

  • 150g bar of cook's 33% milk chocolate
  • 150g bar of cook's 54% dark chocolate
  • 150g bar of cook's 72% dark chocolate
  • 100g bag of white chocolate chunks
  • Pack of chocolate ready to roll icing
  • Giant milk chocolate stars
  • Chocolate flavour writing icing
  • Milk and white chocolate flakes
  • Chocolate flavour strands
  • Vanilla extract with seeds
  • Cake release spray

  •  
    This would be great for Christmas baking - a chocolate Yule Log, or one of the Christmas favourites in our house, a chocolate and black cherry trifle. With that chocolate icing and stars, you might even be inspired to have a completely original Christmas cake, great for the rich-fruit-cake-haters.

    To enter for a chance to win all this, you just need to pop over to Chocolate Log Blog and fill in the simple Rafflecopter form, making sure you remember to actually DO all the things you say you have done! The competition closes on December 2nd.

    If you are unfamiliar with entering using Rafflecopter, there is a guide here and if you have tweeted an entry but aren't sure how to give the URL, there are instructions here that will help.

    Monday, 5 November 2012

    Is that Twitter winner a human being?

    How could they be anything else? You ask.

    Well, we've all seen the "bots" on Twitter who search for particular words and will retweet you or send you a comment if they happen to see you mention their "trigger words". It can be quite fun baiting them - for instance, try tweeting

    I have a cunning plan. I will wear big knickers while eating a Jaffa Cake and a Mini Milk and watching Dangermouse and Bagpuss

    and see what happens. (Apart from the men in white coats arriving, I mean)

    But there are some out there that are set up to search for words like "win", "contest" and "competition" or the phrase "RT to win". They have usually been set up by somebody with a bit of programming knowledge who sees it as an easy way of getting some free goodies. The "comping bot" they have set up will work hard 24 hours a day, searching for and retweeting competitions and auto-following the promoters on their behalf, and they can just log in every day, or week, to claim their prizes. In fact sometimes the people who set the accounts up have long ago abandoned them and the prizes go unclaimed.

    So how can you tell if a competition entrant is a real live person or a comping bot? It can be difficult - as you will see, a lot of their behaviour copies that of genuine entrants.

    First of all, their Twitter feed consists of absolutely nothing but competition entries. However there are quite a lot of ordinary compers who do the same. A tip to compers here - don't let yourself look like a bot, chat a bit! If you haven't made any friends on Twitter, include a few comments about your life, the weather or the latest cult TV show. Or say hello to me! Just hit the link below



    Secondly, their retweets are all the "old fashioned" copy-and-paste style tweets, rather than ones done using the retweet button. But again, a lot of real live human compers prefer to do that too. So my next tip to compers is to mix it up a bit - even if you really do prefer old style retweets, pop a few retweet button ones in among your entries.
    NOTE since I first wrote this, the bots seem to have found a way of retweeting "new style", using the retweet button. But a new style of bot has appeared - the new ones do a new style retweet AND a second tweet which @ mentions the promoter and includes just the hashtags from the original competition tweet. Even if an answer or certain text is required, it isn't there - after all, there's nobody around to read the actual competition tweet and see what they have to do! Setting the bots up to do this seems to be a waste of effort since my own experience of running competitions on Twitter has shown that a tweet just containing an @ name and hashtags, with no other text, is frequently filtered out of Twitter search.

    Next, they tweet at all hours of the day and night. You will see a steady stream of tweets without any significant breaks, apart from the inevitable times they spend in "Twitter jail". Now real human beings need to eat, sleep, work, bathe and  spend time with their families, so they aren't around for 24 hours a day. However 24/7 tweeting isn't a cast iron guarantee of them being a bot, as some compers are now using tweet scheduling services to send their competition entries at quieter times of the day and night so that they don't annoy non-comping friends and family so much.

    The final clue, though, should clinch it if a Twitter feed fits all those above. They are undiscriminating, tweeting competitions from all over the world and even things that contain words like win and competition that are being used in other contexts. Because they aren't human, they can't tell if something contains one of their trigger words but isn't quite what they are looking for.

    What can you do about them? What SHOULD you do about them? Well, my personal feeling is - do nothing! Not if you are a comper, anyway. Different people have different views on where the borderline lies between being super-efficient and being a cheat, and while the thought of somebody using an automated comping bot to win makes my skin crawl, other people might admire the person who set it up for their entrepreneurship. I know that in the past a few people have set themselves up as vigilantes, aiming to "name and shame" the comping bots,  but however unfair you might feel these bots are, in most cases they haven't actually broken any rules. If you suspect an account of being one, though, you might want to block it, because one of the ways the bots seach for tweets is to set up lists of known compers and monitor all their tweets for comp entries.

    However if you are actually running a competition, do you want to give your prize to somebody who is never going to interact with you, never going to tell their friends about you, never going to come back to you and use your business when they needs the goods or services you supply? Or, sometimes more importantly on Twitter, never send you a virtual cup of tea when you are feeling unwell, or sponsor you in your charity skydive, or congratulate you on your latest good news? And most of all, if it is one of the neglected bots, never respond to your tweets and DMs asking them to claim their prize? I know when I run a competition on Twitter I would hate the winner to be a bot!

    How can you prevent a bot from winning? Again, if you are a comper, you can't prevent it. Although if you see a winner announced and you suspect that it is one, you could do worse than point the person running towards this post. But if you want to run a competition on Twitter and want to make sure it is won by a human, there are several things you can do:
    • Don't make it a simple "RT and follow" competition. I know you want people to retweet in order to spread the word, but make them do something else as well. Lots of people are now running "RT, follow and reply" competitions instead. Just getting people to send you one or two words in reply to a simple question will help to ensure that the entrant is actually reading your tweets at the time they enter, which is impossible for a bot.
    • Don't include the phrase "RT to win", or the hashtag #competition - these are just TOO easy for a searching bot to pick up.
    • Add an element of creativity - hashtag games are very popular. For instance get entrants to rewrite the name of a film, book or song to make it relevant to your product, or to include a particular word, then tweet it with a hashtag chosen by you to help you pick up the tweet. The only way a bot could enter something like that is by copying other people's entries, which would make it stand out and be easy to eliminate.
    • contact the winner by direct message, not in a tweet, and don't announce them publicly until they have replied. If they don't reply within a reasonable time, check if their account is still tweeting. If it is, it is likely to be an unmonitored one and you would be perfectly reasonable in withdrawing their prize and announcing a new winner.
    Finally, don't be alarmed by all this! There are only a handful of these bots around, but they do come and go and rather like an itch you can't scratch, can be extremely irritating once you know they are there but won't do anybody any lasting harm.