Tuesday 31 August 2010

Top Twitter Tips

Twitter is taking the comping world by storm with prizes big and small on offer every day. But when you are new to Twitter, it all seems very confusing – even “old hands” can easily make mistakes. There is a guide to getting started with Twitter and in particular Twitter comping on my website so pop over there and have a look at it first. Here I am going to expand on it a bit and give you some tips to help you to become a winner.

In these examples, I am going to us two fictional tweeters, a business with the username @BloggsBiscuits and a comper called @maddywins. I have checked that neither of these usernames actually exists at the time of writing and would like to apologies in advance to anybody who might use them at a later date.

How do I find comps to enter?

Maddywins is new to Twitter. She has just opened her account and wants to find some competitionss to enter. The best way to do this is to find and follow some other compers. Most compers are happy to let a complete stranger follow them, especially if they introduce themselves and say hello, as long as they don’t make any mistakes that might spoil both of their chances in a competition – we’ll get to that later.

Feel free to follow me - my username is @janesgrapevine and you can find my Twitter page here - but don’t be offended if I don’t follow you back. I’m already very close to following 2,000 people and although in theory there is no limit on the number of people you can follow, it starts to get complicated when you reach the 2,000 mark. I’m happy to chat and help out even if I’m not following you – just send me an @ message.

A great way of finding compers and comping websites who pass on info about competitions is to go to WeFollow and put the word “competitions” into the search box. Everybody listed there has chosen to be there because they are happy for other compers to follow them.

Once you have found and followed some compers, sit back for a while and watch what they do. You’ll soon see they are a friendly, chatty and supportive bunch, so as well as entering competitions, there will always be somebody around who will help and guide you when you are new. You DO need to ask though – if you post a question in your timeline, only people following you will see it. But if you ask somebody directly with an @ message, they will see it even if they don’t follow you.

How do I enter a competition?

First of all, check that you are entitled to enter. Imagine you see this tweet from another comper

RT @BloggsBiscuits: RT this and follow for a chance to win a hamper.

The first thing you should do is click on the name, Bloggs Biscuits, which will take you to their own Twitter page. Look at the top right of the page where it will probably say where they come from. If it is somewhere in the UK, that’s fine, but sometimes compers accidentally Tweet competitions that are being run in other countries. Unless you can find some terms and conditions that say it is open to worldwide entries, or to a list of countries that includes the UK, foreign competitions are best avoided. It can be very upsetting to be told that you have won a lovely prize and then when you send in your address, be told you can’t have it because you don’t live in the right place.

Next, follow them- they have asked you to do this in their tweet, and if they pick a winner then find they are NOT actually following, they will redraw the competition and pick a different winner.

Now scroll through their tweets and look for the competition tweet that the other comper retweeted. It will probably be near the top of the page, but if you have to scroll a long way down for it, it may mean that it is an old competition that has already closed. So as you scroll, look to see if there is anything saying “We have a winner” or “The competition is now closed”. No? Then you are ready to enter!

So how do I retweet my entry?

There are two ways to retweet any tweet. The first, and easiest, is to click on the Retweet button which you will see when you hover the mouse over the post. The second is to copy the text of the tweet, by highlighting it and pressing Ctrl-C, then go to the message box and type in RT @ then the name of the business running the competition, then paste in the copied message. So for the BloggsBiscuits comp, Maddywins would type in

RT @BloggsBiscuits

And then paste in the message.

Now, while it LOOKS as if the easiest way to enter competitions is to press the retweet button, I have been conducting an experiment with the help of some of my twitter friends and we have found that messages retweeted this way don’t always show up in the original tweeter’s mentions, or @ messages, column. If they look at Twitter’s “Your tweets, retweeted” list, they will see HOW MANY times the message has been retweeted, but they can only see who the most recent 15 people to have done it were. And the few automatic retweets, using the button, that DO show up in the mentions column take a long time to come through and may miss a closing deadline or a “first so-many to RT” target.

So based on the results of my experiment, I will always retweet my entries manually, by copying and pasting, from now on. Oddly enough, automatic retweets that are edited slightly before sending behave as if they were done manually - but if you do that, make sure you keep all the important information in the tweet, especially any hashtags.

A note about "NewTwitter".  Since this article was written, Twitter  has had a makeover and now a lot of us are using the new look version. During October I experimented with various  ways of retweeting and have found that if you use the  new version, tweets made using the retweet button show up in  just the same way as those done manually. So as long as  the promoter is using New  Twitter  - and by now, most are - it is safe to retweet automatically.

Make sure you retweet the right tweet!
Imagine Maddywins sees that I have entered the BloggsBiscuits competition and instead of going to the original tweet and retweeting it, she retweets my tweet. Her message would read

RT @compergrapevine: RT @BloggsBiscuits: RT this and follow for a chance to win a hamper.

Her tweet would show up in my mentions but depending on how she had sent it, if BloggsBiscuits saw the message at all, they would either not recognise it as a competition entry because it didn’t start with the right words, or they would think that I had entered twice, and if they were only allowing one entry per person they would disqualify me.

So by retweeting my entry, Maddywins would NOT have entered the competition, but MIGHT have disqualified me. Naturally the thought of being disqualified upsets a lot of compers and some of them have taken to blocking people who retweet their entries.

The hard and fast rule is ONLY RETWEET THE PROMOTER’S OWN TWEET – never anybody else’s.

Handling hashtags
A hashtag is a word preceded by a hash symbol # which some promoters use to help them search for competition entries. They can simply do a Twitter search for the word and, provided nobody else is using the same one at the same time, will get a list of all the entries, making it easy to pick a winner. So if any competition message includes one, you MUST make sure it is included with your entry.

However a word of caution. Sometimes, instead of asking you to RT a message, a promoter will ask you to reply to them including a hashtag. In competitions I have run, I have found that you need to include something else as well as the promoter’s name and hashtag.

For instance, if BloggsBiscuits were to say

To enter, send us a message including the hashtag #biccyhamper

Maddywins might just send the message

@BloggsBiscuits #biccyhamper

While this would show up in their timeline, it might not appear in the hashtag search. To be sure of it appearing, Maddywins needs to add some more text, for instance

@BloggsBiscuits good afternoon! #biccyhamper

How do I give a link to a particular tweet?

Sometimes a promoter asks you to tweet about their competition and then send them a link, either in a tweet, through a blog, on a website to by email, to your tweet.

To do this, you need to find your tweet and then click on the time at the bottom of it. Your tweet will then open in a new window, all on its own, and you can copy the contents of the address bar as your link. If you are asked to tweet the link, you may need to use a link shortening service such as TinyURL to keep it within the 140 characters.

Have you any more questions? I really must head over to Twitter and enter some competitions myself now, but if you have any more Twitter questions, pop a comment in the box below or send me a tweet and I’ll do my best to answer.

Thursday 26 August 2010

Friday's a Fantastic Day to be a Comper!

Every Friday should be declared a public holiday for compers! Why? Well, there's just so much to do on Fridays!

For a start, the lovely Mellow Mummy posts her weekly round up of competitions suitable for parents (or grandparents) of babies and toddlers.

And the delicious Superlucky also posts a weekly round up, this time of competitions being run on blogs of all kinds.

Meanwhile Twitter tends to go into a frenzy of Friday-only competitions. Feel free to follow me, @janesgrapevine because if I'm around I enter all those I am interested in and retweet even those I'm not, so that my followers can see them - but please remember that retweeting MY tweets won't get you entered into a competition. If you want the promoter to see your entry, you must go to their own page and retweet THEIR tweet. For more about comping on Twitter, see my guide here. If you would rather find Twitter competitions for yourself, try searching for the hashtag #FreebieFriday which is used in lots of the Friday competitions.

And there is one more reason that Friday is a great day for compers. Several promoters have told me that their favourite time to phone winners of big prizes is mid to late afternoon on a Friday, so that they have all weekend to enjoy and celebrate the good news.

So why am I posting this on a Thursday? To give you time to cancel everything, get ahead with the chores and clear the decks for a Friday frenzy of fabulous freebies. Have fun!

Sunday 22 August 2010

Is a win in your lucky stars?

If you win a prize and someone says, “Aren’t you lucky?” I expect you want to reply, “It isn’t luck, it’s skill!” Yet most compers have lucky charms or rituals, and lots of us read our horoscopes and try to interpret them as meaning that the biggie is on its way.
So here is a tongue in cheek guide to how those born under different signs might approach their comping.

Aries (Mar 21 – Apr 20) You are an enthusiastic character, rushing into comping headlong and entering everything in site. You want to enter every competition, sign up to every coming website, join every club, win every prize… and here is your downfall because you can be a little bit selfish. You may well be the person who takes every entry form out of the holder in the supermarket, or who lurks on forums and doesn’t tell your comping friends about the latest comp you have found. One day you may find them doing the same to you! Try to be a bit more sharing and you will soon find your enthusiasm will start to pay off.

Taurus (Apr 21 – May 21) Even if you have had no success with comping, you will keep on stubbornly entering the same type of competition and writing the same style of tiebreakers – you are convinced that your patience will be rewarded. But you may not be doing the most you can to improve your chances. Don’t forget to keep your eyes open for the new ideas and opportunities that you will find every month in Grape Vine.

Gemini (May 22 – Jun 22) You can be witty and communicative – so if you haven’t tried writing tiebreakers or Tweeting to win you really ought to! Some people may call you scheming, so turn that to good use and start scheming out how to win a great prize.

Cancer (Jun 23 – Jul 23) You like to look after other people – you will buy qualifiers for friends, get them entry forms, send them links to the latest competitions and help with answers. A true, caring friend, and many people are likely to be grateful for it. But a few will use you – watch out for them. And don’t spend so long helping other people that you don’t leave yourself time for your own entries.

Leo (Jul 24 – Aug 23) You are confident – so confident that you think every tiebreaker you write is a winner, and if the judges don’t choose it they are wrong. But in fact your tiebreakers may have a tendency to sound pompous and pretentious so try to lighten up a little.

Virgo (Aug 24 – Sep 23) Oh, what an organised comper you are! Your entry forms are carefully filed with the qualifiers neatly clipped to them, you cross reference winning tiebreakers from other comps run by the same company against other companies comps for the product , you write lists and make charts, your computer files are organised in chronological order so you know exactly when to enter each competition……. but how many competitions did you actually ENTER last month? You may have spent so long filing and cataloguing that you missed most of the closing dates. It is possible to relax and enjoy yourself without degenerating into chaos – try it and see!

Libra (Sep 24 – Oct 23) When a comping friend reads out a dreadful tiebreaker, you always find something kind to say about it – tact could be your middle name. You never complain to the judges or stir up trouble. But your easy-going attitude can slip into complacency and sometimes you don’t make much effort with your entries – try to be a bit less apathetic and put a bit of zing into them.

Scorpio (Oct 24 – Nov 22) You are passionate about your hobby – some would say obsessed. Your cat is fed on dog food, your family endure breakfast cereal they hate (if they ever see anything but the back of your head, while you are hunched over the computer) – anything goes if it means you can enter a competition. And if someone else wins, you are very, very jealous. Remember, comping is supposed to be fun!

Sagittarius (Nov 23 – Dec 22) You just love to chat about comping, with anyone and everyone. Your enthusiasm is infectious and some of your friends may have decided to try comping after listening to you. When they read you their first efforts at tiebreaker writing, please try not to be too blunt with them – you are well known for your honesty but sometimes it has to be handled carefully.

Capricorn (Dec 23 – Jan 19) You would never pay for a qualifier if you can get it for nothing. Was it you we saw picking up the till receipts from the floor of the supermarket car park? And slipping the neck collars off the bottles in the wine department? Yet you will never do anything dishonest or unfair – and would never be the person to take the last entry form from a display. Just be careful your economies don’t turn into outright meanness.

Aquarius (Jan 20 – Feb 19) You take a very scientific, analytical approach to competitions. You would probably good at estimating how many tins of beans would fit into a car boot or a similar task. Look out for puzzles, estimates and spot the ball games where you can apply your objectivity.

Pisces (Feb 20 – Mar 20) When you come up with a tiebreaker it will be a brilliant one – but you refuse to work hard at it. If your intuition doesn’t come up with a blinding flash of wit, the comp gets left unentered. In fact you probably throw away more comps than you enter, because you simply can’t be bothered working on them. Try to adopt a slow and steady attitude to comping and you will see that you don’t always have to wait for the flash of inspiration.

Well, did you recognise yourself there? Under your own sign or another? Whatever your star sign, relax, be honest and fair and enjoy your comping – and let’s hope the prizes will come rolling in.

Photo provided by

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Friday 20 August 2010

What's the strangest thing you have ever won?

At the moment, Belgian beer company Vedett has a truck travelling round the country visiting bars in the Living Room chain. The truck is shaped like a beer bottle, but is actually a cement mixer - and you could WIN it!!! To enter, visit the website using the link above and estimate how far the truck will travel on its journey around the country. You can see a complete list of the areas it is visiting in the "follow the truck" section of the site, to help you with your calculations. The competition closes on September 3rd so grab a satnav and a calculator..... and the very best of luck! The competition is aimed at ordinary people, not truck drivers, but if the winner wants to drive the truck they will need an HGV licence, but the promoters have thought of this and are offering a cash alternative.

It set me wondering what the strangest thing anyone has ever won is? I'd love to hear what YOUR strangest prize was - whether it was big or small, good or bad. Please tell me by posting a comment to this (if you'd rather it wasn't published on the blog, please say so in your comment and I'll keep it anonymous - after all, there are some VERY strange prizes out there!) or by sending me an email

Over the years I have won some very strange prizes, including a pair of vibrating knickers and an afternoon spent making pizzas in the window of a takeaway (it turned out not to be TOO strange though as I got to keep all the pizzas I made plus the same number of professionally made ones)

My forthcoming holiday to Canada could have been rather terrifyingly strange, as when I was phoned and told that I'd won it, they said it included a heli-skiiing experience which I gather involves being dropped out of a helicopter at the top of a mountain and having to ski to the bottom. Luckily when I pointed out that my husband and I are middle aged and neither of us has ever been on a pair of skis, they offered a whole range of alternative activities so we are going to have a packed an exciting holiday without risking life and limb.

So now I'm going to hand over to you. I'm looking forward to hearing about your strange prizes and hoping that before long I'll hear that one of you has won a very strange cement mixer!

Thursday 19 August 2010

Two that (nearly) got away!

Grape Vine subscribers who take the mid-month update by email should have received it yesterday. But there is never a perfect time to send it out, and this morning I found two new competitions that will close before you get your September magazine. In fact one of them closes tomorrow so get your skates on!

Tesco Back-to-School clothing Fashion Academy leaflet is offering you the chance to win an X-box 360 Elite and Lips Number One Hits karaoke game. To enter, go to Tesco.com/clothing then click on "Back to School" and sign up to the newsletter. You will find the link to sign up and enter the competition in the Fashion Academy section to the left of the photos. Closing 20th August.

Tesco Café has 2 family trips to Disneyland Paris to be won. To enter, buy a children's meal from a participating café and you will be given a form to complete and hand in. The poster advertising the competition had pictures of Fish Fingers and Chicken Nuggets on it, and the competition is promoted by Birds Eye, so it may only be hot meals that qualify for entry forms. Not all Tesco Cafés will be participating as some of them are independently owned even though they appear to have the Tesco livery, so check whether your local branch is participating before promising the kids a holiday treat. Closing 05 Sep.

Friday 13 August 2010

Win some great cards for compers!

As many of you know, I make a lot of hand made greetings cards, but I have recently found cards that a comper will treasure even more!

Prize Draw Greetings are a range of cards for all occasions which contain an entry form for a draw so that both sender and receiver can win some great prizes. There are 20 prizes for August:
1st Prize £500, 2nd Prize £100, 3rd Prize £10, 4th Prize £10, 5th Prize £10, 6th Prize £10, 7th Prize £10, 8th Prize £10, 9th Prize £10, 10th Prize £10, 11th Prize £10, 12th Prize £10, 13th Prize £10, 14th Prize £10, 15th Prize £10, 16th Prize Runner up T-Shirt, 17th Prize Runner up T-Shirt, 18th Prize Runner up T-Shirt, 19th Prize Runner up T-Shirt, 20th Prize Runner up T- Shirt.

Better still, every entry goes into an overall draw to win a Mini First.

You can read more about these great cards, and order some for yourself here but I have a pack to be won in my latest blog competition. To enter, simply send an email to janesgrapevine@yahoo.co.uk with the subject "Greetings!"

The competition closes at noon on Wednesday 18th August and only one entry per person will be accepted. UK entrants, aged 18 or over, only please.

Congratulations to the winner, Natalie Robinson. Look out for another chance to win a pack during September at www.compersgrapevine.co.uk

Monday 9 August 2010

Aunty Jane Answers!

Thank you for all the questions you submitted to Aunty Jane, which were about so many different forms of comping they served to remind me how wonderfully diverse our hobby has become. Here are a selection of the questions I received, along with my suggested answers.

Pat writes, "On efs, surveys etc I always tell the truth. On occasion, when I think it"might help", I put "with grandchildren" after my age. Can I be sure all my entries are considered even if my age does not fit the the target group of the product/prize? I like to reckon there would be leeway to pass on a prize that would be more suitable for a friend or a family member, unless rules specify otherwise. I do not like to think sponsors might not be "playing fair" and my entry efforts are being wasted."

Promoters are allowed to choose the demographic of their competition entrants, although to be fair on us all they should give us full details of any age or geographical restrictions before we enter. So sometimes your age will count against you, but hopefully not very often as long as you have read all the small print and made 100% sure you are entitled to enter. If the prize is a very specifically targetted one - for instance a Club 18-30 holiday - the promoters might feel justified in NOT specifying an age for entrants as the promotion is so obviously aimed at a specific age group that they may not have considered the possibility of somebody outside that group entering. But there ARE sometimes surprises - like the lady in her 90s who won a motorbike in a competition on a condom packet!

You may, however, be harming your chances by writing "with grandchildren" after your age! This is because even postal competition entries nowadays are so often handled by computer. Forms or plain paper entries may be scanned using optical character recognition, and if the computer sees anything other than numbers in a field where it was only expecting to see numbers, your entry could end up on the "not understood" pile. Computers are actually not very clever, so you have to make things simple for them.

Jan asks "Am always puzzled by text comps that give choices i.e. a. England. Now do I text the whole thing, just the letter A or just the word?"

Have a good look at all the information provided in the small print of the competition- there may well be an example of what they want in the text. If there isn't, it usually means that all they want is the letter (and most of the time it doesn't matter whether you use a capital or lower case one). Promoters like to keep messages for text comps short and sweet, so that we won't think sending the message is too much trouble!

Margaret is finding online comping rather slow: "I believe there is a form of some sort in which name and address details can be stored which speeds up the completion of on-line comps. Do you use one, and can you recommend its reliability?"

For many years, I have been using a programme called Roboform which you can download here
The free version is very useful and means that you can fill in most of your details with one click, but if you want to be able to save different forms for different websites, and move your saved information between computers, the "Pro" version costs less than £20 for life. I recommend starting out with the free version and, if you like it, treating yourself to the Pro version later on.

Another programme that is popular with compers is called Typeitin which you can download from here and try free for 30 days - if you like it, you should then pay $19.95 to keep your copy. I tried it for a while but found it more useful for storing chunks of text than for filling in competition entry forms.

Now moving on to Twitter competitions - Di says, "Retweet competitions - how do the competition organisers choose the winner? Does it matter if you use the Retweet button or manually put 'RT' at the start, and when the tweet is too long can you edit it down and still be included in the draw?

It confuses me that I see other people's Retweets and they seem to be the full length of the original, whereas Tweetdeck tells me mine are too long to send! I often wonder if I edit words out, will they not put me into the draw as they might search on the original tweet content?

Having run a few competitions on Twitter myself, I can safely say that the answer is "It all depends!"

If you use the Retweet button, your entry will show up if the promoter looks at the "Your tweets, retweeted" part of their Twitter home page but won't always show up if they are looking at their @ messages.

If you copy and paste, exactly the opposite applies!

If there is a hashtag to include in the tweet, it may not show up when they search Twitter or Tweet deck for it if you have used the RT button but always does if you have tweeted manually. Incidentally, I have also found from running comps of my own that a tweet of ONLY the hashtag, or ONLY the promoter's name and a hashtag, doesn't always show up in searches either. It all seems to be a bit random! However if the promoter uses Twitrand to pick a random person who has used it, all of these methods seem to show up in the search.

Are you even more confused now? I am!

So lets have a look at my own experience. When the RT button was introduced, I started using it enthusiastically - and stopped winning. When I went back to copying and pasting the tweet, even if I had to edit it a bit to make it fit, I started to win again. So I think most promoters look at their @ messages rather than at the "Your tweets retweeted" page. But if you are allowed more than one entry, I recommend using BOTH methods.

As for luck - that lies in second-guessing which method the promoter is going to use to pick the winner. Twitter is still new, and is changing all the time a sit grows and develops, so we compers have to be on our toes and move with it.

Tuesday 3 August 2010

Ask Aunty Jane

This week I'm going to wear my "Agony Aunt" hat. Lots of people ask me questions about comping, ranging from "When I'm writing a tiebreaker, does 'can't' count as one word or two? " to "How can I find competitions to enter on Facebook?"

So for the next few days, I am going to throw the Grape Vine blog open to you. If you have a question about comping - anything at all from the most traditional kinds of competition to the newest social media ones - post it as a comment below or email it to me with the subject AUNTY JANE. Please include your email address if you would like a personal reply - this will NOT be displayed on the blog, and used only for contacting you.

Your comments will not appear immediately - I will reply individually to as many as possible and next week I will post a selection of the ones that I feel other compers will find most helpful, along with my answers.

Questions should reach me by midnight on Friday August 6th.

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net