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.

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