Wednesday 29 September 2010

Getting round Twitter's following limit

Twitter  is a great - if rather addictive - way to comp and to get to know and chat to other compers. We follow other compers, then we follow their friends and friends of their friends. We follow sites that run competitions on Twitter and we  follow  sites that tweet about competitions  they are running on websites,  blogs or Facebook. Many of us add to the list of people we follow  almost every day until we reach 2,000 followers. And then we try to follow  our 2001st  person and Twitter  says "NO!!!!"

So what we usually do  is go away in a panic and frantically cull people from  our list, worrying about hurting or offending people or about missing  out on news, chat and competitions. But it doesn't have to be like that.

You CAN follow more than 2,000 people.  The 2,000 rule only applies if you are following more people than are following you. Once you have more than 2,000 followers, you can  keep on following new people until you  reach the same number as are following you. Once you have more than 2,000 followers you can follow 10% more than are following you. If you have 2010 followers you can follow 2211 people. If you have 20,000 followers you  can follow 22,000 people (and good luck with it!). Getting your friends to suggest you to THEIR friends, for instance on Fridays with the #ff or #FollowFriday hashtags can help you to get your follower  count up, but don't be tempted by the spam messages you get that offer to increase your follower count. You could find your account being compromised.

So maybe you can't get your follower count up to 2,000- or don't want to - in  that case you DO need to cull followers. But make sure you do it sensibly.

Cull the people you don't need any more. You are following around  2,000 people. It would take days to   check each and every account to see whether they are still tweeting, and yet if they have stopped for some reason, maybe having lost interest in Twitter,  started a new improved Twitter account or even gone out of business, you are  wasting good "following space" on them. Luckily there are some excellent applications which will look through your list and tell  you who to unfollow!

Both the apps I recommended when I first wrote this page have now closed, but you  can see some suggestions for alternatives that help you to find obsolete or dodgy accounts to unfollow in my Goodbye Twit Cleaner post.

If somebody's on one of your lists you don't need to follow them to  see their tweets.  Did you know that? I only found it out by accident but now I use it all the time. In fact if you are a comper you will probably find that unless you are somebody I talk to by Direct Message a lot, I am not following you - yet  I still see  your tweets and chat and interact with you all the time.  Sorting my comper friends into lists  (there are so many of you that I have TWO lists just for compers) then unfollowing them has freed up several hundred  spaces for me to follow other people. There doesn't seem to be any limit to the number of lists you can have, and the new Twitter interface makes it easy for you to look at your lists. It's always been easy on Tweet Deck and some of the other applications you can use for viewing Twitter.
Don't forget, though, that most promoters  running competitions  on Twitter insist that winners must be followers. Not only do they want to keep their follower  count up  but they want to be  able to DM the winner to  ask for their details.

A final note - don't unfollow too many people in one  day, or  Twitter may view it as "dodgy behaviour" and suspend your account. You will  all have had strange looking new followers  who unfollow you as soon  as they realise you are not going to follow them back, these are spammers and Twitter is doing what it can to protect us from them. Don't let it think you are one! Plan your unfollowing campaign over the space of  a few days to keep your account safe.

Tuesday 28 September 2010

What's your winning wishlist?

A standing joke in our family is that if somebody asks me to win something I do - it has happened many times over the years, with prizes as diverse as a bundle of Homebase vouchers, tickets to Reading Festival and a holiday to New Zealand.

So I wonder if asking MYSELF to win things would have the same effect? I have made a  "wishlist" of the things I would especially like to win. Here's mine - what's on yours?

  • A car. I've been a comper for over 25 years, and a very successful one too - and yet I've never won a car. I know people who have won several cars, so why has this eluded me?
  • A relaxing, all inclusive Caribbean holiday for 2011
  • A city break to Seville
  • A trip to Morocco, ideally a cookery holiday in Marrakech (I'm thinking the comping fairy might like requests to be very specific!)
  • A laptop. I've been on the point of buying one for several years but I can never quite believe that I'm not about to win one.
  • An iPad. The latest must-have gadget: I have absolutely no need for one at all but the geek in me feels that life is incomplete without one.
  • A spa break, or even a single spa day at somewhere not too far away like Nirvana Spa or Forest Mere.
  • £50 worth of Hobbycraft vouchers to help  me top up my craft stash
  • a diamond and yellow gold tennis bracelet (well,  there's no harm in asking! And I'm addicted to bracelets)
and last but not least
  • an extra day in every week!
Finally to help us all with our winning wishes, here is a lucky black cat, with many thanks to Valerie Dallimore.

Wednesday 22 September 2010

A few "emergency" competitions

Sometimes while out hunting for new competitions for Grape Vine, I spot competitions that close before the next issue of the magazine or update. So here are a few things to keep you busy until Grape Vine comes out next week.

First of all Poundland has an entry form to hand in or post for a chance to win one of 20 washing machines or dishwashers. A till receipt for Dettol Multi Action wipes, surface cleaner or Green Apple trigger spray or Harpic Powerplus is needed. Closing 29 Sep.

And Tesco and Tropicana have "breakfast at a worldwide destination" to be won every day from today (22 Sep) until 02 Nov. Entry is automatic when you swipe your Clubcard with any purchase of Tropicana, or order Tropicana online for home delivery and quote your Clubcard number . The prize destinations are not specified.

Also at Tesco, the Alli display on the pharmacy counter had leaflets offering 5 prizes of £300 worth of Tesco clothes vouchers. Enter at Closing 28 Sep.

Look in independent corner shops and convenience stores for a tiny Irn-Bru leaflet with 3,200 bottle bags up for grabs, but hurry! The bags are being sent out on a first-come, first served basis.

Pizza Express pizzas - the ones sold in supermarkets, not in the restaurants - have nothing on the top of the pack to tell you there is a competition on them, but turn the pack over and you will see that if you visit you can win a trip to Italy. The task is to guess how many tomatoes they harvested last month as part of their annual tomato harvest. The clue on the pack is that it was around 10 million kg in weight. Our home grown tomatoes weigh between 50g and 180g (apart from the miniature and huge varieties) so I'm going to pick a lucky number between 70 million and 90 million. This closes on 30 Sep.

And while you are out looking for these competitions, don't forget to pop into your local Wetherspoons to pick up a copy of their new magazine, as they seldom hang around for long.

I found lots of other competitions too - but you'll have to wait for the next issue of Grape Vine to read about them!

Tuesday 21 September 2010

A Blockbuster of a holiday!

Last Christmas time, Haagen Dasz and Blockbuster Video ran a prize draw on a leaflet in stores, with a trip to Canada on offer. The entry form was very hard to find but a very kind comping friend got hold of a copy for me, and a few days after Christmas I received a letter telling me that I was the winner.

Although I was delighted to win the trip, a two-centre holiday to Vancouver and Whistler, I was rather alarmed to read that it also included a heli-skiiing experience. I telephoned the promoter and told them that my husband and I are middle aged, not very fit and have never been skiiing, but that was no problem to them - they had a huge list of alternative experiences and we chose a trip to the Capilano suspension bridge and Grouse Mountain, a sea-plane sightseeing tour and a glacier walk - it took all three trips to add up to the value of the heli-skiiing.

The prize also included car hire for the return trip between Vancouver and Whistler, but because I have longed for years to take a trip on the Sea-to-Sky railway the promoters kindly sent us the cash value of the car hire, which I used to book our train tickets to Whistler and a coach transfer back to the airport. I am very glad they were so helpful because the rail journey was absolutely wonderful, exceeding all our expectations, with a luxurious ride among breathtaking scenery.

Our Vancouver hotel was the Fairmont Vancouver Hotel, one of the oldest and grandest in the city. And it was VERY grand - had we been paying for our room, it would have cost $2010 a night - without breakfast. The room service menu included a whole range of special meals for cats and dogs, with names like "Turkey and Spinach Paw-Stickers". The management were obviously pet-mad: two of the hotel employees were dogs, with their own uniforms and seats next to the reception desk. It is the building with the green roof in the photo.

It took every ounce of courage we could muster to cross the Capilano suspension bridge - and once you get to the other side, there is no alternative way back so you have to cross it all over again! But it was well worth it for the fantastic views from the bridge.

The bridge is 450 feet long and the canyon it spans is 270 feet deep - so we didn't hang around on the bridge for very long. And what did we do when we got to the far side? A treetop walk, over seven suspension bridges set high among the trees. We must be mad!

The sea plane tour was sensational, providing amazing views of the city and some of the nearby islands.

It was all wonderfully friendly and informal too, with both ground and air crew being very relaxed and helpful. We felt very envious of the people for whom the sea plane is just a part oftheir everyday journey to and from work - people from the islands around the city seem to hop on and off them like buses.

On arriving in Whistler, we were told that the glacier walk had been cancelled. This didn't worry us too much as we only had one complete day there and wanted to explore the town and mountain, as well as taking advantage of the hotel spa - it seemed rather strange to be enjoying a lovely warm outdoor pool while surrounded by snow-capped mountains! Although purpose built as a tourist village, Whistler has a lot of character but of course the two mountains, Whistler and Blackcomb, are the star attractions and we went to the top of Whistler mountain on a cable car then crossed over to Blackcomb on the new gondola ride- the longest unsupported cable car of its kind, running 4 miles between the two peaks, more than 1,200 feet above the valley floor and unsupported for almost 2 miles. Some of the gondolas are glass bottomed - we made a point of avoiding those! At one point on the journey we spotted a real wild black bear in the valley below us!

Our final visit was to the Squawmish-Lil'wat cultural centre, showing the history of the two First Nation Bands whose homes are in and around the Whistler area.

Finally we travelled by coach back down to Vancouver airport for the flight home. The trip should have been almost as spectacular as the rail journey had been, but unfortunately it was a wet, hazy day so we didn't see much - we'll have to go back again for that experience!

Thursday 9 September 2010

Making a Splash!

As I am just about to head off to Canada on a very exciting sounding holiday which I won from an entry form a very kind friend picked up for me in a branch of Blockbuster video, this will be my last post for a few days, so if you wish to comment with your own "memorable experiences" they may not appear until I get back. Behave yourselves and win lots while I am away!

Have you ever had a prize that has become memorable for the wrong reason? One past win of mine was a perfect example of this.

The prize was a day of pampering and treatments at a small town-centre health club. I felt a bit uncomfortable when I realised that I was the only customer, but I soon got used to the luxury of having a team of personal staff and had a wonderfully relaxing day. Until it came to the final treatment…….

The idea was to lie in a bath of water mixed with a bucketful of seaweed puree, and in a darkened room be pummelled by intense underwater jets that moved gradually up and down the body. The beautician said that this would make more blood flow towards my heart (from where exactly???) and collect particles of undigested food on the way, which it would excrete through my lymph glands. I kept as straight a face as I could, while surreptitiously checking my armpits for signs of my lunch emerging.

Despite that, the treatment was very relaxing and I was almost asleep when the new trainee beautician, on her first day at work, came to tell me that my time was up.

“Do I need to switch this machine off?” I asked.

“No,” she replied, “the beautician will be along soon to do that,” and departed to let me climb out of the still-bubbling bath and dress in privacy.

However the underwater jets were stronger than I thought – just as I finished dressing, the ones which should have been pummelling my back started up, squirting half a dozen powerful jets of seaweed slurry straight into the air! I was soaked, and the walls and ceiling and even the expensive looking electrical control unit were covered in a thick brown sludge – oozing down the walls and dripping off the pictures and mirrors!

Thank goodness it was my last treatment, I couldn’t get away fast enough! And something tells me that the trainee beautician was probably not far behind me!

Tuesday 7 September 2010

Win whisky every week for a year!

Jura whisky is giving away a bottle of whisky a week for a year.

To enter, visit and sign up as a Diurach, after which you will see the link to the Pub Quiz on the left of the page. There is one question to answer each week, and the quiz will cover all sorts of weird and wonderful facts and trivia from Jura, ranging from the Island’s diverse wildlife and natural history to the island’s famous myths and superstitions.

Make sure you enter every week, because at the end of the promotion the person with the highest overall score will win a limited edition bottle of Isle of Jura 1974, worth around £500, of which there only 685 in the world.

Each week's competition runs from noon on Monday to 5pm Friday, with the first quiz having started on Monday 06 Sep and the final closing date is 02 Sep 2011

As well as this competition, once you become a Diurach you will have the chance to enter further competitions over the coming year including stays for friends and family at Jura’s exclusive Lodge (worth around £300 per room per night) or rare and valuable limited edition whiskies.

Monday 6 September 2010

Quick - new entry form in Toys R Us

There is a new entry form competition in Toys R Us but you'll need to be quick as it closes on September 11th.

It is advertising the film "Marmaduke" and the prize is an annual Cineworld pass,in theform ofaset of 4 individual passes.

The answer to the question is B) California

Saturday 4 September 2010

Grape Vine - September issue

The September issue of Grape Vine was posted yesterday, so most subscribers should have received their copies this morning. Make sure you read it carefully, as so many new comps appeared at the last minute that I had to cram them into nooks and crannies all over the place. And then, like an overstuffed suitcase, I had to sit on the lid to force it to close! The October issue is already shaping up well; new competitions are popping up all over the place.

If you are not a subscriber, you are missing out on an excellent comping resource, covering all styles of comping, from tiebreakers to instant wins and postal comps to texting, with extra services including a mid-month update and an entry form exchange. All this costs just £13.50 for 3 months, £25 for 6 months and £45 for a year. You could spend a lot more than that on buying promotional packs and getting home to find out that you could have entered for free - if only you'd had my advice on which competitions you need to buy a product for and which you don't. Every month I drive hundreds of miles and search dozens of stores, as well as searching out obscure answersand tricky terms andconditions, just to make comping as easy as possible for Grape Vine readers. My methods WORK, too - in the last 48 hours I have won a Flip camcorder and a £100 H&M gift card.

Why not give it a try? And if you have never seen a copy, you can request a sample of the current issue, absolutely FREE!!!! Just email your name and full postal address to me, or enter your details in the online contact form on the GrapeVine website. Mention in your message that you want a sample copy, otherwise I'll get confused! And remember that free samples are strictly limited to one per household.

Both subscribers and non-subscribers, please note that I will be away from 10-20 September, on the prize trip to Canada that I won from Blockbuster's Haagen Dazs competition last winter. It promises to be a very memorable trip, staying in Vancouver and Whistler, with several exciting looking excursions included. I'msure you'll be able to read about it here soon.