The rise of the professional competition winner
With the internet now awash with serial ‘compers’, can businesses still benefit from running competitions? EDGAR investigates…Peter Iantorno April 22, 2015
Type the word 'compers' into Google, and apart from getting a message asking if we mean "computers", the vast majority of the 300,000 or so results are pertaining to people who go to great lengths to enter and win as many competitions as is humanly possible.
The majority of people, when they see a competition, assume that they have absolutely no chance of winning it. "There are so many entrants the chances are next to zero", "I've not got time to mess around entering competitions" and "the whole thing is rigged anyway" are three common schools of thought among the non-competition-entering masses.
However, there is a certain group that has a very different and far less cynical view on competitions. Instead of the feelings of apathy, indifference and skepticism that deter so many people from entering, to a comper, a competition means only one thing: an opportunity. For some people it's an opportunity that is worth an awful lot.
Take British woman Katy Spence, below, for example, who last year appeared in an article on the Daily Mail boasting that she'd won £30,000 (AED165,000) worth of prizes in two years - including free iPads, perfumes, a digital camera, five-star holidays to Greece, America and Spain and £11,500 in cash - simply from entering competitions. Comping is far from a new phenomena. In fact, this kind of thing has been going on for years - the only difference being that in the past competition enthusiasts would do things like fill in crosswords, enter phone-in competitions and return answers to TV competitions by post rather than today's tech-savvy compers who trawl through Facebook and Twitter in search of the next big win.
Nowadays there are even various internet forums, Twitter accounts and Facebook pages devoted to the comping community, which give out tips for the best prizes and look for loopholes that can increase the chances of its members winning competitions. While this is great news for those looking to make money out of nothing, for the businesses running these competitions, professional compers can be a massive pain - and in some cases can prove completely devastating to the competition's success. From the business's point of view, the whole point of running a competition is to increase engagement with its fans and potential customers as well as reward its current customers' loyalty with a nice prize. Now, if a competition is hijacked by a swarm of professional compers, who have never had an interest in the brand before and are never likely to again, that no only dilutes the company's reach to it's real customers, but also drastically reduces the chance that a genuine fan who has played by the rules will win.
To make matters even worse, Facebook, the world's largest social media platform and the one that the majority of competitions take place on, recently made it even harder to get to real fans, with new algorithms that mean very few of a page's followers will ever see its posts unless they actively engage with the page on a regular basis - and even then it's far from guaranteed.
The one positive side to having a competition picked up by serial compers is that it will, of course, raise the hits on a website, which everyone likes to see. But who in good faith could say those those hits are even remotely relevant, when the vast majority of people coming to site are there for one reason and one reason only, and they will only return for the next big giveaway. How to fight it
Clearly, then, professional compers are a big problem for honest businesses trying to expand their reach and reward their real customers with a competition, but fortunately there are a few ways that these pesky serial competition enterers can be deterred.
The first and perhaps the most effective method is to only tell specific people about the competition - usually in the form of a newsletter sent out to a specially selected demographic. Of course this won't extend the reach at all, but what it will do is reward the current loyal readership and strengthen the bond with them.
Secondly, restrictions on the age and country of participants can be applied in the small print of competitions, so even if a contest does get hijacked by a comping community and thousands of irrelevant entries are received, very few of those would actually be valid, and one of the real entrants is more likely to win. A slightly more sophisticated approach is to aim the content and the mechanic of the competition to favour people who engage with the site's content on a regular basis. Although it's important to have a low barrier to entry in order to get a decent number of people taking part, posing a bit more of a challenge will put off many of those in it just for the prizes yet not be too difficult for genuine fans.
Another idea along the same lines is to pick prizes that are awesome for genuine fans but maybe not quite so appealing for professional compers. Think more exclusive meet-and-greet experiences or expert tuition rather than cold, hard cash.
While all these techniques can certainly help in reducing the amount of unwanted competition entries from those just in it to make a quick buck, the reality of the matter is that wherever things are being given away for free, people will try to get them by whatever means necessary.
If competitions are done well and targeted at the right people they can still work, but with a thriving community of compeition-hungry entrants ready to descend like a swarm of locusts at the first sign of a freebie, the message, now more than ever before, is to beware of the compers.