How to Win a Social Media Contest

When the Best Job in the World was launched to popular acclaim in 2009, “social media” wasn’t a buzzword. The people who cracked the top 16 in the contest to spend a year as an “island caretaker” on the Great Barrier Reef seem to not have really known what the heck they were doing, but, by jove, they were going to try.

One guy really did it well. His video was funny and engaging – it didn’t feel artificially short, like a one-page resume – but most importantly, he presented himself as being the most qualified person in the whole world. In the video, he showed himself smiling and laughing and driving his way around Africa. He showed cute animals. His features were expressive and inoffensive. This, his audience would realize, is the man I want to tell me about the Great Barrier Reef.

Footnote: He also wasn’t a douche, like the guy in my second favourite video. Turns out that a smiling and upbeat presentation always beats out cocksureness when you only have a minute to talk to people. Take that as making a point about what a resume must necessarily accomplish in order for you to simply not be discarded from the pile.

The person who wants to win an online social media contest needs a lot more than that, though. If the contest is meant to hire a person who will use social media, then it’s a sneaky way of getting him or her to show how many butts they can kick with social media. What a great application of game theory, hey? I know it forced me to be more creative and polished than I expected.

Anyway, that’s kind of the problem: you’re being pushed, by virtue of the rules of the competition, to put as much work as possible for no pay and for possibly no reward at all. The risks are as high as the demands are heavy. So what should you do?

1) Know thine audience.
What exactly are they hiring for, after all? Is it for a blog about travel? About social media marketing? Do they have any idea? Sometimes they don’t, and you’ll have to show them that, within the broad confines of what they’re asking for, you know exactly what people will want to see.

2) Be kind. Be funny. Be informative.
In other words: follow basic social media etiquette (this translates to “don’t be a dick”) and make content with a couple reasons to see it.

3) Take cues from the people before you, but make it your own.
To become the Saskatchewanderer, I blatantly copied Ben’s winning Best Job in the World video. I also tried to infuse it with my own humour and my own experiences, and the result was something that I was seriously proud of. If only every video I made was that engaging – but hell, I’m a writer at heart.

4) Polish the hell out of it then set it free.
There’s gonna be what, three rounds? Two rounds? Channel your energy into planning and editing, rather than prolifically tweeting or spamming your friends’ Facebook walls. Time is best spent elsewhere – like on my honours paper, which I have to redo as a result of spending too much time with the Saskatchewanderer competition.

5) Focus on showing your qualifications.
Don’t mess around with gimmicks. I think there were over two million applications to the Saskatchewanderer job that were based on the Old Spice ads. Just get to your point, but be funny about it. Here’s a friendly reminder: your point is that the job should be yours.

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