Friday, 20 October 2017

Deadwood

Recently, I’ve not been enjoying the comps. Sure, I’ll always love winning, but the process of entering has been leaving me cold. I’m bored by forms, muddling my closing dates and drawing a blank with ideas for effort comps: in short, the mojo has taken a sabbatical.

And yet I can't get comping out of my head!

Some of that, of course, is compulsion (another good reason to ease back), but another part is the desire to get my head in the right place for the season of comping bedlam commonly known as December.

As I’ve said before, the advents can take a lot out of you, so it’s important to prepare as best you can - and to look after yourself as you go.

My last week has therefore focused on deadwooding my social media feeds to ensure I receive a better stream of interesting content once the season - and my mood - pick up.
Unlike icon

Deadwooding Twitter is probably the easiest. With an app like ManageFlitter it’s a doodle to review your follows and remove any that are no longer of interest (for more details, check out Di Coke’s post). That said, unless you’re approaching your 5,000 follow limit, there’s no urgency here, as the average Twitter feed is such a barrage of jibber jabber that the likelihood of a decent, low-odds comp falling in your lap are marginal. Indeed, most seasoned compers will tell you that the best way to enter Twitter giveaways is to take the bull by the horns and go find them yourself. In this regard, Nikki Hunter-Pike’s Tweetdeck tips are essential reading.

Onto Facebook then. Personally, I have little love for Facebook. I’ve no desire to spam my entire family with comps, but since Mark Zuckerberg now shares my every last like, reaction or comment with my entire social circle, I seem to have no choice in the matter. Furthermore, while Facebook is happy to unlike pages off its own bat, it appears less keen for users to do so under their own steam. Sure, you can unfollow pages as and when they come into your newsfeed, or go to your likes page and unlike to your heart’s content, but either way, the process is plodding and painful. To this end, I prefer UnlikeIt - a really simple app for removing like clutter. Yes, it can be a little slow, but given that Facebook refuses to support it, we’re somewhat over a barrel.

Finally, Instagram. Until the middle of 2016, follows were listed in chronological order, making it relatively easy to thin out old, redundant profiles. All that changed when Instagram introduced the present pointlessly opaque system. Now, the profiles at the very top of the list are the ones with which you have most interaction. The rest? Well, they’re just tossed in with no regard for order whatsoever. Thankfully, however, this update islimited to the app only. The desktop version of the site still shows follows in chronological order. In other words, if you’re logged in on your desktop, just pull up the list of who you are following, scroll to the bottom, and deadwood your way up.

BUT HOLD YOUR HORSES!

Before rushing off on a mad orgy of unliking, know this: massive unfollow binges put your account at risk of temporary suspension. This is because such behaviour is often associated with automated tools that can contravene the various social media platforms’ terms of use.

Furthermore, unliking promoters simply because their giveaway has closed and you didn’t win is a bit, well, mercenary. Give these guys a chance! That said, if it’s six months down the line and not one of their photos, memes or messages has had the remotest impact on you, then they're wasting their time marketing to you, and it's probably best for both parties for you to be honest about that.

Good luck getting those newsfeeds back in hand!

If you'd recommend any apps for managing your social media profiles, let me know in the comments below!

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Comping on #WorldMentalHealthDay

I’m not a hardcore comper: I can’t do forms. Any sort of forms really, although application forms are the worst. Possibly it’s because I don’t see things so black and white; possibly my thinking is too lateral for silos; possibly I’m just an overthinker. Case in point.

The short of it is that I suck at forms - including web entry forms. At best they bore me; at worst they depress me. Even with Roboform, Fillr or any magic wand of wondrousness, entering and re-entering my address into a hundred-odd forms in a single sitting is like putting my mojo through the mangle.  It takes a special kind of focus that I simply lack.

And so I quit them. Why, after all, pursue something that makes you unhappy? Surely, that’s the very definition of madness?

And yet … Here I am. Staring down the 50th web form of the night. Telling myself that I WILL win that holiday.

I’ve gone months without a web-form bender and suddenly the wagon is rumbling off without me. How did it get to this?!

I’ve written elsewhere about my need for validation. But this is different. This is big-game hunting. Holidays - strictly holidays. This isn’t about savouring the fleeting high notes of a protein bar or a bit of milk, it’s about needing a break - needing light at the end of my tunnel.

That’s why these binges always focus on weekend breaks and holidays. As my dad used to say, sometimes it’s better to travel than to arrive.

That maybe so, but this kind of travelling always seems to be less about the dreaming and more about the bulk deletion of marketing emails.

There’s also the uncomfortable truth that despite completing hundreds of these web forms, I’ve won precisely nothing. Why? Because thousands of other people have entered them too! The odds of winning such comps are microscopically small, and if - like me - you have a limited tolerance for web forms, it’s worth remembering this.

Comping should be fun. If you’re not enjoying it, take a break. If you can’t handle the process, try something different. And if it feels like an obligation, stop.


Friday, 6 October 2017

Luck Is Where You Find It

Why do you comp? That’s the question I like to ask my fellow compers. Me? I enjoy the validation.

My eldest child has reached that phase of confrontational belligerence that I was led to believe started at puberty (he’s seven), while my youngest continues to scream in my face when I put him on the toilet; so much for the life-affirming nature of parenting. As for the vocational side of things, I’m self-employed, so the best praise I can hope for is that the decision to offshore my work is postponed for another few months. So, if I’ve found a hobby where folks I’ve never met tell me I’m a winner or congratulate me on my creative endeavours, then yup, you bet I appreciate the love.

In truth, it’s the creative comps that keep me in the game, as the sport itself is half the fun. The recent #NationalPoetryDay (much like #WorldPoetryDay and #NationalLimerickDay) is a case in point. Such hashtag days are a gift to promoters looking for something a little different from another mindless follow-RT comp.

As challenges go, it’s easy enough to quote a line of poetry or write a little (usually tweetable) poem - yet, bizarrely, the comping community at large seems to swerve such competitions, meaning that there’s the additional bonus of really low odds.

With this in mind, I was feeling pretty hopeful on last week’s #NationalPoetryDay, but sadly it passed without a prize. But that’s not to say I didn’t get lucky…

Bloomsbury Publishing was one of the promoters running a poetry competition, and while I might not have been a winner per se, my entry got a retweet from none other than one-time Children’s Laureate, Michael Rosen. Now that’s what I call validation!

Have any of your near misses been as good as a win? Let me know in the comments below!

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

On Tech

I’m a luddite. Not on purpose, you understand - I just have certain issues. Issues that prevent me finding the brain space to stay abreast of modern technology. By “certain issues”, I of course mean “my issue”; and by “my issue”, I’m generally referring to my first-born, who is so addicted to the sound of his own voice that moments of silence actually cause him pain. Six years have passed since my neural network last sparked and it’s only thanks to muscle memory that I can still operate a light switch.

For this reason, I tend not to enter that many tech giveaways. Last December, however, I saw that Aviva was giving away a whole heap Amazon Echo Dots, and the lure of such odds got the better of me.

As you'll have guessed, I was one of the winners. The doohickey arrived at the end of the Christmas holidays. It then sat on the shelf for the next eight months, waiting for me to have a couple of hours free from work, chores or children to explore what it could do (and how).
The Amazon Doohickey
My initial hopes were somewhat kyboshed, as I was rather hoping to use it as a wireless speaker - something that has been on my wishlist for some time now. A cursory inspection, however, suggested that I’d got the wrong end of the stick regarding what the device could do; which is to say, I hadn’t got much further than interrogating Alexa about forthcoming football fixtures and her ability to open the pod bay doors when my brood arrived home from their jolly.

On learning that that the device was fully programmed to entertain his poppycock, my first-born whooped like an immature ambulance. In truth, I was pretty chuffed too, and flushed with self-satisfaction, popped into the kitchen to brief my wife about our new electric babysitter.

The smug smile lasted a whole three minutes, after which first-born trotted in to provide an update. He’d started a subscription to Amazon Music Unlimited.

It turns out that all Echo devices are, by default, allowed to bill your credit card based on voice authorisation alone. This much I discovered not because Amazon sent immediate confirmation of my new subscription (this didn’t arrive for another hour), but because I found the transcript of the conversation between my son and Alexa. When asked if he wanted to pay a monthly subscription fee of £3.99, his response was “sure”, and his word was bond.

The only trouble was, he never said that. Rather, when asked if he wanted to subscribe, he walked out of the room. I know this, because I (eventually) found the audio files. The system had heard some background noise and frankly this was good enough to close the contract. So, now I not only have two children who hear only what they want to hear, but I also have a passive-aggressive POS terminal furnished with selective hearing and my credit card details.



Have you ever had a prize that didn’t work out quite the way you planned? Let me know in the comments below!

Sunday, 1 October 2017

(Not) Unboxing September

Ooops. I forgot to unbox September. There are reasons for that (isn’t there always?) but mostly it’s because I got out of the habit of winning! Then, when I did get my first prize of the month, it didn’t come to my front door; rather, I had to collect it from a local business. As a result, it got carried upstairs in my backpack, quite bypassing the room in which I normally record my goodies. As for my second prize, well that was also a little abnormal - but more about that in due course. My other prize? Well, that hasn't arrived yet!

In sum then … apologies all round! Unless there are any objections, I’ll roll the September unboxing into the next video. Normal service will resume (at some point!)

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Dry Season

The last few weeks have been dry, which is to say I’ve had, six, maybe seven weeks without a wining notification of some kind. Some folks might call that bad luck. I say pish: there’s a world of difference between bad luck and the temporary absence of good luck.
By Luca Galuzzi (Lucag) - Photo taken by (Luca Galuzzi) * http://www.galuzzi.it, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2121532
Anyone who thinks it’s bad luck not to keep winning may as well jack it in right now because, as any comper will tell you, you’re always going to lose more than you win. Dry patches may not be fun, but they’re built into the game - as statistically inevitable as night following day.

Grumbling fixes nothing. Worse still, it’s a heinous waste of time and energy that could be better spent in so many ways!

Relying on the odds alone isn’t enough; success also requires a positive mental attitude. In other words, when you find yourself in the midst of a dry spell, see it as an opportunity to improve rather than waste it dwelling on the perceived failure.

For instance, if you’re not updating your spreadsheet or sending thank-you messages to promoters, you’ll have more time for other comping-related activities. For starters, you should be chatting with your comping buddies (if you’re shy, then just think of it as networking!). While you’re at it, invest in all those other comping groups you’re a member of: share comps, notify winners, discuss best practice - whatever's appropriate. This karma pays back!

More practically, learn a new skill to improve the technical side of your comping. If there’s a social media platform you don’t use (such as Snapchat, Instagram or even Twitter), now's the time to learn the ropes (see, for example, the guides by Lorna Beattie [Snapchat] and Di Coke [Instagram]). Alternatively, build on your existing knowledge to raise your game to the next level; for example, Nikki Hunter-Pike has a brilliant guide to Twitter lists.

Remember also that being lucky isn’t confined to your track record with giveaways - celebrate any and all luck as it finds you, and if that includes being reunited with your lost luggage, then so be it!

Finally, while there’s naught to gain from mourning what might have been; there is everything to gain from reflecting and persevering. For example, if you haven't won a creative competition, ask yourself: What went well? What could have gone better? Is there anything you can learn from the winner? In short: keep calm & carry on!

How well does this advice work? Who can say? But since starting this post yesterday, I've had two winning e-mails! :D

How do you cope with the dry season? If you have any advice, let me know in the comments below!

Friday, 22 September 2017

Another voice: Winning stories from Rebecca Beesley

A few weeks ago, I interviewed the wonderful Rebecca Beesley, who kindly promised to share some winning stories with you guys … Well, today’s your lucky day! I am absolutely delighted to hand Rebecca the metaphorical mic so she can tell you all about some of the fantastic experiences her family have enjoyed since Rebecca and her husband took up comping!

People often ask me “what is the best prize you’ve ever won” and that’s a tough one to answer as it’s not always the highest-value prizes that come to mind.

In a way, the best prizes are the ones that meet a need you have at the time. For example, when we had some building work done on our house, we ended up running out of budget to renew the front door, which was in desperate need of replacing. So when I won a new front door, I was thrilled because it was exactly what we needed at the time!

Some of our holiday wins have also been really special – again, not so much because of their monetary value, but because of the special memories they have given us - the precious family time and unforgettable experiences.

For example, we had the most amazing time when my husband won an epic road trip with laterooms.com.

The road trip involved travelling as far as St Ives in Cornwall, into Wales, and up to Liverpool and Leeds, staying in places that we would never have thought of going to (especially with three kids in tow!), had it not been for LateRooms making all the arrangements. In total, we stayed in nine different places over the course of 13 nights.
Most special of all was the trip to Fowey in Cornwall, where we also took in a display by the Red Arrows. This was so magical for me because my late mum was a massive Red Arrows fan and here was my little daughter having the most amazing time with me watching the Red Arrows in the best possible viewing spot you could imagine.

Last year, my husband also won another unforgettable experience: a few days away in Dubai!

The whole thing was just amazing, but for me, the first evening was the most special. Having had no sleep since travelling from the UK the night before, and then taken in the Dubai Mall, Sega Republic, and Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, we were ridiculously tired.
But despite the tiredness, it was just SO magical - I felt like I was in a dream, floating through the evening. Sitting in the Thiptara restaurant at the palace in downtown Dubai and watching the famous fountains at the base of the Burj Khalifa is one of those moments I will never forget.
The restaurant made us feel so welcome and treated Miss T like a princess. D even fell asleep whilst eating his ice cream and anyone who knows how much he loves his food knows just how tired he must have been! And that was just the first day!

As a parent of small children, I can imagine just how exhausting these holidays would have been - but how exhilarating too! Thank you so much for sharing these inspirational stories! 

If you have any winning stories you'd like to share, just let me know in the comments below!