Friday, 27 January 2017

The last of the admin?

It is, by definition, a work in progress, but I've set up a Pinterest account to link up with this blog - so if you're that way inclined, then do please follow @garywasabi.

So far, I've set up three folders: two for picture competitions (one of winning pictures and one of, erm, not winning pictures) and one for my prizes.

I'm not sure that my prize history will be overly inspirational - though I'll happily stand corrected - but I, for one, am a big fan of seeing what works and what doesn't when it comes to creative comps. To this end, I hope this will ultimately prove useful to the comping community.

Some of the pictures I know I've taken will take a bit of scratching around to find, but once this is complete, I'll finally have my comping history compiled and ready for public scrutiny.

I hope it cuts the mustard!

Do you have any further suggestions for comping-related Pinterest boards? If so, please let me know in the comments!

Monday, 23 January 2017

The week I missed a week

Last week was extraordinary. My son lost his first tooth and he came home from school delighted that he was going to get a fiver. He was convinced about this fiver. No matter what we said to suggest that five pounds might not be on the cards, he wouldn’t have it. So I wrote him a letter from the Tooth Fairy, snapped it quickly, and popped it on Facebook to give my family a laugh.

A week later, my post had had 4000 shares. Heart FM had also got on it and posted the letter on their various local Facebook pages, so it had a few thousand more shares too. As Andy Warhol would no doubt have said, everyone goes viral once.

Anyway, my comping went out the window as I attempted to replicate the virality on Twitter by making an account for the Tooth Fairy. Truthfully, the endeavour met with limited success; however, it did align with one of my resolutions for this year: familiarising myself with Tweetdeck. I make no claim to have got it licked, but I’m certainly going to be better prepared for the next Twitter party.

The main thing I’ve learned from this experience is that when the time arrives for you to go viral, broadcasters and media companies will be in touch. They will ask to share your content - and promise to credit you. You will be flattered. Your content will spread farther and wider. However, you won’t see how far and how wide it has gone, because all those likes and shares will accrue to the media company, extending their “reach” - in other words, their currency with their advertisers. If reach is the sort of thing you need, then think carefully about your wording when you grant permission.

I had no way of monetising my Facebook post, so the matter was academic. My only condition was that Heart also tweeted a message about oral hygiene - which they did!

How does this relate to comping? Simple: I just wish I’d used the letter as a competition entry before posting it online - now that everyone’s seen it, I can’t imagine it has any comping currency at all!

EDIT: A company has just offered my lads a generous bunch of kit to encourage them to maintain good toothbrushing habits, so I'm counting that as a win! I'll tell you more about that soon...

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Win flights to Malta!

Just a quick post today, to let you know that Air Malta are giving away two business class return tickets to/from Malta in their "Blog.Win. Fly." competition

All you need to do is publish a story about Malta on your personal blog - it might be an insider tip, an experience, a to-do list, even a recipe.

To get you in the mood, I’ve put together a retro slideshow with some of the photos from my childhood holidays in Malta.


Monday, 16 January 2017

Season’s tweakings

January is rubbish. It’s the month that none of the others want to sit next to. December gets all the glitz and parties, and February is at least over quicker, so the paycheque goes further; but January? January gets diets, dubious resolutions, and a whole bunch of abstinence.

I don’t really buy into abstinence, but when it comes to comping in January, I don’t really get much say in the matter. That’s not to say there’s nothing out there, just that (with a handful of notable exceptions) most of it doesn’t exactly blow my skirt up.

So, what’s a comper to do?

Well, I don’t know about you, but I’ve been focusing on my admin. Sounds pretty dry, right? Maybe so, but if this foundational work means 2017 goes off with an even bigger bang, then it will all be worth it.

Let’s have a look at my progress so far:
  • New spreadsheet: Easiest job of them all! These are the columns I’ve been using, but I’m open to suggestions if you think I’ve missed any.
  • New diary: Last year, I used a notebook to record ideas and deadlines. This worked tolerably well till the middle of the year when extraordinary events blew all my routines out the window. This year, I’m insulating against disorder with a proper, fit-for-purpose diary that shows a whole week across a double-page spread. I can now find things throughout the year much more easily. All that remains now is to train myself to consult it every day…
  • Calendar dates and hashtag days: I suppose I could write these all in the diary, but it seems like a lot of hard work. I’ll probably just print out Di Coke’s list and stick it in the front. With Blu-Tack, so I don’t have to print it next year!
  • Managing likes/follows and unsubscribing from newsletters: I’ve long been a fan of Crowdfire, so getting my Twitter house in order hasn’t been too onerous. As for Facebook, I recommend Unlikeit. It’s not recognised by Facebook, so you have to ask the developer if you can register to be a tester on the beta page, but it does exactly what you need it to. And last but not least, the unwanted e-mail. I’m normally fairly hot on avoiding subscribing to newsletters and marketing mails, but sometimes it’s like plugging a leaky dam with bubble gum - especially in December. I’d heard good things about and tried it for the first time last week. I can’t believe how straightforward it is - kudos to the developers!
  • Wishlist: Check!
  • Bookmarks: I’ve tidied my bookmarks into folders for daily draws, and searches for local comps and wishlist items. I know some folks have a folder for instant wins too, but I tend to avoid these as I can’t justify the time.
  • Compiling stock photos: I’ve set up a folder on Dropbox with sub-folders for seasonal pics, such as Christmas and autumn, but there’s always room for improvement.  It also wouldn’t hurt to spend an hour or two trawling through every last picture I’ve got stored on this machine.
  • Learning a new app: The first target for this year is master Tweetdeck - I've made a start, but if anyone has any tips, I'm all ears!

So, that’s the winter of my discontent made glorious summer through nerdy admin work. Still, I have a sinking suspicion that I’ve forgotten something. As such, I’d be really grateful if you could comment below with any suggestions so I can revisit this post next January and use it as a checklist for future winters!

How do you cope with the January lull? What does your spreadsheet look like? Have you any suggestions for things to bookmark or the kinds of stock photos to have on hand?

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

New Year New Wishlist

My last wishlist was a bit scrappy. It wasn’t scribbled on the back of a fag packet, but it might as well have been. As such, I’ve made a bit more effort this year, and created a periodic table of desires. The colour coding isn’t strictly necessary, but it does help group the ideas together.
First then, are the bare necessities - things that are so fundamental to life as we know it that I generally resent paying for them, such as tampons, razors and, er, whisky. Actually, I don't resent paying for granola - I just added it for aesthetic reasons.

Second are those things that I’m too tight to buy anew because we don’t technically need them. For example, we do have a flask, but it’s a little on the wee side; my wife does have sunnies, but they’re about ten years old; and our eldest lad does have a scooter, but it's pretty meh and I’m loath to invest in a decent one given how little interest he takes in it or for that matter anything else with wheels.

Next are two discrete items: a cleaner and a new sofa bed. Given the devastation my children wreak, hiring a cleaner would be a horrific waste of money; nonetheless, I would be genuinely interested to see if a professional could make the bombsite in which I live into a more homely bombsite. I’d also love a sofa that matched the décor and didn't give guests neck ache. However, until the children stop drooling (and worse) on the existing furniture, it just wouldn’t be money well spent.

Now comes the tech section. File under “standard” - everyone wants new phones, flashier tellies and anything Apple. Likewise, cash and cash equivalents. I added vouchers for sneakers in here as I’m currently lusting after some fresh Air Max that I have not the slightest need to own.

And so on to experiences. First, for me: booze and football. Much as I enjoy watching Norwich City play, I can’t remotely afford the tickets. I’ve previously won tickets from the shirt sponsor, however, and do keep an eye out in case any of the club’s other sponsors are, as they say, leveraging their partnership. As for the sauce, wine tasting, and gin or cocktail making all sound fun, although I’d have to shift this sodding cold that’s been throttling my taste buds for the last month.

Next, experiences for my kids: Legoland and KidZania. Everyone loves Legoland - that’s a given. As for KidZania, my eldest enjoys pretend play to an extent that I cannot begin to compute. Last week, he insisted on being taken outside (in the rain) so he could patrol the street pretending to be an old man with a walking stick. I can’t stand it. My wife can’t either. At KidZania, however, the pretending is guided, detailed, and generally awesome (although I imagine the person getting the kids to be estate agents has a quieter day than the pilots, movie directors and fire fighters; then again, it takes all sorts - see above). In sum, my boy would love it.

Finally, there’s R&R. First, a spa break. I've come to love these, not least because they represent the only way I can have a conversation with my wife without the constant interruption of children and chores. Last year, I even managed to finish the book I started two years prior.

Winning a holiday would be even better. Our eldest worked so hard to spoil our last holiday that we’ve been reluctant to splash out on another one. For the last two years we’ve had the house renovated instead of going on holiday, so he’s trashed that instead.

The other big-ticket item I’d like arguably falls under the same banner, as I’d like flights to the States in order to visit family out there. Sure, a US holiday would be even better, but flights to, say, Chicago, would be very welcome indeed.

So, that’s my wishlist sorted for the coming year. Remind me to check back in December to see how I’ve done!

What do you have on your wishlist for 2017? Please share in the comments below!

Thursday, 5 January 2017

2016: The Final Analysis

I’m no statistician, but I do love needless extrapolations, so to wave one last final farewell to 2016, here’s the year in numbers.

2650: Total prize value (£). That’s a complete stab in the dark, of course. For example, I won a BFG DVD & merchandise set plus boxed set of Roald Dahl books that the promoter valued at nearly £300. It’s an awesome prize, but I'd respectfully suggest that someone has their numbers in a knot if they think it's worth more than a ton. I’ve also won a couple of tickets for a circus performance at next year’s Norfolk & Norwich Festival, but as these aren’t yet available for purchase, I can only guess the retail price.

71: Total prizes. My sister lives in the USA, so if I stumble across any low-entry US giveaways, I invariably always enter them, even though the prizes are unlikely to make it to this side of the Atlantic. Case in point, in 2015, I netted some fish fingers and $100 of fancy chocs which my sister consumed on my behalf. In 2016, my US prizes comprised a hoodie, a t-shirt and a Rogue One popcorn bucket (complete with tickets to watch the movie). Again, I’m not sure if I’ll be seeing these, so I’m excluding them from the rest of my prize analysis.

270: Value of largest prize (£). This was a £200 Virgin Experiences voucher and £70 camera. The following graph shows the distribution of prize value, providing a textbook example of the financial significance of the so-called long-tail. In case you can’t see, the lowest value prize was zero.
37: Minimal effort wins based on nothing but luck (including draws, Rafflecopters, Follow/RTs, and in one case, a dog eating a biscuit from a Post-It note with my name on it). This figure could actually be larger - I had a further seven wins from “comment below” comps where it was unclear whether the comment was judged. The pie chart below illustrates how often my efforts were rewarded. NB: “Tie-break” is used as a blanket term for any kind of judged short-form content, such as story, poem or even (wait for it…) tie-breaker.

35: Percentage of wins from Instagram. As the pie chart shows, Instagram was my most successful source of wins both modest (seeds!) and marvellous (tickets to see Beyoncé!). NB: The “web” heading comprises not only web form entries, but also Rafflecopter/Gleam and any comps requiring entrants to e-mail their entries. I make no apologies for the lack of academic rigour.

9: T-shirts won. More than anything else, I won t-shirts. Most of these were merchandise-related (Jack Daniel’s, the X-Men etc) so I wasn’t given a choice about size, which explains why at least four were too big for me (two are yet to arrive). Still, they’ve made other people happy, which is always a good thing. And, to be fair, they all wear black better than me anyway...

2: RT wins. To be honest, I enter so few RT comps that there was never going to be many wins here. Both of these wins came from low-entry comps I found on obscure hashtag days. Trust me: in 2017, #EdBallsDay is going to be HUGE.

1: Comping wife. Remember the Chicago Town dance competition? I didn’t stand a chance, so I recruited my wife. Her second attempt scooped a runner-up prize of a £50 iTunes voucher and a load of pizza vouchers. She stopped comping immediately afterwards, thus retiring with a win rate that I will never top. Even better, she said I could spend the voucher on her behalf.

I hope you also got a chance to look at your prize spreadsheet in more detail over the Christmas holidays - do let me know if you spotted any unanticipated patterns! 

Sunday, 1 January 2017

New Year’s Resolutions: 2017

The advent hullaballoo has died down and the leftovers have nearly all been eaten, so that must mean it’s time to start thinking about the year ahead. Experience suggests that an excess of resolutions tends to end in an excess of failures, so I’m limiting myself to three key areas for development:

  1. Better organisation. Last year started well. I got myself a special notebook for comping so I could keep a to-do list of creative comps while staying on top of deadlines. Around the middle of the year, factors beyond my control blew all but my most basic routines into smithereens and I totally failed to get the plates spinning again. Simply put, I’m anticipating that 2017 will be better than 2016, so I have no excuse not to get my comping diary routine back on track.
  2. Less comping for protein. I love Instagram. What it lacks in huge competitions, it makes up for with relatively low-traffic giveaways. These smaller odds are great, but I do have a tendency to get carried away, and before I know it, I’m following dozens of protein-bar pushers. This wouldn’t be so bad if I was looking to build up a six-pack, but given how wholeheartedly I fail to exercise, the gains from these snacks really won't be the ones they’re designed to realise. To top it off, loads of these companies seem to be pushing vegan or paleo diets, neither of which interest me in the slightest. In other words, I need to work on my focus.
  3. Run my own competition. I keep saying I’m going to do it! I just need to get my act together and tweak a couple of things on the blog first … Honestly!

Did you keep your comping resolutions last year? What are your resolutions for 2017?