How to create an online contest in one afternoon

by | Dec 14, 2013 | Business

I put together a contest this afternoon (with gift contributed by friends/colleagues) in about 5 hours.  A year ago I wouldn’t have known where to start. I wondered if maybe a few people would be interested in a “how to” and the answer was yes!

Step 1 (optional) – Create a clean wordpress install for the contest

Although this step isn’t entirely essential I chose to do it because my contest plugin doesn’t play well with one of the plugins on my main site. Instead of fighting with it, I created a clean install.  And I’m glad I did, because it allowed me to pivot & create a “blog page” of the offers. Something that would have required another solution (like updating a page every day) otherwise.

If this is something you want to do, here’s a few extra tips:

  1. Log into your cpanel (if you’re using BlueHost, Hostgator or another hosting service that uses cpanel) and choose your WordPress install (mine is in Fantastico Delux)
  2. Follow the steps to set up your new WordPress installation (be sure to use a username that isn’t “Admin” – something more unique).
  3. I installed mine at so that it would still look like it belonged to my site. You might want to purchase a new domain for your contest.

Step 2 – Install a couple of basic plugins, including the contest plugin

I use ContestBlitz but I’m sure you could use any of the other contest plugins out there. I just like this one!

I only have 3 plugins on this site currently:

  1. ContestBlitz
  2. WordPress Editorial Calendar
  3. WP Super Cache (was preinstalled, probably not necessary)




Other contest options you might want to consider:

  1. PunchTab
  2. Rafflecopter


Step 3 – Edit Settings in Contest Blitz & Set up mailing List

I went into the settings and realized it would be best if I set up a new list in Mailchimp for this contest. At some point I’ll copy this list into a sub-group within my main list in mailchimp, but for now it’s easiest to have a new list, with it’s own confirmation email.

I went to my Account > Extras > API to collect my API address



Entering this into the settings in the contest plugin allows people to sign up for the contest & immediately get a confirmation from mailchimp.

Clever, right?

Back in the plugin settings I edited the following:

  • added my twitter URL
  • added my Facebook URL
  • added the Mailchimp API
  • Selected the mailing list I’d just set up




Step 4 – Setup first Contest & Settings in Contest Blitz

I created my “contest” within Contest Blitz just like I would a blog post. This is where some of the hard decisions came in.


I needed to know what time the contest would run from,and to.  I wrote some rough draft copy for the main page and added in some extras to the terms and conditions



And then I linked it to my mailing list



Step 5 – Created a logo / banner for the plugin & website header

I used to create the images for this contest. I had 3 graphics I wanted to create with the same look and feel.

  1. The first one was for the header of the contest plugin. They told me in the settings it was best to have a 425 px wide graphic, so that’s what I created.
  2. The second was is larger 1600 x 230 based on the settings for the “twenty thirteen” wordpress theme
  3. The third is just the circle you see in the other two images, but with a transparent background. I created it at 400 x 400 px



I added the graphics into their appropriate places (header, settings in Contest plugin and saved the transparent one for the posts I knew I needed to create)

Step 6 – Asking for help

I knew I’d need to reach out to my friends and colleagues soon. It felt natural to send a quick note in Facebook. I wrote the first one, and sort of liked how it sounded, so I copy & pasted it to send to another, and then another. I edited each one with a bit of a personal note.


Step 7 – Adding and scheduling in the content

As each person started to respond I realized I needed to organize the content I was getting. That’s when I installed the Editorial Plugin, because I knew I’d be able to quickly drop in content & then move them around based on their availability & when I had all of the content from them.

It looked a lot like this:



Once their name is on the calendar I can easily drag theirs around to a better date, without having to go into the edit feature & changing anything else.  I have posted the first entry & made sure it looks good visually. Then got ready to share it on social media


Step 8 – Sharing on Social Media

I went to some of my favorite groups & mentioned the giveaway. I posted to my own facebook page & timeline & scheduled a few more to go out at prime times (for my audience – which happens to be while I’m normally asleep)  I chose to upload the transparent background circle (the 400 x 400) because it shows up nicer on Facebook than the header graphic.


And that’s it! The steps to create a contest in one afternoon.   Of course, I don’t yet know how it will all turn out.  But I’ll let you know.

Let me know in the comments if you have any suggestions? Could I have skipped a step or made it simpler?  Love to hear your tips too!


Other tools you might be interested in to create your contest


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