Compers killed the Competition


Budding brands and those with gazillions of fans alike have one thing in common - a hunger to give things away.

When you're looking at a report suggesting that the start-up cost of client acquisition through AdWords or traditional marketing is nearly always higher than the initial purchase price of your product, it's extremely tempting to brainstorm your way down to the lowest form of marketing...the give-away. Let me argue that we must not and should not go there.

In the wild days of the Dot Com, we witnessed giants grow on the basis of "free".

Most people online now 'own' a free email account, rely on free news feeds, organise their lives with zero-cost apps and of course communicate across no-charge social networks. No longer do we have the barrier of cost to become a citizen of the universe. Indeed, the access point itself is now reaching zero cost (or to be fair, pocket money) with computing power in the hands of the many for the cost of a round of drinks or a month's Sky subscription.

Those of us of a certain age will remember fondly the over-invested domains who promised everything for free - a laptop, a mobile, a holiday, all in return for our email address or profile. Whilst the notion of "free" is deeply embedded in the Internet, there is one side of the exchange that bothers me and should bother you if you manage a UK brand. Comping.

Comping is a hobby (or near full time occupation) whereby the individual uses their power as the owner of an email address and Facebook account and legitimately enters every Fan Page giveaway, email sweepstake, 'Share and Win' promo they can find. Many will enter several an hour, most days, all week.

The returns are apparently quite sizeable- I witnessed one such 'comper' claiming on a UK forum today that an item of clothing made available in a sweepstake was no longer of interest as previous winnings had included a car. Fair enough, good luck to the wise, use and be used...?

Every community moderator (especially those on Facebook) knows that competitions are a quick, cheap trick used to pull in a few hundred fans and with that knowledge comes the suppressed understanding that the end database is somewhat fickle. What alarms more however is the emergence of a battle line - that between the compers and the moderators.

Compers know exactly what role they play in the promotion of Fan Pages and online properties and will actively pursue any brand they deem to falling short of rewarding them on their terms. Should the comper community be displeased, they will promote their negativity not just on your Fan Page but also on their own communities, several of which (websites dedicated to free to enter competitions) now boast hundreds of thousands of fans.

The most common threat witnessed in a scibbled study by this moderator having been asked if such things were common place (they are!) being a complaint from the comper to Facebook for running free to enter competitions at all, which the compers know falls within a 'grey area' of Facebook's terms and conditions. Apps, bespoke code, watertight legals aside, it's just not something you want to deal with and the comper knows.

So why the meanness? Amongst their ranks, compers host a number of individuals who have tens if not hundreds of Facebook profiles, associated email addresses, rented pay as you go telephone numbers and Twitter accounts which they use to swing a competition to their favour. How does a moderator tell the difference between the real and the imitation - you simply can't.

With some compers going to extreme lengths to keep multiple accounts open and Facebook privacy settings blocking a full view of someone's identity or social connections, the administrator of a simple competition can only rely on chance to pick a 'real' winner over someone who has an unfair advantage. Should you pick the wrong one, even through automated means, hell will and does break loose.

With or without rule breaking, rewarding a blurred sector of the mass public with a gifted product simply makes no sense. There are those who claim the right samples in the right hands can deliver 'natural' favour through the resulting 'noise' however I for one would challenge anyone to prove that mathematically. It would simply make more sense to publish the opinion of existing consumers who were willing to exchange currency for your objet du désir.

Who can pretend any more that Facebook Fans, even with product in hand can provide the ROI to justify one on one communication beyond the realms of providing customer service to those who have 'paid up'. The best of the mods know this - you can tell, they very rarely discuss their own product at all (white noise is good noise + immeasurable = safe jobs). Nobody fires the moderator with the cute fruit and the millions of giggles.

Should you not head the advice and think me silly for stomping on something many do and will see as "just a bit of fun" be sure to have your logistics team ready. Your T&C's might say 30 days on that prize you know you put in the stockroom somewhere and you're sure a box and sellotape will do it (after all "they won it, they'll be thrilled!") remember these words pasted from the thread of a Facebook Page which today went offline after their competition was bamboozled by the comper community:

"If I win a prize and it's delivered quickly, packed nicely and the communications with the company involved are pleasant, I will buy from them in the future."

Ready with the limo?

Photo (cc) Jordan Smith


Re: Compers killed the Competition

For a comper to enter once is fine, but multiple even hundreds of entries is obviosuly not good and most competition organisers will try to 'dedupe' multiple entries.