We’re all familiar with listicles – those fun list-style editorial pieces that capture your attention quickly, provide succinct content, and drive a point home through sequential ordering. According to WikiPedia:

a listicle is a short-form of writing that uses a list as its thematic structure, but is fleshed out with sufficient copy to be published as an article. A typical listicle will prominently feature a cardinal number in its title, such as “10 Ways to Warm Up Your Bedroom in Winter”, “The 5 Most Badass Presidents of All-Time”, or “9 Things James Taylor Will Never Understand”, with subsequent subheadings within the text itself reflecting this schema.

In fact, our blog post title and our copy for this article are in listicle format, and we thought it’d be fun to put together a quick post on ways to convert a listicle into voting contest that could dramatically increase your audience engagement on an article. Here we go!

1. Pick a topic that leads to natural competition

Not all listicle’s will translate to good voting contests. You’ll want to pick something that will create a sense of competition among your readers. You need to pair up competitors in versus style format – one against another – for the format to work. In the best case you will have some close matchups, like this one we saw during the Pearl Jam Song Madness bracket this year where it was almost a 50/50 tie between two songs. In the worst case you will have a dud of a matchup. But that’s ok as there is always the next matchup or round to look forward to.

2. Set a goal for target visits per user

This may sound strange, but you can actually impact the number of times your users will come back to visit your article by reverse engineering your contest and doing some planning. If you are running a bracket contest, you have a chance to have users come back many, many times to one campaign. Start with a modest goal – if you want to improve your audience engagement for one article and want to test to see if you can get users to come back 5 times on average, start with a size 16 bracket. Because brackets work round by round you’ll have the starting round of 16 competitors, then 8, 4 and the final matchup. That’s four visits alone, plus your campaign kickoff or follow up. Visits per user add up quickly, as does time on site.

From there, you can also try things like slideshows that contain one matchup per slide. This would force users to flip through to vote. Just make sure the content is worthy so you don’t just click-bait. This leads us to:

3. Create competitors that are interesting and editorial worthy

Just as not all topics are repeat visit worthy, neither are all competitors. Our client AOL ran a really great Christmas Song Contest featuring 64 songs. A big part of their success was due to their editorial selection of the 64 songs in the contest – they didn’t include hundreds of songs, they picked 64 great ones and put them head to head. Pearl Jam did the same thing and chose 64 of their fan favorite songs. Choose those competitors who will get people interested, talking about, and sharing because they are passionate about the competitors themselves.

4. Write round recaps editorially and bring users back to the page

We’ve seen a lot of amazing campaigns, but the best ones are usually very well written, interesting, exciting, and have good competitors. Again using AOL, the AOL editors did a great job of recapping each round.

You’ll notice they are way in the weeds on the campaign, and taking a deep dive at the competitor level. What’s great about voting campaigns is you’re not just producing and publishing great content, but you’re letting the audience have a say in what they think is better. This usually leads to very high audience engagement.

5. Take it to the social channels – get competitors into the mix if possible

Some of our favorite campaigns are those where the competitors themselves are either people or brands, and they have skin in the game to win. For example, our client 3Q Digital has run contests around “Most Influential Person in SEM” – one each year for the past 4 years. Each competitor is a person, and in the contest each competitor has their name, photo and a blurb including bio and social handles embedded within it. This is a natural competition starter and what we saw was that almost every competitor took it to the social channels to promote themselves and the campaign. In every instance we’ve seen nothing but positive competition and good sportsmanship. Here is a screenshot from Twitter during one of the contests:

While not every campaign will be set up this way, as a marketer or editor you should think of various ways you can increase competitor participation to share on your behalf. This technique can work incredibly well, and we have a case study showing how FastHockey reached 32 million Facebook users organically because their competitors were people promoting themselves.

In summary

We urge you to think of other ways you can transform listicles into other contest types to increase audience engagement. Many common listicles have real people or companies as their list items, and these are a natural fit for a bracket contest.

If you want to learn more about how to leverage Votion for social voting campaigns, then contact us to learn more! Also do check out our blog 7 horrible mistakes marketers make for audience engagement and learn more.