My Complicated Relationship With Social Media Contests


In the sort-of early twitter days, I thought I had a “killer instinct” on twitter contests. In 2009, I won little trivia contests from Ace Hardware ($15 gift certificate) and the Gear Junkie blog (a drybag). My strategy? Google things really quickly and be there to type it in exactly when the the contest begins. It was sort of like cheating at a pub quiz night and using your phone, except I don’t think there were real rules on late-2009 twitter contests.

I was young, but old enough to know that that fast Googling and twitter might get me somewhere in life. It soon did.

I somehow managed to get a job though a social media-type competition soon after I was out school in 2009. Fast Horse, a Minneapolis based ad/marketing/web/content/social/etc. agency sponsored a contest for their next intern. It didn’t play out on social media, but it was rooted in it.

Two of the contest prompts involved convincing the agency leaders that Carrot Top is a comedic genius. I attempted to do this by creating a Kennedy Center Honors tribute video for Carrot Top.

Another key part of my application was a brief written piece about marketing for old people. This still exists on the internet archive I learned. I’ll give you just this gem from my 22-year-old self.

“It’s up to you to infer that a golfer ISN’T using the bathroom four times an hour or that a woman can practice Tai Chi WITHOUT the stigma of Restless Leg Syndrome.”

It finished with a convincing statement.

And if lizards like one thing, it’s basking in the warm glow of a mail-order Amish fireplace.

Fast Horse later hired a couple of interns based on the number of social media likes the candidate could generate during a brief campaign. I’m sure I would get my butt kicked in that. I had a great, brief run at Fast Horse and learned a ton. But I was soon off to Alaska, where I figured the dramatic scenery would give me a slight edge in the up-and-coming social media photo contests. Armed with a prosumer DSLR, I went to work.

Two of my photos made it onto Duluth Pack catalog covers. But that wasn’t the point. I wasn’t in it for the glory. I was in it for the $75 gift card that I tragically never got.

It’s not a big deal in the real world, but in my twitter contest world, I felt like it was over.

Why bother?

Things changed. I got busy and stayed away from social media contests. All of them. For five years.

Until now.

I learned about a contest this fall called #MeetTheArctic that was calling for three-minute short films to showcase the Arctic in a way that is more than polar bears and Santa Claus. This was an area that I had a little bit of experience in.

I convinced my former boss (and current friend) Laureli Ivanoff to work with me on a short piece.

We were asked to to show a good mix of economic development, climate change, and people. We tried to do that in a few short minutes. It shows Unalakleet, Shishmaref, Bethel, Talkeetna, Nome, Teller, Tuluksak, Anchorage, and the Seward Highway area, plus the voices of Unalakleet’s Katiya Simonsson and Thomas Simonsson.

It’s a snapshot, a very short one of the western Alaskan arctic. And now it comes full circle and I humbly ask you to help me as I come out of social media contest retirement.

You can vote for our #meetthearctic entry or others by clicking the thumbs up “like” button on the Youtube page and keep our entry alive until the next round.

The other 10 entries are a mix of very cool and creative ideas.


My Complicated Relationship With Social Media Contests