By Rachelle Chase
Last week, I used my Sex Lounge Finding Derek Contest – an online contest where hunky guys competed to be the hero of my book – to show the importance of interactive web sites. I focused on the why and how to make your site interactive. This time, I’d like to get more personal and share the reasoning, implementation, challenges, and successes of the project.
The Idea for Interactivity
I wanted to do something different to market my book on the Internet. I wanted to expose it to potential readers in a way that did not shout, “Me, me, me – now buy my book.” Instead, I wanted visitors to stop by my site for a memorable experience. In order for it to be ‘memorable,’ it to had to be fun. In order for it to be fun and an ‘experience,’ people needed to participate.
The challenge was how to present my book in a unique, outside-the-box kind of way that was fun and participatory for visitors?
Like many of my ideas, the solution came to me in the shower, and the “Sex Lounge Finding Derek Contest” was born.
- Visitors would get to see, hear, and read about sexy guys competing to be Derek – then leave comments, vote for their favorites, and win prizes.
- Dereks would bask in the adoration of women, get exposure, and compete for prizes.
- Celebrity judges would get exposure for their product or service.
- And the my book would be experienced by visitors through the actions of the Dereks and judges.
I needed to set up the blog, add in the ability for readers to cast their vote, and make it as easy as possible for entrants to submit their photos and information. I wanted the site designed to accommodate as much interaction as possible.
I knew I could do this. I had some experience and familiarity with WordPress, so I knew it was a good foundation, as it was easy to work with and already had the tools to incorporate voting and submissions.
My goal was to create a marketing campaign that was as inclusive as possible for my fans, while broadening my audience, and marketing my book. This idea brought all of that together. A win-win for everyone. I couldn’t wait to get started.
The Implementation of Interactivity
Now, came the hard part – turning the concept into reality.
First, I had to flush out the contest mechanics, i.e., what it would look like, how it would work, and then finding the resources I needed to help. I quickly made a plan and then started chasing down all the physical details.
Then there were the business details. I needed an attorney to bless the contest rules and disclaimers, a PR pro to jazz up the website content, and a web developer to help build the site with WordPress.
All within a small budget.
To reduce costs, I did as much of the work I could myself, creating all the content and had a firm conceptual plan in place. I then had the professionals review it, thereby minimizing the amount of time I needed to pay them for. For example, I customized a contract template, created the content and structure of the website, then had the attorney, PR professional, and web developer review and modify what I’d created.
To supply complicated technology, I searched for third party service providers mentioned in last week’s article.
The foundation had been laid. Now, all I needed were the players.
The Challenges of Interactivity
Getting the necessary players proved to be more time-consuming than I expected for the Finding Derek competition. The players were:
- Sponsors for prizes and awards.
- Judges to vote for the final Derek.
- The Dereks – the gorgeous men willing to enter the contest.
- Enthusiastic readers to submit their Dereks.
Packets for judges and prize sponsors had to be created, submitted, and followed up on, encouraging them to participate in this novel marketing campaign. This project would be exploring new territory, and many were intimidated or unsure and had to be convinced that this was an exciting project, worthy of the investment of their time and energy – and their money. What could be more exciting than a website blatantly promoting gorgeous men in a climate of romance, intrigue, and women readers!
The hunt for potential Dereks was the hardest task. I needed to find them online, but I realized that this was limited. I needed to leave my computer and enter the real world to find gorgeous Derek possibilities.
This meant expanding my reach to new, unexplored markets. To find Dereks, I joined modeling and acting online communities – and even tried dating sites through passive promotion (i.e., I posted a page about the contest but only responded if men contacted me). To encourage potential readers to visit – and submit their Dereks – I covered my niche of romance reader related sites, then went to other women-oriented sites, like women’s magazines and social networks.
When it came time for heading out the door, away from my computer, I thought long and hard about where I would find young, healthy, gorgeous men unintimated by a woman with a digital camera and a blog, willing to show some cheesecake sexiness to be on the cover of a romance novel, and other fun prizes. Living in San Francisco, I knew the perfect places. I headed out to the clubs, bars, and networking events, handing out fliers and encouraging people to participate. I put myself in their faces and invited them to “show off” their sexy selves to the world on my blog contest.
Like many such projects, while it was a great idea, and I had a solid plan of action and the business sense to carry it off – plus the gumption to get out there and talk to these beautiful men and convince them to participate – not all of it went as streamlined and easy as I anticipated. I learned a lot, especially about the effort it took to pursue them.
The Lessons Learned
The biggest mistake I made was in estimating the time and effort required for this project.
As it grew, I kept cutting back from its original scope – which included a book tour and culminated with a live Derek competition, but it wasn’t enough. Everything took twice as long, without twice the time needed to complete them. Thus, each phase was shortened, with some items completely eliminated, as I didn’t have the time I needed to promote it to the media. This resulted in the contest not being as ‘big’ as it could have been if there had only been more time. Isn’t that the way of these things.
As with any such huge projects, there is the follow through. A tremendous amount of attention was created with the contest, expanding my reading audience and fan-base, but I realized I needed to work even harder to keep them coming back to my site after all the Derek contest noise died down. Looking at the project from the benefit of long-term thinking rather than the short term “I think I’ll have a contest,” helped me keep the momentum going months down the road, building upon what I created.
Despite this, there were a lot of things that did work. Including:
- The use of offline activities to drive visitors to the site.
- The experimentation with different online sites to reach different markets.
- The fun factor of the contest encouraged participation.
- The subtle introduction of my book to visitors encouraged sales.
The glue holding everything together was interactivity. Encouraging people to participate in the site and have a memorable experience increased the odds of success. I’d like to think that this success contributed to Sex Lounge going into its second printing after six weeks of publication.
Will I do this again?
Oh, yes. I’m wiser now and will make smarter choices along the way. But most of all, I will make a stronger plan with a lot more lead time to prepare and move through each stage of the process. Expanding my fan-base is always good for business, but the contest brought in quality fans, not just quantity, people eager to participate and be a part of the process, not just a part of the audience. By making my blog more inclusive, I benefited by making my online community stronger and wider.
Rachelle Chase is a Business Analyst and model by day and a romance author (and blogger) by night. She hosts Chatting with Chase, a live talk show featuring interviews with best-selling romance and erotica writers, and is co-host of the Chase the Dream Contest, hosted on WordPress.com. Rachelle has also appeared on Playboy Radio, the Hip-Hop Connection, the Jordan Rich Show, and other radio programs nationwide. For more information, visit RachelleChase.com and www.FindingDerek.com.