Why Our GrowthHacker.Tv Giveaway Failed (but Congratulations To The Winner)

Why Our GrowthHacker.Tv Giveaway Failed (but Congratulations To The Winner)

Last Monday we announced a joint contest where one lucky ConversionXL winner would receive a year long subscription to GrowthHacker.tv worth $348.

To enter all you had to do was leave a comment letting us know your biggest takeaway from Peep’s interview with Bronson Taylor & tweet the link to this page.

This was an experiment to see if we could pull off a competition without a lot of effort. The results were… eye-opening

In case you missed the interview – you should watch it here:

There was a total of 58 tweets, 17 comments, and a total of 506 unique page views from the initial contest period of Monday – Friday.

Even though traffic to the contest wasn’t as high as I originally anticipated, there were quite a few things I learned from this contest.

But before we get into that…

Congratulations Matties of Winkelstraat.nl



Matties  is the online marketing manager of winkelstraat.nl a Dutch high end fashion retailer.

One of my reasons for requiring a comment was to get a feel for:

  1. How many people were actually paying attention to the rules
  2. So I could pick a winner who would experience the most growth potential from the prize

Matties’ comment let me know he’d be a good pick:

matties comment


My hope is that Matties can champion a data driven approach  to conversion rate optimization within his company, and help them make strategic decisions based on real facts and not company politics & bureaucracy.

Matties, the first test I’d like you run on Winkelstraat is one that gets rid of the image slider on the homepage – I hear they kill conversions.

Alright, now that you know who the winner is, let’s talk about this contest.

Hypothesis & Expectations



When I heard we were doing a joint contest with GrowthHacker.tv, I could barely contain my excitement.

I really enjoy how Bronson & his team are stepping up the game on premium content. I truly believe a year of GrowthHacker.tv for the right person could radically transform their lives.

Consider that GrowthHacker.tv offers:

Membership to GrowthHacker.tv normally costs $348/year, so I thought a free subscription would be very attractive for the majority of our readers.

Considering that over 10k people follow Peep on Twitter, over 3k people follow me, we have a 5 figure subscriber list, and knowing the performance of our most recent content, it seemed reasonable that we’d have the distribution to make this contest do fairly well, even on short notice and minimal effort.

I thought a free year to GrowthHacker TV would – realistically – achieve the following in the first 24 hours:

  • Get 200 Tweets
  • Reach 1,000 Visitors (combined traffic)
  • Have between 50-100 comments

The Results

contest social share

The screenshot on the right shows the share count as of Friday. As you can see, sometimes expectations don’t match up with reality.

First off, the contest did not hit it’s target of being shared 200 times – It was shared 29 times on Twitter in the first 24 hours.

Second, only 20 visitors came to this page from Twitter, which I anticipated would be the primary distribution channel.
Contest Social Traffic


Of those 20 visits, 6 came from me, 5 came from Nichole Elizabeth & 4 came from Peep.

social referrer


That’s not that surprising, considering that my core following comes from a “content marketing” background, Nicole comes from the “Growth Hacking” community and Peep comes from the “conversion optimization” background.

It kind of caught me off guard to learn that 3/4 of the social visitors on this page came from the initial promotion links and not from people excited to take us up on the offer.

Looking at the bit.ly data, I get an even more revealing look at why the contest didn’t do what I had expected.
Bitly Data


On Monday, there were only 6 clicks on the bit.ly links.

Now what’s interesting about these clicks is that Bitly links were only generated if you clicked the call to action in the copy of the body.

Share this post on Twitter  (Click To Tweet – 1 tweet/day please)”

What most people may not have realized was that the Click To Tweet link generated very specific text for the promotion.

Because I put it in the copy under “Rules” section, I expected more people would click that to tweet about the contest.

In reality, only 2 out of the 29 people who participated that day used the link from the body copy.


Even more interesting was that even though bit.ly reports 6 clicks, Google Analytics only registered 1 click generated from the contest link.

I can only speculate why there’s such a discrepancy in the data, but the lowest “time on site” metric from Google Analytics is 00:00:08. My guess is Google didn’t register bit.ly clicks that lasted fewer than 8 seconds.

Clarification: It’s important to realize that all links that go through Twitter are wrapped in a t.co link.

If you’re trying to figure out who sends the most Twitter traffic your way, the best thing I know how to do is find the referring t.co url in Google Analytics:

tco referring url


Then use Twitter search to find everyone sharing your url, hover over who shared your links, and check the bottom left hand corner of your browser to see identify the t.co link in Google Analytics.

tco wrapper

So What Went Wrong? – A Few Hypotheses.

A contest like this hinges on your ability to tap into your core following’s friend base.

In an ideal world, this principle is pretty straight-forward. For every person who sees the offer, they refer two more friends who refer two more friends and so on.

In the real world however its a hair more complicated. If you want a concrete metric for how frequently a contest like this is shared, what you’re looking for is a viral coefficient. For real growth, it should be around 1.10 and really what most people hope for is a coefficient of between 1.2 -1.5


If you’re wondering how to calculate the viral coefficient, this thread on Quora provides excellent insight.

viral coefficient explination


Pay close attention to the third paragraph, the one that starts with “The acceptance rate is #invitee signups / #invites” because this is where many contests (including ours) stumble before they even get off the start.

Without knowing first how many people you’re reaching, there’s no way to accurately measure & test effectiveness.


Hypothesis 1 – No Clear Distribution Plan

As I stated earlier, I thought that given our combined followers on Twitter, simply putting out a handful of Tweets promoting the contest would have been enough to get it kickstarted.

That’s a very naive assumption because its impossible to calculate exactly how many Twitter followers will see the message at any given time. Its even more impossible is to determine who will see it, and whether or not it will be something they really want.

Hey, would any of you be interested in growth hacking at this exact moment?
Hey, would any of you be interested in growth hacking right now?


Like with email marketing, I should have created segments. In this case, I would have segmented my Twitter followers using Peer Index to find the people my followers find the most influential.

With this, I could create an influencer outreach plan so other “big names” could reinforce that we were doing a high-value giveaway.

Peer Index actually created an “influencer” segment for Nokia’s 1.1M followers back in December, and discovered over 1,700 influencers with the potential reach of over 50m others.



Taking it a step further, I’d use Followerwonk’s analyze tool to know what percentage of each influencers social media following is the most active and at what time.

Even though this doesn’t give exact numbers like email, I can still calculate roughly how many followers are online when my message goes out. (E.g. I know 6.7% of my 3,216 followers or about 215 total, are on Twitter between 11 & 12 est.)

Not only does this graph this help me create a schedule for influencer’s tweets, but it gives me a more concrete idea of the sample sizes I’m working with at any given time.

Using that information, I’d ask two or more influencers in the same field with similar sized, overlapping, follower bases to Tweet out one of two messages (like in an A/B test) to determine message drives the most action. I’d then keep track of that in a spreadsheet to measure performance.

influencer tracking


Again, this is not exact, but it is a far more controlled method of outreach and message testing through social media than posting multiple times a day and hoping something catches on.

Hypothesis 2 – We Weren’t Reaching The Right People



After the contest announcement went live on the blog, I went to the first place I could think of that an offer like this would be appealing – Growthhackers.com

Our content usually does pretty well there, and we’re friendly with many of the founding members, so it seemed like a natural fit. I emailed Morgan Brown, one of the team members, to see if it was ok that I publish something promotional. He said he’d publish it for me, I said thanks, then waited for the responses.



Looking at the comments, you’ll see that 3 out of 5 people discussing the article are already GrowthHacker.TV subscribers.

Digging a little deeper with Followerwonk’s compare tool (retroactively) I find that nearly 11% of GrowthHacker.tv’s Twitter following is made up of GrowthHacker.com’s Twitter following.

Gh and Ghtv overlap


Even though neither of these metrics are 100% reflective of actual usage of both services, there is evidence emerging that a good percentage of the GrowthHacker.com community are already GrowthHacker.tv members.

If I do an advanced Google search to see how many pages have /member/ in the Growthhacker.com url, I get over 5,500 results, which at least gives me some indication of how many registered accounts are on Growthhacker.com.

growthhackercom members


Looking at the GrowthHacker.tv community, I see there are over 1,100 participants.

If you’re doing the math, that means Growthhacker.tv has roughly 19.34% of the total users of GrowthHackers.com.

growthhacker tv members


On their own, those numbers are pretty meaningless.

But when put in the context of knowing there’s an overlap for both Twitter accounts & that a majority of the comments on the post on GrowthHackers.com said something to the effect of “I’m a member” that the data starts painting a picture.

Maybe people didn’t sign up because they

A.) Already had a membership or

B.) Already knew they didn’t want one

Were this a serious contest, I would have given myself more lead time for research and community outreach, learned this earlier & picked communities that would be more likely to be blown away by with GrowthHacker.tv has to offer.


Hypothesis 3 – The Original Headline Was Too Confusing

Headline 1


When I originally published the contest announcement article, I tried formatting the headline in a way that would be appealing to our regular readers as well as people visiting the blog page from another article.

Unfortunately, this made the article’s value proposition confusing and may have lead to hesitation.

I’m guessing this because looking at the data that shows referrals from /blog/ I see a slight uptick in traffic on the same day I changed the headline to remove “Peep Talks CRO Basics” from the headline.

traffic change


Granted, it’s not a large change & it would be a huge mistake to consider this statically significant in a true A/B testing environment. Nevertheless, I know the original headline wasn’t helping anything.

Hypothesis 4 – You Didn’t Want It

top 11 traffic data


Not counting the pricing experiments article and landing page optimization articles because those pages were experiencing abnormal viral growth spurts, and excluding the “/” and  “/blog/” pages, because more traffic flows through those pages naturally, you see the contest post doesn’t fare too well against the other content.

The email engagement article that was published 3 days later received more than double the traffic & 4 of the other articles that are ahead of the contest announcement rank well and drive pretty reliable traffic.

As much as I hate to admit it, the data shows a very real possibility that you just didn’t want – or don’t have time for – a subscription to GrowthHacker.tv and that the offer just wasn’t a fit for you.

This might be further confirmed by the average time on site being just over 8 minutes, even though there’s an hour long video embedded on the page.


Hypothesis 5 – You Didn’t Want Competition



Alternatively, if you did want it, it’s not hard to do the math. There would only be one winner and sharing the contest would also decrease your odds of winning.

I wonder, had we put more prizes on the table, would more people have entered?

After all, there’s nothing fun about entering a contest you think you have no chance of winning.

Conclusion – For A Successful Contest, You Have To Put The Time In

Looking back, it’s easy to see all the different reasons why a promotional contest will fail when it’s based on assumptions rather than data.

It’s not enough to just have an awesome prize, you need to have data like:

  • Who influences your market
  • Customer surveys
  • The places you’re having conversations online
  • The time they spend with similar products

Beyond that, it’s important to have enough lead time to properly collect that data & find ways to use what you learn to build hype before the actual contest.

By running this experiment, I also see just how important it would have been for us to just ask more questions ahead of time. Is this something you want? Is this something you already have? Do you have time for this?

It seems so simple, but it’s so easy to forget when you’re enchanted by the possibilities.

So now I’m curious & I’d like to ask you two questions:

  1. If you saw the contest why didn’t you enter?
  2. Have you done contests like this before and seen similar results?

Looking forward to your feedback.

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  1. My reason, I saw the promo and I watched the first 10 minutes of the video and saw it was a good one so I put it on my to watch list for later. I’m watching it right now. I skimmed the competition info, but it didn’t grab me. I’m sort of aware of what growth hacking is but I’m interested in learning about CRO at the moment. I went and read the contest info again, and I think the reason it didn’t grab me was because I could not see the connection between growth hacking and how it would help me improve my skills in CRO.

    1. Interesting Gabriella, thank you for that feedback.

      The way I see it, Growth Hacking and CRO are different sides of the same coin.

      Once you’ve found product/market fit, the idea is to use CRO techniques (A/B testing, funnel analysis, etc.) to build growth into the product itself.

      So CRO might ask questions like “how do I make my website generate more leads? How do we convert more leads into sales?”

      Growth Hacking would use a similar set of tools to answer questions like “How do we get more like-minded people to share, and how do we build organic growth into our existing processes?”

      We actually have an interview scheduled with Sean Ellis soon, so that’s definitely something we can cover in that.

  2. Failure case studies can be some of the most interesting! Thanks for sharing this, I know it can be a hard pill to admit a project failed.

    1. Peep Laja

      There is no failure, there is only learning!

    2. Agree with Peep, this wasn’t really a failure, it was an experiment to see just how far a tiny bit of promotion would go.

      Though, the data did help me discover some really cool processes that will go a long way if we ever decide to go full tilt on a contest.

  3. I think I can offer some insight on this as I am definitely in the target market of this contest (I work with startups on early stage growth at Wasabi Ventures) and I recently ran a similar contest.

    There’s 2 reasons I didn’t enter the ConversionXL /GHTV contest and why it didn’t do as well as you had hoped. 1 is that I’m already a member of GHTV. 2 is that there’s no real benefit to sharing this.

    At ApplyKit.com, we ran a similar contest where you enter by referring a friend and you could win a Chromebook. We targeted HS juniors/seniors and received little traction early on. There were a few reasons for this, but one was there really wasn’t a good system in place (we had them share a landing page) and many people thought they wouldn’t win with just one grand prize.

    So, we broke it down and restructured the contest. We decided to also give out Amazon gift cars, and for every friend you successful refer is an additional entry. While this is still not perfect, we ran the contest as a way to test a few hypotheses and get a better feel for our audience. It worked better the second time around and we’re actually still tweaking it to learn as much as we can.

    Contests seem extremely simple on the surface, but when you go in w/o a distribution plan in place things get messy real quick. (i.e. a lot of our members already had Macbooks / Chromebooks just like much of your audience was already a member or decided not to be a member of GHTV) + just one prize makes a contest feel un-winnable.

    Great learning experience!

    1. Wow Brandon, thanks so much for sharing your experience there.

      With your contest, I think it’s very interesting that you saw a change in results after you restructured the contest.

      I wonder, if you know that a lot of your members already have macbooks/chromebooks, is there something that is equally high value that compliments those products?

      Please follow up with us on this, I’m curious to know how your contest pans out.

    2. Hey Tommy,

      I’ll certainly follow up in about a week or so. We have a few things we’re trying out in the meantime.

      You bring up a very good point about offering high quality, complimentary products. It’s something we’re looking into, but one of the changes we made was targeting a younger demographic than our original push which was strictly seniors. We opened up our targeting efforts to juniors/sophomores so we have to retest some of our hypotheses.

      I’ll come back to this with some more data and (hopefully) better results soon :)

  4. Didn’t Nick Eubanks win? It’s on twitter?

    1. Technically, yes, he did too.

      We ran two versions of the contest, one solely on Twitter two weeks ago, and one using the blog.

      Good eye ;-)

  5. I saw the competition & entered as I believed that the prize was worth one hour of my time. I hesitated though.

    My hypothesis on why the competition failed is that there was no proper organization. You published the comp on Monday the 10th with a deadline of Wednesday the 12th. So if I visited the page on Monday I would think that oh, I got only 2 days left to watch the 1 hour interview & submit my comment.

    The deadline was really tight for a target audience that follows the time is money mentality.

    Then on Wednesday, you moved the competition to Friday the 21st. Old visitors weren’t going to revisit the page since they taught the giveaway was ending on Wednesday and the new ones faced the same problem the Monday visitors faced. Again, they thought they had 2 days (max) to enter the competition.

    Then AGAIN you moved the competition on Friday to Monday the 17th. Same vicious circle.

    It’s pretty clear that you didn’t invest a lot of thought into this comp despite having a very compelling prize (no offence). I was really tight on time but the prize was worth it for me so I took a shot atit.

    Maybe next time.


  6. I reached out to Peep to see if they wanted to use Gleam to run the contest (as that’s what we do). But it was probably a bit too late since things had already started.

    That aside, I really love this post & it hits the nail on the head with a number of points. The incentive needs to align with the core demographic, I’ve never seen people have much luck giving away SaaS subscriptions or anything B2B related. On the other hand, consumer based contests generally don’t have the same problem.

    Another issue you run into is that growth hackers & internet marketers are much less likely to tweet or enter a competition in that way. Since we’re more savvy, getting us to convert is extremely hard.

    Just my 2c, as with everything keep testing & improving :)

    1. Hey Stuart, how does Gleam compare to Rafflecopter? How are they differentiated? What benefits are there to choosing Gleam over Rafflecopter?

      I’m currently developing a product that is primarily targeting users of Rafflecopter and had planned on becoming users of it ourselves. I would be interested in hearing if there are any reasons I should consider using Gleam instead.

      You can hit me up @codeswish on twitter if you want to chat.

  7. My opinion as a copywriter: the headline was a bit confusing because it tried to do too much. Rather than just captivate enough interest to get the click, you attempt to stuff the offer details in.

  8. I was actually going to participate in the contest. Just a background about me, I am already a paying customer of growthhacker.tv and actively involved in reading growthhackers.com everyday, getting a year for free is still something for me. However the instructions wasn’t clear, too many steps involved. If it was as simple as ‘retweet to win a chance to win a free 1 year subscriptions’ then I would do it.

  9. Even though I am a member of growthhacker.tv, I didn’t even know about the competition. I am still in the 20’s in the video list as I’m a relatively new member. Interesting insights though!

  10. Sorry, Peep I just didn’t see it. My observations on running promotions are:

    The message and game dynamics need careful thought – the proposition and communication of the proposition. Just because I like it, doesn’t always (never!?) guarantees success! The proposition also underpins the viral coefficient.
    It is certainly critical to seed it to a “warm” network to build initial traction. Then it requires sustained activity to keep the ball rolling. You can post more twitter messages than you might imagine and not annoy people!

  11. I appreciate you guys sharing this article, but then again it makes great sense as I have started to follow Peep. In order to learn you must reach out to your audience. The transparency, however, is great and educational. I did watch the video and thought it was very good and, as always, opened my eyes to the science of getting conversions and has really turned my initial thinking processes upside down. I was completely unfamiliar with growthhacker.tv and although I thought it would be great, I didn’t feel my chances were good AND I did not want to share. My reason was simple – I don’t want any competition seeing what I’m doing or who I’m viewing. I know it sucks, but that is truth. The less people that know who I’m following and what I’m learning will hopefully remain a step behind me.

    You guys have tons of great content and I appreciate all the insights and knowledge!!

    1. Well Drew, I appreciate you putting yourself out there in the open by commenting here :-p

      Next time!

  12. Here’s my feedback for what its worth…

    For me the issue was similar to some of the previous comments in that I couldn’t spare an hour to watch the full video. When I jump on the blog to catch up on the latest posts I usually have ten or fifteen minutes up my sleeve – if I do find something that will take more time I will skim it and add it to my list of ‘articles/videos/things I want to look at when I have more time’. Unfortunately that list is a long one and so there was no real chance of me digesting the video to make a comment in the timeframes for the competition.

  13. You could have put an Upworthy style clickbait headline on it and set up 2 Facebook ads targeting followers of VentureBeat. With 20 extra minutes of “effort” it could’ve gotten some traction.

  14. For me the offer was to confusing, what’s Hacker.tv? I’m not so fond of watching for 47 minutes either.

  15. Killer round up guys! I’ve been thinking of running a contest over at Videofruit. Great pointers and lessons learned here. Thank you for the openness.

    My guess is the headline itself (as you pointed out) was one of the big issues. I’ve noticed simple headline changes make a 2-300% difference in visitors.

    Guest. Test. Revise.

    1. Hey thanks Bryan! I’m glad you were able to get something out of it :-) Let me know when you guys launch your contest, I’d love to watch it :-)

  16. is 3/4 of the social visitors on this page came from the initial promotion links ??? really??

  17. Even though I am a member of growthhacker.tv, I didn’t even know about the competition

  18. who needs a successful competition when you have this well engaged thread for the win…….

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