Cheaters waste thousands of dollars trying to win a free wedding from Fiverr

Buying fake votes can get expensive!
Buying fake votes can get expensive!

In my last post I detailed the extreme cheating that was happening in Fiverr’s “Save the Date” contest.  At least 10 desperate couples tried to win a $25,000 dream wedding by ordering or manufacturing tens of thousands of fake votes.  The cheating reached obscene heights the night before the deadline as some entries were gaining dozens of votes every few minutes.  And these last-minute votes weren’t just coming in at 9 or 10PM.  They appeared all night long.  In fact, the cheating seemed to peak around two o’clock in the morning.  Maybe because 2AM Chicago time would work out to be about 1PM in Bangladesh.  Here’s what Fiverr’s Top 9 looked like about 12 hours before the voting ended.

fiverrcontest

Those numbers are absolutely ridiculous.  Obviously I don’t have access to Fiverr’s traffic and activity logs so I can’t say for sure that these folks were cheating.  But the judges must have realized that the voting had been compromised because in the end, those giant scores didn’t mean a damn thing.  The grand prize went to a couple who didn’t even have enough votes to make the top 10.  Here’s the winning entry.

Fiverr’s Grand Prize Winner.  Prize:  A $25,000 dream wedding:



I think it’s kind of funny that Fiverr let all these people waste so much time cheating.  But I do feel a little bad for them.  They didn’t just waste their time; they also wasted a ton of money.  To vote in this contest, you needed to have a facebook account.  Nobody outside of Southeast Asia has access to 8,000 facebook accounts so these people probably had to order votes from a Vote Farm.  And those type of votes aren’t cheap.  If they bought their votes from Fiverr, these people were spending about 20 cents a vote.  So 7,900 votes would cost $1,580!  But sellers on Fiver only do about 25 votes at a time.  So most of these people probably ordered their votes in bulk from a site like buycontestvotes.com.  Their prices are slightly less insane. (They’re listed at the top of this post).  That website sells 1,000 votes for $100.  So that works out to be ten cents per vote.

So let’s do the math:  The videos in Fiverr’s Top 9 had a total of 35,800 votes when I took my last screenshot (the night before the voting ended.)  I know that a few hundred more votes were added the next day but let’s just round up to 36,000 votes.  If they were paying ten cents per vote, these 9 couples spent at least $3,600!!!  Keep in mind that the rules of this contest said that votes would only count for a percentage of each video’s score.  I’m as competitive as the next guy but spending $800 to slightly improve your chances of winning a $25,000 grand prize is freaking bonkers.

 

Will views and votes help you make the Crash the Super Bowl finals?

Crash the Super Bowl season (much like the Christmas season) seems to get longer every year.  It’s already November 3rd but the Doritos deadline is still 11 days away.  The season may be longer this time but the contest is progressing as it always does.  Every year in late October/early November I start seeing news stories like this:

CTSB-news
Click this image to watch the news story

I’ll probably get a dozen google alerts for stories like that this month.  For reasons I’ve never fully understood, some filmmakers try and get “press” for their Crash the Super Bowl ads.  I think these stories happen because a lot of people don’t understand how the Crash the Super Bowl contest actually works.  The local news segments usually end with a “call to action” from the anchor; he or she will say something like “and if you want to help these young filmmakers make it to the finals you can head to Crashthesuperbowl.com and watch their entry and rate it five stars.”

Those calls to action always bug me because they show that the filmmakers (and the journalists who wrote the story) were too lazy to read the CTSB rules:  Here are the judging criteria for this year’s Crash the Super Bowl contest:

dorits-rules


Notice that it doesn’t say anything about views or ratings?  I suppose Point #3 could be interpreted to mean views and votes but that interpretation would be wrong.  (Frito-Lay uses focus group testing to determine an ad’s public appeal)  For the record, views, votes and ratings do not “count” and they will NOT help a CTSB entry make it to the finals.  In fact, I’ll let you in on a little secret; the CTSB judges don’t watch the entries on the contest website!  So they have no idea how many views or votes an entry has.

But like I said, that piece of info isn’t public knowledge.  The folks at Frito-Lay fully realize that hundreds of filmmakers desperately try and get views and 5-star ratings every year but no one from the company ever tries to correct the misunderstanding.  And I think that’s because Frito-Lay wants people to be confused.  Consider this: if views and ratings are meaningless, why does the website keep track of them?  The team that built crashthesuperbowl.doritos.com must have realized that if they put a star-rating option, and if they ranked videos by views and votes, a lot of people would assume that views and votes mattered.  And when a filmmaker shares his entry on facebook (or on the Channel 2 news) they are giving Doritos free exposure.  A crappy, homemade Doritos commercial is still a Doritos commercial.  Maybe your Aunt Linda will remember your ad the next time she’s at the grocery store and the memory will inspire her to pick up a bag of Cool Ranch.

So if you’ve been worrying about your ad’s score or view count you can relax.  Those metrics are totally and completely meaningless.  Voting only matters after the finalists have been announced in January.  If you need more proof just watch some of the Highest Rated and Most Viewed entries on the Crash the Super Bowl site.  Do you really think any of those commercials deserve to air during the Super Bowl?

What is Vote Farming?

Last week I posted a story about a man who lost a $100,000 contest prize after he was disqualified for “vote farming.”  The ex-winner was a lawyer and he was considering a lawsuit because he felt the contest’s official rules were ambiguous and vague.  He did get the most votes but it seems he didn’t get the right kind of votes.  Here’s what the rules actually said:

“offering prizes or other inducements to members of the public, vote farming, or any other activity that artificially inflates such finalists votes as determined by sponsor in its sole discretion.”

While I was writing my story about the disqualified lawyer I tried to look up the definition of “vote farming” but I apparently there isn’t one.   Seriously.  Wikipedia, the Urban Dictionary and 10 pages of google results turned up nothing.  It seems to be a brand new term that has just started to appear in online contest rules.  Since I’m pretty familiar with the concept behind Vote Farming I thought I’d offer a definition of my own:

Vote Farming:  The practice of earning votes in an online contest by trading votes with friends or strangers who are competing in other online contests.

How Vote Farming Works:  One contestant will post voting instructions and a link to their entry on a “Vote Exchange” website, Facebook page or forum.  A second contestant will vote for that entry.  They will then post a screen shot or a vote number as proof that they voted.  They will also post their own contest link.  The original poster will “Return the Favor” (RTF) and vote for the other person’s entry.  After the swap is complete, each contestant has gained one vote in their respective contest and they have each cast one vote for someone else.  The more votes a person casts, the more votes they gain.

Here’s an example of a “Vote Request” looks like:

I’ve tried Vote Swapping myself and I’ve found it to be a very successful (but time consuming) tactic.  There’s a whole online community of people who win lots of contests thanks to Vote Swapping.  A hardcore Vote Swapper will spend hours and hours and hours voting for other people’s entries and they can earn hundreds of votes a week.  This practice has presumably been dubbed “Vote Farming” because it’s very similar to a tactic known as “Gold Farming.”  Gold Farmers are people who repetitively play Massive Multi-Player Online Role Playing games (like World of Warcraft) just to collect gold or weapons that they can sell to other players for real money.  Selling in-game items for real cash is usually against the rules.  A player can gold farm for themselves but the practice violates the spirit of the game.  And the same thing goes for Vote Farming.  When a contestant gains a ton of votes thanks to vote swapping, they aren’t really doing anything unethical.  All of their votes are coming from real people so it’s hard to argue that a Vote Farmer is a cheater.  But trading votes goes against the spirit of an online contest.  The technique is kind of like a cheating loophole.  Yes, all the votes are real but they’re junk votes.  Companies use online voting in their contests because they want to generate more traffic or facebook likes.  But a vote from a Vote Swapper is junk traffic.  The Swapper doesn’t pay attention to the content.  They just vote as fast as they can and then move on.

And that’s why a lot of sponsors are now banning Vote Farming.  They can get away with calling it cheating because the contestant is technically offering an “inducement” to get a stranger to vote for their entry.  If you’re in an online contest and you’re thinking of trying Vote Swapping be sure to READ THE RULES before you start.  If the rules say that you can’t trade votes, don’t do it.  I’ve heard several stories about contestants who were disqualified because they got caught posting their entry in a Vote Swapping forum.  So if you’re going to swap, swap with caution.

When is the best time to post vote requests on facebook?

Last Friday I shot, edited and submitted a video to Ecos’ “Get Washed” video contest and despite the quick production, I think it’s one of the best video contest entries ever done.  It’s simple but quirky and it features one of the best actresses I’ve ever worked with.  It’s also probably the greatest color correction job I’ve done, period.  (One of the tough things about filming in the woods is that the light is uneven and everything has a yellowish-green hue.)  The shooting and editing might have only taken a few hours but I had to put a surprising amount of pre-production work into this project.  Just picking up and dropping off the giant squirrel suit took about 5 hours! Because the whole commercial is basically just a monologue, I knew casting would be crucial.  After days of searching I finally found a fantastic actress and she just knocked it out of the park.

The top prizes in this contest are $10K and $5K and I think I might actually have a decent shot.  There is a public voting phase to determine the Top 25 videos though.  After the voting is done, judges alone will chose the top winners.  I didn’t think I’d really need to hustle for votes for this contest but Ecos wound up getting almost 90 entries!  So if you’ve got 5 seconds to spare, I’d appreciate it if you could click on this image and vote for my submission.  And if you’ve got 35 seconds to spare, you can even watch it if you’d like.

Click to view and/or vote!

Today is the first day of voting which happens to be a sunday.  And that’s kind of unusual because most contests start and finish their voting phases on week days.  When the voting went live this morning I posted a request for votes on my personal facebook page.  But then I stopped and thought about the timing of my request; how many people would actually see it?  How many people are even on facebook at 10AM on a Sunday?  I don’t like to bombard my facebook friends with a ton of video contest vote requests so I only ask for votes a few times each contest.  (If all your facebook posts are about contests, you’re friends are just going to get annoyed and block or limit your posts.  So a ton of requests can really backfire on you.  Plus like I said, it’s just annoying and not cool)

So if I’m only going to ask for votes 2 or 3 times, I want to make sure I post those requests at the right time.  But what is “the right time”?  Basically what I want to know is, when is facebook busiest?  Unfortunately, Facebook isn’t saying.  And that’s not surprising because if they actually came out announced the best time of day to post something, every company would start posting stuff at that time. But it seems that this question does have an answer.  A social Network Management company named Virtue conducted a study of facebook activity about a year and a half ago.  You can read a breakdown of the study here but it looks like the best time to post a vote request (or anything, really) on facebook probably is…

2:55PM on a Wednesday.

According to the study, facebook is constantly getting a ton of traffic.  But there is always a spike in activity around 3pm on weekdays.  You should try and post just before 3:00 because a lot of people sign in right at the top of the hour.  (Maybe that’s when the TV show they were watching ended or maybe that’s when their afternoon break begins.)  This spike happens every day but Wednesdays are usually facebook’s busiest day of the week.

According to the study, posts that are done in the morning actually get seen/liked/shared more than afternoon posts.  But a vote request isn’t a typical facebook post.  In the morning people are signing into facebook right at the start of the day.  9:00AM is not goof-off time…it’s a time to sign in really quick to check messages and skim the news feed.  By late afternoon, people are signing into facebook because they’re bored.  So you want to get your vote requests in front of people who have some time to kill.

Keep in mind that if you live LA but all your family and friends live back in Chicago, you should probably post your requests at 3:00PM Chicago time.  Oh and by the way, as it turns out the weekend really is a bad time to post anything to facebook.  These days, only about 30% of employers block facebook so most people spend time on the site while at work.  So you can post a vote request on a sunday morning (like I did today before I saw the Virtue study) but it won’t get you too many clicks.

Oh and PS:  Happy Mother’s Day from VCN and Mark Wahlberg!

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Tips for using GetOnlineVotes.com

Banner for getonlinevotes.com

I know that a lot of video contest filmmakers hate it when contests let online voting help determine the winners.  So do I.  I can’t even imagine how many contests I would have won if quality was the only thing that mattered to the judges.  But contest organizers LOVE online voting.  Every time a contestant asks for votes on facebook or twitter or on their blog, that’s free advertising for the sponsor.  And you can’t really blame contest organizers for wanting to get as much exposure for their company as possible.  After all, if it wasn’t for the publicity, most companies wouldn’t even bother running a contest in the first place.  So if you want to make money in video contests, you have just got to accept the fact that getting votes is just part of the game.  And once you do, you can start developing strategies to win vote-based competitions.

If you’re really serious about winning a contest, you’ll need to try and get votes from people outside of your social circle.   How do you do that?  Well I suggest you try the site GetOnlineVotes.com.  GOV is what contest junkies refer to as a “vote exchange.”  When a person needs votes in a contest they can post their link on GOV and ask for votes.  Then other people who need votes in other contests vote for that entry.  Then they post a comment that includes their own link and ask the original contestant to vote for them.  So basically, the whole thing is based on the premise, “you vote for me and I’ll vote for you.”

And it works.  It works great, actually.  I just learned abut the site recently but I’ve tried it 2 or 3 times now.  And if you really work the website, you can get dozens or even hundreds of votes from GOV.  But I’ve noticed a lot of people who use the exchange sabotage their chances by making some simple but key mistakes.  So I thought I’d make a quick list of tips to help you get more votes on GetOnlineVotes.com.

  1. Before you post your vote request, make sure that swapping votes does not violate your contest’s rules.  Most contests don’t care where votes come from.  As long as they are getting web traffic or new sign ups or facebook fans, they’re happy.  But some contests prohibit offering “inducements” to get people to vote for an entry.  For example, I was recently in a contest sponsored by Excedrin and they had a “no inducements rule.”  Several contestants used GetOnlineVotes.com and all of them were disqualified!  So for sure, check before you post.
  2. Keep it brief.  GOV gives you the option to say something about you or the contest you’re entering before you post your voting instructions.  You are required to fill in the space so keep it as brief as possible.  One sentence is all you need.  A huge explanation just makes it look like voting for you will be complicated.
  3.  Make your instructions as easy as possible.  A wordy or confusing explanation will just scare voters away.  This seems like a no-brainer but a lot of people over-explain the voting process.  Just post the link, and present STEP 1, STEP 2, STEP 3, etc.  But be aware, if you really do have more than 2 or 3 steps, not many people are going to want to spend so much time on one vote.  The more votes people make, the more they get in return.  Just keep that in mind.
  4. Promise that you will return all votes and ask people to leave their link.  This make other users feel like a vote for you will result in a guaranteed return vote.
  5. Vote for everyone that leaves a comment on your post!  Some jerks will post their request, let people vote for them and then not return the favor.  So let people know that you are voting by replying to all comments.  If other users see that you are replying “I voted!” to every comment, they’ll know you’re good about returning votes.
  6. Work the site.  Vote for other people and leave comments asking for return votes.  But try and focus on only voting for people who will actually vote for you in return.
  7. Consider Re-Listing your Post after a few days.  GOV doesn’t allow you to post the same vote request over and over.  But for just $3.95 you can have your post put back at the top of the list of requests.

I was actually inspired to write this article because I just submitted a vote request to GetOnlineVotes.  So here’s what a nice, simple request looks like:

Click to view the actual listing

Granted, this isn’t exactly a typical GOV request because the “voting’ is done on youtube.  Most of the contests listed on the site are run through facebook.  Still, other GOV users are actually voting for my video.  All I need to do to win the $1,000 “Crowd Favorite” prize in this particular contest is get the most youtube likes.  And I think I can pull it off, fair and square.  I can get a lot of likes through youtube since I have more than 3,500 subscribers.  But GetOnlineVotes.com will probably be the thing that puts me over the top.  Of course, I’d certainly love to get some likes from you VCN readers.  So if you want to help me out, head here and give me a like.  Thanks!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQAXJIuCS28

October 24th Update: I won the “Crowd Favorite” prize! Thanks for the votes everybody. I told you GOV works!