Hi, my name is Andrew and I’m the Community Manager here at XBLA Fans. You might know me better as the guy running the twitter account that gives out codes for games every day. As you can imagine, I get asked a ton of questions about our contests. I strongly feels that openness leads to a better experience online and in life. So I figured I would explain my processes to you all a little in case you were curious about what I do and why I do it. So let’s talk a little bit about contests, shall we?

I try to run a contest on twitter at least during each weekday. Sometimes I simply can’t get to it though. The reason behind this is usually work related. I have a full time job on the side of my work with this site and if you notice a 2-3 day streak where I didn’t hold a contest, it usually means there is a high priority event at work that has consumed my undivided attention. It happens to all of us sometimes.

When I do run these contests, I tend to start them sometime between 11AM and 1PM PDT and that is for two reasons. Reason #1 is that it fits in a few hours before my commute to work and I let the contest run during that commute for time efficiency. Reason #2 is because the majority of our active followers on twitter are based in North America. This allows an ideal time frame to capture all four time zones in the continental US. Occasionally when I get home late at night I will run some test contests to gauge how many active European followers we have. The number of entries in these contests are usually much smaller and that is why these contests are more random and not too consistent.

I have a very strategic structure to our contest tweets as well. You’ll notice that most contest tweets usually look like this:

RT this and follow @XBLAFans for a chance to win Shank 2 on #XBLA / Our review: http://bit.ly/HH1Tut

Here is the break down of that tweet:

First is the RT, that means Retweet. We put this in the requirements because it helps our community grow. This is the first of three requirements on entering a contest. This allows 100-200 contestants to spread the word of our site for us and in return you are eligible to win a free game from us, a fairly simple trade-off. Any type of Retweet counts for the contest. You can quote us or simply click the Retweet button. There’s a 99% chance we will see your entry if you retweet that tweet. Only one retweet per contest is necessary. If you spam our account with many retweets in a hour, you are ineligible. If you spam us with many retweets for multiple contests over and over again, we will block you from ever entering another contest. To this day, we have blocked less than ten people though. This rule is rarely violated.

Second we have the “follow @XBLAFans” part. This is the second requirement and it allows us to grow as new community members are constantly following us to enter these contests. This is what we want. We want our follower count to grow for obvious reasons. It is also required because if you win, we need you to follow us so we can DM you the winning game code in private. If somebody wins a contest but isn’t following us, we will chose a new winner. The instructions on how to enter are right there in our tweet. If you don’t understand the rules, feel free to ask us. But just know that you do need to follow us if you ever want to actually win. For the record, I can count on one hand the amount of times that a winner wasn’t following us. This is another rare occurrence but it has happened before.

Third is the hashtag #XBLA. We include that to attract any new eyes on twitter that might be searching for that hashtag. That is really the sole purpose of the hashtag but it might also help spread awareness on what XBLA actually is if followers of contestants see that and begin to ask what it means.

And last is the bitly link. This is the third requirement and is a very key component in the contest tweet. We need you to include this link in order to see your entry. Twitter doesn’t track retweets well at all. Twitter will often say a tweet has been retweeted 50 times when bitly analytics shows 128 retweets. Bitly is right and twitter is wrong, it’s that simple. If you take that bitly link off the tweet, you don’t show up in my bitly analytics and that means that you are not entered in the contest. We purposely leave 20 or more free spaces in every contest tweet in order to combat these bitly links being left off or chopped off in entry retweets. Those links are also there in hopes that you will click on them and check out our review or a few other articles while you wait for the contest to end. Clicking on the link does not increase your chances to win the contest. All winners are randomly chosen unless stated otherwise.

And while we are talking about randomly chosen winners…

I use two different services to chose a winner. The first service is random.org. It’s a simple site that randomly selects a number out of a pre-set set of possibilities. The other service I use is an Android app on my phone that is literally called “Random Numbers Generator”. I tend to use this app when I’m on the road and trying to end a contest from my phone or iPad. Both are solid services and both are 100% random.

Those make up 95% of our contests tweets on twitter. They are the most efficient types of contests and they are fairly easy to track with the tools explained. Occasionally we will hold a trivia contest or a “guess the game these achievements are from” contest. These are rare because they require manual counting of entries on my end and I don’t always have time for that to be honest. And the “first correct answer wins” type of contests have been killed off since internet speeds present an advantage for certain users and we really don’t want to run any contests where every contestant doesn’t have an equally fair chance.

Here are other things to beware of:

Sometimes we will chose a winner and decide not to reward the winner their prize. We will click on all winners and check out their profile before we announce the winner. If your profile comes across as a bot, you are ineligible and these are the situations where a new winner will be chosen. Your first strike in this situation would be a “Twitter Egg” for your profile picture. Most bots have that default twitter egg as their profile pic and if we see that default twitter egg when we pull your name, we’re automatically skeptical.

However, that does not disqualify you immediately. We still open your profile and look for one human tweet. Those are things like “@twixprintmatic Haha, that’s a good one!” or “Happy Birthday to my buddy @Cain141” or “#FF @prryjcksn because he is super cool!”. A human tweet is simply something we know a person had to hand type and that a bot didn’t generate. We will go as far as look through your last 100 tweets before we determine if you are a bot or not. Trust me when I tell you that I can spot a human tweet. I spend 60 or more hours on twitter every week. It’s literally my job and I know a thing or two about scammers and bots. Getting a quick one past me is going to be extremely difficult and is not worth wasting your time or mine.

Don’t troll us or be offensive toward us. If you send us a tweet along the lines of “F@#k you, I never win these things and your site is a piece of s%*t!” well guess what? You are blocked for good and we will never see another tweet from you again. It’s that simple. We will listen to constructive criticism if you want to chat about possible improvements maturely. But if being offensive is your first reaction to any issues, you can expect a prompt blocking of your account. This is another rare occurrence but it has happened before and we do not feel bad for blocking you if you chose to tweet things like that to us.

Some extra bits of information:

People often ask where do we get all of our codes. The answer is simple, they come from game publishers and developers. Sorry but we can not give you our codes. If you wish to score a review or contest code for your own site or blog, then your best bet is always looking at a publishers site for contact and PR info. That is how we got started and as you grow and foster a community generally interested in what your site focuses on, you will have an easier time getting these codes form the publishers as your relationships grow.

We can not trade codes with you. Sorry but that is our policy and it really is non-negotiable. If you are looking to trade codes, you can usually check out sites like Cheap Ass Gamer but that is 100% at your own risk. My recommended advice on how to handle a code for a game that you already own is give it to a friend. Why not, they’re your friends. Make their day :)

My favorite app for managing multiple twitter accounts is called Tweet Caster. I use it on Android and iOS and if you run various communities like me, I highly recommend running your personal accounts in a completely separate app. And when you are are online, run your personal accounts from a completely different browser as well.  This will help avoid tweeting a personal thought from a branded account which generally doesn’t reflect well on many brands.

Aside from @XBLAFans, I also keep a very close eye on @XKFans, @GameMusicFans and @PSNFans on twitter. If time permits, I will give out free game codes on those accounts occasionally. So you might want to start following those accounts right now! You can also feel free to follow my personal account @twixprintmatic. I will occasionally give away free stuff there as well so feel free to follow me or tweet any questions to me. I try my best to respond to all tweets sent to all of these accounts. I hate unanswered tweets just as much as you and I really do wake up multiple times every night to respond to any tweets that may have caused my phone to beep and wake me up. It may not be the healthiest thing to do but I do it because I care about all of our communities. So if something is on your mind, always let me know :)