Fur Affinity bans 'Spam to Win' journals, reposted promos
Furries are pretty creative. Where conventional companies will pay advertising companies, we find new way to promote our products and selves to others. Independent artists in the fandom have to use less conventional means of promotion. Two such staples that have become popular in the fandom over the past year are "Your Character Here" auctions and "Repost a Link" schemes. However, with their increased popularity, users began to criticize abuse of these methods and expressed annoyance at their side effects.
On November 21, after a link-reposting "giveaway" promising the winner $1,111 had saturated the site, Fur Affinity staff decided that what once started as a small advertising scheme had entered the realm of the intolerable, calling the methodology "Spam to Win". They also re-addressed an issue where artists would repost YCH auction template pictures, annoying watches and browsers alike.
In this Flayrah exclusive we will focus on the new journal rules, explain their implications to average furs and furry organizations, and how these type of prize giveaways could evolve under these new regulations and maintain a level of effectiveness.
What is "Spam to Win"?
It all begins with a single post and soon can grow to thousands. A prize giveaway is announced by the runner announcing their intentions. The giveaway is open to all, there is usually just a few rules, but the main item is that the person must post in the comment section a link to another journal on their own page where they point to the original post.
As more people link to the journal, more people see the contest. In turn it could reach everyone on the entire site until it reaches someone who is not interested in participating. For those who don't watch many accounts this can result in one or two repeat notifications. For those central participants with a high watch count, the torrent of repeat notifications can be overwhelming.
Why do they do this? It's a relatively cheap way to get quick advertising for someone who has a low amount of exposure (should the prize be lucrative enough). While these type of contests started as mere art raffles where the winner would get an item from the artist, some users realized that throwing cash into the prize pool was extremely effective and gave more of a return than craft skills.
The comment section for the $1,111 dollar contest which probably brought the new rule about had so many comments that it takes over 500 full spins of the mouse wheel (full screen, 1600x900 resolution) to go from the top to the bottom — and is over 30Mb in size, including images. For each entry comment, there was a journal, until the rule change.
What is the new rule?
These new rule which will have a profound impact on business methods on the site can be found in an announcement.
"Spam to Win" - Journals and submissions which require users to repost or link to the raffle/contest in order to enter are NO LONGER PERMITTED. Too many users have been encouraging mass spamming on the site for entries into raffles or contests. It's gotten out of hand and is inconveniencing the entire community.
One can still run a giveaway, however the creation of an FA journal which links to the original post must not be a consideration for entry.
Winners and losers
Who comes out on top and who comes out on bottom may be surprising. This rule comes with benefits as well as setbacks depending on the party in question:
- Users who see Fur Affinity as a social networking site rather than a business site will find their journal inboxes lighter of spam.
- Those who watch many individuals need no longer worry about redundant advertising for a giveaway.
- Artists who use journals to communicate important information to their customers may no longer have important announcements missed through subconscious filtering of journals as unimportant spam.
- SoFurry, Inkbunny, Weasyl: These sites have an opportunity to gather up the forlorn losers and offer a way to include the now-forbidden giveaways in their site in a manner that will not agitate their core users. A competent technological staff could easily implement a check box in the journal creation screen that indicates the journal is concerning a giveaway or is giveaway related. With this tag they can then allow users to filter out those journals that have been marked as such. It is clear with this ruling that FA either lacks the technical staff to do this, or the creativity to come up with it. All it would take is for a rival to capitalize on that to further drain FA of business-savvy artists.
The losers are:
- Those running giveaways which used the link-reposting echo effect that was so effective (and must devise new solutions to draw attention).
- Up and coming artists who may not have the views, but have the cash to use to 'advertise' what they do. I fall under this category as after seeing the effect of these giveaways was about to incorporate it in my own business strategy. I'm savvy enough to come up with new ideas, others may not be, however luckily for this set of losers I am going to share some of these ideas in the last section.
- Astro-turf Popufurs- You know, people who give away prizes for more watchers even if they have no products to sell. One could argue they might have fallen into the loser category even before this rule change-- but hey, they're still people who certainly are negatively impacted by this rule change. Sure they're people who buy their friends, but people none the less.
- Fur Affinity- The rule change is sure to have a positive impact for a majority of users who use it as a social networking site, and does stop an exploitation. It also, probably coincidentally, might have a positive effect on its advertising revenue (as people were discovering that dollar per dollar giving away $20 was more effective than spending it on FA ads). However, the way in which the issue was handled leaves the door open to rival websites to handle the situation in a better manner for all parties instead of "picking a side", as previously discussed.
- Sweepstakes/raffle consumers and users who enjoyed participating in these events will be less likely to see a chance to win just come to their entry box; however they also may have a greater chance to win on those they do find, because there are fewer entries.
Changes of methodology
The big question is, now that one cannot make posting an FA journal with a link as a means to entry, how can one spread the word in any efficient manner? Now if someone enters into a contest like this they will be less likely to spread the word of their own will because they don't want to hurt their chances of winning.
There are two methods I can think of that individuals can use to get people to spread the word without forcing them to as part of entry:
- Having multiple prizes of set amounts that will be spread out depending on the number of entries. For example: "For every 10 entries there will be a $5 giveaway." Or if you want to provide a more 'diminishing return' approach use a logarithmic function to make it so the number of entries has to go up more and more for the next prize to be given.
- Similar to #1 but instead of the number of winners going up, the prize itself goes goes up in value. This way you can give you contestants a choice, keep quiet and have a chance to win less, or spread the word and have a lower chance to win more.
When using the two methods above, you should have some cap in mind as they both could go on to infinity otherwise.
These two methodologies can be employed to replace the forced linking and will provide a similar effect, ironically making the new rule pretty useless in the grand scheme of things. Of course when employing them my advice is to have people tell each other via Skype, Twitter and off-FA, or even in the note system; that way these type of ideas don't get banned as well.
While this new rule is an unfortunate turn of events, as truly any regulation is, it'll probably have little impact on the popularity of giveaways as a way to gets one's product or name out there. What will more likely happen is that furries will use their creativity to come together and make better and more engaging contests that encourage participants to spread the word, without forcing them to. With this hindrance comes an opportunity, and it may actually make people think more of you if you can run a successful campaign without using spamming methodologies.