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Social Media Portal interview with Jane Willis from The Competition Grapevine

Tim Gibbon (Social Media Portal (SMP)) - 23 August 2012

Social Media Portal interview with Jane Willis from The Competition Grapevine

Social Media Portal (SMP) profiled interview with Jane Willis, editor and blogger at The Competition Grapevine

The Competition Grapevine imageSocial Media Portal (SMP): What is your name and role at The Competition Grapevine?

Jane Willis (JW): My name is Jane Willis and I produce the postal magazine for competition enthusiasts, The Competition Grape Vine. I do everything myself ? a complete one woman operation ? scouring shops and other outlets for the latest competitions, writing the magazine, distributing it and making the tea. Lots of tea.

I?ve been a comper for most of my life ? my grandma was one and I won my first prize when I was just three, thanks to her encouragement. But it didn?t become a major hobby for me until 1985, when we settled in the UK after living abroad for some time.

In 2005 I was given the opportunity to take over The Competition Grape Vine from the original owner who was retiring, and have been producing it ever since.  

SMP: Briefly, tell us about The Competition Grapevine (for those that don?t know), what is it and what does the blog do?

JW: The magazine itself goes out to readers  once a month, telling them where to find the latest competitions, what they will need to buy to enter, and giving advice on possible answers to question and important rules to look out for. For instance a holiday prize might need to be taken on certain dates, and somebody in a hurry who entered without reading the detailed rules might miss that fact and then be disappointed if they won a prize trip they couldn?t take. I try to make sure everyone spots unexpected rules like that. Readers also get a mid month update of last minute competitions to enter, sent to them by email.

The blog started as an offshoot of the magazine, to tell people more about it and how I produce it, but promoters soon started asking me to use it to spread the word about their competitions and even offering prizes for me to give away in competitions of my own, so the competitions featured on it now are mostly in addition to those in the magazine.

SMP: Why did you start the blog and when did it launch?

Photograph of Jane Willis of The Competition GrapevineJW: I started the blog to try to raise the profile of Grape Vine, in the spring of 2008. It didn?t take off at first and I abandoned it after a few months, but as blogs became more popular with competition lovers I relaunched it with much more success in 2010. I also started to be an enthusiastic user of Twitter at about the time of the relaunch, and now use the blog to give advice and information about Twitter ? not just to compers but to all Twitter users. I pride myself on being able to use plain English instead of Geek!

SMP: Who are your target audience and why?

My target audience is anyone who loves to enter competitions, whether the old fashioned pen-and-paper way or using one of the myriad new technologies which I try hard to master in advance of most other compers. They enjoy the competitions I put on the blog and also my more general posts like ?A Day in the Life? which tells how I go about finding competitions, and my frequent Twitter advice posts.  

SMP: How did you initially attract users to your blog and how do you do it now?

JW: Initially I wrote about it in my newsletter and most of the readers came from among my subscribers. Now I shout about it on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Foursquare, Instagram ? all over cyberspace!

SMP: You distribute a newsletter, is it n print and online?

JW: The monthly magazine is in print, with a mid month update emailed to current subscribers.

SMP: How can users sign up to it?

JW: The price is 13.50 for 3 months, 25 for 6 months and 45 for a year. Compers  who have not had a copy before can request a free sample copy and subscription form by emailing their name and postal address to janesgrapevine @
Full details of how to subscribe are on the website and blog.

SMP: What are the low moments of what you have been doing so far (in regards to the blog)?

JW: The lowest moment was when someone with a personal (and I have to say,  totally unfounded) grudge against me started posting comments filled with personal abuse. That was a contributing factor when I stopped  using the blog early on in its life.

SMP: What are the high moments of what you have been doing so far (in regards to the blog)?

JW: The high moments come when I post information about a competition and then a reader contacts me to say that they were the winner. Helping somebody to win a prize is a fantastic feeling and one I will never tire of.

SMP: What do you see as your biggest challenges and opportunities in managing the blog?

The biggest challenge is balance ? I try not to post more than once on any given day, so that whatever is at the top of the page stays there for at least 24 hours, and I try to keep a balance between new competitions and other material such as advice on Twitter, general comping advice and personal chat about my own wins. But sometimes several promoters will contact me on one day, each wanting me to share their competitions, while other times I may have no new ones to post.

SMP: What are the next moves for The Competition Grapevine in terms of social media?

JW: I?m constantly on the look out for competitions being run on new forms of social media, so that I can keep abreast of what is happening, but I do need to bear in  mind that a significant proportion of my most loyal readers are elderly people who find it all too bewildering. Some don?t use the internet at all and others need step by step instructions even to enter the simplest of online comps.

SMP: What?s the next big step for social media and networks as it related to compers (people interested in competitions)?

JW: Competitions on Pinterest are really only just starting to find their feet. At present, promoters are finding a lot of pitfalls, in particular the difficulty of contacting winners. In that respect, Pinterest is where Facebook and Twitter were a few years ago. So I think before it really starts to take off on other social media such as Foursquare and Instagram, there will need to be some refinement of the way competitions are run on Pinterest. Once those have really caught the imagination of the comping public, other media will come into play.

SMP: What was the most challenging part of building on the blogs presence in digital environments (including social media)?

JW: Not having enough other blogs on the subject to relate to and swap links with. It?s become more noticeable to me recently as I have started a separate blog for my craft and cooking hobbies, and there are so many link-sharing opportunities that word soon gets around. But comping bloggers are few and far between ? there?s no category for us on e-buzzing, no network like the Tots 100 or Foodies 100 ? no publicity structure that we can join in to help promote each other.

SMP: How much of an advantage and/or disadvantage has social media been for the Competition Grapevine and what you do?

JW: It?s actually had very little influence on the magazine, running alongside it rather than boosting or detracting from it.

SMP: What are your top predictions for social media throughout 2012 and into 2013?

JW replies with:

  • We?ll stop seeing social media as the exclusive territory of the young ? it?s already happening.
  • Facebook will lose support in favour of other media
  • Ummm?.. I don?t really have any other predictions as we don?t know what new media are just around the corner and which ones promoters will experiment with using for competitions

SMP: What are your top social media tips for compers?

JW replies with:

  • Try something new ? don?t decide comps on new forms of social media aren?t for you until you?ve given them a fair chance. You might love them!
  • Read the instructions carefully ? lots of people don?t and their entries won?t count.
  • Get yourself a Google account if you don?t already have one, so that you can easily enter blog comps and the few that are starting to appear on Google+
  • If you enter competitions on Facebook or use your Facebook profile to quickly enter on other sites, regularly check your ?other? messages as Facebook doesn?t send notifications of them and that?s where your winning messages will go.
  • Don?t pick a user name that labels you as a comper, like ?lucky? or ?winner? ? some promoters don?t like it.

SMP: Best way to contact you and The Competition Grapevine?

JW: Either by email to janesgrapevine @ or on Twitter @janesgrapevine

Now some questions for fun

SMP: What did you have for breakfast / lunch?

JW: I?ve just had lunch ? a chicken salad sandwich, a pear and two plums.

SMP: What?s the last good thing that you did for someone?

JW: I?ve just arranged to take a friend to the theatre for her birthday.

SMP: How many hours to you work a week?

Far too many! It?s hard to be specific as I combine a lot of my research time with my own comping.

SMP: If you weren?t running The Competition Grapevine what would you be doing?

JW: I?d still be finding and entering competitions. Plus cooking, cardmaking, travelling and playing with my lovely granddaughters.

SMP: When and where did you go on your last holiday?

I?ve just got back from Vienna, using flights that I won

SMP: The best competition that you?ve won?

JW: Oh that is a tough one! I love winning holidays, but over the years I?ve won  around 30 and most of them have been wonderful. Some of the best have been a trip round the world, a whale watching holiday in the San Ignacio Lagoon  and a gourmet tour of India.

SMP: The best competition or offer you?ve picked up in the last three-months?

JW: I?ll have to say the Waterstones  cardholder competition for a cruise along the Danube, because I won it!

SMP: What?s the first thing you do when you get into the office of a morning?

JW: Drink tea. It?s not much of a commute for me ? ten feet from the sofa to the study ? but I still need a cup of tea to revive me.

SMP: If you had a superpower what would it be and why?

JW: Faster than light travel. My elderly mother lives 5 hours? drive away which is a constant worry to me. I?d love to be able to pop over every day for half an hour.

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