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May 2, 2023

Public voting done right - the step-by-step guide

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Public voting, also known as People’s choice or Audience choice, is a smart way to generate recognition and increase the scale of your award programs or contests. And since we’re obsessed with all things smart, we’ve prepared a guide on how to use public voting to achieve amazing results and how the right contest voting software can help you out.

a man choosing an entry option through online public voting

Why use public voting in the first place?

But before we get to the Hows, let’s start with the Whys.

Here are just a few reasons to go for it:

  • Show your community they really matter 

A public voting contest is one of the most powerful ways to tell your audience “Your opinion is important to us!” and to make them feel valued. That alone is reason enough.

  • Add a new dimension to your program

Adding another layer to your awards program is always a good idea. This extra element will also help you hold people’s attention and interest throughout the whole campaign cycle. 

  • Increase your program visibility and engagement 

There’s hardly a cheaper way to do that. A public voting round helps you to not only connect with your current community but also to attract a new audience.

  • Boosts your marketing

A public voting contest is a marketing tactic and a smart one at that. It costs you almost nothing but has amazing results (if done right, of course). 

  • Spur discussion on social media channels

Having difficulties engaging your social media audience? A public contest could totally change that! It will not only spark conversations but you’ll often get tagged in contestants’ and voters’ posts — so prepare to go viral.

  • Gain a great source of user-generated content

We’re not going to elaborate on how priceless UGC is because you already know that. We’ll just say that organizing a public voting contest is a great way to gain invaluable UGC that is engaging by default. A photo contest is an obvious example, but video, short story contests, artwork awards, or similar can also result in awesome UGC. 

  • Improve transparency

For a contest to have a stellar reputation, transparency is crucial. A public voting contest is usually as transparent as it gets as everybody gets to have their say.

These are just some of the reasons why a people’s choice contest or at least a public voting round as part of the evaluation mix could be a great move. Check which ones apply to your program the most and push towards achieving maximum results. 

What are the downsides?

You might think that there are no downsides to running a public voting contest. Well, not so fast.

Not every competition or awards program fits the concept of people’s choice. Just think of the Oscars — they will never have people’s choice awards because they’ll simply lose their value. If you organize medical awards or any kind of competition requiring the judges to have very specific knowledge or expertise, the public is simply not competent to evaluate the entries. In these cases, public voting could harm the image of your awards.

However, if that’s not the case, we highly recommend a public voting contest or at least a round.

Another public voting risk is vote rigging or fraud. You’ve seen it — an entry that gets an unrealistic amount of votes overnight. Usually, that’s due to bots or organized groups of people trying to manipulate the vote. And even though it’s almost impossible to eliminate cheating altogether (people are unbelievably creative when it comes to that), you can at least limit vote-rigging to a great extent (more on that later).

Which channels are best for public voting?

The first thing that comes to your mind is probably social media. Yup, social media can make a great voting platform (mainly visual ones like photo contests, etc.). However, there’s a better one — your own webpage. 


It’s simple — you take your current audience as well as your potential customers to your online home where they can take the actions you want them to take, which lets you stay in control. 

The how-to of public voting

Now that you know why and where you’re doing the public voting contest, it’s time for the fun part — planning and implementing.

Step 1: Set the rules and timeframe 

The rules are the pillars of every competition, so that’s your starting point. We recommend that you really think them through because altering them during the campaign could harm your image and annoy your audience.

Usually, a public voting contest has 2 phases:

  1. Collecting applications for the people to vote for
  2. Public voting 

Then comes the timeframe. The public voting phase is the first or latter step within the main competition’s evaluation phase. Defining that will help you set the time period for public voting. 

Choose your voting type

The most common type of public voting is the Popularity voting option. It basically allows people to cast their votes for one or more applications. All votes count equally – the winner in a category is the application that gets the most votes. Popularity voting is perfect for any kind of contest that requires ordering of entries such as photo competitions, art, or other creative contests, lists, indexes, etc.

Some awards management solutions will stop here and convince you that this is the only right way to do a public voting contest. Evalato, of course, offers more.

So here are the other voting options you get with Evalato:

Simple review 

A quick and easy voting type where people can vote for or against applications with a single click.

Points voting

Voting via a points distribution system, where the points can be limited per application, category, and round.

Score voting

That’s the option for more complex score voting scenarios where different categories require different sets of criteria. With this, you can set custom scorecards, each with its own set of criteria, weights, and scale. One notable example of an awards program that uses this type of voting is Eventex Awards — the world’s leading international awards for events and experience marketing — where the winning entries are chosen on their own merit rather than in competition with the rest.  

Single transferable vote

A rank-based system where a vote is initially allocated to the voter’s first preference, but may be transferred to an alternate preference. It is recommended for single and multiple-winner outcomes, rather than rankings, and is used for elections in Ireland, Australia, the UK, and some US states. 

Positional voting 

A system where voters express their preferences in rank order, while applications get points based on their rank position, and the ones with the most points overall win. Positional voting is also recommended for single and multi-winner outcomes and is used in the Eurovision song contest. 

Explain the rules clearly to your audience

Make sure you provide clear rules and instructions, to avoid misunderstandings. It’s best if these are placed someplace they cannot be missed and are easily accessible at any time. 

If there are important deadlines, also make sure people know about them. When the voting starts and ends, and when the results will be announced.

Also, as boring as T&C forms are, they’re a must. When you have public voting as part of your program, you should consider having separate T&Cs for those who wish to cast their votes.

To that end, Evalato features dedicated spaces where you can add all of these elements.

Step 2: Offer an awesome reward

Every contest needs a prize. The more awesome the reward, the more and the better participants you’ll get.

That doesn’t mean that if you don’t have a big budget, your public voting competition won’t be a success. The reward could be awesome and even more appealing even if it’s not monetary or tangible. If, for example, your organization is an authority in your industry and you make a list of the best in that field, contestants will be more drawn by being part of your prestigious index, than any tangible prize. 

On top of that, psychologists have long proven that when competing, contestants are motivated by both extrinsic and intrinsic factors — the first being winning an award and the second — the experience of personal satisfaction and approval from the public.

Step 3: Make it easy for participants to enter the contest

To attract more participants, make entering your competition as seamless as possible. That means not wasting their time in complicated and long processes, sending them to multiple web pages, or involving them in endless communication. Make their (and your) work simple and choose an intuitive solution for your public voting contest.

With Evalato and its embeddable registration form, your contestants register quickly and easily right from the contest’s webpage and get access to a personal online portal where they can submit their application whenever they want and simply click a button to do so. You approve it again with just a click and voila — it’s live on your Evalato-powered voting page.

Step 4: Make it easy to vote, hard to cheat

For a public voting contest to work, make it easy to vote and minimize vote-rigging as much as possible. Both things depend on your decisions and the public voting solution you choose.

There are usually 3 popular ways to control your public voting:

  • Through email: that’s a good way with one tiny drawback — more efforts for the public to cast their votes. Voters have to enter their email, then waste even more time to click on the confirmation email and only then they’re allowed to vote. That might dissuade a lot of potential voters.
  • Through IP detection: that’s also a great option to limit vote rigging. However, this way, you can’t collect the amount of data that some of the other options give you, like email forms and social login.
  • Through social login: that’s the easiest, simplest, and yet limiting vote rigging option to control public voting. Naturally, that’s the way you do it with Evalato. Here your public voters can use Facebook, LinkedIn, or Gmail to log in and cast their vote. So you get both social login and email options (the latter without making the voters enter their email). 

While you might be tempted to forego control altogether — allow just anyone to cast their vote and then brag about the turnout — you risk compromising your entire contest. That’s why at Evalato we intentionally haven’t included such an option.

Step 5: Consider the design

Did you know that 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual and we process visual information 60,000 times faster than text? That should be enough to convince you how much design matters.

So let’s have a word about the design of your public voting page. 

What’s most important is for it to be easy to grasp. That means:

  • well structured
  • intuitive for voting: use hearts, thumbs up, a star, or other icons to make it as clear as possible for the audience
  • if you’re adding a CTA, keep it short and simple
  • avoiding banners or other ads.

Step 6: Promote it 

If done right, the public voting element could have a viral effect without breaking the bank. Of course, you need to do your part so here are a few quick tips on how to promote it:

  • Put it in your newsletter — your community should be the first to find out about the public voting contest you’re organizing, so they can choose to participate, or at least vote in it. Include it in your weekly or monthly newsletter — ideally, as the sole topic in the email. 
  • Announce it to the media — public contests are engaging and free - 2 factors that could attract media attention. So a press release announcing your contest is a must. Also, use every possibility to talk about it in interviews or other publications. 
  • Use the power of social media — that’s a truly convenient and effective way to spread the word about your contest, especially if you use a contest management tool like Evalato where the public could use social login to cast their vote. 
  • Make a blog post — if you have a blog, you need to have a post about your contest there as well as explaining the story behind the contest, the rules, deadlines, and anything you deem important. 
  • Encourage word of mouth — in all your communication with your community (be it in a newsletter, social media, or emails), don’t forget to ask people to spread the word about your public contest. 
  • And finally, advertise — as said before, public voting contests are bound to have success even if you don’t have any budget for advertising. However, a little boost could help your results. Even if you don’t use some expensive ad channels (such as some traditional forms of advertising), a low-budget but highly-targeted campaign on Google ads, Facebook, or other relevant platforms could do wonders.

Step 7: Pick the right tool

There are lots of tools you can use for public voting. Some are pretty basic apps that do just that — let people vote for some options you’ve added. Other tools, like Evalato, can help you run any kind of awards or contest that requires collecting and evaluating applications by judges, a team of reviewers, or public voting. Not to mention the tons of customization and analytics options you get with a powerful and flexible solution. Our key advice here is — research and test, that’s the best way to know for sure whether an awards voting system fits your exact requirements.

Now that you know the ins and outs of public voting, it’s time to act. Sign up with Evalato for free and see how it works for you.

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