On Monday night, I saw a few tweets about a Blog World Expo contest, a conference I’d love to attend if I had the budget, but the budget is spent. The lucky winner will get a full conference registration courtesy of Blog World and roundtrip airfare courtesy of Southwest Air. A friend contacted me to see if I saw the announcement. I did, but the contest was at the Dads Talking blog so I figured only dads were eligible.

However, when I went to the post about the contest, there was nothing that said you had to be a dad. There also weren’t any comments from entrants. Tweeting about your entry was one of the requirements. After doing a couple of different searches, I could find no entry tweets. It looked like no one, not one dad, had entered the contest. It was fair game! I don’t like having to ask folks to shill on my behalf, but I couldn’t let my ego stand in the way of a good opportunity.

What the heck. I opened up WordPress and started to write about blogging and why I wanted to go to Blog World. I even posted a few photos of me and my Dad, just to keep with the dad theme. How cool is it now for me to see those photos on my blog? Priceless. I published my post and sent out a tweet.

And then, there they were. Two dads. They must have been writing at the same time I was because they weren’t there before.

Gulp. I should have known. But late at night with one day left in the contest, not one entry? Wouldn’t the blogging dads have already jumped on this and entered? I guess not. Now I felt like an interloper into their community, trying to wrest a prize from one of their own very worthy aspirants.

Again, there was nothing in the rules or blog post about the contest being only for dads. Running a contest like this is a good way to get the word out about your community so I could see why they might want to leave it open to all. They’d get more buzz.

Then I discovered this morning that the comment I left last night on the Dads Talking contest post was still awaiting moderation, while a  comment posted after mine by MrMomWorld had been published. Also, in the daily paper for #DadsTalking the posts from the other two entrants are featured (go down to the bottom right), but mine is, surprise surprise, missing.

Message received loud and clear. I went from feeling overly sensitive about intruding on their community to feeling snubbed and dismissed. I started thinking about the lessons in this story. My social media spidey sense tells me that’s not the way I would have handled the situation if it were my community. I would have said in a reply to my comment. “So sorry, Deirdre, we appreciate your entry but this contest is only for those in the #DadsTalking community. We should have made that clear. Blah blah blah. Nicety nice.”

We’re all still learning about the best ways to act in social media. It’s really just like real life but to an exponential degree. Here’s some lessons I drew from my experience.

  • Be clear about your intent and process. Misunderstandings can be confusing, hurtful and/or frustrating to both parties.
  • Twitter extends the reach of your blog or website to many people outside your community, especially when it involves a popular hashtag. Are you expecting that?
  • Expected the unexpected. Think about the different scenarios that might occur with any new project or program. Don’t be caught off guard and then react with silence.
  • If you do come up against something unexpected, face it. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Explain yourself. Apologize, if necessary. Always make nice.

Thanks to those who retweeted my contest entry, I appreciate that. I probably shouldn’t have entered in the first place, but the dad’s weren’t biting and I really want to go to Blog World, so I bit. If the contest is in fact only for dads, I’ll throw my support behind the entry that spoke to my heart, Bob Snitchler (@MrMomWorld). He describes himself on his blog as an “insufferable optimist.” I can relate to that. Good luck, Bob!

UPDATE (Thursday, September 30, 7:49 a.m.): My comment was finally approved on the DadsTalking blog. Must have happened late yesterday.