9 Reasons Ballots Capitalize on Digital Trends

by Matt Coen Second Street

Ballots Generate Lists

As the popularity of sites like BuzzFeed reveal, lists have recently encountered a surge in popularity. Lists are also highly shareable, which means ballots are more likely to go viral. According to Amy Eisman, Director of the Masters Program in Media Entrepreneurship at American University, “The Web encourages busy people to prioritize and that’s why easy-to-digest lists have exploded online.”

The image below shows a sample of BuzzFeed’s homepage. You’ll see that the majority of articles are lists, and surprise, surprise – there are a lot of cats.


This list from The Washington Post covers the 9 most important questions about the situation in Syria.


The New Yorker, which has never been known for its brevity, is even hopping on the list bandwagon. They wrote an article on lists in list form.


The Roanoke Times ran a Best of Holiday Shopping Ballot that created lists of the best establishments in their market for local, bargain shopping, and more.


Ballots Are Mobile

Thanks to new tools, it is simple to make your ballot promotions mobile-friendly. This is a big deal because your audience is able to vote on your ballot while they are actually visiting one of the participating merchants (perhaps in response to a promotional sign at the merchant’s location!). Furthermore, after the ballot ends, audiences can use the winner’s page as a directory of recommendations when they’re on the go.

Ballot on phone

Ballots Are Local

Ballots work particularly well in a local context and encourage people in your community to engage with your brand. Someone deciding where to go out to dinner might easily consult the winners page of a ballot you’ve run. This is good news for you and the merchants listed.

The Fort Worth Star Telegram ran a ballot to invite their audience to vote on the best restaurants, individuals, places, and more in their community.

Local ballot fort worth

Ballots Encourage Social Sharing

Any local merchants listed on a ballot will want to promote their participation to their customers to increase their chance of winning. Those customers will, in turn, want to share their opinions with their friends. This means ballots are going to be shared throughout your community not only by promotional assets displayed by the merchants at their physical locations and on their websites but also on social media by merchants and their customers alike.

The Signal, in Santa Clarita, California, promoted their “Best Of” Santa Clarita Valley ballot on Facebook.

Santa Clarita Valley Signal Facebook post

And, one of The Signal’s participating merchants took to Twitter to thank their fans for voting for them.


Even the audience gets involved by promoting their favorites on the ballot.


Ballots Generate Crowdsourced Content

Ballots are one of the most efficient ways to collect the opinions from people in your community and present that content back to your audience. Nielsen has found that 92% of consumers trust earned media – like word-of-mouth advertising and recommendations from friends and family – above all other forms of advertising, so the crowd-sourced recommendations generated by ballots are incredibly valuable to the winning merchants.

For example, take a look at the Seven Days local guide. The paper used content generated from their best-of ballot to determine the content of their yearly special edition guide to Vermont.

Locals guide to vermont

Ballots Attract Local SMB Advertisers

A local ballot will feature all of the small and midsize businesses (SMBs) that you are looking to target for advertising services you offer, whether that be traditional ad buys, agency services, or something else. Listing these merchants on a ballot is a great way to get your foot in the door to show them everything that you can do for their business.

Ballots Reach a Niche Audience

While ballots can easily be set up to engage your entire audience and include all of the businesses in your market, you can also create a more targeted niche ballot that takes a deep dive into a specific topic or demographic.

The best part? These niche ballots can still keep a local focus, by drilling down into a specific neighborhood or type of business.

For example, the ballot below is “High School OT Honors” from WRAL-TV that targets a very specific niche – high school students, faculty, and parents.

wral football ballot

Ballots Create User-Generated Reviews

People have become accustomed to the collaborative environment of Yelp and other apps like it and no longer rely so heavily on professional reviews. Running ballot promotions allows you to get involved with that space, even as a media company that also publishes professional reviews.


Ballots Work Well with Live Events

You can easily supplement a ballot with a live event in order to extend the life of the promotion and engage your audience even more. This includes anything from an awards ceremony event for winners to a winners celebration open to your entire community. For example, Rhode Island Monthly runs their Best of Rhode Island program annually and has included a live event for the last 20 years.

Texoma ballot event

As you can see, ballots are firing on all cylinders. Now’s the time to make sure a ballot (or many!) is scheduled on your calendar.

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