Second Thoughts About My Twitter Contest

Since November of 2007, I’ve been running a low-key contest on Twitter. It was very simple, I ran a couple of Perl scripts to archive any tweets containing @HenryMelton, which for the most part were replies to me about something. Once a month, I ran a second script that randomly pulled one of the userid’s from the completed month’s archive. I excluded family members, obvious robot-tweeters and previous winners.

With the winner id in hand, I tweeted a @reply to them notifying them, telling them where to see the list of my books and asking for a mailing address. If that notification was ignored, as it was half the time, I repeated with a direct message with the same info. On rare occasions, and if there was an email address to be found via their profile, I would send an email notification as well.
This worked well for several months, winners were happy. Books found new homes. I put up a courtesy link to their twitter stream on my website. Then the phishing attacks started on twitter. Suddenly, some URL’s were suspicious, especially from people you didn’t know well. Someone offering you something for free out of the blue was doubly suspicious. I fear I may actually lose followers by choosing them as winners.
So, what should I do now? I will obviously continue December’s contest as normal, but beginning in 2010, I think I should do something different. My goal is to increase the quality and quantity of conversations with people I meet via the internet. I would also like to expand the possible winner pool to those who read my tweets via the cross-posting to Facebook. I’ve had questions from people who only see my tweets there.
One possibility is to increase the visibility of the contest, so that everyone knows about it. Being a natural hermit, this isn’t comfortable. I see people who announce every contest, every post, every cute quote multiple times, sometimes daily. I don’t think I could do that.
Another possibility is to increase the rate at which I choose winners. However, mailing out books costs me money and I couldn’t afford to do this weekly. I could change it to an ebook or PDF giveaway and increase the rate.
To get around the “Where did this come from?” syndrome, I could make it an opt-in contest, rather than based on unrelated conversations.
In any case, I will be changing my contest before too long and I could really use some feedback. Leave me a comment or two.