Blog giveaways can be a fun way to boost interaction and readership on your blog. There is a lot that goes in to having giveaways on your blog though. This post covers the logistics, rules, laws and best practices when it comes to running giveaways on your blog.
If you’re here for the update – as of Facebook’s update in early August of 2014, you may not ask for “likes” on a page as a method of entry for a giveaway.
First up, we’ll talk about the frequency of giveaways.
There’s nothing wrong with a fun giveaway every now and then. Everyone loves to try and win a prize, especially when it’s hand-picked by a blogger they like! However, you should know that there’s a fine line when it comes to running giveaways. You don’t ever, ever want your readers to come to your blog and expect a giveaway. People will no longer read your content. What they’ll do is go to your blog, scan the latest post for a giveaway and if there isn’t one, they’ll leave. That means they spend hardly any time on your site (bad) and leave without doing anything (terrible) on your site. What you want to accomplish with your giveaways is to engage your readers, create a bit of buzz about your site and get more people to read your non-giveaway content.
I know, I know, it’s fun (almost addicting) to see your Facebook numbers go up, or your Twitter followers increasing, but it’s all about the quality of those followers. If you’ve run a couple of giveaways, you’ve probably seen people enter your giveaways who don’t really have a blog and don’t use their Twitter account. It may look like this:
Unfortunately, since they entered your giveaway in a way that followed the rules, you have to honor their entry. Again, having an account like that following you is of absolutely no use to you.
Being known as a blog that does a ton of giveaways will attract people who are only there to win stuff, which isn’t what you’re looking for.
Potential Ramifications of Boosting Followers with Giveaways
If someone follows you on Facebook or Twitter and you can’t find any posts or normal Tweets (not about giveaways), they are most likely using a giveaway profile and you will get nothing from their “follows”. What’s the point of gaining a Twitter follower who has NO other followers and never uses their profile for anything except for entering giveaways?
Every person that enters your giveaway that way is a total waste.
Yes, it increases your numbers, which may make them sexier to present to advertisers, but when they work with you and find out that a low percentage of your followers are actually reading your content, they will not be inclined to work with you again. You don’t want to become known as the blogger who gets no results. It’s better to try and harvest good, quality followers from the get-go.
Boosting followers in an unnatural manner, such as through numerous giveaways presents a huge problem with Facebook, specifically. The Facebook algorithm is set up so that the higher a page’s interaction percentage is, the more of that page’s fans will actually see their status updates. In other words, more interaction = more eyes on your page’s updates. So, if the majority of your fan base is artificial and loaded with giveaway profiles, the fans who actually did genuinely like your page have a much lower chance of actually seeing your content. So by boosting your social numbers, you are alienating your true fans and readers and decreasing the chances of their eyes landing on your content. Again, this is specific to Facebook, but it should not be ignored as a ramification of social profile boosting.
Many PR firms and marketers are starting to recognize these giveaway-heavy blogs for what they are. They’ll question why a Facebook page has 5,000 followers and never gets even one person to “like” an update or why someone has 20,000 Instagram followers yet their engagement is worse than that of accounts having only 1,000 followers. If you’re seen (by a savvy PR person or marketer) as a follower boosting blog (via giveaways, etc), your blog may be discredited and you’ll lose out on potential paid opportunities.
I’ll say it again – there is nothing wrong with giveaways. The key here is moderation.
[Tweet “Doing giveaways is a great to way increase followers and interaction, but moderation is key!”]
How to Optimize Giveaways
It’s nice to reward the people who do follow you with a fun giveaway. There are ways that you can make them feel excited about the giveaway and at the same time, try and wrangle in some new followers.
First up, make one mandatory entry and make it very easy. My favorite mandatory entry is asking readers to leave a blog comment. This way, you’re not forcing people who might love to read your blog to sign up for a specific social media account just to enter your giveaway. They can simply leave a comment to play along. Additionally, doing it this way cuts down on the amount of inactive, “fake” accounts that will follow you.
Offering a bonus entry for a social share is a great way to get more exposure to your blog and pick up some legitimate new followers. Chances are, your true readers are connected socially to similar people. Perhaps even to people who don’t follow you already, but might if given a link to your blog.
Encourage Another Type of Action
Are you partnering with a company on this giveaway? Make yourself look good by sending that company traffic. Make an entry option something like this: “Head to Nike.com and tell me what your favorite pair of shoes is.” You’ve just sent them to the company’s site (via an affiliate link if you have one!) and have encouraged conversation about that brand on your website. That will equate to one happy brand!
More Giveaway Tips for Bloggers
– Make sure brands are not requiring YOU to ship prizes. If this happens, you will most likely have to eat the shipping costs.
– Try to limit the amount of entries one person can earn. Seeing a giveaway where each person can earn 240 entries is just strange. Keep it under 5 so it feels attainable even if you only have one entry.
– Use random.org to choose winners in situations where you are picking numbers. It works great. You can even screenshot your results and post them when you announce your winner.
– A week is an optimal length for a giveaway.
– Try to publicly announce your winners. It gives you credibility and adds to the fun. People like to see that others won!
– When pitching companies for giveaways, offer up a social share or another action as a method of entry to try and get them on board.
– Rafflecopter and Giveaway Tools are great free options to run giveaways. They will collect entries and even handle the Facebook “likes”, Twitter follows and more as methods of entry for you. Rafflecopter also has a premium upgrade option as well.
Here are some things to keep in mind for group giveaways:
– Many of these become collection spots for giveaway hunters, so you’re bound to get quite a few “giveaway followers” who will never view your blog again.
– Other blogs are sending followers your way, but at the same time, you are sending your followers to other blogs. Because of this, I recommend doing very few group giveaways. They’re nice for a boost every now and then, but you don’t want to build your following solely from this type of giveaway.
– You’re best served doing these giveaways with blogs whose content is very closely related to your own. This way, the followers that other blogs are sending your way are more likely to relate to you and your content.
– Also, try and work with blogs of a similar size as far as readership and social following is concerned. It’s a business, and while sending 10,000 of your readers to a brand new blog might be a nice thing to do, you’re getting the short end of that deal. Be sure the number of people coming to your blog is similar to the number of people going from your blog. If everyone is around the same size, it’s much more fair.
– Be sure everyone is playing fair. Do the organizers also have to put in the same amount of money? Do they get extra links? Just be sure you know everything up front.
The Legalities of Giveaways
If you run giveaways or sweepstakes on your blog, you should know that there are many giveaway rules for bloggers that you have to follow. The FTC and other organizations have set forth many laws and rules with regard to giving things away. I know, it should be waaaay easier than this, but you really should know this stuff before running a giveaway. I am by no means a lawyer or legal expert, but this is accurate to the best of my knowledge.
Here’s a quick read from the Small Business Administration about giveaways:
How to Use Contests, Sweepstakes, and Giveaways as Marketing Tools – While Staying Within the Law.
First up, some really basic things to keep in mind:
• be clear about what you are giving away and how many people will win
• keep your giveaway open to those 18 and older
• if in the U.S., keep the giveaway open to U.S. residents only. Same goes for the UK and other countries. Every country has its own weird giveaway rules. Did you know that in Canada, you cannot run a giveaway purely based on luck? I used to collect baseball cards and they would have contests and they would always require Canadian residents to answer a simple mathematics question as part of their entry. I thought it was a joke, but nope. Like I said, weird laws are everywhere and you’ll keep yourself sane by keeping your giveaway within your own nation.
• state how you will choose your winner and how you will contact them
• state how long that winner has to respond
• state what will be done if the first (and possibly subsequent) winner(s) don’t respond within the given time frame
Some other things to note:
– If your giveaway contains a product review, make sure to disclose that fact and clearly state who will be providing the prize (you, the company, a PR agency, etc).
– If you’re keeping your giveaways to a small prize (specifically under $600), then things will be a lot easier. When you go over $600, you have to send the winner a 1099 tax document at the end of the year and they are required to pay taxes on that. You are required to let them know that. So try and keep it under $600! This also includes if you’re involved in a group giveaway and the prize is over $600. You can usually claim giveaway prizes as a tax write-off if you are providing them, so keep track of what you pay for.
– Each social network has their own set of giveaway rules. See the full rules for each network here: Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram
See the basics for each network below.
Note: it is advised that you click the links above and read the full terms for each social network.
Remember, with every network, disclose that the network is NOT a part of your website or the giveaway and is not responsible for the prize fulfillment.
Facebook (Updated) – you may collect entries via comments and “likes” on the page updates. You may also use “liking” as a voting mechanism. You may NOT collect “likes” on a page for entries (as clarified here: https://developers.facebook.com/blog/post/2014/08/07/Graph-API-v2.1/).
Twitter – They are much more loose on their terms. They want you to discourage the creation of multiple accounts and to discourage people from repeatedly tweeting the same thing. They also want you to keep hashtags relevant.
Pinterest – Pins, creating boards or “liking” pins cannot be an entry. Do not use the terminology “Pin it to win it” and do not require multiple pins from the same person.
Instagram – These are simple: Make and follow your own rules and Instagram’s basic rules for usage. Do not encourage inaccurate tagging or hashtag use.
So as you can see, a lot goes into running giveaways on a blog. To make a long story short, be sure you are following all of the rules for giveaways put forth by the FTC and by the social networks that you are including in your giveaways. Additionally, be sure to consider the frequency with which you run giveaways. Think about how you want your blog to be viewed when it comes to giveaways. Giveaways can be a nice way of boosting followers and gaining interaction, but it’s a fine line. You don’t want to be know as the blog who runs the most giveaways. You want to be the blog with the great content, right?
Very informative post Zack!
Zack Reyes says
This was extremely helpful. Thank you!
Zack Reyes says
Good to hear! Thanks for letting me know!
What a great post! Lots of great insights! I absolutely agree and I learned a few new things, too. 🙂 I’ve noticed companies definitely appreciate it when you ask your readers to visit their website!
Zack Reyes says
Thanks! 🙂 Glad you learned something new!
Thanks Zack. This was so informative! I’m not ready to get into giveaways on my new blog, but I’m pinning this for when I finally get to that point. I also Google +’d and tweeted it! Love your blog!!!!
Zack Reyes says
Thanks Lana! Yes, definitely come back to this one when you’re ready to start doing giveaways. And thanks for the social shares too!
Pam @Threading My Way says
No random giveaways in Australia, either. Nor would a simple Maths question be OK, as most people would get it correct and then it would still be a random giveaway. Interesting point about keeping giveaways to your own country. We feel left out when giveaways are only open to US and Canadian residents, when there’s clearly no postage costs involved, as the prizes are often gift certificates. Now I can perhaps see why this occurs. When most of my readers are from overseas, it just doesn’t seem fair (to the readers), to only open it to some. Lots of points to think about.
Zack Reyes says
Ah, interesting about Australia as well. Yes, it’s unfortunate that we have to limit giveaways, but if bloggers want to protect themselves, it’s the only way to do it other than learning the specific rules of each country. It’s a fine line keeping it fun for some readers while making some feel left out. As you said, a lot to think about!
Really interesting subject because giveaway is related to website traffic development and website popularity. Honestly, I’ve never thought that far before about the legalities of giveaways. You have explained this subject so completely. Thanks for taking your time for this post.
Wish you to have a great week. Cheers
Zack Reyes says
Thanks Okto! I never really thought about the legalities either and once I did, it was eye-opening!
Di Coke says
There are some great tips here Zack, but I should point out that it’s now absolutely fine to ask people to comment or like a Facebook post to enter a giveaway, Facebook changed their terms in 2013. And you CAN contact your winner via Facebook message or a status update. What ISN’T clear is whether a page like is a valid method of entry – it’s not recommended because there’s no way for a page to extract a full list of page likers (they’ll only be able to see the most recent), so it’s not a fair way to choose a winner. I still prefer to see promoters using apps and collecting email addresses, so they can email the winner. It’s too easy for a winner to miss a message in their Other inbox, or to miss a status update and miss out on a prize!
Zack Reyes says
I remember those changes now! Just updated the post, thanks.
Yes, using likes on a page is difficult for sure, and they are not clear about it at all. I’m sure they will change things around in a month or so anyway, as per Facebook norm.