I thought I would use this week’s Social Media Sunday to cover my thoughts and tips on giveaways. I have done giveaways for the past several years here on Misadventures with Andi and in a professional capacity as a social media manager for my employer.
The giveaways have had success and failures and by sharing my experiences I hope you can benefit from them. I am definitely not an expert so everything here is my personal opinion based on my observations. I am writing from the perspective of a blogger who is either working with or without a sponsor and not someone who is running a giveaway blog.
Giveaways, when used correctly, are a useful vehicle for driving traffic to your blog. Blogs are social media which is a form of marketing and the essence of marketing is to communicate to your target market in a way that will fill a sales funnel. Social media is a bit different than traditional marketing because it is not a push channel, but rather one in which there is two way communication between a brand (in this case you) and someone else (a reader or visitor). Also you aren’t [usually] selling anything except yourself!
By doing a giveaway you have an opportunity to bring fresh sets of eyes to your blog. Like most funnels, you need a large number of people to “enter” at the top. What comes out the bottom is a small subset of people who will stick around and continue to read your blog adding to the holistic growth of your readership. I hope that makes sense? Bottom line is that every time I do a giveaway I bring a bunch of new traffic to my blog, and I always get a subset of those new readers sticking around beyond the giveaway which is what you ultimately want.
Proceed with caution
Unless your goal is to turn your site into a giveaway blog you should limit the number of giveaways that you do. I average one a month. Sometimes I do two, sometimes I do none. December I do several. If you are like me you are blogging for a different reason and are just going to use a giveaway as a means to an end. One of the most important aspects to any giveaway that you do should be ensuring it fits with your brand. I am a travel and food blogger who is an avid reader and movie-goer and francophile. I also feel it is important to support small women-owned businesses. My giveaways relate to what my blog is about. You aren’t going to see me giveaway a year’s supply of diapers, that just wouldn’t make sense.
I rarely do sponsored giveaways. I prefer to do them on my own. However, I do sometimes work with a sponsor. When doing so, make sure that the giveaway is equitable. What you are bringing to the table is exposure for someone’s brand and you will be doing most of the work, make sure your agreement is balanced and fair.
Steps to planning and running your giveaway
The first thing to do is to set a goal or objectives. Are you trying to increase comments? Do you want to grow your Facebook fan-base or Twitter followers? Are you trying to build an email or newsletter list? Knowing what you want to achieve will guide you in the next portion of planning, the mechanics.
But before jumping into that, we need to discuss rules. To cover yourself from grief and protect yourself from any misunderstandings, I strongly suggest that you create a set of rules to be listed somewhere on your blog (you can find mine here). In addition, on your post you should detail the start and end times for the giveaway and who is eligible. For example, most of the time my giveaways are open to anyone in the world, but you may (or your sponsor might) want to limit to the U.S. for customs and shipping purposes.
When thinking about how to run your giveaway you should clearly define what type of giveaway you want to do (comment, photo submission, tweet, etc); the prize or reward (description, delivery, etc); the entry method (single or multi); the timeframe (start and finish); the selection of your winner(s) and how you are going to do winner notification (or in some instances working with a sponsor, who is going to do it).
One of the main things to consider is your entry method. If your goal is to increase comments then you can simply ask people to comment on your giveaway post (you can also ask them to comment on additional posts as well) during a certain period of time. Each comment is considered an entry and you can use a simple (and free) tool, like Random.org to select a winner. If you have 90 comments, simply enter “1” as your minimum, “90” as your maximum and “Generate.”
In my example, Random.org selected 15. I would count back from the oldest comment until I found the 15th commenter and that would be the winner. Some sponsors may ask you to register your winner selection. This can be done via Random.org as well, but you will need to pay a small fee.
If you are doing a giveaway in which you want people to submit a photo or you want them to post about your giveaway somewhere else, a good tool to use is Linky Tools. There is both a free and paid version that you can use to create code that you can add to your post so that people can add their submissions.
Now, if you are going to ask readers to perform multiple tasks to garner entries for your giveaway, I highly recommend that you use Rafflecopter. It will save you lots of time and energy in validating entries and selecting a winner. It keeps track of everything for you, it is easy to set-up and use and best of all it’s free! You can use this to ask people to like your Facebook page, follow you on Twitter, etc. I also use it to help promote others by asking people to follow them on Facebook and Twitter. Or to ask people to follow sponsors on Facebook and Twitter. What I don’t do is make it mandatory, I make it optional.
It is a personal decision but something you need to consider. You have to think about it in terms of “what’s in it” for the reader in terms of effort versus reward. If you are asking someone to do 25 mandatory things for a $25 Amazon gift card you might have a screw loose (and for some humor on this topic, you must read this post from Wendi Aarons). Now I have participated in a few group giveaways for larger prizes such as iPads that did have more effort involved, but the price tag of the prize is pretty high. A general rule of thumb should be simplicity, you do not want a high barrier for entry.
Once you have run your giveaway and have selected your winner, you should notify them via email. You can also announce the winner on your blog if you like (I don’t always do this), but you also need to contact them offline. Sometimes you will simply pass your winner’s name to your sponsor who will handle this process. I personally don’t like this as it is more personable for you to contact the winner, after all they entered the giveaway on your blog!
An important word on data collection, unless you asked people to specifically opt-in to receive promotional emails from you or your sponsor, you cannot give your sponsor the email addresses of your entrants. Nor may you use them to contact them for any reason (unless an entry was to sign up for a newsletter, etc). You will be breaking federal laws if you do this.
Why on your blog?
Before jumping into the promotional piece, I wanted to mention why I recommend that you run giveaways on your blog. Your blog should be the hub of all your activities. The purpose of your Facebook Page is to build community around your blog; Twitter is a vehicle for driving traffic to your blog as well. All roads lead to your blog. It is a representation of you and your unique opinion on the world, owned by you.
If you choose to do a giveaway on Facebook or Twitter (or these days even Pinterest) you need to comply to the platform’s rules and they can be tricky. For Facebook, you must use a Facebook app to prevent getting banned. It gets more complicated if you are doing something beyond the U.S. as the rules governing sweepstakes in different countries varies and its complicated. And although Twitter and Pinterest are less strict, they have guidelines as well.
Promoting your giveaways
Okay, now the fun part – driving traffic and promotion! You should use your social media presences on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc. to promote your giveaway. It sometimes takes awhile to get the word out and momentum going, so I would recommend that your giveaway should last no less than 7 days, but 10 days to 2 weeks is optimal. Longer than two weeks and people are frankly over it, have moved on and are tired of hearing about it!
Beyond your own community there are sites and communities out there whose sole purpose is to promote giveaways. There are daily, weekly and monthly Linky’s on many blogs where you can list your giveaway for free. There are also forums that only require registration and then you can post for free. And there are paid services that will do all the heavy lifting for you and will list your giveaway on the sites I just mentioned.
I have never sold anything personally on this blog (I once had a product when I was doing social media consulting, but not here) and I thought long and hard about this, but I put a lot of time and effort into curating, organizing, validating and structuring my list of resources where I can promote my giveaway that I decided to offer it to you and charge a little amount of money to recoup the time.
If you have the time to invest into hunting these sites down it is a great way to get your giveaway out there and it is even more fun when you gain new readers who stick around to be part of your community!
I hope this post help shed some light on giveaways. Like I said in the beginning, I am no expert, this information is just based on my own experiences, but I hope you found it beneficial!
How about you? Have any additional tips or learnings that you would like to add?