Give It Away, Now! Running Giveaways on Your Blog

This time of year, most of us have holiday shopping and gift-giving on the brain. One way to bring a…

wrapped present

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Risager

This time of year, most of us have holiday shopping and gift-giving on the brain. One way to bring a touch of that holiday spirit to your blog is to host a giveaway. Giveaways are hugely popular with readers — what could be wrong with free stuff? So what’s the best way to host a giveaway, and what are some pitfalls to avoid?

First, make sure what you’re giving away is something worth having. Nobody wants that sample shampoo you got from your hotel room, your sewing project gone wrong, or your scratched DVD of Speed 2. Good candidates for giveaways could include unwanted (by you, but not necessarily by other people) gifts, a free photo session or class, or tickets to a concert you can no longer attend. If you blog about a particular topic, it’s nice to give away something related to your content. For example, if you’re a style blogger, appropriate goodies might include a subscription to your favorite fashion mag or a new sweater you didn’t return in time. If you blog about music, an iTunes gift card would be perfect. Also, many of your readers are probably bloggers themselves, so they might appreciate an online gift they can use for their own site, such as credit toward a account or a upgrade.

If you don’t have anything on hand, try working with another blogger to sponsor your giveaway. For example, if one of your blog crushes makes gorgeous handmade jewelry, or if you’re addicted to a certain Etsy vendor’s skin care line, approach them about giving away some of their stuff. Make sure that you prominently feature their site in your post with some tempting photos and a clear link back to them. The giveaway will benefit both of you and your readers.

Once you have a decent prize, write a short, interesting post about it with a photo or two, and make the contest something fun. Sure, you could just randomly select a name from among the commenters, but there’s only one winner, and reading a bunch of ‘I’ll take it!’ comments isn’t very interesting for all those who were runner-up. Instead, why not think up a related prompt that would create a fun comment thread for all to read? If you’re giving away a book, ask everyone to leave a recommendation for a page-turning read. If you’re offering a framed print, challenge readers to a photo contest. Some bloggers like to use giveaways to extend their social media reach, by offering additional entries if their followers Tweet or post on Facebook about the giveaway.

Make the rules clear, and then stick to them — let your readers know when the contest will be over, how you will notify the winner, and how you will ship the prize. Then, follow up on those promises in a timely fashion. If you declare a winner, but it takes you a month to find the right box to ship that lamp in, that will influence reader perceptions. Before you host the giveaway, make sure you have the time to pack and ship the item, and that you’re willing to pay what it will cost to ship it to the winner.

If you’re the winner of a giveaway, don’t forget the thank-you note! Leave a comment notifying the blog owner that you received the item on time and in good condition. That way, the blogger’s other readers will know they can participate without fear in any future contests. Giveaways might take a bit of experimentation to get just right for your audience, but the new relationships you forge with members of your readership will be well worth the effort.

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    1. As a condition of entering, you could require that people subscribe to your blog via email or “like” your page on Facebook. Running a giveaway can be a good way to bring more readers to your blog.

  1. I am running one right now!

    I make my Christmas cards every year. To enter in my contest you have guess what our family is doing in this year’s card! I will be sending them out to the winners.

    It is a fun way to engage the readers!

      1. Thanks! I illustrate a card every year and my family is always doing some kind of activity. I thought it would be fun to send them out to the winners. I got a lot of ideas for future cards too! :)

  2. I was inspired by another blog (Go Jules Go) to give away some wristbands for a recurring Fake Advice Column post I do. Now she and I are working in tandem, doing a very strange giveaway (to make your “real holiday” greeting card, not the idealized version that’s usually on the card) based on some posts we each did about how to properly fold a fitted sheet.

    They’re a really great way to expand the relationship between writer and reader.

  3. I do occasional giveaways. Just finishing one right now, in fact I need to go select the winner and notify them. It’s a lot of fun and everyone enjoys them. I try to check out other blog giveaways myself and have been lucky enough to win a couple of them.

  4. I do something like this, and it’s a great way to connect with my local community. When we renovate houses, we often find cast-off items. I have a ” Repurpose This” challenge every week or so, and cross-post to FreeCycle. I write suggestions on how the item can be used, with links to other blogs who have done something similar. The winner picks up the item either at the house we are working on, or at a local business. So it’s good promotion and good neighbors all around! And it keeps things out of the landfill…multiple layers of happiness.
    Greetings from Maryland

      1. I usually go with the most creative use (and in my case, they need to be local) I am always attracted to active imaginations! The only problem I have had, as far as my blog itself, is encouraging people to post a Comment rather than a private email. I would like to spur creativity (and traffic) with visible brainstorming. I don’t know how to incorporate emails into the comments without it appearing as they come from me. Any tips? Feel free to contact me offline. FWIW, I use an iPad almost exclusively, and I am learning that a lot of the shortcuts people advise don’t exist on my meager screen. Thanks!

      2. Yes I made it a one week limit and tweeted it out once in a while. It was for a children’s Christmas book so my audience was limited. I am currently offering my latest book here if anyone is interested. I would love to get feedback and/or reviews.

        Many people ask you to 1.follow their blog 2. follow them on twitter and 3. like their FaceBook page.
        While I don’t mind doing that, I offered mine without any hoops.

      3. Thank you. My book won’t be ready until sometime after the first of the year but I was considering an autographed copy of a book my friend recently wrote. I will contact her and see if she is willing to do that.

    1. This is a good question – it seems many bloggers pick a winner at random from among those who reply, and others kind of judge a ‘winner’ based on the most creative comment. Might also be fun to pick the top five responses and have your readers vote for their fave!

    1. Hey, Farah! Shipping can get crazy expensive, so I try to focus on small item giveaways (nothing too huge) and will sometimes limit the drawing to readers within the US. I think the ebook idea is an awesome idea, too!

      1. Limiting to the US (or whatever country you’re in) is a good idea. And of course, anything that doesn’t actually have to be shipped skips the problem altogether!

  5. OK. Pingback/ trackback :) I am offering something to the first three people who are interested…we’ll see! Quite a new (and fun) idea!

  6. Thanks so much for linking to my giveaway (of the framed print)! I totally agree about making the contest fun and engaging – I love creative contests myself.

  7. I had a guessing contest. I posted a picture of a dung beetle ball and had people guess what it was. The first person to respond correctly won a seed dolphin. It was so much fun to do this, but since I live in Nicaragua, where mailing things can be quite difficult, I returned to the states for a visit and sent my seed dolphins to 2 people who actually tied with the correct answer.

    After the contest, I wrote another blog comparing Dung beetles to Politicians. It was a hoot:

  8. Talk about perfect timing for this post. I’m currently running a giveaway on my blog. One lucky person could win an 8″x12″ print of their favorite image. Stop by, read the rules and cast your vote!

  9. So in the season of giving, what is with the taking away? Yeah by the beloved WordPress. What happened to the year-to-date stats today? The one page which allowed me to monitor progress inn numbers month to month as well as year to year. It is gone. Where do I report the theft? And the Grinch who stole Christmas still in the vicinity? What is the number for the WordPress Police Department? I’ve got some DNA samples I want to submit.

    1. Do you mean the Summaries screen, where there’s a table with all your monthly totals? It’s still there! You should see a “Summaries” link in the upper right corner of your Stats bar graph.

  10. I just finished up a giveaway on my blog. I coordinated it with a fundraiser through and raised money for the Rheumatoid Patient Foundation. In return for $25 minimum donations, I selected 3 winners and awarded them custom handmade wood boxes that I made valued at over $100. It went great and I was able to raise $1,700 for my charity!

  11. I’m running several giveaways this month — which is pretty unusual for my blog. Here’s the current one:

    I know there are all kinds of crazy widgets out there that help organize entries and select giveaway winners. I find them rather clunky to use. So I simply ask users to comment with an answer to some question to be eligible. It’s easy and manageable, given the number of entrants my giveaways usually attract. Heh.

    1. Yes, sometimes the simplest thing is best. I guess if you had a massive amount of entrants, you might need some kind of system, but otherwise, I think a comment thread is good – then everyone can read it. :)

  12. I use The Hat to determine winners. I don’t generally get a TON of entries, but all you have to do is type the name of each entrant in. Then click shuffle, then pick! Super easy and it’s free (plus you don’t have to cut up strips of paper).

  13. I usually sponsor giveaways. I have been contemplating doing one on my site since I have everything I need already to give stuff away, t-shirts, books, etc but I want to use rafflecopter for the entries. Has anyone used rafflecopter on their site? I don’t mind working with others as a sponsor, let me know if intersted.

  14. When the idea was mentioned of giving credit towards a Upgrade, I couldn’t figure out how one would go about doing that. Is it like a gift card? Could someone please explain? Thanks!

    1. Sasha, you’re not missing anything – this was me not fully thinking things through. Right now, the easiest way to do this would be to pay the amount into the winner’s PayPal account, so they could purchase the upgrade. A bit clunky, I know.

      It’s an idea, though – if were to offer gift certificates, is that something you guys might be interested in?

  15. Hmmm . . . “This time of year, most of us have holiday shopping and gift-giving on the brain.”

    My brain hurts, whenever I try to analyze or understand the “free economy.” I haven’t decided yet whether “free economy” is an oxymoron, or not. I’m always thinking: What’s the angle here? Where’s the secret trapdoor? What’s the quid pro quo?

    Blogger A offers readers a prize, a free product that’s made and marketed by Blogger B. What better way to draw a crowd than a free giveaway? Hypothetically speaking, if I am blogger B, I might be inclined to give Blogger A a reward for the “free” publicity, maybe even a little gift for each sale generated by Blogger A’s link to Blogger B. That would be a private matter between Bloggers B and A, wouldn’t it? Who would know?

    The first sentence of this post introduces a commercial activity, “holiday shopping.” Of course, the free giveaway concept could work any time of year, holiday or not, for any product.

    Am I getting cynical in my old age? Mind you, I think a quid pro quo in this situation would be perfectly harmless. However, I prefer clarity and transparency whenever possible. I think we might be further blurring the already fuzzy line between what constitutes advertising and what doesn’t. In particular, the hypothetical giveaway-and-payback arrangement sounds exactly like AFFILIATE ADVERTISING. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

    1. True, all the focus on “stuff” around holiday time bothers a lot of us. But check out Eric’s comment above – he used a giveaway to raise money for a charity.

      I think that in the case of partnering with a blogger that sells products, the important thing is that you genuinely admire whatever it is they make. If you partner with anyone who approaches you with an offer of freebies, your readers won’t get much out of it.

      In most cases, it seems bloggers use giveaways to increase engagement on their blog – what they get out of it is more readers, and hopefully more fans and active commenters. :)

  16. I blog about books and writing and have run a couple of giveaways of books by authors that I interview. I like to use the Random Number Generator but for some reason the code doesn’t work in WordPress.

    This caused a major hassle in which I had to take screenshots of each winning number, save as JPG, and post as photos. It makes me less likely to bother. Here’s a link to where I gave away copies of my own book and had to do the screenshot business:

    I read through the other comments and didn’t see anything about this. Thanks for any help from WordPress on this!

      1. Thank you, Elizabeth. I saw the recommendation of “The Hat,” but it seems like a hassle to enter all the names. And I’m not sure she included “proof” by way of an image or link. Giveaways work on the honor system, but the image of the winning number gives a sense of true randomness to the winner.

        I saw the Random Number Generator on other blog platforms where it seemed to work fine. Maybe that’s something WordPress can work on, especially considering the number of giveaways that happen…

        Thanks again,

  17. I just finished my first giveaway. I was participating in a Christmas Blog Hop. We were about 15-20 bloggers wrting posts about Christmas. I wrote about bibliophiles and the best originaly gifts to give them for Christmas. I held the giveaway at the same time. The blog hop itself was very successful for me. I got loads of views and 3 new subscribers, but most of all I made some really cool connections, while giving away the book that each participant desired. The participants wrote in the comment the book they would like to win. I send it to them via The Easy! I’ll definitely be doing more of them in 2013. Who wouldn’t like winning a free book or two. ;)