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 Flickr.com account or a WordPress.com 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.