Giveaways cost much less than most forms of advertising — especially if you make or sell products, or can get a sponsor to give you a prize — and they can boost your social following and increase traffic to your online site during the giveaway period. After all, everyone loves a freebie!
But are giveaways really a good method of promotion?
Before we get into the darker side of giveaways, let’s discuss the different types. Here in the United Kingdom (UK) we use the terms “competition” and “giveaway” interchangeably to mean any form of a free prize. In the United States, however, there are three distinct forms of giveaways:
Sweepstakes — Giveaways where the winner is chosen at random.
Contests — These are when some level of skill is required to enter, such as making something.
Lotteries — Anything you pay to enter. These are highly regulated, so do look into it further before running this kind of giveaway.
Giveaway regulations can vary from country to country, so it is worth checking which laws will apply to yours before you launch your giveaway.
This form of business promotion can be great for reaching more people with your brand, but you have to be careful that they don’t attract the wrong type of customer. Until I started running giveaways back in 2010 I never realized there are whole communities out there dedicated to competitive competition entering! They share details of competitions — along with the answers — on their forums or in Facebook groups and compete with each other to see who can win the most prizes. It doesn’t seem to matter whether they actually want or need the prize because they can just sell it on or trade it with their follow compers (as they call themselves). It’s the actual winning that counts to them.
British online sewing shop Weaver Dee said they find the serious professional compers tend to tweet relentlessly about giveaways so that can help you spot them and weed them out.
As I recently found out when I got more than 40,000 entries into a competition that would normally attract a couple hundred, people now pay for automatic competition entry sites, which enter competitions on their behalf using automated software.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom. Competitions can be beneficial as long as you think them through first. The key is planning.
Reaching the right people
Generally, when running a giveaway, you are either trying to reward existing customers or attempting to attract new customers. The first audience is much easier to reach, as many of your customers will already be following you on social media, visiting your website or blog, or subscribing to your newsletter. You could also consider including a flyer with their orders or a link to the competition in their order confirmation.
It’s the second audience that is harder to reach. The key focus here is that you want to attract new customers who may one day buy from you — not just people who are after a prize. This requires some proper planning and good promotion on your side. You want your giveaways to entice people who are likely to order from you in the future.
Stephanie Menjivar, head of marketing for Art Gallery Fabrics, a business that runs frequent giveaways, says there are benefits to this type of business promotion.
So, how do you make sure that your giveaways will benefit your business? Plan ahead.
What is your desired outcome?
It is best to start competition planning with your desired outcome in mind. Think about what you want from the competition. Are you looking to increase traffic to your website or online shop? Do you want to grow your newsletter subscriber base or social media following? Do you want to increase orders?
Each of these goals would lend itself to a different kind of competition. For example, if you want to encourage orders, I would suggest an entry question that makes people look through your product range to pick their favorite, perhaps with a discount code that is only valid during the competition. Hopefully, people will fall in love with something you sell and use that discount code to place an order even if they don’t win the giveaway.
To increase social media followers or newsletter subscribers, you want to make the entrants follow you or subscribe as a condition of entry. If you also ask them to share the competition on their own profile, it can help reach even more people and may lead to it going viral. To get even more traffic, you can ask a question about a particular part of your site to direct people there, or put the entry form on your site.
For new businesses, giveaways can be a great way to rapidly grow your following and establish a presence in the market.
Anthony Jaycott, head of marketing at Weaver Dee, says giveaways helped establish a social media presence for the company during its early days.
“As a start-up, we went from having no email database or social following to something pretty impressive for a young company,” Jaycott says. “We did this by offering a pretty generous giveaway, and promoting it with blogs and social media ads.”
How will you run your competition?
When planning, you also need to consider how you will run your giveaway. You could run it via social media, on your website or blog or using a competition app.
Jaycott and Menjivar both have their own preferred methods.
Jaycott uses an app called Gleam. He says he chose it because he believes it looks professional and tends to make it easier for his business and for the entrants. Gleam has the benefit of synchronising easily with social media accounts, allowing the giveaway to spread very quickly and go viral. Jaycott says the only downside is that if people have any technical issues with entering he has to refer them to the app’s developers, rather than being able to resolve the problem himself.
Another popular app for blog giveaways is Rafflecopter. It bills itself as being very simple to use and has packages starting at $13 a month. Like Gleam, it can be synchronised with social media accounts and mailing lists to help spread giveaways across multiple platforms. The app also has a useful two-minute video showing you how to set up your giveaway using their software.
How will you promote your giveaway?
Your obvious starting points are your social media sites, your own website or blog and your newsletter. However, as mentioned above, that will mainly reach your existing audience.
If you are looking to reach a new audience, you could ask entrants to share the giveaway on their social platforms to help spread your reach. Most people do this by offering additional entries for entrants who share the giveaway. You could also consider paid advertising on social media, such as a sponsored post on Facebook. Make sure you check their promotion terms and conditions first to understand the limitations. For example, on Facebook, they don’t allow you to ask someone to share on their timeline to enter.
If you are running a big giveaway and have planned far enough in advance, you may want to send out a press release and try to get media coverage. You can also reach out to bloggers or news sites in your niche and ask them to help spread the word for you.
As for how often to promote your giveaway, that really depends on how long you run the promotion. I tend to run mine over three to four weeks, so I promote them every two to three days, at different times, in an attempt to reach different people. If you are running a giveaway for a short time period — less than one week — you will probably want to promote it once a day.
Avoiding the ‘wrong’ people
There are a few steps you can take to avoid attracting the wrong kind of people to your giveaway.
- Avoid using #giveaway #competition #win #comp hashtags on social media, as these will attract the avid competition enterers who regularly search these hashtags.
- The more effort or thought your competition involves, the more the entrant has to want the prize to enter. If you ask a simple question to enter that anyone can answer, anyone and everyone will enter. If you require some level of skill or knowledge to enter, your giveaway will mainly people who are genuinely interested in what you offer. A popular idea in the craft industry is to ask people to share pictures of something they have made. Menjivar says her company has rules that forbid shops from entering finished product contests to keep it fair for entrants, so this is something worth considering.
- Adding a reCAPTCHA or requiring people to identify themselves in some way (such as using their social media accounts or Blogger account) will reduce the likelihood of automated or duplicated entries.
- Well thought out terms and conditions, which disqualify automated entries or multiple entries, are definitely needed.
- Make your prize specific to your intended audience. A $50 Walmart voucher would appeal to and could be used by almost anyone. A $50 Fabricworm voucher, however, is likely to appeal to stitchers more than the general public. One idea Art Gallery Fabrics uses to keep their giveaways interesting is to offer a curated fabric bundle rather than just a standard one, offering something unique to them.
Do you run giveaways to promote your business? Have you found them to be a successful marketing tool? Let us know in the comments below.
Fiona Pullen is the author of Making & Marketing a Successful Art & Crafts business, and founder of The Sewing Directory.
I love Rafflecopter! It is free if you opt for the basic entry options.
I just started running giveaways a few months ago and I’ve been very pleased with the results.
I use KingSumo as a WordPress plugin to run them and it works very well. People sign up for my newsletter to enter the giveaway – and they are automatically assigned to a group within MailChimp so I can email them later. That part is the most important key to my giveaways. I think a lot of people enter giveaways INSTEAD OF BUYING and then forget all about it if they don’t win. I use giveaways as a way to collect info from people who are interested in a new pattern or class that isn’t available yet but is coming soon. When it launches I contact everyone who entered to let them know that it’s available now, announce the winner, thank them for entering, and give them a coupon if they want to purchase the thing now that they know they aren’t getting it for free.
The plugin also has an easy way for people to share the giveaway and they get extra entries for everyone who enters using their link. The last giveaway I ran I estimate 200 of the entries were from people who found out about me through one of those shared links.
That is so cool!
Wendy, I’m not finding KingSumo on WP plug-in search. What am I missing. (And thanks for your great reply to this topic!)
I haven’t come across King Sumo yet but it sounds like a great plug in. I will definitely check it out as I’m planning a new website which will be on WordPress. Very good idea to remind people to purchase after you announce the winner.
This is a great article, Fiona! And thanks for commenting with your own experience, Wendi! I’d given some thought to giveaways and gotten as far as looking at Gleam, KingSumo and Rafflecopter… but then wondered if it was worth the effort. Glad to get some additional perspectives.
And sidenote: boo to those professional competition enterers! I think it’s pretty stinky to go after prizes you don’t even care about.
Thanks Stephanie 🙂
I find they can be worth the effort, and do often lead to new people discovering you. But sadly because of the ‘professional compers’ you really have to think about how to structure the giveaway to make it reach the people you want to reach and not just anyone looking for a prize they can later sell on or swap. It’s a shame that the few ruin it for so many others. There are times I’ve been this close to giving up on hosting giveaways altogether because of them.
I just started last month doing a giveaway, and I got about 20 new emails to put on my list which was good (as that’s my intent). I offer 2 free cross stitch patterns from my shop (of the winner’s choice), and they’re digital patterns so I don’t even have to worry about shipping or other costs. I figure since someone has to tell me which ones they want after looking at my shop within 48 hours of me contacting them (or I’ll choose another winner), that minimizes my chances of people entering just to win something. I don’t know too many pro competition people who’d be tempted by some cross stitch patterns. 😉 I use Rafflecopter, it integrates with Facebook great (I use the free version and just make my own questions). The only thing you can’t do with Facebook giveaways is make anything like sharing the post, liking your page, joining a group etc mandatory to enter. You can request it, but you can’t make their entry contingent on it. You can also set how many points (entries) you want each question to be worth, which I like. No problems with it yet, and my winner last month was super happy with her new patterns. 🙂
I run a giveaway ever month on my website. It is tremendously satisfying for my small business. Typically a manufacturer or publisher donates products. Then I do a colorful blog post showing the giveaway and ask readers to answer a question. This month, with a Bari J fabric and thread set giveaway, I asked “What artistic superpower have you discovered in yourself.” (See: https://okanarts.com/august16-giveaway) The answers are inspirational and heart-warming. I moderate new contributors and have a spam filter for all comments. Does this activity fuel my bottom line? No, but I make new friends and help build a happier community. In the end, I know it’s win, win, win.
Great article Fiona!
I am a big proponent of doing giveaways – but have more of a “building goodwill/giving back” approach. Don’t get me wrong – I certainly want to increase my bottom line and grow my business, but the feeling I get from giving back and the sense of community being built make it so worth it. I have learned along the way … I don’t give away the store and have cut down on the frequency in the past year. Like Dana, I typically give away a digital pattern as opposed to products; however, I have been known to give away bundles of fabric or notions as well – but those are typically reserved for special milestones. When I reached 1,000 members in my Facebook group, the grand prize was a pattern package for a year. The winner has become my most vocal supporter, inside and outside of my group.
The majority of my giveaways take place in my private Facebook Group, so I haven’t had the influx of compers. For my first IG giveaway, I made the mistake of using #giveaway – never again!! Peg ME a newbie 🙂
My entries run the gamut of answering questions (typically something that will stimulate conversation like, “what inspires you to sew?” or something helpful to me for future planning, such as, “who is your favorite fabric designer?” or “what bag pattern are you missing in your toolbox?”) to simply “comment below to enter”. I’ve had “share your project” contests with both juried winners and random ones to promote pattern sales and I’ve had giveaways requiring purchases. I’ve also done coordinated giveaways with colleagues on IG to gain followers. My objective, being relatively new in the business is to keep my followers engaged. I make a concerted effort to reply to as many entrants as possible and always, always thank everyone for entering.
In order to gain new followers, I cross-promote on Instagram and also work with colleagues who allow me to announce the giveaways in their groups. My most successful one to date was just yesterday! I had a big “LIVE Birthday Fabric Sale” (using Facebook LIVE – a separate conversation … but OMG – oh so worth the discussion) with several gifts given away. Two required purchases – the others, just participation. I earned 138 new followers in 48 hours and haven’t lost one yet. Will they buy from me in the future? I’m pretty confident some of them will. At the very least, the sales I earned from new members alone in a 1 hour live feed more than paid for the generous giveaways and, from the comments I have been reading a few new fans were earned to spread the love.
Win, win for sure!