The Ins and Outs of Online Giveaways

Designing and managing an online giveaway is not an easy task! AK Stout would know since she has established several in her consulting business, Saying It Social. AK has also entered MANY giveaways in the last year and invited Greg Goodson co-founder of Rafflecopter to join Social Geek Radio to share the ins and outs of establishing and monitoring online giveaways.

single_playerYou can listen to the entire podcast of our interview along with The GeekItOut segment at the end where AK shares several great geeky Websites: GrabInBox, MentionGoogle Sightseeing and Issuu.

Please tell us about yourself and your organization.

Hello! I’m Greg Goodson, currently one of the cofounders of Rafflecopter. Prior to starting Rafflecopter, I was an independent SEM/SEO consultant after spending several years as a marketing manager at an online outdoor retailer and several years at a digital ad agency 360i. I’m a proud graduate of Georgia Tech, super passionate about start-ups/entrepreneurship, trail running, bluegrass music, and of course Rafflecopter 🙂

Rafflecopter makes it really easy to set up and launch a giveaway or sweepstakes promotion online. When you come to our site, you can create and customize a sweepstakes entry form that you can embed on your blog or website (like a YouTube video) that incentivizes your readers to perform tasks in exchange for entries into your sweepstakes. These tasks could be tweeting a message, leaving a blog post comment, being a fan on Facebook, as well as custom tasks that you create.

When the giveaway is over, we give you the tools to moderate, verify and announce your winners. Rafflecopter opens up the possibility of making your blog or website a great location to run a giveaway/sweepstakes promotion. Rafflecopter is totally self-serve, free to use, and a lot of fun! Over 250k giveaways have been run with our app. We’ve been around about 15 months and are currently three full time that include myself along with my co-founders JR Patten and Justin Ratner. Our office in beautiful downtown Boulder CO.

Why would running a giveaway be a good idea for your business or blog?

Giveaways generate enthusiasm and provide some sort of incentive among your audience. Just to be clear, we use the term giveaways a lot when we discuss what we do, but Rafflecopter is a sweepstakes platform.

For your promotion to be labeled as a sweepstakes, there should be a very low barrier to entry for those entering. Unlike contests which are based on a skill, sweepstakes promotions are based on luck. It’s similar to a lottery, but the difference being lotteries require a purchase for your entry where entries into sweepstakes are free. (hence why you see “NO PURCHASE NECESSARY” copy when you come across sweepstakes).

Giveaways and sweepstakes should be easy and fun for both you and your audience. Everyone likes a shot at winning a prize. It’s a great way to give back & interact with your audience, maybe help spread the word about your brand or promotion, it gives your followers a thrill, and when done right, sweepstakes can prove to be a really effective ROI. It doesn’t require a gigantic workload either. From companies that rely heavily on sweepstakes promotions like Publisher’s Clearing House to Reader’s Digest, to companies that run sweepstakes on cereal boxes and fast food drink cups, to smaller start-ups & bloggers, anyone can run a sweepstakes and get something out of it.

The whole idea of Rafflecopter started when we saw bloggers running giveaways in a way that we thought was inefficient. We created Rafflecopter to help save bloggers the hours and hours that it took setting up and managing the giveaway.

Given the internet’s continued growth, more and more folks are trying unique ways to get their name out there. With that, giveaway promotions are becoming more and more creative and widespread.

If you’re running a giveaway, what’s the best kind of prize to give away?

The awesome factor of the prize being given away can make or break your promotion. Ask yourself ‘what’s the worth of the prize to my audience? What percentage of my readers would find value in this prize if they were to win this item? How does this prize resonate with my audience?

Choose a prize that’s versatile so any of your readers could use and enjoy it if they won. This is why gift cards are such a popular item to give away. If you have a quirky or a one of a kind prize, that’s even better. While everyone loves gift cards, a unique prize trumps all. If you have the opportunity to give away a prize that’s a real head turner, take advantage of it.

Of course, if you’re a brand that has a product or service, you want people to touch and feel and interact with that. Whether you’re an eCommerce company that sells photo books, stuffed animals, SEO consulting, software, etc.

Finally, I would highly recommend to run your giveaway with a collective prize value of at least $50. $50 is a good starting price. There must be some value for your readers to be motivated to enter. The best kind of prize is a prize that’s valuable to your readers.

What’s the craziest prize you’ve ever seen giveaway w/ Rafflecopter?

Over 250k giveaways have been run with Rafflecopter. But there are two that really stand out

220 lbs of grass fed beef from Civilized Caveman Cooking

Coffee Table that was an actual working NES controller.

Both of those giveaways spread like wildfire. If the objective of these sites running these giveaways was to increase their blog exposure, they were successful. I mean, I wouldn’t know what I’d do with 200+ lbs of beef, but I’d be curious to see how I would have reacted if I won.

Items that are new, unique, cool, unavailable, have an enticing appeal. For example, there’s a company next door to us called “Ubooly”. They’ve created a furry plush toy that helps educate children using your iPad and iPhone. They’re releasing their toy in the upcoming month, but they were running a giveaway to win one before they were released.

Now, I don’t have children so I probably wouldn’t buy one, but it’s a really cool idea. I wanted to win one. I didn’t win, but now when someone walks up to me and asks “What is Ubooly”, I can tell them. That offline impression is valuable to the brand.

I’ll say it again, cool, unique prizes trump all.

What are some tips and tricks you can tell us regarding the promotion of a giveaway?

Use your social channels to your advantage. If your giveaway is planned to run for a week, promote it with a status update and tweet every now and then. Send a blurb in an email newsletter. You might be surprised how people respond. Tell your followers to RT it, share it, etc.

If you don’t have a large Facebook or Twitter following, it’s fine. A great strategy to help promote a giveaway when you don’t have a large following would be to partner up with other like-minded bloggers and other closely associated businesses. If you’re running a giveaway while working with another brand or business, ask the brand to share it with their fans. That’s some great exposure to the giveaway and your blog.

If you’re running the giveaway on your blog or Facebook page, and people are excited, chances are they’ll talk back to you, whether in blog comments or comments on your wall. Talk back. Interact. Not only are you trying to promote your giveaway, you’re also given the ability to get some chatter going while the giveaway is running.

When the giveaway is winding down, let folks know they have less than a day to enter, less than 2 hours, or less than 10 minutes *hurry!*. There’s always an uptick in giveaway entries on the final day from those waiting until the last minute to enter.

Don’t necessarily focus on maxing out the number of folks that enter. If you have a giveaway where only several hundred folks enter, but you took the time to communicate with those folks, spark up a conversation, that’s valuable mind-share for your brand.

How can you make the most out of the giveaway when it’s over?

When the giveaway ends, try to have a winner selected to your giveaway within 24 to 48 hours of when it closes.

After you have chosen the winner, ask the winner if they’ll allow you to post their name on your site, or maybe tweet about them. Even better, ask if when they receive the prize if they can take a picture of themselves with it. It adds a personal touch to the giveaway as well as legitimacy.

Finally, with every winner you announce, you’ll have many more “non-winners” if you will.  Try to give something of value to those that didn’t win so they an extra reason to stick around. This could be anything from a discount code for a product you’re promoting, a link to another giveaway that you might be running, or a link to a new post on your blog that they might find relevant. If the giveaway was run well and you have a lot of new eyeballs on your site, you want them to stick around, right? Do your best to continue the conversation that you sparked up while your giveaway was running

Tell us the ‘dos and don’ts’ when it comes to about sweepstakes/giveaway promotions & running giveaways around Facebook?

This is a subject that’s heavily debated, so we’re going to do our best to break it down. But before we get into the details, keep these two things in mind:

  • Facebook is out to protect themselves from any legal trouble.
  • Facebook is out to protect their users from a bad experience.

With that said, let’s get the easy stuff out of the way first:

First, the page owner accepts full responsibility around the legality of the promotion (includes official rules, terms and conditions, etc). Facebook asks you to include a complete release of Facebook by each entrant, acknowledgment that the promotion is in no way sponsored or affiliated with Facebook, and a disclosure statement that the participant is providing information to someone other than Facebook.

Second, if you run a giveaway on Facebook, it must be done on a page tab or a canvas page. It cannot be run on your timeline. You can’t write a status update that says “50th comment gets a free t-shirt” or upload a photo to your timeline and say “caption with most likes in the next hour wins”.

Next, you can’t notify winners of your promotion through Facebook. Just email them. You can’t use the like button as a voting mechanism. Meaning you can’t have a promotion on a page tab that has facebook like buttons integrated into the app where users are asked to click like.

Which leaves us to the final two ‘rules’ that bring up the most questions.  The first rule reads:

You must not condition registration or entry upon the user taking any action using any Facebook features or functionality other than liking a Page, checking in to a Place, or connecting to your app. For example, you must not condition registration or entry upon the user liking a Wall post, or commenting or uploading a photo on a Wall.

Here’s our interpretation: It’s ok to ask a user to be a fan of your page before being eligible to enter the promotion, as long as liking the page does not automatically enter that user in the promotion. The physical act of clicking the “Like” button can’t be an entry. That wouldn’t be fair to those who already like your page.

If you hold a giveaway and say “all fans of my page on Facebook are entered into this sweepstakes because I love all my fans!” isn’t allowed. Which fits nicely into the final regulation that Facebook has in their guidelines, which reads:

You must not use Facebook features or functionality as a promotion’s registration or entry mechanism. For example, the act of liking a Page or checking in to a Place cannot automatically register or enter a promotion participant.

With all that in mind, the copy on our entry forms now read “Easy entry for all Rafflecopter fans on Facebook”. and then “If you’re a fan on Facebook, you are entitled to a free entry. If not, you can become one here.”

There is a like button in the Rafflecopter entry form. That said, clicking the like button in our entry form doesn’t mean you’re automatically entered in the giveaway. You still have to confirm that you’re a fan and hit enter. Hitting enter is the registration into the giveaway, not the physical act of clicking the like button or already being a fan. And according to the rule above, you’re not allowed to use any FB features or functionality other than liking a page. So having a like button in the form is ok, but making it the button that registers your for the promotion isn’t.

Which brings us to the good news is: we didn’t make these changes to our app for the fun of it, or on a whim. Facebook approached us about a month ago, did a review of our app, and worked with us on how we can best change it to meet their page guidelines and platform policy while trying to keep the same functionality. Rewording our copy was our best solution.

However, as of today, we removed the entry option that asks folks to “like a blog post” entry option. Even if we reworded the entry option, but Facebook told us that it still wasn’t allowed, so we got rid of it.

There are so many articles on the web that tries to explain the ins and outs of Facebook promotional guidelines. There are some cut and dry rules, but there are also some gray areas alongside the rules that are tough to interpret. Thanks to our review the last month, we’re happy to confirm that Rafflecopter falls completely within Facebook promotional guidelines.

But all the rules and regs aside, we have a responsibility to make sure all our users are safe and within rules and regulations of the different social networks that we have built into our software. We monitor the heck out of Facebook promotional guidelines. When someone comes to us with a Facebook question, we usually make answering that question a priority.

It’s a touchy subject. Just like how it’s difficult for the 3 of us to monitor every giveaway that’s run through Rafflecopter, It’s really really tough for Facebook to monitor every promotion, whether that be a contest or sweepstakes. I believe that Facebook doesn’t make this cut and dry for a reason.

So going back to what I said earlier, Facebook is out to protect themselves from any legal trouble and they’re out to protect their users from a bad experience. If you’re running a giveaway and you think your giveaway might threaten FB legally or might make FB users largely upset, you should change it.

Please tell us about the social media accounts you’d like us to follow. 

Twitter: @Rafflecopter @GregGoodson @runningskull @justinratner


Facebook: greg goodson

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