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How To Conduct An Online Giveaway

How To Conduct An Online Giveaway

Two weeks ago, I introduced six ways to build your email list. One was offering giveaways. This week, I’m going into more detail on the “how” of giveaways, and touch on some of the legal issues.

There are several ways to conduct an online giveaway, but first you need to:

  • Consider Your Giveaway Objectives
  • Keep Your Giveaway Legal

You then need to consider what kind of giveaway you want to participate in:

  • Run Your Own Giveaway
  • Join a Group Giveaway
  • Join A Paid Giveaway

Consider Your Objectives

What are your objectives in conducting or participating in an online giveaway? Your objectives will determine which is the best approach for you. Do you want to:

  • Build overall awareness?
  • Increase blog engagement?
  • Build your social media following?
  • Build your emai list?
  • Do you want one winner, or will you give every entrant a book?

Your objectives will help determine your priorities in choosing how to organise your online giveaway.

Keep Your Giveaway Legal

There are laws governing how people run giveaways, contests, and raffles. If you are running any kind of giveaway, you need to ensure you comply with these laws … which is difficult, because the laws are different in every state and country. No giveaway can comply with all international laws (or even all the different state laws in the USA).

All online giveaways are illegal somewhere, which is why many giveaways restrict entrants to their own state or country.

Here are some principles for running an online giveaway:

Limit Participation by Geography

For example, limit entrants to USA only, or Australia only. At the very least, say “void where prohibited” (although this means you need to know where your giveaway is prohibited).

Be Fair

If you say one random commenter will win the prize, the prize has to go to a random commenter. Not the person you like most.

Don’t Require a Purchase

I’ve just received an email offering me the chance to win something if I buy the author’s new book. All I have to do is forward the Amazon email purchase receipt, and I’m in the draw to win. But this is an illegal giveaway, in that it’s not actually a giveaway. It’s a raffle, and that’s a whole different set of laws.  For example, many states and countries require you to provide a way for people to enter without purchasing.

(If you want to give readers an incentive to purchase, offer a limited-time sale, or offer bonus content to purchasers.)

Make Your Giveaway Easy to Enter

Don’t require entrants to jump through hoops or answer hard questions, especially not questions they could only answer by having already bought and read your book (because that again turns your giveaway into a raffle).

State the Prize

State the exact prize up front, and the value of that prize. I’d also suggest you keep the value of your prize relatively small. A $4.99 ebook or $50 Amazon gift card is unlikely to attract attention. A Tesla will.

Provide the Odds of Winning

This can be as simple as “the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants”.

Note: This is not legal advice. I am not lawyer and am not qualified or licenced to give legal advice in New Zealand or anywhere else. If you want legal advice, you pay a qualified lawyer who is licenced to practice law in your location. You don’t get legal advice from websites or from anyone who isn’t a qualified and licenced lawyer.

Following these guidelines means you’re unlikely to run into trouble.

Unlikely, because the people who care have more important things to do than prosecute authors giving away a book or even a dozen books on their website. But that doesn’t make your giveaway legal. It just means you’re not likely to be caught, just like you’re not likely to be caught going 53 kph in a 50 kph zone on your way to church on Sunday morning.

If you want to better understand the laws surrounding online giveaways, click here to read How to Run A Website Contest (without going to jail) by lawyer and author Courtney Milan.

Run Your Own Giveaway

There are two main ways to run your own giveaway. Giving a prize to a blog commenter is probably the easiest, most common, and most enduring.

The newer method—and the method that will better help build your online platform—is to use an online giveaway tool that encourages social sharing and/or email list signups. Lets look at the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Blog Comments

Comments on a blog post encourage interaction. But it’s not always positive interaction, especially if the comments are of the “I’d love to win this book!” variety, rather than true engagement with the post.

The problem is this: encouraging people to comment on your blog post doesn’t contribute to your larger goals.
  1. Blog comments don’t help more people find out about you because they don’t encourage entrants to share your giveaway.
  2. Blog comments don’t encourage entrants to sign up to your email list.

Think about it: if I find a giveaway or contest that has only one entrant and I also enter, I have a 50% chance of winning that giveaway.

If I share the giveaway and more people enter, I’ve reduced my own chances of winning. Who is going to share if sharing goes against their own self-interest?

If you’ve organised a giveaway and you’re the only person who is sharing it, that’s probably what will happen: you’ll only have a small handful of entrants, and the giveaway won’t be shared beyond your faithful readers. That might work for you if your objective in running the giveaway is to reward your faithful readers. But if your objective was to extend your platform, a simple blog comment giveaway is unlikely to work.

The answer to this dilemma is to incentivise participants to share the giveaway, which is where giveaway tools are useful.

Giveaway Tools

There are a variety of giveaway tools available online. Giveaway tools enable you to

Popular tools include:

  • Giveaway Tools
  • Giveaway Tab
  • Gleam
  • KingSumo
  • PromoSimple
  • Punctab
  • Rafflecopter
  • RandomPicker
  • Wildfire
  • Woobox

These tools are used for contest-type giveaways, where there are many entrants but only a few winners (maybe only one). Most group and paid giveaways use some kind of giveaway tool.

Join a Group Giveaway

Author networks often coordinate and promote group giveaways, usually based on genre or some specific theme (e.g. in January 2018, I coordinated an Australia Day Giveaway for members of Australasian Christian Writers. The winner received a $50 Amazon gift voucher, and twelve books set in Australia or by Australian authors).

Participants are expected to share the giveaway within their own networks via a blog post, email newsletter, and social media sharing. In my experience, the more authors in the group and the more committed they are to social sharing, the better the results.

Group giveaways can use an online giveaway tool such as those listed above. The Australia Day Giveaway was run using KingSumo, which I’ll discuss more next week. We offered one prize, but KingSumo does allow for multiple winners. The giveaway had over 450 confirmed entries (and many more who didn’t confirm, so weren’t added to our email lists).

Authors can also use tools like BookCave, BookFunnel, and Instafreebie for giveaway promotions where everyone who enters receives a free ebook. I’l discuss these in a future post.

Join A Paid Giveaway

There are many marketing organisations offering paid group giveaways. For example, RyanZee’s Booksweeps offers two genre-specific multi-author giveaways each week. All entrants are added to the RyanZee mailing list, and these people are contacted the next time that genre giveaway is offered.

Some paid giveaways (including RyanZee) allow entrants to choose which (if any) mailing lists they want to sign up for. In theory, this means participating authors should be collecting interested people who won’t unsubscribe.

Other giveaways sign all entrants up to the email lists of all participating authors. This can mean a large number unsubscribe once they start receiving emails (or, worse, report the emails as spam). There are ways authors can minimise this, as I discussed in 5 Lessons Learned from Signing Up to 20+ Author Newsletters.

I discussed strategy in more detail in Six Factors to Consider in Planning an Online Giveaway. And I’ll be back next week to discuss three online giveaway tools in more detail: Gleam, KingSumo, and Rafflecopter.

Have you ever entered or organised an online giveaway? What did you learn from the experience?

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