Once upon a time I wrote an article on how to host a blog giveaway. But with all the blog changes I have going on I began doing some research on blog giveaways and realized it is just not something I am comfortable with anymore. Lots of blogs are writing about the subject and I have had a few very smart conversations with friends regarding this topic. Let’s begin with why I personally choose not to run blog giveaways going forward.
- A month ago a ran a giveaway here on the blog to win a field trip with my family. I got ONE entry! Big ego slap! But I puzzled and I puzzled til my puzzler hurt and then I finally asked some friends why they didn’t enter. The biggest two reasons were that my friends see me all the time anyway and they are totally over blog contests. Fair enough. I realized my readers (friends and family) don’t come here for a chance to win something. That made me happy.
- I started having conversations with smart friends in social media who brought up the fact that blog contests may not be exactly legal. I did some research (easy to read discussions here, here, here, here, here and here) and found there is a lot of gray in this area. I don’t monetize this blog and don’t really care (other than my ego) how many readers I have so why would I risk the thin ice here?
- Whispered conversations of how some blog contests are faked. It’s scary to announce a friend won your contest because you are afraid everyone is going to say “its obviously rigged” but then how can you ask your friends to enter? Weird double edged sword there. While 98% (randomly made up number) of all bloggers are completely honest and forthcoming, I don’t want to be lumped in with the few that aren’t because mostly all of my readers are personal friends. I can see the disclosure now: “Entries open to US Residents 18 and older and who don’t know my real hair color“….which is gray, so now you are all not eligible. Sorry!
- I started getting statements from PR firms to the effect: Please clearly state that this is not our contest. We are just providing you with a prize for your giveaway. Bells went off here.
So after my above reasons some of you may be wondering what laws I am worried about. Let me try to break it down as best I can and try to help you avoid some of the pitfalls if you run giveaways. It’s important to understand the terminology used in a lottery (all definitions below from this link. I bolded what is common in blog giveaways.
- Prize: Anything of value the sponsor awards in a promotion. For example goods/services with a monetary value or items of intrinsic value.
- Chance: A process beyond the participant’s direct control determines the outcome. A few examples of chance are a random sweepstakes drawing or an instant win/collect and win game; ultimately luck is the deciding factor.
- Consideration: Anything that requires a participant to expend a monetary amount or significant effort to participate. For example the purchase of a product, multiple store or internet visits, correctly answering trivia questions, downloading a file, or attendance at sales presentations.
So the first thing here is to avoid running an illegal lottery you have to remove one of the above. The easiest is consideration. Don’t ask people to visit another website and return to yours to comment. Make it as easy as someone leaving you a comment with only the contact info necessary to award prize. Eliminate “extra entries”.
“Sweepstakes are regulated by both state and federal law. Sweepstakes (typically random drawings for prizes) possess two of the three characteristics of a lottery: chance and a prize. Therefore, to avoid classification as a lottery, a sweepstakes promotion must not involve consideration.”-Contests and Sweepstakes
Use the third party draw service from random.org This goes beyond the little screenshot image that some bloggers post and keeps a record for winners and losers for 5 years. It documents that every entry was actually given a fair shot and documents date/time.
You could, also, run a contest. Contests remove the element of chance.
“Contests take a number of different forms. Anything where you can display a skill or a special attribute, from cooking and essay contests to cutest kid and bikini contests, is fair game”-Contests & Sweepstakes
My advice here would be to use another judging agent (the contest sponsor or impartial third party) to pick the winner. That way your best friend can enter and if her kid really is deemed to be the cutest by the third party, great. Always include rules! and remember that while the rules in the US are confuzzling enough, I have heard adding Canada into the mix can be really rough.
I have run giveaways doing pretty much everything above. I am not an attorney (not even close) nor should any of this be taken as legal advice. It is just a compilation of reasons why I am no longer comfortable running giveaways. It’s confusing stuff and just not worth it to me considering all the work involved. Before you run your next giveway please follow the advice here from the FTC.
…each state has laws that may require promoters to make disclosures, seek licensing, or post a bond. Since state laws vary, check with the Attorney General’s Office in the state(s) in which you plan to advertise.