Why I Will No Longer Run Giveaways

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.


To a large extent, state regulation of gambling
and promotions is highly individual. Thus, in preparing
rules, attention to the rules in all jurisdictions
where the promotion will be available is essential.
Given prevailing legislation and rules in a majority
of states, however, sweepstakes rules should generally
contain at least the following elements:
A statement that no purchase is necessary to
enter or win;
Details of entry procedures;
Any limits on the number of times a person
can enter (for example, one entry per person
or household);
The closing date of the sweepstakes and any
other relevant deadlines;

PR Monday: Your Reputation

Last week I had a great lunch with some blogging friends and Chris Byrne, The Toy Guy. The topic of conversation eventually turned to moms and reviews and giveaways. We all agreed on this basic truth: Your reputation in blogging is all you really have. Being a somewhat anonymous venue it is hard sometimes to remember that everything you do and say contributes to that reputation whether positively or negatively. But at the end of the day and all the SEO and traffic tricks out there, if people don’t trust you the gig is up.

So, how do you focus on being trust worthy?

  • Be consistent with your social media. Your personality on your blog should be YOU and YOU should be YOU across all venues. Don’t fall victim to multiple blogger personality syndrome.
  • If you take a PR opp, DO IT! Sadly it doesn’t always happen. Communicate with the PR Rep if you are having issues getting an opp done. They are depending on you but they also understand that we are moms first. Communicating is really all they ask.
  • Make sure any sponsored posts or ads fit into your value system and personality of your blog.
  • Take giveaways seriously. Get your winner their prizes asap.
  • Manage your offline personality. There shouldn’t be any separation in this day and age. Choices you make in real life will affect your online reputation.
  • Being real doesn’t mean being nasty (unless you really are). Also, if you get a product to review don’t write something fabulous if you don’t mean it. Talk about the pros and cons of products. No one will be believe you if everything you write about is the most fabulous thing on earth.
  • Write reviews about stuff you pay for too (I said too because there is nothing wrong with getting things for review).

Bottom line is that your readers (and PR reps) have a lot of options on where they can go. Be real, genuine, and trustworthy and you will be around a long time :)

How To Ask For Blog Conference Sponsorship

Last week Tamara talked about why a newbie blogger should attend a conference. This week, I want to look at the nuts and bolts of how to attend a blog conference on someone else’s dime(s).

Let’s face it. Conferences are EXPENSIVE and if you are a mom making just enough to pay for your monthly coffee habit from your blog it may seem like a crazy way to spend your money. If you are serious about your blogging goals, the money you spend on conferences can be well worth it. If you are just trying to update your family on little Susie’s latest word, it probably isn’t. Either way, looking for conference sponsorship is a great way to make it do-able (doable?? hmm…..)

If you have been to at least one conference, you know it seems like everyone there is sponsored by someone. Sponsorship to a conference basically just means that a brand has helped you to defray the costs of attending the conference. I have seen all sorts of sponsorships, from a full sponsor who would pay for everything including your ticket, airfare, hotel and misc. expenses to those that partially cover your expenses or give you a product you may need for the trip.

The first thing you should do in looking for a blog conference sponsorship is put together a summary of the conference you are hoping to attend. Not sure which conferences are for you? Jyl has a great list here! What is the conference about? What do you hope to gain from the conference? What types of brands would benefit from having a presence at this conference? What are the benefits to a brand?

Last year I attended a conference and was shocked to find that one of the brands I work with was not represented there. They had given me a very small sponsorship to attend that conference without any strings attached (meaning I did not agree to promote them or report back). But when I came home I wrote them a detailed report of the conference and why I think their presence would be invaluable in the future. They agreed to fully sponsor me the following year (I did not ask) as well as expanding their reach year round into the mom blogging market. Win-win for us both!

Now that you know what your goals are with the conference and what brands may work well with that, it is time to reach out to those PR contacts that you have been building since we started this series. Start by sending them information on the conference. Point them to the conference website and past years the conference has been running. Don’t assume that they already know about the conference. Hopefully they will have a few competitors who are already involved :) Let them know that you would like to attend the conference. Remind them of successful campaigns you have worked on in the past with them. Your email should explain why you think they should be involved and what you are willing to do in exchange for a sponsorship. Let them know about your readership and stats. What is your reach?

Have a detailed breakdown of the costs you expect to incur at this conference. Let them know upfront if you are hoping to get a full sponsorship from them or if you are expecting to reach out to several brands for a partial sponsorship. Tell them why you are a much better choice than sending a rep from their company! This is an easy one….the answer is because you already live in this space and are a more natural fit to really learn what the most exciting trends are. You know the people attending already (if only by being their readers) and you are better equipped to understand the industry.

What do bloggers do in exchange for sponsorship?

Really, a variety of things. One of the most clever sponsorships I have seen was Jenn Fowler teaming up with Coldwater Creek for her wardrobe last year at BlogHer. Genius in my opinion how she handled that. Some of the more common things:

  • hand out business cards
  • hand out swag bags with brand merchandise
  • run a live giveaway
  • live tweet at the event
  • live blog the event
  • host a private party in your suite
  • gather contacts for the sponsor
  • give a detailed report on the conference to the sponsor
  • exchange advertising space on your site
  • list sponsors on a special sponsor page on your site

Make sure that you check the conference guidelines to see what you are able to do for the sponsor before offering. I know BlogHer this year is not allowing attendees to pass things out in the conference space or host private parties within the conference hotel. This is a big change from last year and will force people to get a little more creative!

Last but not least, don’t give up! You are bound to get a few no’s as you work through your contact list. That is OK. If it is a no because of the budget or so forth, DO follow up with them after the conference and let them know what they missed out on so they can plan for next year!

Oh, and one more thing, if any wonderful brands out there reading this would like to sponsor me for any of the following: EVO, Savvy Blogging Summit, BlogHer or IZEAFest this year, please feel free to read more about how we can work together! *shameless plug*

What are some successful blog conference sponsorships you have seen or had? What are some of the ways it doesn’t work??