Sunday, March 29, 2009

How to Host Effective Blog Giveaways

An effective blog giveaway should benefit all parties involved--the reader, the sponsor, and the blogger. The reader gets something free, the sponsor gets increased traffic or product interest, and you get more hits. Right? As long as everything goes well. Those of us who have a few giveaways under our belts know that there can be a few hiccups along the way. Following these essential bits of advice next time you host a blog giveaway will help ensure that everybody wins:

Find Great Items to Give Away
The better the item, the more attention your giveaway will garner. How do bloggers find items to give away? Here's how I do it:

  • I'm approached directly by PR or marketing representatives or business owners. If I receive an intriguing pitch that doesn't specifically mention a giveaway opportunity, I go ahead and ask for one.
  • I email the company directly, tell them I'm a huge fan of their product, and ask if they're interested in doing a giveaway. I make sure to provide traffic numbers so that they can see the benefit. This works particularly well if I've seen an item being given away at another site.
  • I buy the items myself. Pricey, but sometimes there's something I really want to give away and it's the only way I can. Last year I bought someone $200 worth of cloth diapers. The giveaway was a huge it, and I consider the attention it brought to Baby Cheapskate well worth the expense. Plus, I can write it off on my taxes.

Streamline Giveaway Admin
  • Keeping track of what you're giving away and when can be tricky, especially when you've got several giveaways lined up. Scheduling and tracking giveaways using Google Calendar or a similar tool will help keep it all straight. It will also help ensure that you don't schedule a giveaway that will end while you're on vacation or otherwise unavailable.
  • Most giveaway entries occur within the first two days of a giveaway, in my experience. Why have them drag on forever? Play around with shorter giveaways. Try a one-day or three-day period. I'm a big fan of one-day giveaways; the only drawback to them as far as I'm concerned is that some who access your blog via feed reader rather than visiting you directly may miss out on the giveaway if the feed item is slow in showing up on their reader.
  • Use Google Docs to create an entry form for your readers. This prevents readers' email addresses from being harvested by blog-crawling harvester bots (ooooh!), since entries will be collected on a spreadsheet accessible only by you. The spreadsheet also makes it much easier to select winners and weed out duplicate entries (more on that below). To create a form, just go to Google Docs, select "Form" under the "New" menu and add your questions. When you're done, select "Embed" under "More Actions." Copy and paste the code into your giveaway post.
  • Keep giveaway entry methods simple. The trend today is to offer extra entries for Twitter Tweets and blog posts about your giveaway. If you do this, make sure your instructions for obtaining these extra entries are clear. I also favor giving non-blogging or non-Twittering readers and readers who can't or prefer not to jump through the PR hoops a way to enter the giveaway.
  • Use Random.org's integer generator to choose a random winner. It's quick and easy, and since you've collected entries on a spreadsheet, finding the winning entry is a breeze, too.
  • Give the giveaway winner a limited length of time to respond to your notification email. Three days to a week is plenty. Drawing it out longer just makes your job harder. Make sure you stipulate on your giveaway that you'll be drawing a new winner if you don't hear from the original winner within the specified period.

Maximize the Benefit to Your Sponsor
Boost your giveaway's value to the sponsor by creating a reason for readers to visit the sponsor's site. Ask them to choose their favorite product from the sponsor's site and then come back and enter it into your entry form. Send them on a mini scavenger hunt. Your sponsor will love the extra traffic and sales that result, opening the door for additional giveaway opportunities.


Prevent and Eliminate Duplicate Entries

A giveaway with duplicate giveaway entries is not a fair giveaway. Discourage dupes before they happen by including a question or two beyond "Name" and "Email address" on your entry form. Since I started doing so I've noticed a significant reduction. Ask readers to comment on the product or use the opportunity to collect feedback about your blog.

Eliminating multiple entries by the same reader using the old "leave a comment under this post" entry method was excruciating. The Google Docs form makes weeding them out much less time consuming:
  • Sort your spreadsheet alphabetically by email address and scan the email address column manually for duplicates.
  • Use the UNIQUE formula to automatically eliminate duplicate email addresses. If "C" is the column that your email addresses are in, type in a blank cell (with nothing underneath it) the formula: =UNIQUE(C:C).

What About You?
Readers: Two topics not covered here are how to publicize your giveaway and what to do when the sponsor doesn't send out the prize (see BlogCoach's most popular post ever: Blog Giveaway Gone Wrong). What are your best tips?

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