Dear Da, can I ask you about giveaways?

posted on: Monday, March 14, 2011

Throughout the week I will be answering questions about blogging.
If you have a question you'd like me to answer send me an e-mail.

The question I get asked the most is about giveaways. At least once a week someone sends me an e-mail asking me something specific about giveaways. "How do you find sponsors for your giveaways?" "How do you choose a winner?" "How long should a giveaway be?" So today I will try and explain the nitty gritty of giveaways; the good and the ugly.

Why should I do a giveaway?
The short answer is that if done right giveaways drive traffic to your blog. It also allows you to build relationships with sponsors and is a way for you to do something nice for your readers, even though only one reader really benefits -- the one who wins the product you are giving away.

What should I give away?
Unless you don't mind spending money I would suggest not buying things to giveaway. Find a sponsor. But most importantly only giveaway something you would like receiving yourself. I would also suggest sticking to the theme of your blog. Because my blog is about food all of my giveaways have been food/kitchen related. My first giveaway was in June of 2008. I was browsing different Etsy shops for fun and found reusable snack bags and thought they were genius (back in 2008 they were). I contacted the shop owner and asked her if she would please please please do a giveaway on my blog. I could not believe she said yes. I had 14 comments and was so excited because I felt really great about the product I was giving away. It was something I WANTED to promote on my blog Hell-O, reusable snack bags are awesome. Since then I have done over 50 giveaways and they have all been food/kitchen related. 

In the beginning most of my giveaways came from Etsy shops. I adore Etsy and I feel really good about promoting handmade products. Plus, I figured it would be much easier getting a small shop to sponsor a giveaway then a big shop. At least this was the case in 2008 when I had few readers and most big companies had never heard about blogs or giveaways. No matter the size of the shop or the size of the prize (reusable snack bags vs. a $400 food processor) make sure it's something you would have in your home. Endorsing a product you don't believe in is the worst.

How do I contact a sponsor?
In the beginning I would browse Etsy shops and contact the shops' owners. Then I drafted a letter that I could copy and past, changing only the product's name, and would contact multiple Etsy shops in mass e-mail form. Then I started contacting bigger cooperations like Emile Henry and Williams-Sonoma. I would say that out of 5 shops I contacted at least 1 was willing to sponsor a giveaway. Don't be shy. Be polite. Be professional and always always be nice. Oh, and most importantly always always ALWAYS be honest. If a sponsor asks about your traffic be honest, don't inflate your numbers. Smaller shops normally don't ask about traffic but the bigger folks will. When I was working with Williams-Sonoma to do the Christmas giveaway of the $400 food processor  they wanted a PDF of my google analytics for the month of November and the number of subscribers I had at the time. I can check my subscriber number using Feedburner. It's good to have those numbers ready so that when sponsors ask you about traffic you can quickly and accuretly tell them what your stats are. 

When you contact a sponsor be as specific as you can. Tell them exactly what product you want to giveaway and why. Tell them when you will put up the giveaway and how long it will be up. If they say yes then ask for hi-res images of their products and start drafting your post. As soon as it's up send them a url of your post and invite them to follow along throughout the week. Follow through with what you agreed. If you agreed to tweet and Facebook your giveaway then do so. Also make sure every single detail is clear both to you and your sponsor. Will the sponsor send you the prize or will the sponsor send the prize directly to the winner? Is it open to US only? Does the sponsor want people to leave comments on your blog about their product or are they fine with any comment? Most giveaways will ask you to check out the sponsor's website and leave a comment saying which product from that site is your favorite. This is a sure way to drive traffic to the sponsor's site. You set the terms of what you think is fair then follow through. 

How do I set up a giveaway on my blog?
I think consistency is key. I used to do giveaways every single Friday for almost a whole year straight. My readers knew that on Fridays I had a new giveaway up. I even had a button on the sidebar that said "current giveaway" which linked to the post with the current giveaway. This made it easier for new readers to find the giveaway. 

Here is an example of what a standard giveaway on my blog looked like. I have a picture of the product, a description, and then my giveaway logo and the standard "How to Enter" text which explains the rules of the giveaway. I changed my giveaways so that they were only open to followers (to the annoyance of many). I did this because I was no longer wanting to boost my traffic, I wanted to boost my Followers number instead. I also decided to do that because I felt better when the winner was announced and it was a Follower instead of someone who just came because they found my giveaway on google. This was a personal decision. I think it's fine to leave giveaways open to everyone, people like it better that way.

How do I promote my giveaway?
First you Tweet it and Fabebook --- then you encourage your readers to do the same by giving them an extra chance of winning if they share your giveaway via social media (blogging it, tweeting, facebooking, etc). THEN... you add it to online sweepstakes sites. The only one I used consistently was this one. It will totally boost your traffic but it's not long lasting. Here is what I mean -- there are a whole bunch of people, a whole entire bunch, who look for sweepstakes online and enter them. So you'll get more people entering your giveaway but it's not necessarily people who are interested in your blog. They're interested in the prize. They may or may not ever come back to your blog again, chances are they will not. If you don't care about this and you mainly want to boost your traffic then totally add your giveaways to these sites I guarantee it will bring in a lot of traffic.

How do I pick the winner and how do I get the prize to the winner?
I use to pick all of my winners. Some people take screen shots of the number generator and paste it on their blog post to publicly show the number. I'm not consistent about doing this and honestly don't really feel the need to do it. As soon as a a number is drawn I'll go and see who the winner is. I'll click on the winner's name which will hopefully lead me to an e-mail address. If it doesn't I go back to and pick another number. Once I am able to contact the winner I tell them they won and ask for their mailing address. They reply with their mailing address and lots of thank yous. Then I send the winner's information to the sponsor and THEY mail the prize. There have only been a handful of times where I've mailed the prize. It's more work for you to do the mailing so I don't recommend it. Once the sponsor confirms that they received the mailing address ask them how long it will take for them to send the prize to the winner and follow through to make sure the winner receives their prize. I've learned this the hard way.

Sounds like a lot of work, what do you get out of it?
It is a lot of work, specially if you're doing it every week like I was. There are so many steps, so many details, that it does become a lot of work. So what did I gain from doing giveaways? Well, in the beginning I would have the Etsy shop sponsor send a prize to the winner and send me the exact same product for free. I stopped doing that once I moved away from Etsy sponsors. Through giveaways I have built relationships with Public Relations representatives which has led to product reviews and some paid gigs as well. I think that doing consistent giveaways put my name on the radar and now I get at least 5 e-mails a day from PR folks who wants me to either review their products or do giveaways of their product on my blog.

Why did you stop doing giveaways?
Honestly I was tired of doing giveaways every week. I would rather be writing about recipes or about the family than writing about products. Besides you're doing a whole bunch of advertising for someone with no pay (in full disclaimer I did get paid once $100 to host a giveaway). I'm at the point where I'm not concerned about getting peaks of traffic from folks who are only interested on my blog because of giveaways. I battle with this because traffic is always good. Always. It's good to get traffic so that you can get better sponsors. I figured that if I'm going to do a giveaway on my blog it has to be something that's really a great prize, something worth more than $100 and therefore really worth my time to blog about it. In the meantime I'm doing giveaways on Facebook.

Giveaways on Facebook? What's that all about?!
What, you didn't hear? I wanted to do more with my Facebook Fan Page so I started doing my giveaways on Facebook. You know all those PR peeps who contact me to review their products? Well most of the e-mails I delete but there are a handful I reply with "want me to do a giveaway of this on my FB page?" to which they reply yes. I then immediately go and put it up on my Facebook Fan Page. Facebook only allows me to have 420 characters per status. PERFECT! I keep it to a minimum and all you have to do to enter the giveaway is "like" the status.  I either pick the winner the same day or the day after. I usually have no more than 15 people participate. I can not tell you how much easier this is. It takes me no more than 10 minutes and I'm stoked that whoever wins is someone who's a Fan of Kitchen Corners. It actually feels like I'm giving back. 

This works for me because it gives me something to do with the PR e-mails that come in. And you've now rolled eyes again right?! You think I'm bragging about having PR folks contact me. I guarantee you most things you wouldn't want anyway. They only contact me because I did consistent giveaways for over 2 years and because I have children. Mommy blogging is where it's at. A DVR Baby Monitor anyone? Yeah, I didn't think so. A rug with Hello Kitty faces on it for the children's room? Tempting but no thanks. Most of the PR pitches I get have nothing to do with food and everything to do with kids. I keep telling myself I should start a giveaway/review blog of kid's products. The only problem is I would hate it. I hate buying random stuff for my kids and would have a hard time blogging about random products I would most likely never use. On the other hand send me a pitch for freeze dried snacks or cook books and I'm all ears.

Will you ever do giveaways on Kitchen Corners again?
Yes. As we speak I'm working with a very cool sponsor for a potential Mother's Day Giveaway. I just won't go back to doing giveaways every week for the time being. But if you have a cool giveaway on your blog, do let me know.

ps: To see all my past giveaways go here.

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If there was anything I missed please let me know and if you have another bloggy question now is the time to ask.


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