My techniques for hosting giveaways has changed and evolved over the years. It has become much easier and I have a pretty easy system and set of guidelines I have created for myself. The most recent awesome discovery has been Rafflecopter. Its a great free way to organize and put together the giveaway and then its just a copy and paste to get professional looking widget that you can moderate and it also chooses a winner for you randomly. Much easier than having to count through entries in my comments section. Oh how that would suck when there were hundreds of entries!
So what is a giveaway anyway. A giveaway is when a company decides to offer up a prize to one of your blog readers. You write a review of said companies product and then one of your readers jumps through some hoops and checks out the companies social media and website and they get entries into the contest to win the product.
Giveaways and reviews are mutually beneficial for both blogger and company whose product you are reviewing. Reviews take time and thought and your time is worth quite a bit so don't feel pressured by companies. They are getting very cheap publicity out of this and you are getting cool free stuff and blog fodder. The reviews are not for the company, they are for your readers and your readers trust your integrity and expect honesty. If its hard to be honest, which it can be if the product totally sucked, use some humor to soften the blow but say it as it is and hold your head high. I have written some pretty, ahem, brutal reviews that many people disagreed with but over all people like to know every aspect of what they might be spending their money on. I want to help the consumer learn from my experience. Look at the product from many angles and report in your review about lots of details.
Be honest even though you may find, or are nervous that the company won't be happy about what you have to say. I have only had one experience where a company was hesitant to send me shoes to try because of a negative review I had written of someone else's shoes. In the end I was still sent shoes to try out because they were confident in their product. Most companies can take the heat and they know that they can't make everyone happy. Being honest is risky but worth it and the possibility of having to write a negative review causes anxiety in new bloggers and reviewers. Be bold and confident in yourself!
I have had only a couple of companies wanting to only get a review if it was a positive one. Sorry, against my policy. I have however seen changes made in products after I gave my feedback. That is really cool and part of the awesomeness that your opinion contributes.
I like to mention the times when my dislike of something might be just me. For example, I have big feet. I have Peggy Hill feet! Raise your hand if you are a King of the Hill fan! Well not that big but I am tall and need my long dogs to keep me upright and sometimes shoes fit me weird and I think its because my feet are long and skinny. When this happens I search out other reviews and read up to see what other peoples experiences were. If it seems to be a lot different for others, I will let people know in my review up front. Same goes with my blogger friends who have crazy wide feet. Also in regards to food. Everyones digestive system is different and isn't necessarily what will be the case for everyone else who tries the product. Mix the positive and negative together and its easier for everyone but be thorough.
Take time taking pictures of what you are reviewing and what is up for grabs if they win. Take photos that are clear and in good light. Take photos from many different angles and I love photos of the person actually using the product if possible. Im a sucker for pictures though!
I have found that people entering like about 7-10 options to enter. The more they enter, the better the chances but people don't like to have to jump through too many hoops that are mandatory. In the beginning of my blogging and giveaways, I would put a mandatory entry being the entrant must follow my blog. Everything else was up to them to choose to enter or not. It was a good way to grow my numbers. This is pretty common for most all giveaways I have seen and is easy to do. Now I am trying to grow my twitter numbers . Shameless plug and a smiley face :)
What should the options be for the entrants. Companies like it if you request entrants to follow their facebook and twitter. I have never had a problem with this. I have liked 99% of the companies I have worked with and I want them to do well. Its easy peasy for people to do so win win for everyone. I also want to grow my blog so I use entrant options like following my blog, following my twitter etc.
Have entrants answer a question that they leave in the comments section of your blog. Admittedly, I have a hard time with this one. You can only ask people what their favorite minimal shoe is before it just gets redundant. The last giveaway I asked what the funnest thing they did over the summer. There were some really cool answers and I got to know some of my readers better! I am going to keep working on this one.
Another great entry option is to have people repost a link to your giveaway on their blog and to tweet, facebook post etc about your giveaway. I like the option on Rafflecopter of the entrant having to put a link to their blog post. I like this not to keep track but so I am exposed to other peoples blogs as well. Network and make friends!
About a week is just the right length of time to keep a giveaway going. Any longer and people get sick of seeing your tweets or Facebook posts trying to get them to enter. Also people don't like to wait too long to find out if they won or not.
As soon as your review or giveaway goes live, shoot an email over to your PR contact for the company and let them know the link so they can send it out through their social media networks too. This is a win win right there and establishes a good rapport and possible opportunity to work with the company further. Let they see that you are a "stay on top of things" kind of person.
I mentioned social media a lot. It can be time consuming but over the years as my blog has grown, I have had many opportunities come along because of my time spent growing my blog. I have had jobs, connections, invitations to coaching courses in NYC, coaching gigs, writing gigs, and lots of wonderful friends made. I have had even more of all of the above since getting a system worked out to share my blog through the various social media outlets. Pinterest is huge and a fantastic tool! You can follow me here :)
How do you get your giveaways to make the rounds on the blogsphere? The simple answer is to make friends with other bloggers who are into the same stuff you are. So if you are a runner, make runner friends. Then, enter other bloggers giveaways and promote them on your blog and social media. Other people will do the same for you and its fun. It being fun is really the important part!
I like to put a list of giveaways I am hosting on my blog's sidebar and then under that list is another list of giveaways by others. Bloggers are cool people and we help each other out. What goes around comes around and it feels good to see bloggers grow and to know that you might have helped a bit. Its also cool to win giveaways!
What to do when the giveaway ends. I have a policy of the winner having 48 hours to respond to my email and or however I contact them. Sometimes I will contact them through email and twitter or Facebook to make sure I get through to them. If I don't hear back in 48 hours, I choose another winner. Another cool thing about rafflecopter is that you have a place at the bottom of the widget to list policies. This is where I put the 48 hour rule and also that the company sent the gear to me for free to try out and my opinions are my own. Have this clearly stated for tax reasons.
I use random.org to choose a winner unless there are other ways of choosing such as the entrants had to get so many votes on a photo they submitted (fodder for another blog!) Its your giveaway so get creative if you are feeling spunky! I also forward the winners information such as their mailing addy, their choice of winnings if there is a choice, and their phone number if FedEx is used, to the PR contact right away so the winner will get their loot as soon as possible. Its very important to see the whole thing through to the very end with an air of proffessionalism.
Here is a bit of a recap for the skimmers out there. Honesty and detail. Great pictures are awesome too! About 7-10 options for people to enter the giveaway Options such as, follow on twitter, follow the company on twitter and or Facebook, repost on their blog. Giveaway runs about 7 days Email your contact as soon as the link goes up post on social media such as twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, G+, StumbleUpon, etc, enter other bloggers giveaways. Have fun and make some new friends!