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Seven ways to grow your blog, part seven: group (and solo) giveaways

Welcome to the end of my series on seven ways to grow your blog in 2014! To recap, thus far I’ve talked about the importance of a good layout and design, sprucing up your “about” and PR pages, crafting great content with great photos to match, and networking your blog via social media and other outlets. To wrap it all up, I want to talk about giveaways: why group giveaways rock, how to set them up, and a few legal pointers to keep in mind before you hit “publish”. Read more after the jump!

Giveaways do two things for you: draw in new readers, and reward existing followers. I like to do giveaways to say “thank you” to those who follow my blog, but there’s so much I know now that I didn’t know (and wish I had!) when I first got started. If you’ve never hosted a giveaway before and aren’t sure how to get started, here are some things to keep in mind, along with tips for hosting a group giveaway. *Please keep in mind that I am not a lawyer, so none of this should be taken as legal counsel for hosting a giveaway. This is simply based on my own research. I strongly recommend you do your own research prior to hosting a giveaway, particularly as international law can be very different from U.S. giveaway requirements.*

Brush up on the legalese

Believe it or not, there’s a lot more to putting together a giveaway than just picking a prize and creating an entry form. Before you get started, read everything you can on blog giveaways and the law (I recommend you start with this article from Sara F. Hawkins and this one from For Dummies) to be sure you understand what you can and cannot do while putting together the giveaway. This is even more important if you’ll be hosting a group giveaway, since you’ll want to make sure everyone is on the same page.

For example, you can’t require that entrants follow you via a given channel, so don’t create an entry form demanding they follow all eight (or whatever number) of the host bloggers’ accounts before they can unlock the rest of the entry options.You can offer a freebie entry as the mandatory entry and offer “follow me” entries as the additional “optional” entries.

Decide whether to go domestic or international

There are pros and cons to both. Aside from the legal complications that can come with international giveaways (see the above article links), you have to remember that the cost of international shipping can be prohibitive, and some items (like nail polish) cannot be shipping overseas. On the other hand, many bloggers don’t want to leave their international readers out in the cold. Whether you’re flying solo or hosting with a group, you’ll need to decide on this element before you pick out a prize.

Pick your prizes

Especially if you’re going international, an e-gift card is a great way to offer an instant prize without the time and expense of shipping; it also lets each of the participating host bloggers chip in a small amount of cash towards a larger prize. (Typically, one blogger collects the money via PayPal and purchases/sends the gift card once a winner is drawn.) The downside to this is that the website might not ship to your winner’s country, so be careful to choose a store that any winner can enjoy.

If you’re shipping physical prizes, you’ll have to come to an agreement: are you chipping in toward one larger prize, or will you each contribute a smaller prize? Who will cover the shipping? You should also agree beforehand on a timeline for shipping.

Sponsored prizes–yea or nay?

I’m of two minds on this. On the one hand, hosting a sponsored giveaway lets you give something away with no cost out of your own pocket (yay!) and you’ll probably get some cross-promotion by the sponsoring brand via their social media pages, since they obviously want people to come enter your giveaway. On the other hand, if the sponsor flakes out on sending the prize, you can find yourself on the hook for sending an acceptable substitute–and unfortunately, it does happen. Just something to keep in mind before you host a sponsored giveaway for a $200 item.

Put together your entry form

I absolutely recommend using the free version of Rafflecopter; it’s easy to use and makes sifting through entries a breeze. Please don’t host a giveaway in which entrants have to leave a comment for each entry (one as a regular comment, one to say they’re following on Twitter, etc.)–those are annoying and time-consuming for the reader, and they’ll be more difficult for you to moderate. Remember, you have to draw the winner at random; it’s so much easier to do with the Rafflecopter widget!

As for awarding points per entry: keep it even. Don’t award one point for a freebie and ten for following on Instagram. It’s unfair to your readers and depending on what state you live in, it could be illegal (gulp).

Write out your terms and conditions

Be explicitly clear when writing out your terms and conditions; here’s a post from Pink Heels Pink Truck that gives a good example of what to include. You can add these to the bottom of your Rafflecopter widget or just paste them into the blog post. I like to add in my giveaway posts that all entries will be moderated, and those that are “spam” entries will be thrown out. I don’t know why, but people will click all of the entry buttons without doing anything at all, and that’s not fair to the other entrants. This is where the moderation panel comes in handy! If you’re hosting in a group giveaway, decide beforehand who will be moderating (typically, the “lead” host, who will also create the Rafflecopter).

Why group giveaways rock

Group giveaways are awesome for a few reasons: it means less out-of-pocket expense for the prize, it’s just fun (co-hosting almost always is!), and it’s a great way to gain cross-exposure for your blog. Since each of the bloggers involved will be posting the giveaway on their blogs and then sharing it via their social media channels, the potential for new faces to see you included as a host is huge. This is a great way to gain new readers for your blog with very little effort.

If you want to host a group giveaway, cordially invite a few bloggers to join you and create a sign-up form that can be filled out detailing what social media links they would like to share and what they’ll contribute to the prize. You might also ask each one to send you a photo of themselves and a brief bio that they’d like shared in the giveaway post, so readers can learn more about the bloggers behind the giveaway.

Partner up with bloggers you trust

This is where I have to be a Debbie Downer and say what no one really likes to say out loud: on the internet, no one knows you’re a dog. I’ve heard way too many stories of bloggers who hosted giveaways or swaps and never sent out their goods, or vice versa–bloggers who won a giveaway and never got their prize. If you want to partner up for a giveaway, make sure it’s with bloggers whom you trust. You do not want to get left holding the bag if someone else suddenly goes AWOL.

That’s it for my blogging giveaway advice! Do you have anything else to add that I didn’t cover here? If so, leave me a comment and let me know your best advice for hosting a giveaway (solo or otherwise).

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