Giveaway Guidelines: To Give or Not to Give

giveaway guide, giveaway guidelines, internet ethics, blogging ethics

by Jessika Hepburn, Editor

There was great feedback in the comments on my post about The Good, The Bad & the Simply Amazing side of giveaways. I also got a number of emails & messages via Twitter on the topic- obviously this is something that many people have questions about. It can be confusing to decide what the right thing to do is when there are so many conflicting opinions on what an ethical giveaway looks like, or if it’s possible to have one at all. This post from Design*Sponge suggests that bloggers be paid to offer giveaways since editorial space is valuable, while others recommend the complete opposite, saying that the blogger should pay the giver.

I personally believe there is no one right answer, what the definition of a good giveaway is will shift from person to person but there are questions everyone should ask before choosing to do a giveaway in order to make the best decision possible. I have focused this post mainly on questions small businesses should ask themselves before they give their handmade work away but have included some thoughts on giveaways for bloggers with more to come in another blogger focused post this month.

Did the site contact you for a giveaway?

I would look extra closely at any blog that contacts you out of the blue asking for you to offer an item for giveaway. A feature, interview, showcase or behind the scenes look at your work? Absolutely. But if they are actively seeking giveaway items from small handmade businesses then likely their traffic is not going to be high enough to justify offering a giveaway. If you are a blogger wanting to do giveaways wait until you have built your traffic up enough to have people contacting you or try pitching a giveaway idea to a major company with a big marketing budget.

Did they address you by name?

I answer emails & submissions from people who show they know my site first-the same should apply for giveaway requests. If they don’t take the time to read your bio and show they have an understanding of you & your work then they probably aren’t worth your time.

Did they ask you to send an item to review?

My little Etsy shop has never made me a penny. It takes me so long to hand-dye & felt or stitch each piece that it is mostly just for the love of it and I am no longer focusing on it at all. But frustratingly I have literally gotten more convos from people wanting to review my work then I have for sales.  They typically ask for one item to review & then suggest that I do a giveaway also. Where is the value for the artist in hand making and shipping two items? If you are approached for freebies I suggest saying no immediately. Write up a standard response form to send to those type of review requests.

Most of the blogs that approached me for review had limited posts, few comments and none of them had an engaged readership. To me they are just fishing for freebies, which is a scam-and a bad one at that. If you are a blogger: never ever ask for free stuff, especially from small businesses, if someone offers then you can make a choice whether you feel comfortable accepting a sample or product to review. If you are going to review something be sure you let your readers know that you have been given the item and always be honest, above all!

Are they unable to show you a truly successful giveaway on their site or offer you statistics that make sense?

Lots of sites will say they have huge amounts of traffic-and maybe they do. I am of the opinion that bigger isn’t always better and that quantity over quality is a bad trade. For example, one of our OMHG posts got stumbled on StumbleUpon and it got over 4,000 views, so as an experiment I started sharing more posts to see what happened. I got lots of traffic but no comments from those visits and the bounce rate was 100% meaning that visitors clicked over to the the post and clicked right out again. So I stopped using Stumble-I want OMHG to grow organically and have readers who value what we do here, I would rather grow slowly and with intention then quickly without substance.

There are lots of ways to drive traffic to your site to increase pageviews, including giveaways but if none of the content except giveaways has any comments then they obviously don’t have an engaged readership that is looking to the blog for the content of their posts. Look for the truth behind the numbers by reading their blog & the comments, visiting them on Twitter-do they have an active group of followers you will be exposed too, what about their Facebook page?

If the site doesn’t seem to be legitimate just say no-it can be hard sometimes but it is worth it. If you don’t value your work who will?

You contacted them:

You researched their site and past giveaways:

While giveaways typically get more comments there is obviously a group of readers who love the site and it’s content. You can see that the blogger posts regularly and has a game plan and schedule. This is important! Would you want to work with someone who only showed up when they wanted to and didn’t plan for the future? Look for consistency and proof that they know what they are doing.

The editor shared stats and readership info:

That you then double checked. Do this by visiting Alexa and typing in their web address to see their ranking & compare them to other sites. Check out their Klout-Klout is a Twitter based way of assessing influence. Below is the Klout score for OMHG and you can learn more about each number by visiting: While there you can also search the username of anybody on Twitter to find out their score and see what their influence is with their Twitter followers.

I also suggest looking through their Twitter followers & Facebook fans to make sure their readers are your target market. Check that the blogger knows their readers and what motivates them, they should be able to tell you about their demographics and who their readership is.

Do you know & respect the site & the editor(s):

If you are seeking sites to do giveaways with I strongly suggest contacting sites you know and respect, blogs you have followed for a while and/or editors you believe in and identify with. Someone choosing to do a giveaway with you should have interest in building a longer term relationship. That is my plan whenever I agree to a giveaway- I see value in the work, think it is a great fit for my readers & am willing to work hard to promote the business & the owner because I want them to succeed. I will contact them for future opportunities, keep them in mind for posts and pass on their business info.

Their readers are potential customers:

A website might have great traffic and your giveaway might get a 1000 comments but if the readers aren’t your customers then you might not get any sales. And that’s really the whole point of the giveaway, to generate traffic to your work so that you get sales and expose your products to your target market. This ties into the question about who the readers are and if the blogger can tell you about their readership.

The site has a mix of content:

Look for sites that have a good mix of well-written content within their niche-a blog that is a little bit of everything all scattered about or a blog that is totally exclusive to one topic might not be a good match. Also pay attention to the overall look and tone of the site, spelling and grammatical errors are possible red flags that the blogger is unprofessional (unless they speak English as a second language in which case mistakes can be quite endearing & part of their charm).

More Q’s:

-How old is the site? If the site is brand spanking new it might be wise to be cautious and wait to see what the readership and stats are like in the future.

-Do they post regularly? Showing up on time (with good content!) proves that the blogger is committed to what they do, they take their site seriously and they are willing to work hard to create a good site.

-Do they have giveaway policies? Having policies shows that the blogger has considered the ethics of giveaways and is trying to protect your best interests.

-Would it make more sense to buy an ad? Many businesses have told me they offer giveaways because they can’t afford advertising-while a giveaway might expose your product to a bunch of people for a week an ad space will introduce you to the sites readers every day. Consider what is more cost effective & experiment with doing both and seeing how it affects your traffic and sales.

It’s important to remember that giveaways are advertising and that they should be budgeted for in your marketing plan-keep track of how much it costs you in time & materials to make the items & ship them.

I hope this post and chart (click here for a printable copy) help you in making decisions about what giveaways are worth your time and how to watch out for scams. To sum up, do your research, have clear expectations and don’t hesitate to ask questions (if you are uncomfortable asking questions of the blogger then don’t do it!) hopefully this will help keep you & your business safe. I will be doing another post later in the month on my favorite types of giveaways with examples from some of my most loved sites on how bloggers can create fabulous & ethical giveaways that are great for everyone. I will also be doing a how-to guest post on creating a giveaway over on next week.

Please share your thoughts, questions & experiences in the comments below & I’ll join you for a chat there!