Hosting a giveaway on your blog can be a great way to drive traffic to your blog. It’s also a lot of fun for both you and your readers. There are tons of ways to do giveaways, you’ve probably seen many, but are they all legal?
Here’s the problem with the law for giveaways and raffles, it varies from locale to locale. So, what’s legal if you are hosting a giveaway only for Nevada readers, may not be legal for Alabama readers. So, what do you do? You go for the least common denominator and make sure that what you are doing is legal everywhere!
Types of Giveaways
There are three basic types of giveaways you will see and it’s important to understand the differences, as these differences can make the difference in whether or not it’s legal everywhere or just in certain areas.
- Sweepstakes – in a sweepstakes a winner is chosen based strictly on luck if the draw (no skill required, no special effort needed).
- Contest – a winner is chosen based on some skill or merit. Perhaps you’ve seen video or story contests where readers are asked to submit a video or story on a topic and the host chooses their favorite as a winner.
- Lottery – you have to pay money for a chance to win.
Sweepstakes is usually the option of choice in the US as is the only one that is not limited by area and runs into the least legal issues. Therefore it is the one we will focus on here, and the one we suggest you use when doing a giveaway.
Giveaways outside the US may vary. In Canada and some European countries sweepstakes may not be legal, and a show of skill is required (answering a question correctly).
The key features of a giveaway:
- No special effort required – entrants must be able to enter strictly by supplying their contact info ONLY for the purposes of the giveaway. This means that you can’t just add their email address to your newsletter list without asking.
- Extra Effort can equate to extra entries – While you must at least offer the option above, you can allow entrants extra entries for doing extra tasks (signing up for your newsletter, visiting a specific site, following you on social). However,
- Extra entries must count the same as the initial entry. If the basic entry to your giveaway gives them 1 entry to the content then each extra effort entry can also only give them 1 entry.
- Extra effort entries must be completely optional – remember if you are requiring extra effort to enter then it may cross the line into being a contest.
- No purchase necessary – if you require money or effort on the part of the entrant it’s a contest and may not be legal. More on “no purchase necessary”.
- Winner must be chosen at random – this is best done using a random number generator.
How to host a sweepstakes
This post will guide you through several ways you can host a giveaway and keep it legal.
- Determine the item(s) you will be giving away. This should be the easiest step of your entire giveaway. Chances are you may have a sponsor that has contacted you to giveaway an item, or perhaps you are sponsoring the giveaway yourself and decided to giveaway a book you’ve written or maybe just a giftcard to Amazon.
- Save yourself some hassle later and limit giveaway value to under $600 to avoid tax forms. If you are giving away multiple items that will add up to more than $600, consider dividing them up and having multiple winners.
- Choose where you want to host your giveaway. Do you want to host the giveaway on your blog? Or, on a specific social media channel (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram). You can, of course, do more than one, but it may be easier to choose one and stick with it (at least initially).
- Create your Terms & Conditions – this should list the rules are for entry and include:
- Who are the sponsors?
- What items are being given away?
- Are there any limitations on who can enter? (Must they be located in certain areas?)
- How will the winners be contacted? How long will they have to reply to claim their prize?
- Start and end dates (once your giveaway has started you can not change the end date)
- contest URL (where can the contest be entered)
- Who is hosting the contest
- how is the winner selected
Example templates available here, here, and here.
- Create your blog post that provides the giveaway details (as well as a link to your Terms & Conditions), and tell your readers how to enter the giveaway.
- The absolute simplest way to host a giveaway on your blog would be to create a post with the details of the giveaway and simply ask them to comment to enter. Then use a random number generator to determine which comment is selected as the winner. If you do this make sure that you are requiring they provide their email address to leave a comment (or contacting your winners can get tricky). Unfortunately, this option can get messy if you have a lot of entries (especially if you are offering any additional options for entry).
- An easier answer is to use a service like RaffleCopter that will host the giveaway for you. Rafflecopter has both free options (with limited entries), and paid options where they will provide T&C templates as well as give you more options for additional entries. The key is that it’s easy to use and set up. You just enter your prizes and select the entry options, fill in a few details, and you are ready to go. They have a preformatted T&C for you, or you can edit it to include more details. Once you enter all the info Rafflecopter will provide you with the code to include in your post that will allow people to enter the giveaway.
- If you are on WordPress.com you will need to just link to your giveaway on Rafflecopter (using a link they provide).
- If you are on Blogger or self-hosted you can add a little script that will install the actual giveaway widget directly into your post. It will display to the viewer how many entries there currently are and how much longer they have to enter, and if someone visits the page after the giveaway has closed they will not be able to enter.
- Promote your giveaway – as with any of your blog posts, just publishing isn’t enough. You need to promote your giveaway. Be sure to use proper #hashtags on twitter and instagram to help with promotion (#giveaway will result in your giveaway being shared by a variety of giveaway sites – this may or may not be good depending on your goals).
Hosting a Giveaway on Facebook
- Each entrant must release FB and acknoledge that the giveaway is in no way promoted or endorsed by FB
- Promotions and giveaways can only be hosted on business pages or apps (not personal pages)
Basically, if you choose to host your giveaway on Facebook (or any social media for that matter) rather than your blog you will be even further limited on how you can collect entries and what you can do with those entries. If you are hoping to ask entrants to do things like sign up for your newsletter or follow you on Twitter your best bet is to host that giveaway on your blog only, and use social media to promote the giveaway.
More tips and tricks on hosting legal giveaways
- ForDummies.com guide to hosting a legal giveaway
- Social media contests and the law: how to keep things legal
- Blog giveaway checklist
- Read this before hosting a Facebook contest
- 17 Tips for Successful Facebook Promotions
- Guidelines for promotions on Twitter