Pros and Cons of Online Giveaways as a Marketing Initiative

Pros and Cons of Online Giveaways as a Marketing Initiative

Online Giveaways are both wonderful and making a deal made with the devil. There are a wealth of options out there and they all have their pros and cons. In case it was not clear, a giveaway is when you offer up something for free and people can gain entries that “giveaway” for a chance to win.

These entries can be gained by doing things like signing up for a newsletter or follow someone on a social media platform. It usually has to be something that everyone can do and not be skill-based. Once you add skill and it is about who did the skill the best, then you have a “contest” which is in fact different. Giveaways need to have a completely random winner.

Social Media Giveaway Approach

What Is the Social Media Giveaway Approach?

The social media giveaway approach is the idea of creating a social media post that itself should be shared, creating a viral tornado of followership and interaction. Facebook was always dominant in this space but Instagram has taken over in many cases. That is where most people are sharing and discussing this type of media now so it makes sense. With this approach, you have a message and clear entry objectives lined out that are unusually a mix of “like this post”, “follow us” and “tag two friends.”

What Are The Benefits Of This Approach?

This is a great way to supercharge your followership. You will not get great clicks to somewhere else or anything outside of this, but growing your followers is one of the most important parts of social media so that is all you need.

The concept of this idea brings together a trio of ideas that together are the equation for virality. There is the “like this post” which raises the visibility and is going to get people already involved in some way to see it. Then you have the “tag two friends” which is how you get visibility outside of the immediate network of the post. These two visibility and spread things should create a super visibility, because you post is “hot” and “talked about”. Then finally you have the “follow us” which is the payoff.

All those eyeballs you just fought to get will hopefully translate into ultimate followers which is the goal.

What Is The Scam To Look Out For?

The main way scammers try to take advantage of social media hosted giveaways is posing to be you, then shaking down your followers. In Instagram, for example, someone would copy your profile page almost exactly, taking your images and information making them their own. The only difference is that their user name is slightly different (maybe it has an extra letter, because user names obviously cannot be the same on Instagram).

The scammer then uses that account and reaches out to your followers or people in that community in general. The scammers tell the unsuspecting follower that they have won the giveaway and that the way to claim their prize is by signing up on a form with personal and/or payment information or just sending them a little cash to cover shipping. You pay and then they disappear. Look very closely at profiles and make sure to report anything fraudulent.

What Messaging Should I Use For The Giveaway?

The template is pretty standard, you can change around the message and should list anything people should know specific to your situation, but the entry options should generally remain the same.


#giveaway We reached 10K followers!!! So it’s giveaway time 😆😆 We, together with @NewKickstarterGame , want to give you this brand new game: Your Awesome Product.

Everybody can enter as long you are 18 years or older and this time worldwide 🌍!


How to enter:

1. Follow our Instagram @ContentSiteDoingGiveaway and @NewKickstarterGame

2. Like this picture

3. Tag 2 friends.


Share this post on your instastory for extra entry and tag us, so we can see it 🙂

This giveaway will end at [date] [time].

This giveaway is not sponsored or associated with Instagram.



We will pick the winner for the game randomly and announce on our Instagram on the next day! After this you have 24 hours to get in contact with us, if not we will pick the next winner.

So good luck!!

#hastags #fun #winner #win #giveaway #giver #free #freedom #glory #victory #follow #followers #youguysarethebest #boardgames #games #tabletop #gamnight #tabltopgaming #fun

Site-Hosted Giveaway Approach

What Is The Site-Hosted Giveaway Approach?

The site-hosted giveaway approach is when you use a software platform to “host” a giveaway which can either be on a standalone microsite that is created or it is something that can be embedded into a site you control.

You see these, sometimes they are their own thing and sometimes you see them embedded at the bottom of lots of content on a site. There are sites that just specialize in these but there are also everyday blogs that use them to build backlinks and get a different group of people into their site ecosystem.

What Are The Plugin / Software Platforms?

Below are the main options you are going to see in terms of specialty giveaway site-hosted platforms. They go after the same thing but have many different differences among them.

  1. Gleam
  2. Rafflepress
  3. Rafflecopter
  4. Kingsumo

Gleam: This has the professional look and it has all the choices you need. Not only does it have those choices, but it has deeper customization, options and useful 3rd party tie-ins than anyone. This is a top choice.

Rafflepress: This is also a solid option, it has a professional look and has all the options you need. You could be very successful with this, it is just not as customizable as Gleam. You have less ability to add weight to entries, less entry option types, less control over when options are triggered, less labeling options and more. This is billed as much easier and more compatible to use with WordPress and that is true. 

Rafflecopter / Kingsumo: People use these because they are free and get the job done but honestly they are not as robust as the other above two. Their appearance is lacking. If you have a prize that is worth money and you are trying to sell how great you are, spend a couple bucks to shine the windows.

What Are The Entry Options

These vary and they change over time, but this is what you generally can expect:

Refer A Friend – This is the most important tool to spread your giveaway. This lets people get a unique link so they get credit for the referral. This incentivizes people to share.

Follow FB / TW / IN / YT / PN – This is the option to follow an individual social account. Note that because of Facebook and Instagram’s setups, you can never force a follow, just that they go to the link. This is still a valid option, you just have to hope they do it which is not as strong as the force.

Share a Tweet – This is my favorite option because it is about awareness. This has the entrant tweet out any message you want, with links, photos, hashtags and tags. Great for having lots of people post a link in the same set of hashtags to make it look like the hot thing.

Watch A Youtube Video – a video is embedded and you can trigger an entry once it finishes. Great for getting watch counts higher or forcing people to watch a commercial of yours.

View Facebook / Instagram post – Similar to the above watch a video, you can send people to a specific Facebook or Instagram post to have them check it out.

Go To Link – You can make someone head over to any link you want and have them check it out.

Join Newsletter – This option usually integrates with all the big mailing list platforms like Mailchimp and Zapier. By creating a unique API for your giveaway from your partner, entrants get plugged directly into signup right there. It is very nice.

Answer A Question / Poll – Poll your audience and have them type in a text answer to a box or answer from multiple choice to submit for entry credit.

Custom – You can fill in any HTML you want like links, steps, etc and give instructions for what needs to be typed in a box. People type in the requested info and submit for entry credit.

Social Media Giveaway Approach Vs. Site-Hosted Giveaway Approach

Social Media Pros

  • Focuses on followers which is key.
  • Builds awareness on social where people are.
  • The price is right, it is free with no caveats.

Social Media Cons

  • Lots of scams out there, people do not trust validity 100%.
  • Very little freedom in what your entry options are.
  • You end with limited information on who your entrants were.

Site Hosted Pros

  • Very customizable in look and entry options.
  • Ancillary web benefits like drive traffic and backlinks to your site. 
  • Options to collect data and more robust info about your entrants
  • More branded experience you control.
  • Has the opportunity to look more professional and valid
  • Great awareness building opportunities.

Site Hosted Cons

  • There are costs in the $100-ish area to buy plugin.
  • It is more work and some technical expertise is required.
  • If you are really targeting social media growth on one platform, it is one click further away than the social media approach


If you are (1) targeting followership growth on one social platform or (2) do not want to spend any money or deal with an ounce of minimal technical nohow – then go with the social media giveaway approach. In all other instances go with site-hosted.

If you are only on social but you are like “I want to grow two different social platforms” then you can run the same giveaway across two and combine all the entries into one (telling everyone you are doing this) or you can just run two different giveaways. If you are saying “I don’t have a website to host at or promote” then you still might want to look into a microsite option which can give you lots of flexibility.

Game Publisher Working With Content Site On Giveaway

How To Find A Partner?

If you are an individual trying to get the word out about a product and/or grow your community, this section is specifically for you. This is what you should think about when you are setting out into your respective community to find a content producer to partner with on a giveaway. If you have no audience, a great recommendation would be that you work with a partner who does this kind of thing all the time and does have the audience. You cannot just launch a giveaway to no one, put a hashtag on it, ask for sharing, and then expect it to go anywhere. You should know by now that this stuff isn’t magic, it takes grinding.

On social media, you should start by looking at hashtags #YOURNICHE and #YOURNICHEgiveaways. Not only will you start to see the giveaways that are happening via the platform, but you start to get into the people that are more involved. You find the publishers doing it, the people who are having the giveaways, the people who like to share other’s giveaways and the people who are participating themselves. This can lead to a wealth of information and discovery.

Reach out to them via their social media or email. Typically, if you have a legitimate prize to offer, people will hop at the opportunity to give it out. Some will ask for a fee to do this. A fee is completely warranted if they are bigger and going to provide a great return. Just make sure you check around with the competition to make sure you understand the market rate before paying out money willy-nilly.

Who Does What?

Once you line a partner up, you need to be very clear with your wants and needs or they are just going to fill in the blanks with what works best for them. Be clear about time, content, audience, messaging, goals. You may be relying on them for some of this, for example they will right some funny copy for you, this is fine too, but just make sure that is clear between both parties. We recommend providing a creative brief.

Once you have had a discussion with your partner, they take the ball and run with it. They put the post up, make sure it has copy, make sure their followers see it, answer comments and questions and most importantly determine the winner.

Your partner will get you in touch with the winner either by giving you contact info or looping you into an email conversation. You are in charge of facilitating final delivery. You need to get their shipping info (if a physical product), send it to them and confirm they received it and are satisfied. If this is a digital product like a gift card it is much easier but you still follow the same steps.

After delivery is done, you should ask you partner for analytics. Ask how many people viewed the content, how many engaged with it and if those levels are in line with the partner’s other giveaways. They most likely have access to stats you do not so you want to make sure to ask for it at this juncture and record it, even if you do not plan to use it right away.

Your Marketing Strategy

What entry options do you want (ie what are your goals)?

This is the most important you should be answering when working with a partner. You have to know how your marketing funnel works. What are your priorities? Are you growing socials, building awareness, or trying to push people to your kickstarter page at all costs and let it do the work? Is this a one off game for you or are you trying to grow your overall mark as a publisher? Think about those long term goals as well as the short term and make sure to prioritize your specific goals.

Things To Think About

Not only have we hosted our own giveaways but we have worked with many publishers in pre-launch Kickstarter to use a giveaway to promote their upcoming game. This is the checklist of things I ask from them in order to do a giveaway.

What will the giveaway prize be?

The prize itself should never be anything that costs the final winner any money. This means the obvious that shipping should be included, but it also means things like – don’t giveaway an expansion or specialty game specific accessory. You do not want to do this because then it requires the winner to have to go buy that companion thing and that might anger them. That being said, you have some big expansion to giveaway, go ahead and do it. I am just trying to say with this final point that accessibility is key, the more people that can hop into your giveaway free of any restrictions, the better.

What is the timing?

We like to do three weeks because it is long enough to have time to build up interest without being too long where people start getting impatient. People tend to go shorter, like a few weeks, but holding out for as long as you can is the better way to go in my opinion. 

You then need to think about your campaign. Some people like promoting in pre-release and ending at the launch so people aren’t holding out to get something free. Some people like to do it after they launch as a way to keep the momentum going. And some people like to spread both so they can keep some heat on the most central window of their campaign. You need to think about what is going to align with your other marketing activities and keep the iron hot.

What are the restrictions and disclosures?

There is shipping, what is the list of countries where the package can and cannot be shipped to. Are there any legal things that you need to disclose like if you have partners or if a brand was officially licensed or not? Where will your game be manufactured? You should be as transparent and claim as many things as you can in. These are crammed into a privacy disclosure so do not worry about too much text, worry about not telling people about something you should have.

What entry options do you want (ie what are your goals)?

See “Your Marketing Strategy” above.

Important Note About Followers Gained Here 

This is true for newsletters or any of the social media folks. The followers gained here are not quality followers. They are not discovering your brand and asking where it has been all their life, they are doing what they need to in order to earn an entry. 

That does not mean they are worthless. One of the hardest things to do when you are starting a channel or newsletter is to get a base going. No one wants to follow you when you have 7 followers. They will follow you if you have 60+. This, in my opinion, is one of the best ways to get that base going. And there are some diamonds in the rough so you will carve out a few loyal followers.

We hope you enjoyed our deep dive into the pros and cons of online giveaways and the different approaches within. For more content like this, sign up for The Blogger List Newsletter.

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