How to Run an Online Contest Giveaway

Learn how to set up a popular and successful online giveaway or raffle.

By , J.D. Case Western Reserve University Law School
Updated 1/11/2021

Online contests and sweepstakes are a smart and easy way to grow your small business. These popular giveaways help you engage with current clients and attract new customers.

When used as part of your marketing plan, online contests and giveaways can be quick to set up and affordable to run. Properly designed, they offer an excellent return on investment.

Set Goals for Your Giveaway Contest

Before you launch a giveaway, you should set clear goals. What do you want to accomplish with this contest? Common goals include:

  • increasing brand awareness
  • gaining followers
  • growing your email list, and
  • driving traffic to your website.

You may have a number of goals in mind---if so, prioritize which are most important. You should assign a number that can be measured to each goal, if possible. For instance, if your number one goal is gaining new email leads, set a goal of capturing 300 new emails for your contest. This way you will know whether your contest helped you reach your marketing goals.

Increase Brand Awareness

Online contests create buzz around your company. Whether you are advertising a specific product or looking to gain followers, a giveaway brings attention to your brand and encourages people to interact with your business.

You can ask people to follow your social media accounts or leave a comment to enter the contest. You can also ask people to share your contest, which helps you reach a new audience. The right hashtags also attract new customers. This kind of engagement increases brand awareness and builds positive relationships with your audience.

A giveaway is also good way to build excitement when you launch a new product. Using your own products as prizes is a smart marketing strategy.

Grow Your Email List

Online contests are a great way to build your email list. An email list is the number one marketing tool for online businesses, and it's important for brick-and-mortar stores too. While many businesses focus on social media, you don't control social media platforms. If Instagram shuts down tomorrow, you lose all your followers. But you own and control your email list. This makes it a safe and important investment.

You can ask participants to fill out a simple form or respond to a survey question to gain a raffle entry. For instance, if you are a personal trainer you might offer a free week of video training sessions. Your entry form could ask people what kind of workouts they like best: yoga, strength training, HIIT, or cardio. This entry method provides you with email addresses and valuable insight into your product and services. Based on your raffle entries, you now know which type of videos your audience likes best.

Drive Traffic to Your Website

Your goal with any contest is to get more potential customers to visit your website. The best way to do this is to host the contest on your site.

Create a giveaway link that drives traffic to a landing page on your site. You can share your link on social media to drive people to your website to enter the contest. Include links to your most popular blog posts or products on the landing page. This encourages people who visit to enter the contest to stay and explore what you have to offer.

Choose the Right Giveaway

There are many types of online contests you can offer. The easiest option for businesses new to online marketing is a simple raffle. Participants enter the contest, and a winner is chosen randomly.

If your business has online marketing experience, you can design your contest around user-generated content. User-generated content is any content---photos, reviews, videos, text---created by people and not brands. Popular contests formats ask participants to create or caption a photo or video and ask others to vote for a favorite.

Retweet (on Twitter), follow and comment (on Instagram), and like and comment (on Facebook), are also ways to structure giveaways.

Select the Prize

Popular giveaway prizes include money, gift certificates, and free products or services. The most important thing to consider is how attractive your prize will be to your target audience. To get the biggest return on your investment, you want to reach the greatest number of potential customers. Choosing a desirable prize is the best way to get people interested in your contest.

If you already have a social media following, you can poll your audience about which prize they would like. This helps you select an enticing prize. It also creates excitement about the upcoming contest and increases audience engagement.

Establish Rules and Conditions

You need to set rules for your online contest. Eligibility, how to enter, and how the winners will be selected are all factors you need to define. In addition, you must pay attention to the rules of the particular social media platform you choose to run your giveaway from. There are federal and state laws that govern how you run your online contest. For more information on these rules, see Nolo's article, Rules for Running an Online Contest.

Promote the Giveaway

To maximize the success of your online contest, you must promote the giveaway to reach the largest number of people in your target audience. Consider partnering with another company who offers a complementary product or service. This will help you reach a greater audience.

Use blog posts or guest posts to advertise the giveaway and your newsletter, if you have one, to announce it to your list. You can also use offline promotion, such as postcards, radio, and television to promote the online contest. If you have the advertising budget, you can also buy ads or promote on giveaway directories.

Choose a Winner

The easiest and most popular way to select a winner is randomly. There are many websites that can help you pick a random winner. All you have to do is assign a number to each valid entry. An easy way to do this is to assign a number in the order the entries were received. Then use a random number selection website like Google's Random Number Generator or Math Goodies Official Random Number Generator to randomly select a winner. It's always a good idea to take a screen shot of the result so you can document how the winner was selected.

Another option is to select from comments on a post. You can filter entries by the "correct" answer and then select the winner randomly. Woobox's Pick A Winner tool makes it easy to select winners for contests run on Facebook. Business owners can sign up for a free account. And Easypromo's Instagram Sweepstakes App provides similar services for Instagram contests.

You can also allow people to vote for the winner. These contests are often fun and have high engagement levels.

Measuring the Success of the Online Contest

One way to measure the success of your contest is to determine if you've met your goals. Some goals are easier to measure than others. If your goal was to increase brand awareness, it might be difficult to assess objectively. Specific goals, like gaining 300 new email subscribers, are easy to measure.

It is important to count the number of leads generated by your contest because the purpose of running a giveaway is to grow your audience. Social activity metrics, website analytics, shares, and tags provide insight into how many people you reached with the contest. If you carefully design your contest with an entry form that captures emails and interests it can be easy to keep track of new leads.

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