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Why You Should Always Be Paid To Run A Giveaway On Your Blog

Why You Should Always Be Paid To Run A Giveaway On Your Blog

Let’s talk about blog giveaways today, shall we? They are becoming more and more popular, and the rules for compensation more and more vague. Some bloggers are being paid huge sums of cash to run giveaways on their blogs, while others are expected to promote giveaways on multiple social media platforms without even the offer of a free sample product. As usual, my advice is to not bother with giveaways at all unless you are absolutely certain a giveaway is something your readership will enjoy (and “enjoy” is not the same thing as “not be annoyed by”). In order to ensure this, the payoff has to be pretty high and the annoyance factor pretty low, and keeping those things in mind, below are my other set of recommendations for why you absolutely must insist on being paid for doing a giveaway on your blog.

1. Most readers assume you are being paid for them anyway.

There is so much ambiguity in the blogosphere right now about the status of giveaways and how they are compensated that readers are assuming that they are all compensated, even though they are not all compensated. People who are familiar with how the mommyblogosphere hierarchy of power works can look at a blog and a campaign and make a general guess at how a post might be compensated, but the general public (and most readers) have no way of doing this. Therefore, they are assuming that all giveaways are sponsored posts. They might realize that you’re not making Dooce money for your coffeemaker giveaway, but they don’t have a concept of how much less. You can, of course, choose to tell them that you are not being paid at all, but then that bears the question of why you are doing it at all, because then you are doing a paid placement except for the fact that it is not paid, in order to give your readers a free product, which is fine — again, only if you really really think your readers will appreciate it. But only in that case.

2. They read like paid posts, even if they are not paid posts.

Giveaway posts read like ad copy. I hate reading ad copy. Even if it means I can enter a giveaway for a free product at the end of it, I hate reading ad copy. You know why? If I want a product, I don’t even read ad copy. I just go buy the product. You are now asking me to read ad copy in exchange for the chance to win one free product at the end of the post. No thanks. Bye.

3. You are using up some of your trust capital to run a giveaway, and that has a market value.

I touched on this with numbers one and two, but I come to your blog to read what you have to say, not what the product makers have to say. When you let them rent out your content column, that annoys me. If I am your target market, that is not good. Now, if you have a different target market that doesn’t mind this so much, maybe it’s not as big of a deal, but you never know how your market will react. Every time you let somebody else into your content column you are taking a risk. Is it worth it if you’re not getting paid? I don’t think so. Maybe not even then.

4. A giveaway promotes a product on your blog. That means it is an advertisement.

Why would you run an ad without being paid? That’s silly.

5. There Is Definitely Somebody Else Who Is Getting Paid.

Regardless of what the PR company or the brand is telling you, you can bet there is somebody on this campaign who is getting paid. If they aren’t paying you, they may not have enough money to pay you, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t paying somebody. Pass on a campaign that hasn’t allotted enough to pay you. When you have been around long enough, they will.

Comments (20)

  1. Dec 27, 2010

    I moved reviews/giveaways off my main page, onto a separate page that doesn’t show up in feeds. I’ve had exactly no offers from PR companies since I did this and set down strict rules on what I will and won’t promote and how I’ll promote it. I’m not here to write unpaid ads for PR companies. The few sponsored posts I’ve done recently have been paid, and relatively well. I think that’s how I’d like to keep things.

  2. Dec 27, 2010

    Ehhh… I think this one needs a few caveats. And that is: If it’s already a blog about products, it doesn’t impact your trust capital in the same way, plus there may be other rewarding reasons to run the giveaway aside from being directly paid.

    Example: If I run a giveaway on Woulda, I am absolutely squandering trust capital and would need to be making big $$ from it even to consider it. (Although, that’s all theoretical—I’ve been offering big $$ for giveaways there and have declined because I felt it wasn’t worth possibly alienating my readers.) On the other hand, Want Not is all about products and shopping, so why wouldn’t I run a giveaway there? I don’t get paid for them (save for a few sponsored ones, which are clearly noted, and I don’t even get product myself, unless, again, clearly noted), but that audience loves them and sees them as a benefit of my site. The benefit to me is that it helps drive traffic and keeps people happy.

    Now, I still have to pick and choose what’s going to be well-received and what I’m willing to put my name on, sure. Also I’m never going to devolve into a giveaway-only site because those suck. But to say I’d have to be getting direct payment for it to make sense is overly simplistic.

    It’s a minimal time/hassle investment for something the readers love, in a forum where it’s relevant. And it absolutely ultimately increases my revenue.

  3. Dec 27, 2010

    (“offering” in the second paragraph = “offered.” Someday I’ll learn to proofread.)

  4. Dec 27, 2010

    Yeah, I kinda see what you’re saying here, but do you run ads on Want Not for free? Because what I’m saying is, the giveaway thing is so out of control at this point, that it has crossed over on the reader’s end, I think. This is a post written only from a reader’s perspective, mind you — I’m saying that, from a reader’s perspective, we can no longer tell who is getting paid and who is not. So, we are pretty much assuming you are getting paid. So you should be getting paid. Because we are assuming you are getting paid.

    That’s all.

  5. Dec 27, 2010

    No, you are assuming I’m getting paid. 😉 I don’t think that’s a universal. On sites with clear disclosure policies I think it’s still very easy to tell when there’s payment involved and when there’s not. Plus, I think you over-assume a level of business-savvy on the readers’ part, because you are business-savvy. Most readers aren’t (or at least aren’t at your level). And I, personally, tend to avoid sites where the disclosure lines are blurry, because I think that speaks to ethics or lack thereof.

    In my experience, most of my readers are astounded to learn I make any money at all. That’s a whole ‘nother conversation, of course, but part of my trust capital (your words) is that I am always very clear about where I receive compensation and where I don’t.

    And none of this addresses whether there are other reasons to run giveaways aside from direct payment. So you assume I’m getting paid (clear disclosures on my site to the contrary). So what? That has zero impact on whether or not said giveaways are beneficial to me.

  6. Dec 27, 2010

    OK, that was a universal you, sorry. I do think there exist some cases wherein there are clear disclosure policies and it is also clear that those disclosure policies are strictly adhered to and that things are on the up and up. Yes. I would use you, Mir, as an example of this. However, there are definitely a ton of cases where there are “disclosure policies” and “blog with integrity” (cough) badges posted where I don’t have any idea that anything is being adhered to, because there is zero trust capital and I don’t believe for a second that anything would be posted without some kind of compensation, or the promise of some kind of compensation, or the hope of compensation at some point, or something, or that somebody’s palm is being greased somewhere behind the scenes in some possibly direct or indirect way, whether it is in conjunction with a sponsored party or a giveaway or a conference or SOMETHING, something somewhere is totally NOT on the up and up, and yet there is that Blog with Integrity badge! and there is that disclosure policy.

    That’s all.

    But yes, I do see that there would be benefits in some cases, as I say up there in the post — I say *if you are absolutely sure that your readers will like it*. And your readers would, so that benefits you. But you have to understand, Mir, that the blogosphere is not even the same as it was maybe a year or two ago. It’s not just a few blogs with blurry disclosure policies anymore. It’s nearly ALL of them at this point.

  7. Dec 27, 2010

    I read these posts of yours with dual interest–from the side of a blogger, of course, but also from the side of a marketer. So while the blogger side of me shouts, yes, yes of course!, the marketer side of me wants to dig a little deeper.

    On that side, do you think this true for all businesses? Do you think that a startup or Etsy business or local photographer should either find the money to pay bloggers for giveaways or not do them at all? Or are there tiers of business where “free” giveaways are acceptable?

    For example, in my business, we work with bloggers on occasion–usually they’ll do a review and a giveaway (we put zero limits on what they can/can’t say, or even if they say anything at all. We offer a product for the blogger and a product to giveaway). But there absolutely is no money to pay them. None. I don’t care if you’re Dooce, we don’t have the money to pay anyone to do giveaways (or reviews). We don’t pay a consulting firm, an ad agency, a PR firm to do anything–my staff (of 2) and I do all the work in and amongst all the rest of our job duties. But we do have product.

    So is the idea that only those companies that have the budgets should do giveaways, or are there levels of business where your thoughts lighten? Or that bloggers should only work with companies that have budgets, even if they like some of the smaller companies/products? I’m asking this honestly, because I think this whole world is changing so rapidly that I try, from both the blogger and marketer viewpoints, to keep my head around changing views of all this stuff.

  8. Dec 27, 2010

    On the business’ side, they should of course do whatever they can get away with, as I am sure they will continue to do. But the thing is, a giveaway is an advertisement. It is an advertisement in the content column, which is a placement that is far more valuable and effective than a sidebar ad. Therefore, I do not think it should be priced at the same level as free product or whatever. If anything, it should cost a lot MORE than a sidebar ad, because it gets a lot more attention than a sidebar ad does, and it costs more in the long term (in many cases, though not all, as noted above) to the blogger running the giveaway.

    So, if you’re asking if a business wanting to be ethical should not run a giveaway if it cannot afford to pay for one, I mean, yeah. It’s like — if you cannot afford to buy a content column placement, I don’t think you should do one. That’s what a giveaway is. It’s a product placement. These brands are acting like it is something else, but that is what it is at the end of the day. There is no reason that a blogger should be charging money for a tiny sidebar ad that gets only a bit of attention and then doing a content column placement in exchange for a free product. It’s madness. And the brands know it.

  9. Dec 27, 2010

    I guess the conundrum I always come down to for these kinds of thoughts is that there are levels to everything: for every Dooce, there’s a million “little” bloggers who don’t even aspire to her level, and for every Microsoft, there’s a small mom & pop shop (I’m not saying my company is that, btw) who can’t even dream of having the funds to pay for giveaways or advertising. In those cases, I can’t help but feel that the lines in the sand aren’t as clear.

  10. Dec 27, 2010

    I don’t know if I agree with you on this one. Like already said above, I think this post might come with caveats. Last year I bought a fashion package and loved it. I could have received that package as a courtesy, but because I knew if I loved it I would write about it on my blog, I declined the offer. It’s harder to gush effectively about something (even when you mean it) when you have received payment. As a reader, I always wonder if people like something as much as they claim to when it’s about a free widget. I wanted my readers to know I loved it simply because I loved it. Almost a year later, I gave away the same package on the blog because I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that my readers would love it. (They did.)

    I didn’t get paid for it, and I hope Reachel received a bit of traffic and business from my site from the post. I think she is a great person and I love her product; I would be thrilled to know I helped her indie business in some way. I doubt I would extend the same offer to a large corporation with a PR department, however.

    I believe there is goodwill and trust capital earned with readers when bloggers host their own giveaways or do it as a courtesy, especially when the blogger is large enough that reimbursement should be expected.

  11. Dec 27, 2010

    I think that is definitely true. Each case has to be weighed separately, and each niche has to be considered separately. But, having said that, just for me, I keep coming back to the same issue: that this is the content column, and that businesses are using this as a means to get into the content column without having to pay for it. And I keep getting stuck on that point. I know that a small Etsy seller doing it is not the same thing as, say, Microsoft doing it, but I still get stuck on that. That is still something that bugs me.

  12. Dec 27, 2010

    I would agree that if you host your own giveaway that is different from doing it for a brand. Is that what you’re saying? For example, Pioneer Woman’s giveaways are always hosted by her — she gives away stuff, rather than the maker of the gift or whatever. I think that’s very different, and I think that is something else. I think there are some special problems that can come with that type of giveaway also, but yes, I think you do gain something from this type of thing as well.

    I think/am certain that Pioneer Woman does hers this way for that reason, in fact.

    But I think that what you are talking about is pretty different. Because if you were totally disagreeing with what I’m saying here, you would have taken the free fashion package and given it away on your blog at the same time. That’s standard practice for bloggers, and that’s what most people are doing these days. But you specifically did not do that — which I agree was a good move. Giving away the package under those circumstances is definitely different. I’m not sure I’d have done it then, either, but it does blur the lines I’ve drawn above.

  13. Sevan
    Dec 27, 2010

    Giveaways don’t raise my ire. If a blog wants to give something away, I may skip that post if I’m not interested, but if it is a blog that I otherwise read, I’ll come back for their regular posts. Paid reviews without a giveaway are more annoying, and if they appear more than a few times a year, I won’t return to the blog.

  14. Dec 27, 2010

    Also I just realised that I sounded a whole lot snippier in this comment than I meant to. I’m blaming sleeplessness. Also, your last 50 posts just showed up in my reader all at once. Weird, yes?

  15. Dec 27, 2010

    Yeah, I don’t know what is going on. I’m sorry about that. I’m trying to figure it out right now.

  16. I don’t mind giveaways, but I definitely mind posts that are disguised as a regular post and then the giveaway is snuck in at the bottom of the post. “And I really like french fries, and by the way, another thing I like? Windows phones and I have one to give to you. Just leave a comment!” That irritated me immensely and I *think* I’m an average consumer/blog reader.

    Some bloggers clearly disclosed immediately that they were giving away Windows phones, and they had something interesting to say, and I read the post and was happy that they received compensation.

    Just be straight with me, and I’ll happily support you (generic you) getting paid..or not…to do giveaways.

  17. I am hosting a giveaway now that I wasn’t paid. The company came to me at the last minute. I had an idea of how to do the post, ran with it and realized that I WAY overdelivered and could have offered them Package A with a basic review/giveaway or Package B which is what I ended up doing. I’m kicking myself. But, it’s helped me see what I’m capable of putting together in a short time and hopefully the company will want to work with me again.

  18. Oops, “that I wasn’t paid for.”

  19. Dec 28, 2010

    This is a really interesting point, Ginger and Anna. I have an indie business (sort of in hibernation for now, but hopefully back in operation for spring) and I’ve wondered about this. I think many indie businesses have a lot more social media savvy than their corporate counterparts since they have to build their business one relationship at a time and their roles as marketer/blogger/consumer/friend tend to blur. My guess is that many would love to have more guidance on how to approach bloggers ethically and what they can reasonably expect. Nobody wants to burn bridges (well, not many do anyhow).

    Anna, I don’t know if you’d ever be up to collaborating with some indie businesses on establishing a guide to giveaways, purchasing blog adspace, etc. to include the POV of both blogger and business, but if you did I would snap that up.

  20. Dec 28, 2010

    Actually, I would love to hear your opinion on the giveaways that Ree does on the Pioneer Woman, Anna. I mean there are so MANY of them and they are often for such pricey things (relative to what is generally given away in blogs, at least). Do you think the motivation is just to be generous or do you think it’s something else?

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