What I’ve learned about running competitions on blogs

Nikki ParkinsonLife 58 Comments

If you’re a regular here on Styling You, then you will know that I’m a huge fan of hosting competitions on my blog. I’ve currently got this one and this one running.  My first comp was held in April last year to launch the re-design of my blog and since that time I’ve received 20,000 plus entries for the various giveaways I’ve run since.

A bunch of Styling You readers have been on the receiving end of some pretty fabulous prizes – from new makeup and skincare through to accessories, a beach cruiser bike and a health retreat holiday.  The fact that you keep coming back for, keeps me working with PR companies and brands to source prizes that you love.

I also know that you love entering comps where you don’t have to jump through a whole bunch of hoops … you know … like this, follow that, make me a cocktail to drink this afternoon, bring my washing in … and then you’ll get an entry.

In it to win it necklace $US40

In it to win it necklace $US40. Details: click on the image

But, and it’s a big but. I’ve been plodding along with these comps for some time, doing the random draw thing, knowing that most of you like to just enter, cross your fingers and hope you get a winners’ email from me. But that ease of entry (and ease of prize awarding) gets me potentially into a whole lot of legal stuff should someone decide to get all, well, legal, about it.

Which is why you’ll only find “games of skill” competitions on my blog from now on. I should have been doing this from the start but I had my head in the proverbial sand. Didn’t want to know that there are rules around this kind of stuff.

No matter how stupid I might think they are, the rules are there. And of course, it doesn’t matter that we live in the same country. Yep, you guessed it, there are different rules for every state. So, unless you’re going to run a competition and only allow entries from certain states then you need to look at all of the state’s rules and obtain any necessary permits.  Head here for a summary of the laws that apply in different states throughout Australia. For more detail, contact your state’s office of fair trading.

In a nutshell, here’s what you need to remember (and I’m not a lawyer so if you’re unsure, please seek legal advice!):

1. Whether or not a permit is required depends on whether the competition is a “game of skill” or a “game of chance”. It also depends on the total prize pool value.

2. A game of skill is when you ask your reader to answer a question and that answer is judged on creativity, originality and skill.

3. Make sure in the terms and conditions that the value of the prize is described accurately and that you specify the time frame of the competition and when it will be drawn.

4. Keep records of the competition and its entries.

5. If you’re thinking of tying your competition into Facebook, look carefully at Facebook’s regulations too.

Why I’ll still keep running competitions on my blog

If you’ve made it this far in this post, then you’re probably scratching your head and wondering if running a giveaway is actually worth the time, effort and legal concern.

My short answer is: in my experience, yes.

Since that first competition, I’ve been able to build my email subscriber database from 600 to 7000. Yes, I get a handful of subscribers who opt out but the number is relatively small. When I run a multi-draw competition, that post can receive up to 30,000 page views. I promote my competitions in forums such as Digital Parents, through my social media networks and on competitions sites like Win Free Stuff so I attract new readers who might not have found me any other way.

And, I honestly love being able to give something back to you – my readers. I love that you come and visit – every week, every day, once a month. The fact that I can share some lovely things with you is bonus.

What I have done is really get clear on my minimum prize guidelines as it’s so easy to end up “giving” away space on your blog when there isn’t a lot in it for your reader – or you.

It’s about remembering that you are an independent publisher. You can set your own guidelines. They don’t have to be the same as mine or the next blog. They are yours. The main thing to remember is to stick to them.

Here is a summary of my current competition guidelines:

1. The only editorial giveaways I’ll now focus on are multi-draw giveaways. To be a part of these, the prize value has to be a minimum of $150. The higher the value of the prize, the higher up the list the prize will appear. The PR company or brand is also responsible for postage costs.

2. If a brand or company would like an exclusive giveaway, then it will form part of a sponsored or paid post (just like what would happen in a glossy magazines).

3. If I don’t think my readers will be interested in the prize, I won’t run it for the sake of it.

4. Entry in my multi-draw giveaways is via a form. I’ve recently signed up with Wufoo for this as it integrates directly with my email newsletter provider, MailChimp. Previously I was adding the new list of subscribers manually via an upload-able .csv file. This was fine till last month when I was hacked by a robot or an underpaid worker in India who submitted 2000 plus fake entries. Now, if someone opts into the email newsletter via the competition, they are automatically added to my MailChimp list.

5. Entry is now conditional upon answering a question and the winner/s will be determined by skill. Do I expect less entries because of this? Yes. But a my very wise blogging friend, Bree Lawson from The Blog Stylist says this:

The upside is that if you use a question it means you may be able re-use the answers as content. Eg: With a wedding blog, you could ask your best wedding planning tip for the opportunity to win Prize XYZ. Then later on use the answers as a post or series of posts. By asking this type of question you can repurpose it to benefit your blog and your audience. Make sure your the entrants know their tips may be republished.

UPDATE:  After almost a year of running games of skill on my blog, I’m returning to games of chance for my monthly multi-draw competitions. How am I able to do that? I’m paying for the only permit required by me in Australia – NSW. Presently this will cost $80 for a one-off competition under $10,000 prize draw. ACT requires a permit if you actually live in ACT. Here is some updated info about the permit laws in Australia.

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Comments 58

  1. I’m re-reading this one, Nikki, but I notice the link that says “Head here for a summary of the laws” seems to go to some strange superannuation page. Any suggestions on where I would actually find those laws? Thanks!

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      1. Thank you Nikki 🙂 I’ve created my subscription page now.

        Also I read your post today about GFC 🙁 Such a shame they are getting rid of it. I have just moved from blogger to wordpress (best move) but have many readers through GFC. I will follow your steps for sure! Thank you for the tips.

        Also regarding giveaways, I was wondering if you mind if I use your guidelines to help me create my giveaway posts?

        Love your blog!

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  2. If you are running a competition and looking for some extra exposure feel free to contact us at prizeflow and we will publish your competitions details for free. We like to maintain a list of as many competitions as possible so welcome any submissions.

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  3. Thanks Nikki,

    This is exactly what I was looking for! Thanks for making it so clear what we need to do to comply. It is easy as a blogger to think that you are too small to matter but I am sure people get caught out all the time.

    Cheers,
    Serena 🙂

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  4. Thanks so much for this Nikki – what a great overview of things to consider, and yes it is a pain, but yes, it is worth knowing, even though I am not quite at the point of giving away prizes, but I love a good promotion with fun “stuff”. Loved the bit about minimum prizes and guidelines for brands you work with – I know that many of the blogging community will appreciate that advice to have that info ready!

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  5. I feel a little stupid saying so…but I never realised these rules existed! Will definately have to rethink how we run giveaways from now on! Thank you so much for sharing 🙂
    Tanya x

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  6. Thank you so much for such an informative article. I’m doing my first big giveaway soon and I swear this article is a god-send and at perfect time for me.
    Thanks for sharing!! 🙂

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  7. Hi Nikki, great post! Very informative and linked to relevant information anyone who wants to set up competitions will need. I have not set up competitions myself, but I do not think they are appropriate to my business. But your info is fantastic.

    Have a great day, Vanessa

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  8. Hi Nikki
    Thanks for sharing this post. It surprises me how many people run competitions on their Facebook walls and don’t consider that there might be certain rules that should be considered.

    Competitions are a fantastic way to generate interest, as you have shown with your blog, and i hope to organise some competitions soon too.

    I guess maybe some bloggers know that they should abide by the laws that govern running lotteries and competitions, but maybe the list of rules seems just too many and so they just plead ignorance.

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      As a blogger we also start out just working through everything and trying to get our heads around it all. It’s not like you’re handed a policies and procedures manual at a new job! Lots to learn – and keep learning, that’s for sure.

      1. So true, it’s a matter of being thrown in the deep end and then learning how to swim. That’s what make it so exciting though. And I love a challenge.

        The big plus about blogging is the fact that we all help out each other, and that support is available always.

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  9. Hi Nikki, I was planning to write about this as I found this a couple of months ago from another blogger. It’s really silly and honestly I was shocked when I found out about this too, as so far I’ve been doing random picking for my winners

    Now I’ve changed my giveaways to a game of skill thing. I can see the interest drops down (depends on the prize) but there’s nothing that we can do.

    Glad you don’t have to find this the hard way and I know most bloggers don’t know about this yet, so we need to spread the words around

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  10. If harder to enter you should get more people who actually want or will use the prizes, read or like your site/blog. I just read on a fb page where the winner sold the prize, has to be some bad karma attached to that. Promoter didn’t seem impressed. To be honest I rarely read the rules, just put my name in the hat if it’s something I like. I’ve come across some nice products I now regularly use that I’ve won as a prize. I haven’t won on here but I treat it as a ticket to dream..

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      Oh, Joanne, that’s awful that someone would just sell it. If I wasn’t suited to a prize I’d find a family or friend and gift it to them, keep the love being shared. Love the idea of a “ticket to dream”!

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  11. Thanks Nikki for putting together a clear post on the topic of competitions and the difference between game of skill and game of chance. In relation to running competitions on Facebook, it is against Facebook guidelines to run a competition directly on your Facebook page (just because they do not want any responsibility) but there are loads of affordable third party apps that can be used including North Social, Offerpop and Wildfire and a new Australian based one called Tiger Pistol. There are advantages of using a third party app the main one being the ability to collect email addresses easily. Cheers & have a good weekend.

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  12. Thanks for the post Nikki. I have been meaning to read the discussion on DP, but haven’t got around to it yet. This is great info and appreciate you sharing the way you run your giv aways.

    Nic

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      Pleasure, Nic … I’ve been refining my guidelines for brands/PRs all year and feel most comfortable with what I’ve now established. The legal part and the integrated opt in for newsletters was the final part.

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  13. Thanks, Nikki, great tips! Games of skill are my favourite 🙂 I ran one once but took away the names and got my dad to judge it because I thought knowing the entrants would bias me.

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      Is your dad after a permanent part-time job!? What I’ve done when I’ve had to shortlist for someone else is copy and paste the best answers into a word document without the names and then look at them independently before sending shortlist to Nuffnang or the brand for choosing the ultimate winner. Beats me why this style doesn’t require a permit yet random does.

  14. Brilliant. I’ve been turning down product for competitions because I didn’t see the benefit but this makes so much sense.

    I do hate you though. I always walk away from your blogging posts with a giant list of things to do.

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  15. You know I also like to think that by having to answer a question to win that the winners are also more likely to claim their prize.
    I’ve had issues with people just vanishing after they enter, and when they win you can’t get a hold of them.

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  16. Thanks. I read the huge post on this yesterday on DP and very happy to have your summary. We just need to change our thinking a little ~ that’s all. It’s no biggy really. Thanks so much for all the work you’ve put into this and for sharing it 🙂 Caz

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  17. Funny you should mention ProBlogger Training Day AND competitions in the same post. On my flight to that event, I had the most AMAZING cookie! So I contacted the brand and now I’m doing my very first giveaway for them.

    Love your generous and professional sharing of tips here.
    Love that you chose to write about a not-so sexy topic (damn rules and laws!), but it demonstrates how seriously you take your self-publishing work.

    At your level Nikki, and with your continued growth, I think you’re making a wise move with tidying up these aspects of your business.

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  18. I love your comps!,although I haven’t won any yet-I plan to!,I much prefer the 25 wols comps because I feel it doesn’t just come down to dumb luck and I enjoy trying to come up with a unique (and of course winning answer!)
    So thanks for running them and I will keep trying -fingers crossed!

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