We’ve all entered them once or twice, and there’s a reason so many businesses run them so frequently. Giveaways are powerful tools that benefit both parties, customer and merchant, and they’re definitely worth a merchant’s attention.

Why You Should Hold a Giveaway

Let’s cover the downsides to giveaways to get them out of the way. You’ve got to put in the work to get the event up and running, potentially a bit of revenue on the actual reward, and there’s a chance for unhappy, non-winning participants.

That’s about all I think of, and they seem pretty weak.

As for the upsides, there are plenty.

Add names to the list – Generally, a contest or giveaway means customers providing some sort of contact info in return, whether it’s an email address or a social follow. Essentially, you’re easily collecting leads.

Brand exposure – If you’re running a giveaway on social media, it should lead to greater exposure for your business. For instance, many merchants run giveaways with the cost of entry being a follow and a share of whatever the event’s about. The entries and subsequent shares ideally mean greater outreach to potential customers that’ve never heard of you.

Press – Although this is usually reserved for larger businesses, some giveaways can lead to press coverage depending on the event. Coverage both amplifies the event’s reach and broadcasts the brand in a favorable light (just look at talk show hosts like Oprah or Ellen).

Cost-effective – Compared to other forms of marketing, they’re far cheaper.

The bottom line – It’s always about sales, and, like all marketing endeavors, that’s ultimately the end-goal of a giveaway. They’re at the top of the marketing funnel, hopefully introducing your business to swathes of customers that’ll eventually filter all the way down to a sale.

But how do you go about putting a contest or giveaway into action?

Your Aims

Your giveaway obviously must have a benefit for you, it’s just a matter of choosing what it is. Below are some excuses for holding one:

  • Promoting a product release
  • Gauging the demand of new or existing products
  • Getting rid of unwanted inventory
  • Increasing social media follower count
  • Building social engagement
  • Expanding email lists

Once you’ve figured out that goal, it’s time to pick the gift or reward that will entice people to enter. Sometimes this is pre-determined by your goal, like in the case of promoting a new product or getting rid of existing inventory. Be sure to select something that’s somewhat appealing (even if the word ‘free’ should be good enough).

As for actually creating the giveaway, you can design a landing page on your site, or you can easily use tools like Gleam, Rafflecopter, and Promosimple to ease up on the work.

Your Plans

Set up the timeline, the specifics, and the logistics of the giveaway. Some of these aspects should be explained to participants, so it’s crucial that you establish the following:

  • When the giveaway begins and ends
  • Terms and conditions of the event to avoid any legal pitfalls
  • Method of determining the winner (usually this is random chance, but it’s worth letting the customer know)
  • How you’ll reach out to the winner (this may have to do with what you’re collecting from them – email, a follow, etc.)
  • How you’ll be promoting it, i.e. posts on social platforms, email mentions, on site design, through partnership etc.

Your Promotion

That last bullet is pretty important.

For a giveaway to be successful, you’ve got to have as many participants as possible, and people can only enter if they know it’s happening. That means plastering the giveaway everywhere.

Consider creating a pop up alerting site visitors to the giveaway. Or if sudden blocks of text aren’t your style, make your CTA a little more subtle by putting it in a sidebar.

Throw in a CTA for the giveaway through posts on your social channels or in emails. Any customer-facing content is fair game, and the more eyes on it, the better. It’s also worth noting that you can definitely go the paid route, promoting content through advertisements or paying a public relations agency to expand its reach.

Partnerships are also a solid option for promotion, whether they’re with brands or influencers, especially if you’re just starting off. Combining two audiences into one big giveaway can have a large impact on the event’s performance and your business in general.


When it’s all said and done, loop back to your original goal and evaluate the giveaway’s performance. If your goal was email addresses, how many did you collect? If it was social media follows, how many have you gained? Be sure to constantly improve – brainstorm potential weak areas in your execution, whether it’s lack of promotion or lack of interest in the gift, and keep them in mind for your next event.

Image: Phillip Pessar, Flickr