I'm a huge believer in doing blog giveaways (hence I've done at least 5, giving away a total of $1200). Not only is it nice to give something back to the readers, doing a blog giveaway can really benefit your blog! Here's how:
Giveaways aren't for building long-term blog readership or traffic.
Before I get on with the rest of my post about how giveaways are great for building social proof, I'd like to say something first. Many bloggers host giveaways, hoping that by doing so, they can increase their blog readership. In reality, that doesn't happen: people aren't going to keep coming back to your blog just because you hosted a giveaway. True, out of 100 giveaway participants you might get 2 or 3 people who find your blog interesting and keep coming back everyday, but the majority of giveaway participants are what I call "the professionals" - people who scour sweepstakes forums for giveaways to take part in and won't come back a second time.
So what are giveaways great for?
For Building Social Proof
Social proof is exactly what it sounds like - proof from social sites that your blog has followers. In other words, social proof is what I like to call, your "numbers". These include the number of Facebook fans you have, the number of Twitter followers, the number of RSS subscribers, etc. So what's so value about having the right "numbers" (a lot of fans, followers, subscribers)?
Social proof is valuable in 2 ways:
1) Social proof encourages visitors on your website to "Like" or "Follow" you, creating a positive snowball effect. Let's look at 2 examples. Tom went to Site A, and saw that the site had a grand total of 17 RSS subscribers. What does this tell Tom? That the site isn't very popular! Thus, Tom might not want to come back to the site, thinking that something must be wrong with it (since it only has 17 RSS subscribers). Now Tom went to Site B, and saw that the site had 319 RSS subscribers. What does this tell Tom? That the site is pretty popular, and probably for a good reason! Thus, Tom is more likely to come back to Site B every day and "Like" or "Follow" it. Now if there are 100 guys like Tom coming to Site B, that really creates a positive snowball effect that drastically boosts up Site B's social numbers and traffic.
2) Now this is the big one. Having the right "numbers" gets you PRIVATE ADVERTISERS (drum roll please). Many sites who have good traffic just can't get PRIVATE ADVERTISERS because their Facebook Fans, RSS subscribers, or Twitter followers are too few. To an advertiser, having, for example, 300 Facebook fans shows that your site is popular and deserves their attention. For example, I hosted a $500 Giveaway on my blog, which resulted in me gaining an additional (approximately) 100 RSS subscribers, 150 Facebook fans, and 130 Twitter followers. A few days after the giveaway was over, I started getting emails from private advertisers left and right.
Now that you see how powerful giveaways can be and how the social proof gained from giveaways can help your blog, here's how to successfully host a giveaway.
What kind of prizes to give out:
Last year, I was in Beijing, and at the subway station I noticed 2 very different advertisement styles. One company bought every third ad space at the metro station (the long corridors where subway riders walk by every day). Another company bought 3 ad spaces (one next to the other), skipped 9 ad spaces, and bought another 3 ad spaces one next to the other. I remember thinking that day I'd rather be the second company than the first. Why? Because by heavily bombarding viewers at one moment by putting 3 ads next to each other, the second company is creating a lasting impression on viewers that the first company's way of advertising can't.
So what does this have to do with hosting giveaways?
It's better to host 1 giveaway for $300 than it is to host 10 giveaways giving away $30 each. Through extensive testing via giveaways on A Young Investor and my other sites, I've noticed that the total number of giveaway participants in a big giveaway exceeds that of all the small giveaways combined.
I've found that cash giveaways tend to be the most popular among all giveaways (for obvious reasons, because if you're giving away a specific product, people who don't like that product most likely won't participate in that giveaway). Would you have $500 or an iPad? Obviously $500, because with that money, you can either buy an iPad or something else.
So when hosting a giveaway, make sure you're giving away cash and make sure it's for a large sum of money (remember, it's better to host 1 giveaway of $300 than 10 giveaways of $30 each).
How to get sponsors:
Now I understand not every has enough money to host a large giveaway (neither do I). Thanks in large part to the sale of my previous sites, I was able to give away a few hundred dollars out of my own pocket. But eventually, I had to get sponsors to help pay for my giveaways. For my $300 Cash Giveaway - Elections Style, I was able to get 1 sole sponsor who provided most of the funds for the giveaway. So how did I do it?
Contact websites related to your blog's niche. Since my blog is about investing, I Google searched "investment brokers" and contacted all the investment brokers to see if they'd like to sponsor my giveaway. In return, YOU MUST make sure that the sponsor gets something valuable. Since my site has never had any advertisers before and has quite a lot of investors who read it, a few potential sponsors emailed me back. Eventually, I let them bid up the price, and the winner got a link (nofollow) back to their site and a banner ad on the giveaway page. Try this method, and I'm sure it will work for you. Even if you don't have a lot of traffic, potential-sponsors will likely want to sponsor you because they know that giveaways get a LOT OF TRAFFIC.
How to promote giveaway:
In general, I tweet about my giveaways and post them on my Facebook fanpage. I also make a giveaway entry option as "Tweet About This Giveaway". Thus, a snowball effect is created, where giveaway participants tweet about my giveaways, drawing in even more giveaway participants.
But by far, the best way to promote a giveaway is to submit it to sweepstakes directories. By far. Without submissions to giveaway directories, my giveaways would only have had 20% of the participants that they did have.
How long should the giveaway last ?
Through extensive testing, I've found that 2 weeks for a giveaway is the best lenght. Any longer, and participants won't want to participate because they don't like waiting that long. Any shorter, and you're not maximizing the full potential of the giveaway. I like to start giveaways on a Saturday and end them on a Sunday. The reason for this is that the first and last 2 days of a giveaway are usually the days that get the most participants. By starting on Saturday, the first 2 days are Saturday and Sunday, days when most people are off work and have time to participate in my giveaway. By ending on a Sunday, the last 2 days are Saturday and Sunday, days when most people are off work and have time to participate in my giveaway. For example, an ideal giveaway would start on Saturday, September 15 and end on Sunday, September 30.
Drop Your Comments And Questions Below.