Smorgasbord Sundays: From Mary’s Desk – How to Plan & Execute a Blog Giveaway (Part 3)

How to Plan a Giveaway for a Blog SwatchAndLearnIt has been a while since my previous installment of From Mary’s Desk, so I thought that it was fine time for this Smorgasbord Sundays post.

Today’s topic is How to Plan and Execute a Blog Giveaway.

I think that this might be especially helpful to those who are new to blogging and have been considering running a giveaway.

Some things I’ll go into more detail about are why a giveaway could be a good idea for your blog, how to choose what to offer, sponsored giveaways, online giveaway tools, how long you should run your giveaway, etc.

No, I’m not an expert on blog giveaways, but I have run a few in the past on Swatch And Learn, and along the way, I’ve learned a thing or two.

How to Plan a Giveaway for a Blog SwatchAndLearn

Why Have a Giveaway?

Sure, giveaways can be a great way to attract new visitors, but more importantly, it’s a way to give back to the readers who have been loyal.

In order to have a successful blog, I truly believe that you have to give back to those who have been following your blog and supporting you through the months and years.

Of course replying to comments and checking out other people’s blogs is a great way to say, “Thank you!” But if you’re able to go the extra distance and offer a fantastic opportunity for your readers to win something fun, it’ll really drive the message across that you appreciate them and want them to share in your excitement about cool products.

Giveaways also have a way of bringing some of your loyal followers out of the woodwork. There are lots of people who may really enjoy your blog, but they don’t leave comments or get on social-media networks. So having a giveaway gives you a chance to interact with them.

Financially, I’m not able to send something special to each and every person who visits Swatch And Learn, so holding occasional blog giveaways on here allows me to at least make one person’s day…and that’s better than zero.

Also, if you’ve decided to go the sponsored-giveaway route, you’re building your relationship with companies and PR firms.

Deciding on the Giveaway Prize

Face it. If money grew on trees, we’d be doling out lavish giveaway prizes left and right. But most of us don’t have padded wallets.

One thing that I really want to drive home is that a giveaway prize doesn’t have to be huge to be meaningful. Case in point: Hasn’t a single bottle of nail polish or an awesome scented candle made your day? It’s not about quantity. It’s about quality. (If you’re able to offer both quality and quantity, more power to you. But if not, always go for quality first. Your readers will appreciate it.)

Another thing to keep in mind is that your giveaway prize should be something that you would want yourself. If you’re giving away something you don’t care about or even like, how can you expect other people to get excited?

And…it’s a great idea to offer something that you’ve tried before and loved so that you can put your ‘stamp of approval’ on it. Just make sure that what you’re offering is brand new, unopened, and undamaged.

Considering Shipping, Expenses & Participants

If it’s your first time holding a blog giveaway, my suggestion is to keep it relatively small. Think of your first time as the beginning of your learning curve. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself with lots of packaging and expensive shipping fees right off the bat. Start small to get a better feel for the work that’s involved with holding a giveaway.

You may want to offer a couple of bottles of nail polishes or lightweight makeup items that are easy to protect with bubble wrap and slip into a plain, padded mailing envelope.

And although you’ll probably want to open up your giveaway to everyone worldwide like I did for my Christmas giveaway, keep in mind that it can be exponentially more expensive to mail items internationally than it does to do so locally.

No matter what you choose, I suggest taking the items to your nearest post office and asking for the shipping cost. You should consider the fees carefully to see what you can afford before announcing your giveaway.

Sponsored Giveaways

Some people think that sponsored giveaways aren’t as thoughtful as giveaways where the blogger purchased the items herself or himself. I highly disagree.

There’s still a lot of organization that needs to be done behind the scenes to plan the sponsored giveaways with the PR firms and/or company. And no matter where the prize comes from, I think that readers are generally excited for the chance to receive something free and fun!

Also, sometimes bloggers are offered free products to try, but instead of keeping it for themselves, they chose to spread the joy by offering it instead to their readers.

I’ve done this before for my Seche giveaway because I love Seche, but I had bought soooo many bottles of the stuff and had tons of back-ups that if I chose to accept free duplicate bottles from PR, it just seemed like a waste. Someone who hadn’t tried the stuff before could have a chance to get hold of it if I offered it in a giveaway. That was my logic for turning the tables and asking Seche PR if they’d be willing to ship it to my readers instead. Sometimes you just need to ask. A lot of PR firms are very supportive and happy to oblige.

How Long Should You Run Your Giveaway?

I’ve found that this really depends a lot on the size of your following.

When I first started blogging and Swatch And Learn hardly got any visitors, I organized a Brush Guard giveaway. I love The Brush Guard – they produce a very economical and practical product. (I use it each and every time I wash my brushes even to this day!) But because not many people came to Swatch And Learn, there were very few participants.

Today, my blog has regular readers (thank you) and so many people have been kind enough to help me get the word out, so I usually get more participants in a single day than I did back then in a span of a week. (E.g. the most recent China Glaze ElectroPop Collection giveaway)

Bottom line: In my opinion, if you have a small following, consider running the giveaway for a longer period of time so that more people will get a chance to enter. But, if you have a larger following, 7 days is usually enough time to get many entrants.

When to Have a Giveaway

Of course this is entirely up to you. Maybe you want an impromptu giveaway just because. But you may also want to mark a blog milestone with a giveaway.

For instance, maybe hold a giveaway when you reach 100 followers on Twitter, when you publish your 50th blog post, or when it’s your blog’s 1-year anniversary. That way, you can celebrate with your readers! 🙂

Giveaway Rules

Clearly state your giveaway rules so there’s no confusion.

  • Start & End Dates: Include the exact time the giveaway ends.
  • Who Can Enter: Clearly say residents from which country/countries can enter.
  • How to Enter: Make sure to ask for their e-mail address so you can contact them if they win.

    • Leave a Comment: You might want to pose a question that they have to answer to be entered in the draw. Or perhaps you want to leave it open to whatever’s on their mind. Sometimes you can also use their answers as a form of feedback by asking them questions that will help you improve your blog. (E.g. “What would you like to see more of on my blog?”)
    • Follow via Social Media: Most people state that a mandatory rule is to be a public follower on Twitter, Google+, or other avenues. But I’ve always been very uncomfortable making that mandatory. I prefer to offer a giveaway with no strings attached. Instead, I ask people to support me on those avenues if they want. Of course, sometimes this increases your chances of getting ‘giveaway sweepers’ who only enter giveaways and who aren’t actual followers of your blog. But that’s a chance I’m willing to take.
  • Number of Entries per Person: You may want to give each person more chances to enter your giveaway if they leave a comment, tweet about the giveaway, blog about it, follow you, etc.
  • Claiming the Prize: Tell participants how they’ll be contacted if they’ve won. Also, I’ve found that it’s best to set a time-frame of 48-72 hours for the winner to e-mail you after you’ve announced the winner. This gets rid of the gray area in the rare event that a winner doesn’t get back to you. You want to make it clear that if you don’t hear from them, you’ll have to pick a new winner so that the ball gets rolling and doesn’t get stuck in a stand-still.

Online Giveaway Tools

To pick the winner, I’ve found that using a random generator like helps.

If you’re using WordPress, there are some giveaway plug-ins like And the Winner Is and Pick Giveaway Winner that you can use to pick the winner from your comment section.

And there are also web-form services like Rafflecopter available that ask participants to enter information and answer questions. They keep things organized for you.

Final Thoughts

Remember, running a giveaway takes time on your part behind the scenes, so make sure that you have that time to devote prior to your announcement.

Hope that some of you found this post useful. And I want to wish you all good luck in running your future giveaways! Have fun! 🙂

More From Mary’s Desk:


28 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Sundays: From Mary’s Desk – How to Plan & Execute a Blog Giveaway (Part 3)

    1. Mary Post author

      Hey Jacqui!

      Glad that you found it helpful. 🙂 It’s a lot of fun having a blog giveaway – you really get to find out more about your readers and interact with them. 🙂

    1. Mary Post author

      Hey The Blossom Shed Beauty Blog!

      You’re most welcome. 🙂

      YAY – you always remember your first blog giveaway! 😀 Very exciting!

  1. Frosso

    Great blog post, it was very informative and relevant especially since I’m in the middle of my second giveaway 🙂 I really like your “From Mary’s Desk” posts. It’s good to get advise and outlooks from successful bloggers.
    Frosso recently posted: Nfu Oh 51

    1. Mary Post author

      Hey Frosso!

      All the best on your second giveaway! 😀 It’s very generous of you. I’m sure that your readers are sooooo thrilled about it. Great prizes!

      I’m glad that you’ve been enjoying the From Mary’s Desk posts. I have a lot of ideas for upcoming topics to feature. It’s just a matter of finding the time to sit down and write them. I will find the time because I think it’s important for bloggers to share what they’ve learned with other bloggers – it creates a dialogue. Plus, I’m always looking to learn from others, too.

    1. Mary Post author

      Hey jen!

      Welcome to the wonderful world of blogging! 🙂 I took a look, and I really like the green water marbling manicure you did.

  2. Carmela

    Eeeeeeee! The Hello Kitty polish I gave you makes a cameo! 😀 Hahaha, I think I was so excited to see it that I didn’t really read through the whole post the first time so I had to read it twice. 😛 Good to see Mr. Cheshire Cat likes it. 🙂

    Have you been reading my mind again? I will definitely be able to use your tips here as I’m planning my first ever giveaway over at Polished Indulgence some time in May. 🙂 Very detailed and useful tips, Mary! Thank you so much for taking the time to do posts like these. They sure come in handy for us, newbies. 🙂
    Carmela recently posted: The Hunger Games and China Glaze Capitol Colours: The Martyrs and Freedom Fighters featuring Riveting, Hook and Line, and Agro

    1. Mary Post author

      Hey Carmela!

      Yup, the Cheshire Cat seems to have a thing for Hello Kitty. 😉 They did, after all, celebrate New Year’s Eve together…Haha!

      Oooohhh…so excited to hear about what goodies you’ll be offering for your upcoming giveaway! 😀

    1. Mary Post author

      Hey MariJo!

      Okay, good to hear that I’m not the only person who doesn’t like making people follow on social-media sites mandatory. 🙂 I understand that not everyone uses those avenues, so it’s nice when anyone can win. 🙂

  3. Marta

    Mary, You truly have a knack at these posts…
    You find a way of including a lot of detailed information, making it flow, making it all relevant (without missing a beat) and doing it all in a voice that is neither condescending nor authoritative. I admire you for that immensely and think this is a very VERY helpful post for new and old bloggers alike
    Marta recently posted: Stamped Crackle?

    1. Mary Post author

      Hey Marta!

      Phew! So glad that I don’t come across as a snob or know-it-all in these kind of posts. That’s one of my main concerns whenever I sit down to write these From Mary’s Desk posts. My intention is always to just share what I’ve learned in case others find it useful. 🙂

  4. Claire

    What a super amazing post, Mary! So timely for me, too, since giveaways have been on my mind. I think I’ll probably end up doing one for my 1 year anniversary.

    One thing I’m curious about, though, is if you have any tips on getting in touch with the PR companies. I’ve had success with a couple of smaller ones, but what about contacting China Glaze, etc? Thanks! 🙂 And again, great job with this post!!
    Claire recently posted: Knackered by butterLONDON

    1. Mary Post author

      Hey Claire!

      Weeeeeeeee! 😀 I’m glad that this blog post was so well-received by you and that you found it useful. This is the reason why I even do these From Mary’s Desk posts. As long as at least one person finds it helpful, I’ll continue. Helping others makes me so happy! And I also love engaging in discussions with my readers about these topics, since I have a lot to learn, too.

      That’s actually a great topic that I may address in a future post if I have enough to write about! 🙂

      To get in touch with PR firms and companies of any size, I usually go to their official website and try to locate their e-mail address. Sometimes they have a specific one for marketing, PR, and media requests. Sometimes they just have a generic address. And other times, just a simple form to fill out.

      Use whatever contact method is listed and try to tell them a little about your blog so they have some background to work with. (You should include numbers – stats like your traffic and readership will give them something to chew on.)

      Some large companies may not reply within months (or ever!). Don’t let that discourage you. After a long while, if you still haven’t heard back, I suggest following up. Sometimes big companies miss your message accidentally. And if they haven’t gotten back to you in a verrry long time, well, it’s time to shift your focus.

      Hope that helps!

  5. Nail Polish Society

    I am so glad I just came across this post! I am planning on hosting a giveaway next month and have had soo many questions! I still have a lot of decisions to make, but this has been a great help. Thank you!

    1. Mary S. Post author

      Hey Nail Polish Society!

      Sooo happy to hear that you found this helpful! 🙂 I remember when I ran my first giveaway, I could’ve used some guidance, so after running a few giveaways on here, I knew I had to share my thoughts in case it helped someone.

      Good luck with your giveaway! 🙂

  6. Elizabeth

    These all sound like really good guidelines. I love entering giveaways and have considered starting my own blog and running some of my own so I can kind of give back to the giveaway community. One of the reasons I like to enter giveaways is that it’s a good way to find new blogs and well as having the chance to win a fun prize. I just stumbled across your site because of your current nail polish giveaway, and I’ve enjoyed exploring your blog and will be sticking around.

    1. Mary S. Post author

      Hey Elizabeth!

      Welcome, and thank you so much for being a new reader! 🙂

      If you ever start a blog, please let me know. I’d love to check it out!

  7. Madeleine

    This is a great post. My friend recently started a YouTube channel and even though it’s different from a blog, it could help her plan future giveaways.


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