I realize I’m deeming something “the worst“. And because the practice is negative, condescending, and generally beneficial to nobody, I, therefore, am the worst. Alas, I must get these thought about giveaways off my chest.
I’ve done giveaways in the past.
By “done giveaways”, I mean organized an online, promotional event with large prizes for a lucky few.
Now, maybe I’m doing ’em wrong. Maybe I’m not clear on the goal.
But here’s why I’ve done giveaways in the past.
Why Organizations are Supposed to Love Giveaways
The formula is simple.
Give people a chance to win something big in exchange for something small. The cost to enter can be:
- Email list subscription.
- Social media follow, like, or whatever.
- Blog post comment.
So for organizations, this seems like a great deal. You get to expand your reach, social credibility, and subscriber base.
And if you didn’t pay for the giveaway prize, the return on investment is infinite.
But with those benefits come so many hidden costs.
Why Giveaways are Actually Horrible for Most Businesses
Every run a giveaway? These will sound familiar.
If not, take heed.
Here some reasons why giveaways suck so bad.
1) Prospect, reader, follower quality decreases.
Let’s say you run a giveaway. Cost of entry is an email address.
What’s the result?
You just got tons of new subscribers on your list. Yay!
But here’s the reality.
A majority of people who subscribed to your email list only did so because that was his / her cost of entering the giveaway.
They’re not engaging, quality subscribers.
These people have inboxes FULL of giveaway-entry email list subscriptions they NEVER read. And now, you’re one of them.
And think about how they found you.
These entrants were sitting at their crappy desk jobs searching Google and Facebook and Pinterest for giveaways. For them, it’s like playing penny slot machines.
So not only are they not quality, they’re degenerates, too.
But what about their value beyond engaging with your brand?
2) Giveaway entrants NEVER buy.
This is a generalization, but mostly true.
The vast majority of giveaway entrants never buy.
So if you have a product you hope to sell one of these new subscribers, think again.
The only way they’ll buy is if it’s a deal so good they feel like they’re winning a giveaway.
3) Their traffic is usually worthless
This doesn’t apply if you make money on ad impressions. To you, traffic is traffic.
(In which case, giveaways are great. Professional sports teams are a great example. They do giveaways all the time and it satisfies their goals.)
But any traffic you generate from your giveaway is probably low quality. They’re more like patrons. Not lifelong fans.
4) Giveaways are a poor use of your time.
Giveaways require a lot of overhead.
- Comment moderation (added security).
- Customer service (correspondence).
- Other annoying shit like connecting winners to their prizes.
Given the return is so low, your time is much more valuable if spent elsewhere.
5) Existing (and lifelong) fans are poorly conditioned.
Oh, you’re gonna giveaway one of the products you sell and promote? Might as well NEVER buy because I’ll eventually get one for free.
If you must give something to your current subscribers / fans, make it something extra. Something they’d have if they bought your product. Or something to complement your product.
Example: Free tickets to Hawaii for two from a “Make Money Online” business.
Meanwhile, I have a VItamix Pro 500 that I won in an affiliate contest. I should make it the prize of a big giveaway to promote the current special pricing on the model they’re retiring.
But I can’t do it.
I know this product changes the lives of my readers . But the trade off is too big. Yes, one reader gets one. But thousands, now, knowing I give them away, may never will.
6) Winners do NOTHING for you.
If you think the winner of your giveaway is going to do anything for you, think again.
Once they’ve won, they’re gone forever.
No promotion. No further love.
It’s like the standing desk I won at a charity event.
Have I done ANYTHING to benefit the prize provider (who gave me a $350 standing desk)? Nope.
Did anyone at the charity event do ANYTHING to benefit them either. Nope.
7) Creativity doesn’t pay.
I tried to get creative with a Vitamix giveaway.
I was sick of the aforementioned things that make giveaways awful.
So instead of doing a standard giveaway, here’s what I did:
I said the winner does NOT win the prize.
Instead, the winner gets to giveaway the prize to a loved one. All entrants had to leave a comment about whom they’d give the prize.
The winner kept the prize for herself.
Worse yet, when I reached out to her, she said she was disappointed because it wasn’t a full-size model.
8) Email open rate goes down.
Let’s say you do a giveaway where the cost of entry is a subscription to your email list. Standard.
Since the number of people on your list who genuinely want your updates goes down, your open percentage goes down, too.
This is bad because your open rate impacts the likelihood your emails end up in recipients’ spam folder.
And of course, as your email list grows…
9) Email provider costs increase.
Sending email to a large list requires a provider. MailChimp, for example.
Well, if you’re sending emails to a large list, the FCC requires you to offer an easy, safe way to unsubscribe. Using regular ol’ Gmail with blind carbon copies, you can’t do that.
So with the new giveaway subscribers, you just added fees to your monthly email provider bill.
And for what?
10) Giveaways can dilute your brand.
Here’s an example.
Blendtec sends me blenders to review and giveaway. They’re fine machines from a fine company and are basically just as good as Vitamix.
But I’m a Vitamix guy.
And my brand, Life is NOYOKE, benefits from this loyalty. The expertise.
So I can’t run a big giveaway on my site. (I don’t even want to do an in-depth review.)
But I also can’t give them to friends, family, or even other blogger friends. No matter who it is, the item will be associated to me and my brand.
It’s like how LeBron James can’t give Addidas shoes to ANYONE. He’s a Nike guy.
So you have all these things you could potentially give away but you don’t. Now what?
11) Stuff begins to accumulate.
TLDR: The following is a rant about the potential giveaway items I’ve accumulated.
As I said before, I have all sorts of things I could giveaway. They’re brand new and have value to most.
But I don’t want to:
- Run a giveaway (see above).
- Give them to charity (items are tied to me and may upset brands).
- Throw them away (because that’s wasteful).
Furthermore, I can’t sell them either. I was given the things to put on my site. Selling the stuff feels wrong.
Sure, you could give things away in secret. (I gave the Nutribullet from this video to my Polish cleaning lady knowing it won’t come back to me.) But even that can get dicey.
So I’m stuck with all these things. And the clutter is killing me.
12) It sucks for those that don’t win.
There are people who REALLY wanted to win. You have fans YOU wanted to see win.
But in the end, not everyone wins.
You’re guaranteed to let people down.
Sure, you could say you’re giving people the opportunity to win. And that’s exciting and generous in and of itself.
But it’s tough NOT to see it as setting people up for disappointment.
13) Receiving free stuff makes you feel like a whore.
This one is for any influencer out there who’s received something for free in exchange for something they should giveaway to their fans.
Here’s an example:
You’re invited to a private media event at a new restaurant to sample the food and take a tour. In addition to the free food, you’re given two cards that entitles you to twelve free meals over the next year. One card is for you and another is for you to giveaway to your fans.
Pretty good deal, right? You and one of your fans gets free food for a year.
But what if you don’t want to do a write up about the restaurant? What if you don’t want to run a giveaway?
Can you just give the card to a friend? Do you HAVE to do a write up?
Suddenly you’re guilted into doing a lot of work and compromising your brand integrity in exchange for a little bit of free food. Ugh.
In the end
Giveaways make sense for some organizations. Professional sports leagues, daily deal site, etc. Some bloggers like this one make it work (and despite the loads of effort, it’s worth it).
But for most of us, they don’t make sense.
The problem is that running a giveaway is incredibly tempting. You get:
- More of this.
- More of that.
- More of the other thing.
So you run one. Then another.
Each time, you realize how crappy giveaways are.
Until finally, it’s time.
It’s time to make a decision on giveaways.
Either get some help and have them done right (and on your behalf) or avoid the situation completely.
Prologue: I’m still stuck with a boat load of blenders, free meals, and other things in my apartment. And still, I don’t know what to do with them. I should probably take my own advice: Get help.