When I first started blogging in 2009 there weren't a lot of giveaways at all. Well maybe there were but I didn't realize it. It wasn't until 2011 that I started seeing them pop up more and more and then last year giveaways really exploded across blogland. They were every day every where. I thought it was a phase and just the "in" thing to do at the moment and that it would go away. Surely these people will run out of money. Then the group giveaways started. The prizes got bigger and the ways to enter multiplied. What started out as giving away a scarf or a $20 gift card here and there turned into iPads, cell phones and $1,000 Visa Gift Cards. There are entire blogs, twitter accounts and Facebook pages dedicated to promoting and entering giveaways.
The GFC count on a lot of blogs really began to skyrocket and it was clear that giveaways were not going to stop any time soon. I was really annoyed at first. As a Giveaway entrant: You mean to tell me that I have to follow 20 blogs to enter this giveaway? I wasn't willing to follow twenty million blogs so I knew I hadn't a chance in winning. I knew that people were probably just following the blog to enter the giveaway with no intention of ever reading and I didn't want to do that. Didn't these bloggers realize that they were only getting "fake" followers and being taken advantage of? As a Blogger: It didn't feel "fair" that their number count was going to double over night while I've been tapping away at my keyboard for years and gotten nowhere near that many followers. It's not the only way to attract followers but we all know it's one of the fastest ways to accelerate the pace.
TAKING THE GIVEAWAY PLUNGE
I started out with just entering them. I'm a natural sweepstakes enterer by nature. I enter tons of worldwide sweepstakes every day that I have no shot in hell of winning. I know that I will probably never win the HGTV dream home but for some odd reason I'm compelled to enter. I've always done this. Even as a child I used to fill out the Publishers Sweepstakes entry form and stick on the little car stamp in the color of my choice on behalf of my parents. Yes, I'm addicted to sweepstakes and yes, it's a problem. Giveaways had become a part of blog land. If bloggers wanted to give things away in exchange for fake followers then I would let them. I started following tons of blogs and entering my little sweepstakes loving heart out but then I started to feel bad. I still enter giveaways but now I only take entries I want and limit blog follow entries to ones I'm already following or blogs that I legitimately have an interest in even if it lessens my chance of winning. I also try to comment beyond the giveaway post.
Doing a giveaway on my own blog still didn't feel right. I didn't want to be like everybody else and do a giveaway just to get my numbers up. I utilize some blog promotional tools but giveaways or anything that involves the exchange of money or goods felt too much like selling out or buying readers. It was hard to take the slow organic approach and watch other blogger numbers go through the roof while mine remained low. I held out for while and then did a solo giveaway on my own blog around Christmas of last year for a gift card to one of my favorite stores. It felt right because I really did see it as a way to thank my readers for reading. The winner was already a reader and she was thrilled. It felt really good to give something away and make someone happy so I was willing to do it again when asked to do one in a small group by one of my favorite bloggers. I was getting used to the concept and I got to thinking. How would I know that doing giveaways was not right for my blog if I didn't give it a chance and see what it was like? Why not take advantage of the opportunity for other people to discover my blog? I love writing and while I am not motivated by the follower count I do want people to read. I started to wonder how people would ever find my blog if I wasn't willing to follow the current trends to promote it. As I continued to enter giveaways I also started winning some cool stuff so I also felt it would be good for my giveaway karma to give something back. I wasn't interested in signing up for a random group giveaway that someone tweeted about. I took the approach that if I was asked by a blogger that I have a connection with I would say yes and only with what little money that I'd generated out of blogging. It still felt kind of organic. Sort of.
I have won giveaways. I have done 3 solo and participated in 4 group giveaways hosted by others. These are my observations.
1// You actually can discover a lot of new favorites through giveaways. No, I cannot follow and read fifty million blogs but yes, I might discover just one more that I really really like. Most of us follow a ton already but with incentive we might decide to add yet another and it could turn out to be one of your favorite blogs. Every new follower is also a potential reader.
2// I never really got sponsorship until I won add space through a giveaway and had a chance to experience it first hand. It was then that I realized how much bloggers put into the whole sponsorship thing and how kind they are in promoting other bloggers. Yes. Often in exchange for money. But kind nonetheless. I've found blogs through a sidebar button or sponsor spotlight. It's possible. Cassie @ Live, Laugh Love and Sarah @ A Girl Smitten were awesome. They checked in with me and delivered everything they said they would. I don't accept sponsors or buy add space on others; but I get it.
3// Winning free stuff is really fun. When you win a group giveaway it's like winning everyday because you keep getting e mails from people wanting to send you free stuff.
4// There are a lot of professional giveaway enterers that have profiles specifically set up for entering giveaways. They will follow you but will probably never read your blog.
5// A lot of my regular readers don't enter at all. I think a lot of people don't enter because they figure they will never win, entering can be a pain in the butt or they simply don't like them. I understand the point is often to gain new followers but on the other hand my ideal giveaway is where a lot of my current readers enter and a long time reader wins. Rafflecopter gets to pick not me.
6// They are actually a lot of fun. I'm always honored when a blogger asks me to join in and it's fun working with other bloggers. People get really excited about getting free stuff 'cause who doesn't love free stuff and it's fun being a part of making that happen.
7// Instead of looking at it as just a greed thing and just wanting to get more followers I started to see the kindness and generosity behind bloggers who spend their own money to give things to people that they don't even know. Yes, they want people to follow their blogs but they are still giving something back.
8// I can understand why a lot of new bloggers jump right into giveaways so they can get their blog out there and establish a base. I can't even imagine what it would be like to be a new blogger right now with 2 followers when a lot of blogs are 3k+ and a lot of bloggers already have formed connections. It's got to be so intimidating in a way that it wasn't when I started out.
9// You can fast track your numbers with all the promoting tools available and get all of the followers in the world but you have to produce content that people want to read in order to keep them and get them reading and commenting. I see a lot of blogs with a whole lot of followers but nobody is commenting.
Bloggers give away things in exchange for a chance. A chance for someone to possibly fall in love with their blog and become a new reader. That's what most of us want. Sponsorships, giveaways, link ups, guest posting, social media, SEO and google analytics (which I still don't understand) among many other things represents the evolution of blogging. I hated a lot of it at first but I think it was mainly just because it was new and it represented a new direction for blogging that I wasn't sure that I wanted to go.
I won't try everything but I wanted to give giveaways a chance before I totally made up my mind about whether I hated them or not. And you know what? I don't hate it. I don't feel like I missed out by waiting so long to do one or that I'm missing out by not doing more. I am open to doing it again but I probably won't do it a whole lot. It's fun to watch that number go up but the overall satisfaction of getting a new follower out of the blue just because is far greater then when they come from giveaways. Not that I don't appreciate giveaway follows. Believe me I do. It just feels different then when people just made that decision to follow without any incentive.
People complain that there are too many giveaways and I once did too but I'm over it. Your blog content should never consist of giveaway after giveaway. People get bored. It's free stuff! If you want free stuff enter. If not then move on. If you don't like giveaways don't enter them and don't host them but like it or not it looks like they are here to stay.
What do you think? Love them, loathe them or indifferent?