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14th January 2013 |  Written by

How to get the most value from running online prize draws and giveaways

Running a competition on your website or through your social media channels can be a great way to drive traffic to your site, gain links from other sites and provide brand exposure. However there can be some downsides if you don’t plan your promotion carefully.

As a seasoned online competition enterer, and occasional prize winner, here are my five tips to help you ensure your online competitions provide a return on investment.

1) Make it a fair competition

An example of a voting competition

An example of a voting competition

There are different ways you can determine your winner, from random prize draws, to competitions judged by a panel or voted for by other internet users. “Voting” competitions where entrants have to submit a photo, idea or a piece of writing and the winner is chosen by the entry which receives the most votes can be a great way to encourage sharing, but many internet users see these as popularity contests and would be put off from entering. My suggestion for if you’re running a competition with a voting element would be to also hold a random prize draw for all entrants/voters so that users feel they’re in with a chance to win even if they don’t have a huge online social network to vote for them.

2) Have a solid set of terms and conditions

The last thing you want from your promotion is to get caught out because your terms and conditions aren’t clear or comprehensive enough. There are also issues to consider about data protection and making it clear how you will use the data collected from competition entrants.
Law firm Pinsent Masons have published a guide to running competitions covering aspects such as making sure your competitions aren’t considered “illegal lotteries”. View their guide here.

3) Choose your prize carefully

Prizes such as ipads, iphones, holidays and other “most desirable” products are guaranteed to bring you large volumes when it comes to competition entries, however it’s likely that only a small percentage of participants will be in your target market. For a small business the cost of an ipad or a holiday for a competition prize may not be worth it compared to the value of your participants.

The data below from Google’s Keyword tool shows that there are plenty of “prize hunters” searching for ways to win items.


In my opinion the best way to ensure you get entries from your target market is to pick a prize that will appeal to them. You will know your customers best, what would they want to win?

4) Make the most of your data

Assuming your competition terms and conditions cover you to contact participants with promotional information, make sure you make use of the data. The number of communications you should send really depends on the duration of the competition, but at the very least I would recommend sending a “thank you for entering” email and an email to non-winners with product information and maybe even a discount code for your products or some other incentive to keep them engaged with your brand.

It’s worth remembering to choose your words carefully when emailing non-winners, Boots recently made a blunder where a “congratulations you won a holiday” email ended up being sent to thousands of customers in error – including myself! Luckily, I didn’t check my emails until much later on and saw the “apology” email before the “you’ve won” email so I wasn’t too disappointed! Boots ended up having to compensate all the non-winners with a £10 voucher each.

5) Use your winner’s story

The prize giveaway doesn’t have to be the end of the promotion. Depending on your prize you could use your winner’s story for content on your blog and social media channels. Encourage the winner to post a photo of their prize and if you’re giving away one of your own products, why not get the winner to write a review?
Sharing your winner’s story also shows the non-winners that your competition is genuine and may encourage them to enter your future promotions.

Your Comments

  1. Good advice.

    A marketing firm was recently rapped by the ASA for running a Twitter competition (RT us and you’ll win something type competition) with no T’s and C’s – I wrote a blog post about it here:

  2. The reason voting competitions are unpopular with entrants – and with people like me who give advice to competition entrants – is NOT because they are seen as popularity contests. It is because they are a “cheat’s charter” wuth widescale use of vote selling sites where for a few US dollars, one can buy thousands of votes, and there are even busineses that will, for a fee, create multiple Facebook accountsfor would-be cheats so they can vote for themselves. The number of recent ASA adjudications against businesses that have run voting competitions and then tried to change the rules when they realised how much large scale cheating was going on should be enough to put anyone off running a promotion that involves any element of voting at all.

  3. Hi Jane,
    I think both reasons for voting contests being unpopular are valid, the more “casual” competition entrants (like myself) see them as “popularity contests” and the more seasoned competition entrants will be all too aware of the unethical lengths some people will go to in order to get votes!

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