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Seven Tips To Running A Legal Giveaway or Blog Contest

Petsby: Carol Bryant, BlogPaws' PR Manager

of the many methods pet bloggers (bloggers, in general, frankly) employ to engage
fans, draw traffic, and work with pet product and service companies is to host
a giveaway or contest. It seems easy enough: You set rules, you post the
contest, and you watch as entries roll in. 

There are, however, some hardfast rules and legalities pet bloggers need to know before posting any sort of product or prize contest or giveaway. Here are seven must-do's every pet blogger should know:

what you can and cannot do:
Do you know the
difference between a contest, a giveaway, and a sweepstakes? BlogPaws member
and session speaker, Donna DeClemente, offered a post on BlogPaws about running
a successful sweepstakes or contest.

Facebook rules for contests:
Did you know that all sweepstakes or contest promotions
that appear on a Facebook page (company, brand, blog) must run with a third
party application? According to DeClemente, “you cannot just use the Facebook
wall to collect data on the person or use the page or "Like" button
as a means to determine winners.  So when you use a Facebook application
the user must "Allow" the application access to the user's personal
profile and other data.”

official rules:
A sweepstakes, contest, or giveaway must have official rules
that are easy to locate. I generally link to them at the end of every contest I
host on my blog.  One of my favorite
bloggers, All
Things Dog Blog
, has a set of clearly outlined rules that are worth
showcasing as a stellar example. According to a post from Social
Media Examiner
, there are certain elements that “official rules” must
include and they are:

  •  “No purchase necessary.”
  • The
    alternative method of free participation.
  • Geographic
    area of the sweepstakes and/or who is eligible to participate in the
  • Opening
    date and scheduled termination date of the sweepstakes.
  • Complete
    name and address of the sponsor and promoter of the contest.
  • Number
    of prizes, the accurate description of each prize, the retail value of
    each prize and the odds of winning each type of prize.
  • Whether
    all prizes offered will be awarded and how the prizes will be awarded.
  • Manner
    of selection of winners and when a determination of winners will be made.
  • Where
    and when a list of winners can be obtained.

if your giveaway is legal:
“Consideration” is something to keep in mind. If you
give something away from a sponsor, prize or money, tread cautiously about how
you proceed. If you require participants to like or follow you, the law may
deem this “consideration.” Have you ever sent participants to a third-party and
then instruct them to come back to your blog? You might be treading into “illegal lottery”
status. This is not to say you can’t run a giveaway, but understanding what is
legal and illegal is imperative. Sara of SavingforSomeday.com
shares important blog law posts worth a peek. 

Bloggers Be Aware:
Are you a blogger who has co-hosted contests or giveaways
with other bloggers in a group-type event? Once again, consideration needs to
be given in terms of the worth of the prizes.

a Widget or App Helps Immensely:
Rafflecopter is a customizable widget bloggers
can place in their HTML to promote their contest and gain entries. According to
the official Rafflecopter website, “Rafflecopter
was created as an easy way to run giveaways or sweepstakes. Sweepstakes are
defined as prize giveaways where the winners are chosen at random where no
skill is involved (unlike an essay contest, photo/video contest, etc.)”

Be Transparent and Research What You Don’t Know: Prior to
launching any type of blog post that involves winning something, be ready for
any questions that might arise. One of my blogging buddies, Liz of Woof Woof Mama, is a stellar example
of how to do a proper contest or giveaway.

“I see so many that break all the rules, and besides being unfair
to those of us who follow them, it also gives bloggers and giveaways a bad name,”
Liz shares.

BlogPaws conferences are an excellent resource for learning this
information and being able to ask questions, get advice, and network with others
who share your concerns.

Where: The
Sheraton Premier; Tysons Corner, VA

May 16 – 18, 2013


Do you run contests or giveaways on your blog?

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  1. Great, great post. Another thing I’ve started to include on my blog is a provision addressing the situation where the winner fails to claim the prize. Sometimes, the winner notification ends up in a spam box and months later they will contact me for the prize. So, now I put a 48 hour time period on it before I select another winner.
    Another thing – I think you can’t announce a winner of a sweepstakes/contest, either. You have to say you’ve picked a winner and use the url where you announce it.

  2. this is an excellent post. I abide by almost everything, except i don’t list “rules” per se…one you did forget was there has to be a disclaimer at the end saying whether or not you were paid to host the give-way or not unless the verbage clearly states that you were given the product to review or give-away.
    Virtually ALL of my give-aways are tied to a review with rare exceptions.

  3. Indeed all valid points. Not every rule was listed here, but many of them, so thanks for sharing the additional ones, too. First and foremost, know what you are doing and have rules in place with legalities adhered to so there are no problems.

  4. Great advice. I’m doing a give-away in February, and added a contest/give-away page with explanations. Wouldn’t have known to do this without reading this post.

  5. Thank you for linking to my blog, Carol.
    Caren, your reference to needing a disclaimer is not something pertinent to the laws governing sweepstakes, contests & lotteries. What you are referring to is a requirement by the FTC to disclose material relationships. FTC Disclosure laws are in addition to any and all laws pertinent to the giveaway.
    Rebecca, announcement of the winner can be made. I think what you’re referring to is one of the limitations of using Facebook. The Promotion Guidelines for Facebook clearly prohibit using Facebook to announce the winner (even though many people do, and risk having their site reported as spam or taken down). Many social networks have specific rules about using their functionality with regard to a user’s promotion.
    Rebecca also mentioned about a winner’s reply going to spam. That’s a very tricky issue because if the winner did reply in the correct amount of time but you don’t check your spam to verify, that winner may have have legal grounds to pursue the blogger and/or sponsor. If the winner did what they needed to do to claim the prize, they’re entitled to the prize. As bloggers, we all know that legitimate mail may be misdirected into spam for any number of reasons. It behooves us as bloggers to make sure we’re holding up our end of the bargain. If you know email may be misdirected to your spam folder, you need to check it and not just pretend it never arrived since there is no way for the winner to otherwise guarantee delivery of their message.
    One thing not mentioned in this, which is very important is the age required for entry. If a minor (someone under 18) is permitted to enter, there are additional laws that need to be included. If children (anyone under 13) are permitted to enter COPPA will come in to play and there are very specific rules that must be followed.
    ~ Sara Hawkins
    Disclaimer: nothing in this email is intended to be legal advice

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