Dec 072012

I have learned a few things over the past year about running contests, and especially gained experience in how to promote contests online or even how to promote giveaways or sweepstakes online and have leveraged several different methods of promotions for my contests to help increase the visibility and subsequently the amount of entries and traffic to my online contests.  It doesn’t matter if you run a contest or giveaway with Punchtab, Rafflecopter, or any other plugin or entry method these same methods could help you increase the visibility of your contests and get more people to enter your contests online.

Before running a contest or giveaway know what it is you are running.  I have to thank Yomar from Social Prize for pointing out that there are legal concerns if you mislabel your giveaway as a contest instead of what it is.

  • Contest Definition: a race, conflict, or other competition between rivals, as for aprize.
  • Sweepstakes Definition: a lottery in which the stakes of the participants constitute the prize
  • Giveaway: something that is given away, especially as a gift or premium: A pocket calculator was offered as a giveaway with every new subscription to the magazine.
Remember, contests are giveaways that have some element of skill to them. For example, entrants need to answer a trivia question, write an essay, or create a recipe to participate. Promotions where the prizes are given away by chance are nearly always sweepstakes. Note that contests, where the winners are chosen based on skill, can legally charge a fee to enter, because the element of chance is not present in the giveaway.  Giveaway and sweepstakes can be used interchangeably, but contests cannot be interchanged with sweepstakes.

Knowing which type of category you want to use and make sure you label it accordingly.

Step 1: Identify your Audience

Hopefully before you launched your contest you identified your target audience of eligibility and who can enter the contest and from what locations (states, International…etc).  This greatly affects how you broadcast and promote because if your contest isn’t an International contest you don’t have to spend the extra time marketing to non-eligible readers or audiences.  It also narrows the promotional method and saves you money if you are paying for promotion as you may want to do.

Step 2: Set a Promotional Budget

Most of my smaller contests I spend 0 dollars in promotion, I just leverage all methods online for free to promote them. But if I run a big contest with a prize like an iPad 3, Google Nexus 7 or Laptop then I am going to invest some money in promotion for the contest.  Generally the more you invest the more you can get visibility but many promotional methods especially in social media will eat a way a budget really fast. So set a budget and stick to it, don’t allow yourself to spend so much money promoting the contest that you won’t see a good return on investment.  I would say $20 for every $100 value of the item would be a good framework for promotion.  I spent about $100 promoting my $599 Lenovo Laptop Giveaway and it netted 71,000+ entries.

Step 3: When to Promote your Contests

If you use a service like Rafflecopter or Punchtab to start your contest, make sure you start your promotions right away on the day the contest goes live.  You want to generate buzz both early on and also in the final days of the contest leaving the middle to do casual promotion.  Leveraging a service like Punchtab where readers get extra entries by sharing their link to the contest can help it go viral as they are promoting your contest for extra entries which is extra promotion you don’t have to pay for.

Step 4: Free Promotional Tools

The following is a list of promotional methods I do for my contests, I may not do all of them for my smaller contests but I always do all of them for my larger contests.

  • Share on Social Media

Share Contest on LinkedIn
Share Contest on Pinterest
Share Contest on Facebook
Share Contest on Twitter<
Share Contest on Google Plus

  • Automate Sharing

Setup Auto Daily Share of Contest on Gremln, this tool allows you to set a message that is recurring and broadcasts on all your social media.  I only set it to recur for Twitter feed however not for Facebook or LinkedIn.

  • Let your Mailing List Know

Make sure you are sending a newsletter out to your mailing list subscribers if you run a mailing list and give them an advance heads up of the contest so they can prepare for it, you can send another one out prior to contest ending as well.

  • List Contest on Craigslist

List your Contest On Craigslist, do it for your local city and write a unique version for the largest cities only.

  • List your Contest on Contest Chest

ContestChest is a good contest promotional site that will let you narrow which countries are eligible and promote to them.  It auto-detects Rafflecopter but not Punchtab at this time.

  • List your giveaway on Sweeps Advantage

Sweeps Advantage is a forum type of site for listing contests and giveaways and can drive some traffic and audience to your giveaway, highly recommended that you list your giveaway with them as well.

  • Ask Friends to Share Contest

Don’t hesitate to ask your closest friends to tell others about your contests and giveaways.

  • Facebook Event Invite

Create a Facebook Event and Invite the people who are eligible for your contest, sort your friends list by geographic location if you have to so you only capture those who are eligible.  There are tools like the Invite All Friends Chrome Plugin which can auto select all Facebook friends so you can invite them automatically to your contest event.  Note:  Don’t abuse this option and use it for high value contests only.

  • Share Your Contest on Companies Fanpage

If your are giving away a companies product, I would share the contest giveaway on the companies fanpage if they let others post to their fanpage.  For instance for my Logitech Anywhere MX Mouse Giveaway, I posted the contest on Logitechs fanpage and got some attention from it.  I did the same with the Amazon Kindle Fire giveaways posting on those fanpages.

  • Contact bloggers in related niches to the product you are giving away

Take some time to contact other bloggers who are related to the product niche and mention your contest and you are looking for some help getting it announced, just ask if they will share it on Social Media, blog post about it or anything, even if you get 10% to agree and share this is extra free promotion and you may raise awareness and make partnerships for future contests.

Step 4: Purchase Some Contest Promotion

You can leverage the following methods to purchase some contest promotion, note that I advise using Social Media for it’s potential to go more viral than AdWords.

  • AdWords

AdWords if your contest is long running you can buy some keywords related to your giveaway “win free xxxx” and gain some search traffic this way, it is effective but can end up costing a lot of money for only a few hundred extra visits.

  • Promoted Post (Facebook)

Writing a wall post on your fanpage and paying to promote it can be a very effective way to get it in front of many people and their friends.  I usually put at least $20-$30 into promoted posts on Facebook for my larger contests and generally see a pretty good return on investment.  You can also target geographic area for your post as well.

You can see from this Wall Post for a contest I had a .05 cent CPC and got 20,128 impressions, 404 clicks from $20 worth of promotion.


  • Sponsored Tweets

IZEA offers SponsoredTweets which is a service that allows advertisers to broadcast a message and pay social media users to share that message with their following.  The beauty of SponsoredTweets is you can either create a CPC program (I don’t recommend) where you set a budget and let people accept it.  Or you can hand select who you want to hire to promote your message/contest.  You can narrow this down by keyword as well as geographic location which allows you to only hire people who are located in specific areas to promote your contest.  This type of targeted promotion is very effective and often you can broadcast your message to a large amount of followers.  You also get a good summary showing your CPC and total reach.  image


You can see for $13.96 this old contest I did was broadcast to over 1.1 million Twitter members though only 95 valid clicks were recorded making my CPC about 14 cents per click which isn’t bad.

Incentivize Other Bloggers to Promote Your Contest

One way I get more promotion for my contests is by holding a special award prize that the blog that hosted the winning entry gets usually $25 or $50 cash prize for hosting the winner.  This encourages other bloggers to write an article and promote your contest, hosting the widget (if you use Rafflecopter or Punchtab) on their blog.  This increases the users entering the contest but also means that users can enter the contest from other peoples blog post not just yours, so it isn’t effective if you want to drive traffic specifically to your blog post, but it is very effective at allowing your contest and potential social media following from being visited by others who aren’t in your readership circle.  Sometimes getting your contests published on other sites can allow you to reach an audience you otherwise wouldn’t find and it is important to consider this tool.  In order to leverage this option effectively you must put a question in the contest so that the reader can specify which website the entered the contest from, this is the only effective way to track where user entered from so you can reward the hosting blog if they host the winning entry.

In Summary

I have shared with you most of my tips, tools and tricks for running a contest online and I hope this helps you become more successful at running your own contests.  Please feel free to share your own tips and tricks to promoting your contest online either free method or paid methods in the interest of helping others learn how to promote online contests.  If you feel I left a major important promotional step out, let me know.  I am also working on a guide that will help expand on all of these and will include a list of over 100 resources you can market your giveaway on.

Justin Germino
Working in the IT Industry for over 13 years and specializing in web based technologies. Dragon Blogger has unique insights and opinions to how the internet and web technology works. An Avid movie fan, video game fan and fan of trying anything and everything new.
Justin Germino


Technology, Gaming and Wordpress blogger who runs gadget giveaways, helps others with blogging tips, monetization, earning and more!
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  • Quick question. If you let bloggers to host/promote your contest, are they also eligible to join?

    • Yes, only those who contribute money or prizes to giveaway are not eligible to be contestants. co-hosts are just bloggers spreading the word and trying to increase their entries or try to host the winning entry for the cash prize.

      • Thanks justin. With regards to co-hosted contest, the caveat I experienced is that winner(s) is/are not timely updated or not even announced.

        • Prior to 2 weeks ago, Punchtab could not publish winner in the contest widget. They now added this functionality, so the way it works is: Winner is contacted via email, they have 48 hours to confirm, the moment they confirm and claim prize (eligible) I publish in widget and it is available for all to see.

          I also post on Facebook fanpage and congratulate them in comments on blog. But you are right, co-hosts didn’t know unless they followed the fanpage. However, since 2 weeks ago now the moment the winner is confirmed they are published and show up in the Widget as well. So this lack of announced winner is no longer an issue.

  • Hi Justin, you are very qualified to write a post in regards to contests. I was a sponsor of your laptop giveaway with blog engage and I saw amazing results. I’m sure I got around 3000 likes on Facebook and over 1500 followers on Twitter. You sir are a guru on managing and marketing contests.

    • I have learned alot over the past 12 months as far as giveaways, but there is still tons more to learn, new methods to try and systems to explore. It will be interesting to compare this article to 1 year from now and see how my tactics alter or increase.

  • JulsB20

    Thanks for the info! I have had some local giveaways and never thought to list on Craigslist. I will definitely check that out next time.

    • Yeah just list them as events, just note Craigslist only allows a 2 week duration, so for longer events list the last 2 weeks or the first 2 weeks.

    • Dorien Morin-van Dam

      I liked that tip, too!

  • Dorien Morin-van Dam

    Thanks. I am running two give-aways right now and I realize they are more like sweepstakes. 🙁 I am going to subscribe and not miss another blog post from you 🙂 I am just learning about contest and I am so excited. (I learned about 10 new things just from reading your article!)

    • Glad you found this article helpful, as I learn new information or practice other programs I will list them. I just recently used emperola for example as a tool to promote one of my contests and waiting to learn the ROI of my efforts to see if it will be something I recommend.

  • Sandy Appleyard

    I’ve done several contests for book giveaways with little to no luck. This is an amazing and informative post. Excellent information and easy to follow. Well done!

    • Thank you, yeah some items I try to giveaway don’t have as much impact, you really have to find the audience for the item you are giving away to get it to spread more.

    • Thank you, yeah some items I try to giveaway don’t have as much impact, you really have to find the audience for the item you are giving away to get it to spread more.

  • Co-hosting contests is always a great idea. I got some serious traffic by co-hosting your Google Nexus 7 giveaway. I also promoted the post on Facebook which got me around 400 new likes and I also had 1100 entries in the punchtab widget as well.