Giveaways are an excellent strategic marketing tool. For just a small cost to your brand, a social media giveaway provides plenty of return on investment. It amplifies the benefits you get from regular social media engagement and creates strong, positive associations for your brand. A giveaway can be a valuable tool for business owners who struggle getting the most out of their current social media marketing plan.

Before we discuss how to run a giveaway, let’s talk about the benefits. With a proper brand marketing strategy, a social media giveaway can help you in the long run by:

  • Increasing sales
  • Driving engagement for your brand
  • Building your email list
  • Spreading brand awareness
  • Growing your business

Essentially, giveaways incentivize and reward engaging with your brand publicly. In this blog post, we give you all the information you need to run your own giveaway. We’ll review:

  • The benefits of social media marketing
  • Choosing a type of giveaway
  • Selecting the right platform to host your giveaway
  • Picking an end date
  • Creating the official rules
  • Choosing a relevant prize
  • Customizing a giveaway hashtag
  • Ensuring your giveaway is mobile-friendly
  • Making your content shareable
  • Selecting and notifying a winner

Benefits of Social Media Marketing

Giveaways amplify the everyday benefits of social media marketing. The greatest benefit is free exposure for your brand, but it doesn’t end there. Brands have reaped the rewards in a number of the following categories:

  • Traffic (social media, websites, etc.)
  • Brand loyalty
  • Marketplace insight
  • Lead generation
  • Search rankings
  • Business partnerships
  • Thought leadership
  • Sales
  • Budget savings

Hosting giveaways provides a unique opportunity to choose which area you want to benefit from the most. For example, some of the benefits include:

Newsletter subscribers. You can leverage your access to customers’ personal inbox to keep them up-to-date with the latest deals from your company. Hosting a giveaway where one of the entry requirements is to sign up for your email list helps you build your email list.

Increased exposure. By having participants tag friends on social media to enter a giveaway, you have the potential to increase your follower count and boost your social media engagement.

Reduced marketing expenses. Your business pays for the cost of the prize but gains so much free exposure online as people share your giveaway and sign up for your email list. That type of social media engagement or email list building would cost hours in labor or paid ads to accomplish outside of a giveaway.

Choosing a Type of Giveaway

So, you’ve made the decision to host a giveaway. The next step is deciding which kind of giveaway you want to host. There are three main types of giveaways, and only two of them are legal. We’ll start with the illegal option so you know what to avoid.


Sweepstakes are one of the most common types of giveaways, and for good reason; they’re straightforward to run and have low barriers to entry. All they require of participants is that they follow the entry requirements for a chance to win. The entry requirements can include a financial investment, but also must include a free method (or AMOE) to be legally compliant. The selection process is completely random and oftentimes done with a random number generator. There are pros and cons to choosing sweepstakes.


  • Easiest for the participant; customizable for the brand
  • Saves time for the team running the giveaway
  • Increases brand exposure
  • Grow your audience & expand reach


  • Free method of entry required by law
  • Bonding and registration in NY, FL and RI may be required
  • Missing opportunities for user-generated content


A contest is another common giveaway type. Contests require the participants to display some measure of skill or talent to enter. The measure of skill or talent can range in difficulty. It could involve learning a dance, taking a photo, singing a song, or more. Contests are versatile. In most cases, you can make the task as straightforward or as creative as you want, but making it link to your brand in some way is a good idea.

The pros and cons of contests for your brand include:


  • Product purchase allowed in most states
  • Bonding and registration not required
  • User-generated content for the brand to use later
  • Customizable
  • Grow your audience
  • Expand reach



  • Time-consuming to administer
  • Requires effort on the part of the contestant
  • Less entry potential than a sweepstakes


A lottery requires that the entrant make some sort of financial investment to enter. The investment could be in the form of buying a ticket to an event or purchasing an item. If your giveaway requires a financial investment, without the opportunity to enter for free it’s illegal: State laws prohibit you from hosting domestic lotteries, and federal laws prevent you from participating in foreign lotteries. While lotteries can be tempting because they benefit the company financially, consider how the other two types of giveaways—sweepstakes and contests—benefit your company, in the ways we discussed above.

Selecting the Right Platform for Your Giveaway

Choosing a platform is one of the most important steps in planning your company’s giveaway. You want to host your giveaway on a platform that makes sense with each of the following:

  1. Goal. If you want to drive traffic to your email list, don’t promote your giveaway exclusively on your email. Leverage your social media accounts to convert followers into email list subscribers.
  2. Audience. If your target audience is primarily middle-aged, Instagram is not the primary place you’ll reach them. Facebook is more appropriate. You could probably reach the right audience from your email list, too. Conversely, for a Gen Z or millennial audience, you’d find more success on Instagram or Twitter. Look into your demographics to work out where to host your giveaway.
  3. Brand needs. Brand needs are short-term goals of your brand. Giveaways are a good way to boost engagement even if it’s a temporary need. If you feel that your social media engagement or following has flattened out, a giveaway can bring a new wave of engagement.

As you determine which platform makes the most sense to your brand, look at the benefits of each platform.


Facebook is a good platform to find new audience members. By placing well-targeted ads, you can get right in front of your ideal customer. If you use Facebook’s community-based features, like groups, hosting a giveaway on the platform is a good way to encourage others to join.

You can have participants enter your giveaway on Facebook through likes, comments, and shares, or even uploading their entries using a contest hashtag.


Twitter caters to a lot of different types of people. For contests, though, you are more likely to see younger participants. Whether you’re a service-based or a goods-based business, you can find success on Twitter—and maybe even go viral.

You can have participants enter your giveaway on Twitter through likes, replies, and retweets, as well as using your contest hashtag in an original tweet.


Instagram is the ultimate visual content sharing platform. The primary age range for Instagram users is the millennial crowd and younger. It’s a great platform to meet new consumers. This is the best platform if part of your goal is to gather user-generated content.

You can encourage participants to enter your Instagram contest through follows, likes, tags, comments, and original user posts using your contest hashtag.

Third-Party Providers

A few third-party providers host giveaways for brands. This can be a good option for you if there are a lot of actions participants can (or must) do to enter. Some platforms give the option of hosting the giveaway on your website or on the platform’s site with limited branding options. Some entry options incentivize user participation. Features you can use depend on the platform but can include follows, likes, tags, comments, sharing, and more.

Third-party programs are useful because you can typically bundle the actions to enter your giveaway on one landing page. From the landing page, users then get redirected to where they need to go.

Picking an End Date for Your Giveaway

Setting an end date for your giveaway is an underappreciated part of the process because you often don’t realize how important it is until you forget to add it. And, it’s a legal requirement.

When you forget to add a deadline, potential participants feel discouraged. They have no idea when the giveaway ends, so winning feels like a distant and unimaginable thing. More importantly, you run the risk of legal recourse from a federal or state regulator.

Your team may find themselves inundated with questions about the deadline. Instead of promoting your giveaway, you’ll spend time backtracking to make sure everyone knows when the deadline is. Versions of your giveaway without the date will continue to circulate, causing even more confusion and legal risk.

When you have a clear deadline, there’s no confusion. Your participants know what timeline to expect, and you avoid liability for late entries.

When you select an end date, don’t forget to include when the winner should expect to know they won. Set a timeframe that your team can meet if they have to judge entries. You could end up with thousands of entries to sift through.

Creating Your Giveaway’s Official Rules

Creating the official rules is one of the less creative parts of planning a giveaway. It’s a tedious process, but it ensures your giveaway is legal. The rules also eliminate any confusion from your potential participants.

Your official rules must include details about:

  • Eligibility. Is there an age requirement? Does the winner have to live in the United States? If international, are some locations excluded?
  • No purchase necessary disclosure. This is a necessary formality when your promotion is chance based. Let your participants know that no purchase has any effect on their entry and make sure you have a free method of entering to back it up.
  • Dates. We covered this in the previous section. Be clear about the date when the contest ends and when the brand will pick a winner. Make sure you set reasonable dates for the giveaway. If participants have to create something to enter for a contest, two-plus weeks might be a reasonable timeline. After that, you need to consider how long it’ll take to judge the entries and select a winner.
  • Judging criteria. If you’re holding a contest, tell the participants what you’re judging. If it’s artistic, are you judging on technical skill or creativity? Those details matter when your participants prepare their entries.
  • Odds of winning. If you know the odds of winning, you are required to include them. This is comforting to some participants and a material term required in your official rules.
  • Privacy laws. Will you reveal the winner’s identity? Is there a way for them to opt out of that?
  • Other laws. Some of what you include in the official rules depend on the way the promotion is structured.  Certain entry and prize structures require additional language.  If you aren’t sure, check with a promotion administrator!

Each platform has its own rules for giveaways hosted on the platform. For example, all Instagram giveaways must include a disclosure indicating that the promotion is not sponsored or administered by Instagram.

Make sure you understand the rules of each platform, as well as any state and federal laws that might affect your giveaway before you share news about it anywhere. Legal disclaimers are required on every advertisement!

Choosing a Relevant Prize

Choosing a prize requires some forethought. Always make sure your giveaway prize is relevant. It’s easy to choose an item that’s popular on the market to purchase for the winner even if it’s not from your brand. And, while sometimes this is a great tool to engage the audience, it may defeat the purpose of hosting your giveaway.

The main purpose of a giveaway is to build brand awareness. A good prize option is a bundle of some of the most popular products or services your brand offers.

If the giveaway is to hype the launch of a new product, a good prize option is to give the winner the new product. You can apply this to events and services, too. Give away tickets to your event to the winner and a guest of their choosing.

The only thing to consider is the value of the prize you are awarding.  If your brand or products are not valued high enough it could negatively impact your engagement. In these cases, you may want to pair your products with a cash prize, gift card or trip. Even though these items may not be brand specific, you can find creative ways to tie them into your promotional theme.

Customizing Your Giveaway Hashtag

Hashtags make giveaways much easier for businesses to run. And, the FTC requires them. Hashtags allow you to find all contest entries in one place. If you’re judging entries, having an easy way to collect them is even more important.

When you’re customizing your giveaway hashtag, use these guidelines.

Start with your purpose and/or tagline. If your brand has a tagline, use that to inspire your hashtag. It helps participants remember what the giveaway is about and increases brand recognition.

Do your research. Before you commit to a hashtag, do your research. People make up hashtags every single day, and you want to ensure yours is unique. This ensures that anyone who visits the hashtag for inspiration (or because of curiosity) only sees relevant content.

Capitalize each word. Capitalizing each word makes your hashtag easier to read. If you have words next to each other that end and start with the same letter, this helps readability (for example, #GoodVibesStLouis).

Get specific. A good giveaway hashtag is specific. It should include your brand and some piece of the tagline or purpose that is exclusive to the giveaway.

Coming up with a hashtag that ticks all the boxes can be difficult. Once you understand how to build one, the task gets easier. It also makes marketing your giveaway much easier.

Ensuring Your Giveaway Is Mobile-Friendly

When you’re deciding where to host your giveaway, it’s important to ensure mobile users can access it. Mobile users access browsers on their phones but are likely to use an app instead if it’s available.

This is another reason why using a social media app to promote your giveaway is beneficial. Most apps have a feature that allows users to turn on post notifications for your business. Encourage your followers to do this so they can receive notifications when you post new giveaway updates.

Making Your Giveaway Content Shareable

The best way to gain more visibility for your brand is to ensure that your giveaway content is shareable. You should have a graphic for your giveaway. Make sure that you include all the most crucial information on the graphic.

Use a link shortening application to create an accessible link. It should take participants to where they can find all the rules. Put this link everywhere, including on the graphic.

Some social media platforms, like Facebook, have rules about language. Specifically, there are guidelines about encouraging people to share posts about giveaways. Make sure you’re familiar with each platform’s rules before you settle on copy for your post.

Selecting a Giveaway Winner and Notifying Them

You’re almost at the end of your giveaway journey. When you finally reach your deadline for the contest, make sure everyone knows. Even if you posted the deadline everywhere, let your audience know that the giveaway closed.

If you have posts floating around, update them to say “contest closed” for any people who find the giveaway after the end date.

In the contest rules, did you add a release? If not, don’t announce the winner without getting their permission first.

Reap the Benefits of a Giveaway

Once your giveaway is over, it’s time to nurture relationships with your new followers. Some ways businesses do this include:

  • If a charge item was to join your email list, send out an exclusive discount code for your email list subscribers. You can also do this in Facebook groups.
  • If the response was overwhelming enough, consider giving away a few more surprise prizes to participants. This makes your brand look generous. Just make sure you have a set of official rules to ensure compliance!
  • Post high-quality, engaging content to keep your new followers interested.

Most importantly, now that you know how to run an Instagram giveaway successfully, get ready to host another one and keep reaping the benefits. You might consider hosting giveaways regularly to break up content each quarter and keep your audience engaged.

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