The world of blogs has exploded in the past few years and these days, it seems that everyone has a blog. And the latest trend is sponsoring giveaways to attract traffic to one’s blog. In order to get those giveaways, most bloggers will solicit small shop owners for free products in exchange for exposure.
Giving away a free item from your shop requires much consideration, but if done right, can lead to new followers, build awareness of your business and translate to sales. However, it’s important to do your research, ask some questions of yourself (and the blogger) and approach cautiously to avoid wasting your time, money and resources.
As with anything, there are pros and cons to every business decision, so I’ll share some wisdom from fellow EcoEtsy members as well as general sentiments found in the Etsy Forums.
When it worksâ€¦
When placed on the right blog with a blogger that has shared (not singular) interests, the result can be a win-win situation for both the blogger and seller giving away items. The blogger attracts attention and the seller gets promoted to people that may have otherwise never come across them.
â€œI think giveaways are a great way to get exposure if done with the right blog and in the right way. When you think about the cost of advertising vs. the cost of giving an item it is often more cost efficient in the long run with a little more control for you,â€ says Linda from AlaModeStuff.
Though she didn’t get as many hits as expected from one blog giveaway, Elizabeth from YellowFinchDesigns has overall positive thoughts on her participation in others: â€œI have done other giveaways and they have been very successful!â€
Though most sellers commented that they did not see much sales lift from the giveaways they participated in, many commented that they saw a definite increase in traffic on their site, followers on their own blogs and continue to see people make it over to the shop from the blog long after the giveaway has ended (using Google Analytics).
And the truth of the matter is, you often don’t know where or how your customers find you â€“ perhaps a customer did find you over at the giveaway but just didn’t mention at the time of purchase. Offering a discount or BOGO code for all blog readers of the giveaway could help you track your efforts and help you determine how effective the giveaway was at translating readers into buyers.
Additionally, participating on another blog has the potential to get you noticed on the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) front. â€œRemember that links to your shop from various blogs are very beneficial to searches,â€ notes Linda.
When it’s a mixed bag
Small shop owners are justified in being a bit apprehensive or downright suspect of blog giveaways as they require you to give something free to someone you don’t know. Some feel that participation in one is of benefit to the blogger alone, followers rarely translate to buyers and everyone is in it for the freebies alone. Not finding a niche blogger with a large readership can mean a poor experience. However, even with a legitimate blog, sometimes the giveaways just don’t pan out.
Katy from KnitStorm has mixed feelings about a previous experience with a giveaway on an established blog. Though the blogger asked for all of Katy’s contacts and links, she failed to include most of them in the post, the pictures of her items went down a couple days after the giveaway began and then she never gave Katy the contact information for the winner which has the potential to reflect poorly on her.
â€œMoreover I found that in her criteria for people to enter [the blogger] only had them look at my shop, then every other criteria was to get them to follow her blog in some way or another. I found that kind of odd considering I’ve seen plenty of giveaways where both the blog and the giveaway sponsor have both been promoted in the ways to enter,â€ says Katy.
â€œThis was the first giveaway like this that I’ve ever done. I think next time I’d be much more cautious and look into the blog more as well as ask more questions up front to determine how things will go, and be sure I get answersâ€¦I’m not saying it was a horrible experience, and for the cost of making and shipping the prize I think it is comparable to the exposure I received, but I’m definitely avoiding these blog giveaways for a while and putting my resources into other forms of promotion for comparison,â€ says Katy.
Says Cindi of BrassPaperclip, â€œI think â€¦that [blogs] are kind of hit or miss, which is really the case with most types of advertising.â€
Do your homework
Although the general sentiments about blog giveaways were split â€“ people tend to love â€˜em or are very leery of them â€“ almost everyone cited the importance of doing your homework. When you are first approached by a blogger, feel free to take a couple days to do some research before answering or ask them to give you a few days to answer back. In that time, you should first and most obviously check out the site â€“ what is the theme, who are the followers, how often do they post, do they seem competent in their respective format?
â€œI always look for reputable bloggers with great giveaway responses. If you look at the blogger’s past giveaways and they’ve had little response, then obviously they aren’t getting the attention or promoting enough YET,â€ says Linda of AlaModeStuff.
To really get a objective understanding of their place in the blogosphere, check out their online ratings. , â€œI personally like Alexa.com. Alexa ranks ALL websites,â€ says Evon of Cleverscene. â€œIf you download their toolbar, any website you go to will have a ranking displayed on the toolbar (#1 being the most viewed website on the planet which of course is Google).â€
When checking out a blog, you should also see what other blog giveaways they’ve featured: Was the seller featured or just the item? Did the blogger review the item or just give a space for it to be featured as a giveaway? Was the giveaway one of many? Was the blog post well written? Were there lots of comments? You can also contact the sellers for previous giveaways and ask them for their candid feedback â€“ most will be willing to offer it up.
You may also want to determine from the blogger if they are willing to give you advertising space on their blog or a link on their blogroll. â€œI’ve had that offered to me before, tooâ€¦and found pretty decent hits from a few of the blogs,â€ says Kara from LoveForEarth.
Linda, who also hosts seller giveaways on her own blog, states that she always makes sure that â€œthe giveaway post itself is a feature of the shop, artist, and/or product with photos and links that will always be a post on my blog.â€ Linda also goes the extra mile to offer sponsorship badges and links which is added to her list of sponsors. â€œEssentially, it is advertising. You will always have a link on my blog. Currently, my sponsors are on my sidebar. I’m soon going to have to create a page just for them.â€
A personal business decision
Only you can make the call on whether it makes good business sense to participate in a blog giveaway or not. Some small shops with expensive items may not be in a financial position to give away a free item so it may be best if you can send a sampler pack or miniature sizes (if that works with the items you sell) or an item that requires little time/resources to make.
The most oft quoted tips when planning to work with another blogger on giveaways is to:
- Find a blog that has a good following already and fits with your shop’s branding
- Do your homework and pick and choose among the several requests you’re likely to get
- Ask for what you want/need â€“ worse they can say is no and don’t worry, they’ll be plenty more opportunities
- Ask the blogger to commit to sharing not only your shop name, but blog name and Flickr/Facebook/Twitter info (if desired)
- Ask for free advertising for a specific amount of time or ask to be listed as a sponsor
Unless you are giving the item for review, most sellers also agree that you should never send your item to the blogger but have the blogger send you the info of the winner. â€œI never send bloggers my item. I ship them directly to the â€˜winner’ myself. That still allows me to add promotion materials, coupons, discounts, etc. AND I know that the winner receives the gift,â€ explains Linda of AlaModeStuff.
If you are uncomfortable working with an unfamiliar blogger, there are alternatives. You can feature giveaways on your own blog (which may not help you with attracting many new readers if you have a low following to begin with but at least you control all aspects of the giveaway!). There are various ways to have readers enter for the giveaway: you can have them enter a comment, become a follower of your blog, â€œlikeâ€ your fan page, sign up for newsletter – whichever method you think will have the most impact and be likely to catch their attention on a regular basis.
â€œI had my own giveaway when I first opened my shop this past October just to get myself out there and I sold some pieces to blog friends because of it,â€ shares Elaine of RedorGrayArt.
Additionally, you can team up with another Etsy seller and swap giveaways and features with one another thereby cross-promoting and becoming partners in one another’s success. Heck, we have a WONDERFUL team at EcoEtsy and you find other EcoEtsians to partner with, especially since we are all bonded together by our passion for the Earth and the eco-friendly, handmade movement.
In regards to being hosted by a fellow EcoEtsian (RikRak) Karen of KarenMeyers states, â€œIt was a great experience, I got a lot of traffic to my shop and new FB fansâ€¦But in this case, Krystal is on our team, I knew she has a huge following on her blog, and has articles published in the Storque, so I knew it would generate some interest.â€
Another alternative is to not respond to solicited requests, but instead take an active step in contacting bloggers whose blogs you are interested in. This allows you to be selective and ensures that you’ve found a blog that matches up well with your niche or shop’s brand/image.
If you do choose to participate in a giveaway, make sure that you don’t rely on the blogger’s promotion alone. Make sure to feature it on your announcements page, mention it on your blog, post it to your FB fan page, Tweet it and share with team members. The goal is to make people aware of it and excited about it! Linda suggests that you, â€œTake the opportunity to promote yourself! Even though the giveaway is on someone else blog, it’s still a great way for you to tell your fans, followers, customers about it.â€
So, if you are just starting out (shop or blog) or don’t have a lot of followers just yet, participating in a blog giveaway can be a great way to get your name and products out there. As with any business decision, do your homework, choose wisely and make a decision that makes you comfortable at the end of the day. And remember that even with informed decisions, sometimes it’s just the luck of the draw â€“ sometimes advertising/promotions work in certain venues, other times they don’t. You just need to keep at it and try different things until you find what works best for your business.
Have any additional thoughts or experiences about blog giveaways? Feel free to leave a comment!
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