It's astounding how intrinsic a part of the online community giveaways are, particularly, though not exclusively, among writers. Cover reveal? Giveaway. Blog anniversary? Giveaway. Book release? Major giveaway. At any given point in time, hundreds if not thousands of dollars' worth of gift cards, books, e-books, and book-related "swag" is being freely offered.
In the last few months, I've heard of three giveaway "hops" – in which literally hundreds of authors / bloggers participate in a themed giveaway. These were a Spooky hop leading up to Halloween; a Dystopian hop the first week of November, just because; and a Best of 2013 hop which recently ended. These of course don't take into account all the independent giveaways scheduled by authors, bloggers, and reviewers.
Setting aside the fact that this extremely common practice frequently leaves the giveaway host in the somewhat unsettling position of convincing the target audience to receive free things, giveaways are so prevalent because they can be quite effective. Whether your goal is to promote a specific book / project; drive traffic to your site; increase Twitter followers, Facebook likes, or mailing list subscribers; or genuinely celebrate your followers / a milestone, giveaways are an effective method to reach that goal – assuming you can stand out from the flood and attract your target entrants.
The goal of your giveaway may also define which kinds of entry options you may offer. For instance, if you are celebrating your 1000 Twitter followers, you could make following you on Twitter a required option. I personally really like the Rafflecopter platform – it's extremely user friendly, granting you plenty of control over which entry options to offer, and it offers both free and paid options. I also believe that no matter your goal you should offer a "free" entry – one for which a person need only provide you with contact information / click on a button in the Rafflecopter (or other widget).
My reasoning is simple – while you may be celebrating or aiming for a bump in a specific platform, it can be very frustrating for someone who was drawn to your page for a giveaway only to find that s/he doesn't use the platform you require. This is almost guaranteed not to bring that person back to your page. On the other hand, if you offer at least 1 valid entry without the limitation of liking a page on Facebook, or following on Twitter, etc., that person won't feel that you wasted his/her time, may take the time to look around your website or at your book, and may be further pulled in if s/he wins. I recently had a giveaway winner who only entered through the Free Entry option, but who then took the initiative to post a quality review of my book on multiple sites!
As with anything when it comes to building your virtual presence, it's important to keep your goals and branding in mind and to use the tools available to their best advantage. Giveaways have long been a valuable marketing tool, and they have become an essential part of engaging readers in our virtual world. Use them wisely.
What do you think about the role of giveaways in book / blog promotion? Are there things giveaway hosts have done which draw you in or which turn you away?