If you were to google blog giveaway rules right now, you’d come up with a ton of results sharing about the same bits of information. My good friend Jenn even wrote a post about it. I started really researching giveaway rules in preparation of a large giveaway I was planning. There are a TON of rules for hosting a giveaway on your blog. Did you know that? If you are saying “no, I didn’t know that” then you are in the big boat of people that aren’t in the know. And it’s really not cool to be in that boat. So let’s fix that, shall we?
Rule #1: Use a widget like Rafflecopter. It makes hosting a giveaway super simple. This isn’t really a rule. It’s just something that will make your life SO.MUCH.EASIER.
Rule #2: Learn what a blogger giveaway really is…3 types of Promotions according to Sara F. Hawkins, Attorney-at-law and all around Blog Goddess.
“Sweepstakes are prize giveaways where the winners are chosen by the luck of the draw. Prizes can be almost anything a blogger can think of from handmade cards to an all expenses-paid trip.
Contests choose a winner based on some merit. The winner is chosen based on some criteria such as best photo, funniest parenting tip, etc.
A Lottery is a prize drawing where people must pay money to buy a chance to win. Lotteries are highly regulated and should not be run without consulting with legal counsel.”
So that makes a blogger giveaway an actual Sweepstakes.
Rule #3: Do not accidentally turn your Giveaway into an Illegal Lottery. (Playing dumb will not work either. These are federal laws!)
A lottery consists of 3 parts: Prize, Chance and Consideration.
You cannot hold a giveaway without offering up something as the prize. No one would enter. And would be a complete waste of time. Can you see…“Come enter my giveaway! I’m giving away nothing.nada.zilch.” Awesome! NOT!
Chance…something of pure luck.
Now the whopper…Consideration (something of value). This element is also what I like to call the silent enemy. Often consideration is money. But it can also be construed as time.
“When it comes to bloggers, there are few things more valuable than followers. As such, requiring someone to ‘like’ you or ‘follow you’ could be construed as consideration. Even more important, asking an entrant to go to a third-party site, navigate to find a product or services and then report back to your site is even more likely to be deemed consideration and thus placing your giveaway into the classification of illegal lottery. Time is exceedingly valuable!”
So don’t ask someone to go to so-and-so’s site and come back and tell me what you’d buy. That can be construed as consideration, turning your giveaway into an illegal lottery.
UPDATE: The element of Consideration only applies to a mandatory entry. Your optional entries can be whatever you want. So make sure you offer a freebie as your mandatory entry and your giveaway won’t ever turn into an illegal lottery.
Rule #4: Your giveaway MUST include a disclosure and policies regarding your giveaway. Here are the elements that have to be included:
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY;
Eligibility requirements, such as age and residence (marketers may want to limit eligibility to U.S. residents, residents of certain states, and adults only, and should be aware of foreign language requirements that may apply depending on the geographic reach of the promotion);
Duration and deadlines;
Instructions on playing (if applicable);
Entry procedures (both online and direct mail procedures, if applicable);
Odds of winning;
General disclaimers for lost/delayed mail or e-mail, printing or posting typographical errors, technical failures, etc.;
How and when winners are selected;
Right to obtain winners’ names and how to do so;
Right to publicize winners’ names and likenesses;
Method of distributing prizes not claimed;
Sponsor’s name and contact information; and
VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.
Here is an example of standard terms and conditions for a giveaway from The Adventures of J-Man and MillerBug:
“Giveaway ends July 31st at 11:59 PM EST. Open to Legal Residents (18 years of age or older) of the US only. Prizes cannot be shipped to PO Boxes. Winner will be selected by Random.org and be notified by email. Winner will have 48 hours to respond before a new winner is selected. Please note that BlahBlahBlah Blog is not responsible for sponsors that do not fulfill their prizes. I have represented each sponsor with the expectation they will fulfill their prize and in a timely manner. I will contact the sponsor regarding your prize(s). The sponsors, in most cases, are shipping their items to you directly. I will make every effort to assist you in obtaining your prize. If there is an issue with a sponsor, please notify the blog you won a prize from within 30 days for assistance, after that we may be unable to assist you. The product provided for the review was free of charge from the company. The product offered for the giveaway is free of charge, no purchase necessary. My opinions are my own and were not influenced by any form of compensation. Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are in no way associated with this giveaway. By providing your information in this form, you are providing your information to me and me alone. I do not share or sell information and will use any information only for the purpose of contacting the winner.”
Rule #5: You have to give everyone a free entry. The most simple way to do this in Rafflecopter is choosing the “Create Your Own Option” and simply saying…Here’s your free entry, click the button. You could ask for a blog comment, as for now that still seems to be okay as your entry, but you can’t require someone to answer a specific question. If you want someone to answer the following question in their blog comment “What is your favorite season?” and someone replies back with “Hi thanks for hosting” that phrase “hi thanks for hosting” actually becomes that person’s free entry. And you have to add their info to your list (even if they didn’t officially enter…because it falls under the free entry of “leave a blog comment”) So, just because someone doesn’t answer your question, doesn’t mean you can void their entry. The key phrase here is Everyone must have the opportunity for a free entry.
Rule #6: You cannot make a kajillion entries mandatory. That in and of itself, turns your giveaway into an illegal lottery. The consideration element becomes time. If you want a mandatory entry, make it the free one, and then open up the additional ways to enter.
Rule #7: You cannot use a Facebook Page Like or ask for a comment or a like on a FB post as an entry for your giveaway. Doing so violates Facebook Page TOS. Rafflecopter allows you to add a FB option that simply sends someone to your page. If you opt to add that in, the entry is the fact that someone clicked the button to visit your FB page. They DO NOT have to engage with your page.
Rule #8: Do not ever announce the winner’s name via social media. If you want to make an announcement, display it on the Rafflecopter widget and direct people to go see who won…and then email that person to say they won.
Rule #9: Any giveaway in which the prizes are valued over $600 (in a combined total), must include a 1099 to the giveaway winner. Which means you have to collect their social security number/federal business tax ID to send them an IRS form at the end of the year for tax purposes. So make sure your giveaway items total less than $600.
Rule #10: If you host a giveaway that has multiple prizes coming from multiple people in various states, your giveaway will be liable in each of the states in which you receive an item. That’s a scary thought!
Rule #11: If you want to allow Canadian residents or International residents to participate, you have to make sure your giveaway follows their laws as well. And that’s just a whole ‘nother can of worms. (Sorry Canadian and International friends!)
Rule #12: You cannot ever, and I mean ever, extend the time on your giveaway. Even if you only have 1 entry. That is illegal.
Rule #13: If you have a sponsor who has asked you to host a giveaway and that sponsor is the one providing your prize(s) and that sponsor decided to back out or not send the winner the prize, you are still responsible. You must send the winner the prize(s) regardless (or if you can’t get that same exact prize, something of equal value or send the value in money). Because you were the host and you were the one who entered into the contract with each person who entered.
Whew…..now you are no longer in the boat of “I didn’t know about all these giveaway rules/laws.” Y’all, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) isn’t the only entity governing giveaways. The FCC (Federal Communications Commission), USPS (United States Postal Service) and the DOJ (United States Department of Justice). Oh and don’t forget the State governmental entities. It would behoove you to not be ignorant in this bit of the blogging world. You cannot play dumb. You cannot pretend you didn’t know. That’s like saying you didn’t know what the speed limit was after being pulled over for speeding. Ignorance, my friends, is not bliss when it comes to giveaways.
Or Blog Disclosures for that matter. Read my FTC Guidelines update to get in the know on that bit of blogging information. Another area it would behoove you to not be ignorant. And just because a big-wig company tells you it’s okay to put your blogging disclosure at the bottom of your post, does not mean they are in the “know” about the rules surrounding the FTC and disclosures. They are either “in the know” and are choosing to ignore (which would get them and you in A LOT of trouble) or they really aren’t in the know. So, do your homework. If blogging is what you want to do or what you are doing (meaning this is your business), own up to it. Educate yourself.
PS….Here is my DISCLAIMER: I am not an attorney. This is not me giving you legal advice. The information provided within this post is not legal advice and is only based upon my own research and experience. None of the above should be considered a substitute for you consulting your own legal counsel who will guide you and your blog/company in how to create and manage giveaways (sweepstakes or contests).
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