How to gain subscribers, followers, and customers with a giveaway

This is a guest post from Jack Paxton, co-founder of VYPER, a marketing tool that helps brands build email lists, social followings, and revenue using viral giveaways, referral, and reward programs.

It’s no small task to promote an online store. Most promotional options seem to take a lot of time, a lot of money—or both. That’s where giveaways come in.

A giveaway is a contest that gives customers and/or potential customers an opportunity to win something from your store for free. When done right—with proper planning, a smart strategy, and solid execution—a giveaway can be a relatively inexpensive way to quickly and efficiently market your store.

Brands use giveaways to increase their followers, drive website traffic, and build their email lists. And while all three of those can lead to more revenue in the long term, some brands also see an immediate boost in sales during their contests and giveaways.

In this article, we’ll take a look at some real-life case studies of giveaways and go over the fundamentals of setting up a giveaway for your eCommerce store.

How do giveaways boost traffic, subscribers, and followers?

Giveaways naturally boost your traffic—by hosting the giveaway on your website, people will have to visit your site to enter. You can embed an entry form onto a landing page and, when someone finishes entering the contest, you can direct them to another page on your website. You can also use the entry and completion pages as a spot to showcase popular products.

It’s also a natural fit to use a contest to gain subscribers or followers. When someone signs up for a contest, they know the brand will need to contact them if they win. So if you’re looking to gain email subscribers, you can ask people to submit their email addresses to enter (and opt-in to receive messages from you). If you’re looking to gain social media followers, you can require that people follow you on one (or many) of your social media platforms.

You can even aim to get subscribers and followers by using bonus actions with a contest. Many contest apps and extensions allow you to set up multiple ways for someone to enter a contest. 

Bonus actions to enter a contest.

These tasks can be anything from subscribing to your email list or following you social media follows to downloading your app or uploading user-generated content.

Two examples of successful eCommerce giveaways

Here are two case studies of very successful giveaways we helped eCommerce brands run at Vyper.

Coconut Bowls

Coconut Bowls, a Shopify store, was able to add almost 38,000 new social media followers and almost 42,000 new email subscribers with a single giveaway. That same giveaway also dramatically increased website traffic during the campaign—the contest brought in 222,000 pageviews, which led to an increase in revenue.

Coconut Bowls offered a Vitamix blender as a prize, knowing it would be something their target audience would want. They also included a bundle of their own products.

(That’s a strategic prize move, by the way. Some brands are worried about giving away their own product as a prize, because it might make potential customers say, “Well, I’ll hold off on buying something in case I win the contest.” We’ve found that brands can remedy that scenario by bundling their store’s products with a substantial, complementary product—in this case, for example, the blender. Customers will continue to buy because now they’re not just in a contest for the brand’s products, they’re focused on something larger.) 

Coconut Bowls also gave people multiple ways to gain more entries—including promotional activities like referring others, tagging friends on Instagram, or leaving a comment on the contest.

Multiple ways to enter a giveaway.

Topaz Labs

Topaz Labs is a company that makes AI-powered photo editing software. Their social media giveaway brought in more than 14,000 new followers, almost 45,000 email leads, and 1,000 user-generated stories. Their campaign also helped them attract a slew of new trial account users.

How did they manage to attract so many high-quality leads? With excellent prizes that are relevant to their business. Topaz Labs offered these prizes:

  • High-end photography drone
  • Photographer’s backpack
  • Topaz Labs AI photo editing software suite
The grand prize in a giveaway.

These may not be products that appeal to the average consumer. However, this prize bundle is a photographer’s dream. And photographers were exactly who Topaz Labs was trying to attract with this giveaway.

Prize selection is really important for a contest. While giving away something like an iPad or $10,000 cash will certainly bring in lots of leads, there’s a good chance those leads are just interested in the prize, not your store. By offering a prize that would resonate strongly with your target audience but not necessarily draw huge numbers outside of that audience, you can reduce your low-quality leads.

How to host an online giveaway

The giveaway concept is simple and there are online tools available to help you manage your contest. However, there are still a few things that can go wrong with a giveaway. Your campaign could attract the wrong audience, or people who are just there for the prize. You may regret only asking users to take one action when you realize they probably would’ve taken several if it could’ve earned them more entries. And worst of all, you may find you spent lots of money on ads and prizes and didn’t wind up driving many (or any) sales.

So to reduce the risk of failure and to ensure that everything runs smoothly, it’s important to take the time to plan out your giveaway in advance. Before you launch your contest, you should make sure you’ve figured out four things:

  • The goal of your giveaway
  • The right prize
  • Your plan for promoting your giveaway
  • Your plan for nurturing contest entrants into paying customers

Choose a goal

What is the main objective you’re trying to achieve with this giveaway? Is it to:

  • Gain more social media followers?
  • Grow your email list?
  • Get more views on a video?
  • Increase social media engagement?
  • Get more app or software downloads?
  • Boost website traffic?
  • Or all (or most) of the above?

Whatever your goal may be, you will have to structure your giveaway around that goal.

Whether you have one desired goal or many, something has to be the primary goal. For instance, if you really want to build your list, but would also like social media followers, website traffic, and reviews, make sure that the first and easiest way to enter is by submitting an email address. Then all of those other things can be bonus actions for more entries. (You can also require all of them for an entry to your contest—but just know that if you require people to do a lot of things, it’s going to significantly reduce the number of people who participate.)

It’s also a good idea to set targets for how many people you want to enter (e.g., “I want to get 1,000 new subscribers from this contest”). That will help you calibrate as you run the contest and assess if you need to spend more on ads and promotion to hit your targets. 

Select a prize

The giveaway prize is one of the most crucial elements of the campaign. It’s the prize that draws people towards the giveaway. If someone on social media discovers an awesome prize that they can win for free, they’ll be more than happy to enter. 

However, as we covered earlier, you shouldn’t necessarily pick a prize that everyone wants—you should pick a prize that your target audience and ideal customer wants.

A gym giveaway with relevant prizes.
The prizes in this giveaway are relevant to the target audience.

Your target audience should find your prize valuable—but “value” doesn’t necessarily mean “expensive.” A person can find value in an affordable product that solves a problem they may have (or makes their life easier). 

In fact, one study found giveaways with lower prize values typically performed better. Contests with prizes of $500 or less received more entries-per-dollar-spent than contests with higher prizes. 

Prizes that are less expensive, but better targeted to the niche you want, are the best solution for your contests. 

Some examples:

  • Gym giveaway: three months free gym access, fitness apparel, or fitness supplements
  • Photography giveaway: photo editing software, camera backpack, or drone camera
  • Subscription-based software giveaway: six months of free access to service or a free software bundle
  • Pet products: a “viral dog giveaway” for dog treats or training gear

Promote your contest

After everything is in place, the next move is launching and promoting your giveaway.

Social Media

Create an attractive social media graphic that includes the prize. Attach it to a post with more details on the giveaway. Also, try to get people to share the post (or tag their friends). This will ensure that the post reaches a wider audience. You can even automate the promotion process by creating a free chatbot and integrating it with your Facebook account. 

Email

There are four main types of emails you can send out during a giveaway:

  • Launch email. Let your current email subscribers know about your giveaway, and ask them to pass it along to their friends.
  • Engagement email. Remind subscribers about your giveaway and let them know how much time they have left to enter.
  • Last chance to enter email. Create a sense of urgency by sending an email shortly before the contest deadline.
  • Winner announcement email. Notify all participants of the winner(s) of your giveaway. Consider offering everyone who entered a gift or discount. People can become easily discouraged or upset about not winning—they might even start disliking your brand. You can take steps to mitigate that by offering a gift, like a store discount. 

Also, every email you send during a giveaway is a great excuse to get people to visit your website. Insert links in your emails to pages about the giveaway and the prize—and promote a few products in your emails to try to generate some sales.

Advertising

Your long-term goal with your giveaway is (almost certainly) to find new customers for your store. You can reach those potential new customers with advertising, and, in this case, social media advertising is usually the best fit. (Search engine advertising is often better for targeting at people lower in the sales funnel who are searching with purchase intent; social advertising is often better for capturing high-funnel leads.)

Have your ads take people to a landing page where they can fill in the necessary information to enter the contest.

You also may want to consider getting a social media influencer to promote your giveaway. Influencers have a close connection with their fans, and every influencer has their own specific fanbase. If an influencer’s fanbase has similar interests to your target audience, it makes sense to ask that influencer to promote your giveaway to their fans.

An influencer-tied giveaway.
A computer giveaway with the online gaming influencer Ninja. Via: NZXT.

You could create a monetary agreement with an influencer (pay them to promote). Or you can create a mutual agreement (for instance, you can structure the giveaway in a way that also benefits the influencer, so people will have to follow both them and you on social media to enter).

Nurture your leads

A giveaway is a great way to generate leads—now the onus is on you to do something with those leads. Before you start your giveaway, make a plan for how you’re going to nurture those leads and turn them from contest entrants into paying customers.

  • Email. Plan the email series you’ll send to contest entrants. Beyond just the “thanks for entering” and “you did/didn’t win” emails, you’ll want to send other emails as well. Consider a welcome series that introduces your brand, showcases your best products, shares your content, and potentially offers an introductory discount
  • Social media. Keep up the quality and frequency of your social media posts after the contest. Continue to engage with your new followers so they become bigger fans of your brand.
  • Retargeting. You can advertise to the people who entered your contest so they continue to see your products on their social media feeds and on various websites they visit. That’s a good way to keep your brand front-of-mind and bring the customer back to your website to make a purchase.

Key takeaways

Online giveaways are efficient, effective viral marketing campaigns for online stores looking to gain subscribers, followers, traffic—and customers.

It’s relatively simple to set up a contest, however, an effective contest requires some advanced planning. Your planning should include four major steps.

Choose your goal

  • Decide what result you want from the contest (e.g., email subscribers).
  • If you want multiple results, designate a primary one and secondary ones.
  • Set a goal for how many people you want to enter the contest, so you can calibrate your promotions accordingly.

Select a prize

  • Pick a prize that would have a strong appeal to your target customers.
  • Remember that the prize doesn’t have to have a high monetary value, it just needs to be valuable to the right person.

Promote your contest

  • Use social media to announce your contest, and try to get people to share the post about the contest with their friends.
  • Send a series of emails to get your subscribers to enter the contest. Make sure to also use your contest-related emails as a place to promote and sell your products.
  • Advertise your contest on social media and direct people to a landing page to sign up. You also may want to use influencers to promote your contest.

Nurture your leads

  • Create an email welcome series to introduce your brand and your products as you turn contest entrants into customers.
  • Engage with your new followers on social media.
  • Use retargeting ads to promote your store to contest entrants as they visit other websites and scroll through their social media feeds.
Jack Paxton
Jack Paxton is the co-founder of VYPER, a marketing tool that helps brands build email lists, social followings, and revenue using viral giveaways, referral, and reward programs. After millions of dollars spent testing different marketing strategies at his marketing agency. He then also co-founded Hyax, a fast, conversion & design-focused course and funnel builder for creators.

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