The Sidetrack Cafe No. 2: Giveaways


Recently I polled on Twitter what people's thoughts were on giveaways. And to clarify what I meant by that was, giveaways of other artist's work on design blogs as a way to promote the artist's work.

What I've noticed as of late and what has started to concern me are all these giveaways happening and are they really working? Who is benefiting; the blog or the artist? So I thought it would be fun to take a poll here to see what you think. And then afterward let's take it to the comments section to discuss. It's an interesting subject and what I think could be a hot topic.

From my experience, I would think the blog who is hosting the giveaway is the one who most benefits, especially if they do it on a regular basis because it keeps people coming back to the site. Giveaways bring in more traffic, which in turn pays for their advertising, or future advertising (which many of them could be working up towards). Personally, I feel it is only ok if the design blog is sharing in the artist's costs with the giveaway. Other than that, the artist is being taken for a ride unless that blog has huge huge readership and is able to prove it by third party reports (don't rely on self-reporting stats ) and can really make an impact.

I feel so many artists are being taken and this concerns me. I have had giveaways here, and most of them have been because of a special occasion of some sort or because I know them. How I really feel? Psssssst! Artists/Designers, if you are doing giveaways, the blog (especially if they are smaller) should totally be paying for your work. You are only really helping them, especially if they are "giveaway blogs". Many of them too ask for samples. I've never asked for one sample, even for my market. Maybe they should be asking for better pictures.

I'm not saying giveaways are a bad thing - but I do think artist's are being taken advantage of in some cases and I just want to bring that out into the consciousness. Giveaway's are a gratitude for our readers (and at times to introduce new work I suppose) however it should be done with integrity.

This is my opinion.

What's yours? Is this selling out? Does this cheapen the blog? Who is really benefiting? Let's discuss (thread-style) in the comments section.

Jan Halvarson


Helena said...

hmmm. I've just organised a giveaway on my blog, but I'm giving away something I bought with my own money, to celebrate the anniversary of a project on my blog.

I see giveaways as an expression of gratitude towards a blog's readers. However, as you said, when it onvolves a donation of an item from a designer, care must be taken so that noone is exploited!

Kellie Christie said...

As long as both the artist and the blog benefit through more exposure and traffic then I think it is fine, but if only the blog benefits and not the artist then it isn't really fair. I wouldn't be giving another blog free stuff if I don't receive some good exposure in return. After all the artist wants more fans of there work, which will generate sales and commissions so that they can continue doing what they love. What does the blog want?

TanyaMac said...

I have participated in a couple of giveaways in the past - these have been in support of my etsy team blog and they have gained lots of new followers as a result.

I think its ok once in a while and can drive a lot more traffic to my online shop. At the moment we are running a treasure hunt for items which is really fun to be part of.

I wouldn't participate in any random giveaway and I certainly don't believe in all this sample giving either.

My work speaks for itself as do my lovely customers who help spread the word for me! :)

Marcie Abney Carroll said...

I don't think it benefits the artist. I'm sad to say this, but I've participated in giveaways hosted by another blog. I visited the artist's blog for the giveaway, and never went back. I think it would be more useful to trust in the network of people that you're already a part of to promote a giveaway on your site. Their readers trust their judgement, and your readers trust you. Most of the artists that I follow I've found by following suggestions of other artists that I already follow.

Catherine said...

It seems to me like blogs almost always benefit as frequent giveaways build their list of followers and the blog writer/owner has very little risk or work involved.

In my experience, an artist/crafter can have a successful giveaway {more traffic and sales at her shop} if the blog is a well read blog to begin with and has greater content than giveaways. It's also necessary for the artist to consider the blog audience and whether or not her work will be of true interest to them...or just another freebie.

I think as with anything, moderation is key. An occasional giveaway is fun and can be a thank you to readers and a privelege to an artist...if the artist is well chosen and the giveaway is not an every day {or every week} thing.

Michael Wurm Jr said...

I think, if done right, everyone benefits from a great giveaway.

I try to do one every other week. The main reason i do it is because i honestly love to give. i love to wrap. i love to package. it bring me joy.

if it benefits my blog/business great! but that's not why I do it. if i'm able to feature and artist or creator, even better!

i think you need to do what you love. there should be no standard. do what make YOU happy. at least thats how i carry my blog and my life. sounds cheesy... i know, but its true.

i know from giveways i have entered in the past i did visit the artist site(s) and have found other things that inspired me or things i purchsed. does everyone? i seriously doubt it. but that's life...sadly. but getting that one extra customer/guest/client could make all the difference!

Beth said...

Hi Jan, Yes, I have to agree that it feels more like a gimmic to me and I don't think serious blog readers are chasing down giveaways. I have given one thing aways (my own work) and may do so again in the future but not as a regular way to try to capture views. I want readers who like my material and want to read me regularly and participate by commenting, etc.
That's just my 2 cents.
Great topic by the way!

Katie said...

Like most people I have seen both results. I have seen blogs that use others attempts to advertise as self-promoting tools and frankly I have little-well, pretty much no respect for that. I have read some beautiful reviews and commendations as a result of some giveaways (in which the artist provided the material in order to advertise)that I felt were quite genuine, well thought out, and did in fact lead me to the artist's shop or website because I was so pleased by the review that I did want to see more. This is unfortunately becoming a rarity.

I also think if you are hosting a giveaway, giving your own stuff is an excellent idea. It is a gift to your readers. The end. Not an advertising gimmick. Giving your own stuff also ensures that your blog doesn't become exclusively a giveaway blog (who can afford to give their own stuff away that often?), and it ensures that your followers are really interested in your content (isn't that the point?) instead of just looking for handouts.

Gale Blair said...

I have to agree with you wholeheartedly. In a partnered giveaway the hosting blog is the clear winner. I see these types of giveaways as mainly a marketing tool to promote the hosting blog.

I'm not all that big into a partnered giveaway such as this. In my opinion a better way to partner would be for the artist to host the giveaway and the featuring blog to send the traffic to them. Of course, this is from an artist's point of view :)

Great post!

Melissa said...

Interesting topic!

I have mixed feelings about this. I think I'm sort of in line with Michael the Innkeeper's thoughts. I give stuff away on my blog every now and then, but it's my own stuff and it's because I'm the type who believes that whole thing about it's better to give than to receive.

I think a blog giving away another person's work on their site can start to really take advantage of the artist, but it depends on how it's set up. I've seen some blogs that will say something along the lines of "To enter this giveaway, visit [the artist's] shop/blog and then post in the comments here your three favorite things from their shop." That way the artist can benefit from all that extra traffic looking at their site or blog, and hopefully that will generate some new sales for them. But I hate the idea of an artist giving a blog samples, then offering up something for free on the other blog, and then that blog doing nothing to generate real traffic and exposure for the artist. I guess it's a classic example of buyer (or giveaway) beware.

anabela / fieldguided said...

Hmm. It's different from my point of view. I've hosted a few giveaways on my blog, but for me, it's different. For example, I'm hosting one right now. It's for a new Etsy shop, and I know that she's had a few sales since I started the giveaway. She approached me about doing it, and because she is a friend I said yes. I'm not getting anything out of it. I didn't ask for anything for free and she didn't pay me to host it. I don't have advertising on my blog (except a link to my own Etsy shop, but I'm pretty passive about it, and I don't generate a lot of income from it) and I have not made a dime from my blog in the three years I have been blogging. Most of the people who enter these giveaways are people who will never come back, I think. I did host a giveaway for a company once, and I was torn about doing it, because it was free advertising for them and a big headache for me. But I was happy that someone was able to win something pretty nice, and have it sent to her for free. I hosted it knowing that someone would be happy in the end.

But it sounds as though you're talking about giveaways on blogs that are pretty different from my blog. A lot of the things I give away are things I have paid for with my own money. I do it for myself and my readers only.

anabela / fieldguided said...

At the same time, I was recently approached by a blog to host a giveaway of one of my neckties. I did it last year, but this year I had to say no to doing work for free.

Molly / Charlotte's Fancy said...

This is a really interesting topic, and I am grateful to read other people's responses.

I agree with Michael the Innkeeper - I love to give presents, wrap up packages, make people happy. I just did my first giveaway this week - notecards from my own (large) stationery collection, and it was so fun to wrap them up and send them out. I don't have advertising on my blog and I don't have an Etsy shop, so I'm not generating any income - I just blog for the fun of writing and discovering, and I am a big fan of handmade. I always happily shine a spotlight on handmade artists (and would gladly give away their work if they wanted me to - but I'm not the kind of person who wants to ask people to donate their items to me).

I like the idea that giveaways should be done in moderation, on special occasions, and I think it's a nice idea to spend my own money to give away little treats as a way of being grateful to my regular readers and not as a way to generate more traffic (for people who probably won't become regular readers).

As a reader of many other blogs, I only sign up for giveaways for products that I am familiar with and really love and if the giveaway is easy to enter. I saw one the other day that said, "15 ways to enter!" which just seemed ridiculous to me. In fact, I would say that I pass up at least 90% of the giveaways I see - which makes me think more clearly about giveaways as I write this...

Jessica said...

Very interesting. I wonder how much a blog really benefits from doing giveaways, as may people just enter and then leave, never to return again. Do people regularly and frequently return for the rest of the blog's content? I really wonder, as I'm guilty of the ol' "enter and ditch" myself. If I have time, I'll poke around on a site and read more. But very rarely will I return.

So then does the artist benfit? I don't know. It feels a little like an extended advertisement to me. Instead of paying $50 for a spot ad on a blog, an artist could choose to donate a $50 item for a giveaway and get a little writeup on the blog. If their work is strong, then I'd hope people would notice and keep coming back to buy from them regardless of the giveaway. And like others mention, it's fun to give! So do it for fun, if nothing else.

Tough question. Oh, and I agree with Molly/Charlotte's Fancy about the "too many requirements to enter" thing. That's just ridiculous. I'm not going to tweet about something (haaate), reblog it, donate $50 to a charity (for reals), or rub my belly and pat my head 6 times to get a freebie.

Coco Cake Land said...

i must admit as much as i am not a fan of a million giveaways on blogs, the occasional one seems ok, as long as, yes, it appears mutually beneficial--

but also, as a blog reader, i am such a clicker on links-- if it looks interesting to me i will definitely click the link with regards to a giveaway. and in fact i have bought and been introduced to products this way too (especially nicely designed letterpress cards!)

lots of bloggers use the giveaways to gain more readership, ie: "follow me and then you can enter." personally when i see this too much it irks me! i've never followed a blog to enter a giveaway and it can sometimes turn me off of a blog! and i agree with the "too many requirements" comment too, that makes it seem very "sweepstakes".

still, once in a while i come across giveaways that are seemingly heartfelt. i think it can work if it's done occasionally and with meaning.

thanks for sharing your thoughts everyone! :)

lesley [smidgebox] said...

i am of a couple minds on this topic. i definitely think that when done right, and in moderation, giveaways can be lovely. sometimes it can introduce you to a very lovely new artist or maker you may not have seen otherwise. i love it when blogs give away a book or item that they have bought themselves, simply because they love it so, and want to share something nice with their readers, on occasion. how sweet!

i have done a couple giveaways [of my goods] in the past of my own choosing, once on my own blog, and once for a contest for which i was approached, i liked the eco-friendly idea behind it, so i agreed.
but i can't even count how many times i have been approached by blogs whose main reason for being are "reviews" and giveaways. I hate to sound rude, but really, why would anyone need to "review" an item [for free] that just happens to have their child's name monogrammed on it, just to see how it holds up, etc. and then of course on top of that request a giveaway and a discount code for their "hundreds of readers". If i were ever to agree to this, it would cost me over $100 just simply for the items and shipping. And for the customers it may possibly send my way, I just don't think it's worth my money.
I guess my thoughts are that if an artist wants to do a giveaway, and approaches the blog themselves either as a means of advertising or just as a nice thing to do, then YAY! I agree with Jan, if the blog is approaching someone, please do offer to pay for the item, or the shipping, or some compromise [free month's advertising?]. It can get tiring answering the same emails time and again, without sounding rude saying no.
i hope i don't sound very jaded here, but it does, unfortunately, happen often :)
thanks for opening this forum, jan!

Bonafyde said...

I have to say that I found the survey to be a bit biased and would have liked a third option; They both benefit. I did choose the Blog owner Option only because it really does benefit them as it will inspire their readers to keep coming back. On the other side of the coin it does benefit the Artist as well because it opens up their market, exposing them to potential customers that may not have heard of them before. Perhaps they won't buy from them right away (perhaps they will ;) ) but they will indeed have their brand in their mind should they ever have a need or desire for what that Artist is offering. This can make a huge impact in the long run for many an artist who then go from obscurity to the forefront, not to mention the huge impact of word of mouth. For these reasons I suggest that Artist's have clear expectations of this marketing method so that in the end they do not see it as being taken but rather a "Win Win" situation for their business in the end.

It is interesting to read everyone's thoughts on this topic, I'll be following it closely. Thanks for opening up the discussion.

Anonymous said...

I am of the opinion that giveaways can be done in a way that works for everyone...I guess I'm not sure what that is though, since I've tried giveaways of my own things and get NO responses...not even a pick up in traffic, and no responses from usual readers/folowers (very disheartening when you can't even give your stuff away for free...).

Maybe if I'd had another blog hosting a giveaway for me, it would seem less desperate...?

BaldyLocks said...

Artists get taken in so many aspects of life, there even seems to be the feeling that artists should just give away their work for free.

Thanks for being so understanding of artists!

Jan Halvarson said...

Thank you everyone for your thoughtful comments so far (and please, keep them coming)!

Michael - Innkeeper
anabela / fieldguided

- I agree and there seems to be a common thread here, that if it's a heartfelt giveaway, meaning the reason is not to soley and specifically drive traffic, say it's a giveaway for a friend, or someone's work you may really really like their work (and they just started out perhaps) - then yes it is a benefit to the artist or both.

And yes I should've had a third option for both - you're right.

I'm not saying giveaways are a bad thing - but I do think artist's are being taken advantage of in some cases and I just want to bring that out into the consciousness. You are right - giveaway's are a gratitude for readers, however should be done with integrity.

Nicola said...

I totally think the blog benefits. I have participated in a few giveaways on some blogs who do it on a weekly basis, but felt I got nothing out of it really. Maybe a few more visits to my shop on the day(s) of the giveaway, but no sales, or even much increase in visits after that. I felt totally ripped off!

Becca's Life said...

I'm still trying to decide how I feel about giveaways, so I'd love your insights.

1) How much traffic should be considered “enough” to host a giveaway – or to provide items to a site for a giveaway?
2)How many clicks need to be generated to an artists site before you feel like they benefit?
3)How many comments should be generated about an artists work?\
4) What kind of results should the artist receive to consider the giveaway a success (eg, an order, a wholesale order).
5) Can you share with us at what level of traffic you started to do giveaways – or what you feel is an appropriate level?

I think it is just good for those of us with blogs or shops to know how to decide when to have giveaways or who to provide giveaway items to.

Jan Halvarson said...


1) You can go to Technorati and Alexa at the moment to check blogs out by entering in their blog urls to compare. The higher the Auth the better.

2) Many times clicks to guarantee success isn't as important as much as branding. So who or how many get to see your work is more important. They may just make a note of your work to look at later (so it's hard to tell) and not the best judge of success.

3) How many comments, I guess it would depend on what the product was and how desireable it was as well as how long the giveaway was posted for. So if it was desireable and say out for 3 days - the comments should at least reach 2-300.

4) I suppose success could mean many different things. of course a wholesale order, maybe an invitation from a magazine to do a feature of your work, it doesn't always have to result in sales immediately. Press down the road will eventually help with that.

5) I think blogs should at least be reporting 150,000+ unique visitors per month for it to be successful for the artist. And then if that's the case the blog probably has more of a say with respect to how it should be done, and might not have to completely pay for the item. Or maybe they can offer ad space to pay for it as well (as an idea).

What bothers me are these new blogs that just start having giveaways right away, or even a year or two into it and feel they don't have to support the artist any other way.

Laura Stewart said...

i love giveaways!

rachel said...

I've participated in a handful of giveaways with my jewelry. Only one of these giveaways greatly benefited me because it was on a very popular blog. But I also only had the opportunity to participate in that giveaway because I bought advertising on that popular blog -- which wasn't cheap in the slightest. It was a risk, but luckily it turned out well for me.

I think the choice to participate in giveaways greatly depends on what you expect out of it and what you have to put into it. If you're expecting lots of sales as a result, chances are, it's not going to happen. If you're expecting some additional clicks to your website/shop and some kind feedback, then you'll likely be satisfied.

Is giving away an item that costs you $5 in supplies and a few hours of your time worth it for a little extra exposure? Maybe so. What about giving away an item that cost you $30 in supplies and a day to make? Maybe not.

Natasha said...

I'm new to blogging and am running an artist giveaway for the first time.

Yes, I hoped to find a few more readers, but what I really wanted is to get this artist's name out there (she's Janine Carrington, by the way, a "comicographer"). I love her work and am inspired by her story and I'm a bit sad that more people haven't entered. I have a good number of readers - not in the hundreds of thousands (I'm new, remember), but only the teeniest tiniest few have entered. I guess I was overly hopeful about this and am hesitant to do it again.

What I've learned or what I think now is that, at the end of the day, the people who really benefit from blog giveaways are the contest winners.

cara. said...

an artist has a choice to give something away or not. personally, i think it's kind of foolish. BUT artists also have the opportunity to gain from it by offering a blog with high traffic a giveaway opportunity in order to market themselves. so i think it goes both ways. and i do feel like it's a bit of selling out. i think it's good to try and treat your loyal readers. and it means more if its something you've made yourself or something you've bought--if you're promoting an artist because you admire their work, not because you're getting something out of it. it's kind of the same way i feel about "sponsorship" for blogs. bleh. but some of the people who do it, give their proceeds to particular charities which is admirable in my humble opinion. maybe you should talk about ads on blogs next! (:

good topic!

Sue said...

as mentioned....when the blog owner gives something away from herself...either bought or paid...thats fine. It's a win win situation for the blogger.

When the blogger hosts another artist's work...there are ways it can benefit. I think when they say...go to the artist online store and look at the products...then come back here and list your favourite piece...that gets people to the artists store and also gets them back to the blogger again. I think it is up to the artist to say how she/he wants to host it. for both the artist and the blogger.
I think when people just have to leave a comment regarding the item mentioned in the blog...then the artist does not benefit as much.

Bugs and Fishes said...

I get approached a lot by people with smaller blogs than mine asking for a product to "review" or to use in a giveaway and have never agreed to either. I think I would consider it for a larger blog but I'd be more inclined to just buy advertising if I needed it.

I see a lot of shop owners talking about running giveaways on their own blogs as a way to "promote" but I think that most of the extra traffic you'll receive that way (if any) will be people who enter and then never come back.

I do giveaways of my own stuff on my blog once a month or so but I don't "promote" them outside my normal blog/twitter/facebook readership. It doesn't cost me much and I like the idea of giving away something as a "thankyou" to my regular readers, as part of the ongoing relationship with them... in a way I think it helps balance out the many times when I post links to my shop and blah on about my new products! :)

Kiran Ravilious said...

Someone recently bought a cushion cover from me. She didn't mention that it was for her blog giveaway until I somehow stumbled upon it. I was slightly confused, but she did buy the cushion with her own money, so, I felt fine about it. However, does it cheapen my work? I'm not sure. Should she have asked my opinion? Again, I'm not sure. Since she bought the cushion, I suppose it's up to her what she does with it. I find this all very confusing!

Red Bridge Studio said...

Previously, I have participated in several blog giveaways, ranging from a large readership to a much smaller ones. Based on this any benefits that I experienced were just short term, measured in visits to my ecommerce or blog. Based on my experience, I believe the blogs hosting the giveaway were the real winners. In the future I will look for other ways to promote my work.

Fenke said...

being a designer AND blogger, your article really expressed how i feel about giveaways. we've been giving away our designs in the past, thinking we could profit in the form of site traffic/public exposure but to be honest - it never did work out that well. a simple article about us has always been more effective.

alexkeller said...

i've done a few giveways on other blogs and think it's brought me minimal sales. i couldn't tell you about traffic. it does cost, but i consider it advertising. and while it probably does benefit the blog doing the giveaway more than me, i'll probably continue to do them occasionally

sfgirlbybay said...

i'm late to reading this post, but just to add my two cents, i don't really love doing giveaways.

i do them because artists (and some retailers) ask me to all the time, i never approach them. it's a lot of work, but i'm happy to share their work, and never really give away anything too expensive, so i don't think the investment is too much on their part. it's usually a print, or a piece of jewelry. but it is part of their profit, so i see your point. if i were inviting them to do the giveaway, it would only be right for me to pay for it, but since it's always the other way around, i guess i never considered that idea. something to think about, though.

thanks for the insight. after the holidays, the giveaways may be a thing of the past, unless really, really important to someone.

Mr. Glitter said...

Hi Jan,

I know I'm really late to this party, but I just discovered this thread via Nectar & Light.

As an Etsy seller, I've been approached by several bloggers I'd never heard of regarding giveaways. A few I chose to participate in, and others I declined.

At first I was flattered, but then I began asking myself: If this blogger likes my work enough to want to share it with readers via a giveaway, why can't that blogger purchase one of my prints and then ask me if she/he can offer the print they've purchased as a giveaway? After my customers purchase a print from me, they can do with that print whatever they'd like to do with it, except copy it and resell!

After participating in my third giveaway, I began asking myself why I had to bare the cost of shipping and packaging the item?

We should collectively demand that bloggers purchase those pieces and then be responsible for packing and shipping themselves.