You’ve held giveaways on your blog, or you’ve entered for a chance to win. If you’ve been around blogspace for any amount of time, you are probably familiar with blog giveaways, contests and sweepstakes. If you are holding giveaways on your blog, there are some things you MUST do to stay legal!
I learned all of this information from Wendy Piersall’s great book Mom Blogging for Dummies. I am an experienced professional blogger, and I learned a lot of things from Wendy’s book, but the most notable to me was the section on Ensuring Your Giveaways and Contests are Legal. I highly recommend this book to all bloggers, whether they are brand new to blogging or have been around for years (like I have).
First, some blog giveaway definitions:
So we all know what we are talking about, here are the terms we’re using to discuss blog giveaways. It’s important for you to choose the correct terminology when you are writing blog posts for your promotions:
- Contest: prize is won based on merit and winner is chosen by a judging panel or a voting process.
- Sweepstake: entrants win a prize by random drawing. (If your promotion is a Sweepstake, do NOT refer to it as a contest).
- Giveaway: used interchangeably with “sweepstakes” by bloggers, in blog posts or conversation. NOT a legal term. Use the legal terminology (sweepstake or contest) in your rules and regulations.
Legal Requirements for Blog Giveways, Contests, and Sweepstakes
These guidelines apply to the USA:
- NO fees can be charged to enter: You can’t charge participants to enter your promotion, or else it becomes a lottery, which you can tell just by the term isn’t something you want to mess with. Lotteries are highly regulated under the law. Also: you can’t charge winners for shipping.
- In sweepstakes, winners must be chosen randomly: Use random.org or a WordPress plugin such as And the Winner Is to choose your winner randomly. Some people are ineligible to win a sweepstakes: your family, anyone who lives in your home, your employees or contractors, your sponsor, your sponsor’s employees or contractors.
- In the USA, avoid promotions involving the following industries: tobacco, alcohol, gasoline, dairy, insurance, and financial industries, as special requirements apply to these industries.
- Do not extend entry deadline: You can’t change an entry deadline, even if you don’t get enough entries or if you don’t think your promotion was successful enough. When you run your promotion and state an initial deadline, you are entering into a binding contract with participants.
- You must accept all valid entries: and the definition of “valid” is generous in favor of the entrant. If an entrant answers a question in a way you don’t like, that doesn’t invalidate their entry. If a comment is required, and they make a comment (even if it doesn’t answer a question you asked them to answer in order to enter), it is considered valid. On the other hand, if you specify only one entry per person, then a second entry would be invalid.
- Post promotion rules and regulations and link to them in every sweepstakes or contest announcement, every time.
- State the following information in every promotion:
- No purchase is necessary.
- Odds of winning are based on number of entries.
- Start and end date.
- How many entries are allowed per person.
- How participants enter the promotion (usually by leaving a comment in the blog post).
- Dollar value of prize being awarded.
- Who is eligible to enter (often: US residents, 18 and older)
- Have a clear policy on how to handle unawarded prizes: You should state how you will notify winners, how long they have to respond to the notification, and how you will award the prize to a different winner.
Blog Giveaway Situations to Avoid
If your blog is too small to have a legal department, you want to avoid the following situations:
- Total prize or prizes worth more than a combined total of $5000: In this case, you must post a winner’s list, be bonded, and be registered within the states of New York and Florida.
- Prize to any one person is worth more than $600: You must file a 1099 form with the IRS. (This probably isn’t THAT big of a deal, but good to be aware of it if you are going to hold giveaways on your blog.)
This overview should get you started on running contests and giveaways on your blog that are legal as well as ethical and fair.
Acknowledgements & Other Stuff
- Thanks to Wendy Piersall and Wiley Publishing for sharing this highly important and useful info. Buy Wendy’s Book!
- Buy Wendy’s book at Amazon: (Affiliate Link): Mom Blogging For Dummies
- Over at Social Media Explorer, Jason has written a lengthy and informative article on this same topic.
- disclosure: Review copy of Mom Blogging for Dummies was provided to me by Wiley Publishing, but I asked for it! They didn’t require I do anything with it. Also, that was an affiliate link. And I’m friends with Wendy. But I really recommend the book.
- Also, this post does not constitute legal advice.
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