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What I Learned Giving Away $60,000 of Prizes in a Week

A number of people have asked me to write some reflections on running the ProBlogger Birthday Bash $54,000 Giveaway last week.

What were the results like? What did I learn? Will I do it again? How would I do it differently?

All good questions – let me share a few reflections (as much for my own benefit – so next year I’ve got some ideas on how to do it):

problogger-birthday-bash.jpg‘Results’ – Over the week we ran 18 giveaways. There were over 4000 on site entries (a few of the competitions called for people to enter in some other way so we’re not sure how many entered those). RSS subscriber numbers increased over the week by around 1500 (in a normal week it goes up by a few hundred) and site traffic was up by about 10-20% (depending upon the day).

The week wasn’t a massive success in terms of driving traffic – however that wasn’t my overall goal. The main thing that I wanted to do over the week was to add to the sense of community on the site – to have some fun – to get a few lurkers participating and to thank readers for being a part of ProBlogger. In this regard the week was a big success with many first time comments and a lot of thank you emails from readers who seemed to enjoy it.

It’s was a lot of Work – when I first called for prizes for the giveaway I didn’t expect the response from sponsors that I got. Previously when I’d called for prizes I’d had 30-40 offers – but this time it ended up being around 130 (including a few late ones). I realized at this point that the event could be huge – but that it was also potentially going to be a logistical nightmare. The solution was to hire Lara to manage the project. This took a lot of the work away from me – however the week was still a lot of work for us both and left me feeling quite exhausted.

Get a Team to Help – one of the best things that I did was to bring Lara on to manage the project. A smaller scale giveaway would have been manageable for me alone – but with 100+ sponsors to coordinate and thousands of entries to sort through it would have been beyond me.

Reflections on Prizes – I am so grateful to those who sponsored the project. It was amazing to see them all listed. Having said that – there’s a few things that I’d do differently when it comes to prizes next time:

  • Less Prizes – 100 prizes of such high value was great for creating a buzz about the project – however it brought a number of challenges. These included the logistics of making sure everyone who won one got one – but also giving sponsors value for their buck. 10 prizes would have meant that each sponsor got some serious attention – but with 100 it was difficult to give each their moment in the spotlight.
  • Higher Value Prizes – having less prizes would mean that we’d be able to include just a few higher value prizes. This would hopefully keep the value of the competition high and give people incentive to participate
  • More ‘On Topic’ Prizes – while I loved the fact that we gave away prizes with a lot of diversity (everything from scar treatment cream, to bunny slippers, to holidays) it made it also made the project challenging. I think next time I’d attempt to keep the prizes more blogging related – or at least to weed out some of the more off topic ones.

Less Giveaways – having less prizes would mean fewer giveaways. Over the week we ran 18 separate giveaways. While this gave a lot of people a chance to win something it was probably too many things happening over the week. At times we had two giveaways running at the same time (some went for 24 hours and some for 8). This caused some confusion and made it all quite hectic for us to manage. Next time I’d attempt to make the whole process simpler.

Weekdays not Weekends – we decided to run the bulk of the competitions over a weekend rather than during the week simply because it’d make it easier to manage it for us. The downside of this was of course that less people are around to compete on the weekend. We couldn’t really avoid this on this project – but next year I think I’d go for a midweek project.

Using Keywords for Comment Entries Was Genius – one of the challenges that we faced was that to enter people had to leave a comment on a post here at ProBlogger. The challenge with this is that my comment moderating tool (Akismet) can be a little too eager on occasion and filters some first time comments as spam. While these can be retrieved – I get a lot of real spam comments and finding them all was going to be a challenge. However we decided to make entrants include a ‘keyword’ in their comment so that we could quickly track down comments falsely queued as spam. This saved us hours of work.

Distraction and Burnout – running a competition of this scale does have a downside. If you haven’t got it already – this was a lot of work and I’ll admit that it’s left me in the last couple of days with a bit of a hangover (what good party doesn’t). Next time I think I’d work harder in the lead up to a competition to have some posts written before the competition that I could use in the days following it to take some of the load off.

The other downside of any project that runs for a few days on a blog is that it can be a distraction from the main purposes of the blog itself. I attempted to combat this by keeping new ‘normal’ posts going up on the blog over the week. This helped a lot – but the blog did get a little crazy for a few days and on reflection a few less giveaways might have helped to keep the blog more on track. I think we did OK on this – but next time I think that a simpler competition with less giveaways might be better on this front also.

Overall I’d judge the experience as being a success. I definitely want to do another one next year – but will approach it a little differently.

What did you think about the week that was? I’m aware that it wasn’t perfect – but would love to hear your constructive critique and suggestions on what you thought about it and how you’d suggest we tackle it next year.

PS: Lara has written a similar post with some of her own reflections on the week of giveaways.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. Very nice Darren. Giveaways are becoming pretty common on blogs, so I have begun an effort to catalog them and help readers find blog giveaways.

  2. For me it is a learning experience anyway, hopefully I’ll learn to promote my sites the way you do Darren, great job!!

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