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Saturday, 28 May 2016

Playing the Giveaway Game

December 2015 eSheep Designs Giveaway
My December 2015 Giveaway...
It was with a considerable amount of trepidation that I decided to participate in last December's Sew Mama Sew Giveaway promotion.

After all, my first attempt at running a giveaway had left me licking some wounds, so I wasn't relishing the thought of reliving that experience again. I did think, however, that being able to give away something of greater value this time (my entire PDF pattern library), the reception might be somewhat improved.

Turns out that this time, I threw a party and people did show up, but I still felt oddly empty at the end of it all. Maybe like so many parties, the anticipation far outweighed the actual experience.

The suggestions over at Sew Mama Sew for this promotion (which, until this year, was a semi-annual affair; there doesn't seem to have been one for May 2016) is that we should make it easy for people to participate and not require anyone to jump through hoops in order to enter. Apparently it's a turn-off for people if they need to make an effort in order to win something.

Yes, I learned that lesson.

Making giveaways easy to enter, however, sets up a vision in my head of a mad frenzy of people scrambling from blog to blog, spending just enough time to drop a comment and then rushing off to the next giveaway.

What is the point?

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First of all, is anything really just about a freebie? No. No matter at what level you encounter a giveaway, it's never just about the freebie. Anyone who says so is either lying or in denial.

The real point of this promotion is to gain increased exposure to one's blog. As bloggers, we are always hoping to catch the interest of someone new... I suppose. The whole process made me think about why I'm doing what I'm doing and why having random new people come by might be important... or not.

But getting back to the giveaway for a moment, I decided to abide by the laws of my country and not have a simple "random winner". The winner would be decided based on merit.

It's actually not allowed in Canada to have a winner be declared simply by luck, lest it be categorized a lottery, and you have to have a license for that. (Not that I thought for even a nanosecond that I would be chased down by the feds and charged, but you know.) So I explicitly said, "To establish a winner, I will pick my top three most compelling comments and then have my other half pick his favourite out of the three." I figured that involving my hubby in the final decision would eliminate any sort of personal bias on my part.

But note that I said "compelling".

And to be polite, I won't say how I described most of the comments to my husband as they began trickling in.

Original text of my giveaway...
I know what probably happened. If you look at the picture here, you'll see that I outlined the two ways to enter the contest before I announced how winners would be determined. Very likely people just scurried on down the page to type their little note and totally missed reading about how their comments would be judged. It's my only explanation for how essentially comment after comment repeated the same thought.

Most people also took the easiest route to the prize. The first way to enter was to go to any of my blog posts and leave a comment on it. The second way was to answer my question of "What do you like and dislike most about the PDF pattern format?" at the bottom of that same giveaway page (that was linked from Sew Mama Sew). Most people chose the latter method and in doing so, likely did not end up reading another word from my blog.

And while I thought that the question itself would lead to some interesting opinions, it took a long time before anyone said anything more compelling than that they disliked taping pattern pieces together! Wow. Apparently the possibility that PDFs can sometimes be too long, too short, badly put together (if not outright crappy), expensive, non-refundable, or that they may not even include pattern templates are not bothersome aspects to most people... no, the real pet peeve is having to tape pattern pieces together! Who would have thought? (Maybe I should be a bit more understanding... after all, I've never made clothing from a PDF pattern and I suppose having to tape regular paper together to make a dress or a suit or whatever would be a bit tedious.)

And who would have thought that so many people would have very little to say about the positives of PDFs apart from the instant gratification thing?

Not me.

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Confession time... I personally don't take part in giveaways unless they are put out by impersonal multinational companies. (Or sponsored sites like AllFreeSewing and Craftsy; in fact, rather ironically, there are a bunch of great giveaways from FaveCrafts on my Giveaways page that you should definitely check out!) Even so, when McDonald's offers free coffee, I don't partake unless I also buy a muffin or a couple of fruit pies. (However, if my favourite grocery store offers a promo on loyalty points, I'm in there like flint!) When bloggers give away something in return for a comment, you must know that there's a wish for something more than that comment — like maybe the possibility that the visitor will spend some time appreciating the blog's actual content. Therefore, if I don't feel like I can fulfill that wish, I can't in all good conscience take advantage of that giveaway.

Having admitted that, am I revealing that I secretly want everybody else to think and act the same way? I don't know. Let's just say that the whole giveaway thing didn't leave me with the warm fuzzies like I thought it would.

What it did was lead me to examine why I'm doing what I'm doing.

When I started this blogging adventure a little over two and half years ago, my objective was to challenge myself to design a pattern for something and sell it... to hand craft something and sell that... and to test myself against any other creative hurdles that might pop up along the way. To do this, I had to find some way to reach out to a specific community and thus was born the idea of this blog. I would document and share my creative journey and hope that a few people would be interested enough to help me accomplish my tasks. And if I could leave some inspiration in my wake, well, that would be a huge honour because my journey was a result of me being inspired by others!

At no point was it ever my plan to make a living doing this, which leads me to the conclusion that — in my case — growing this blog's audience to huge numbers is neither a priority nor an objective. I never wanted this to become my j o b. There are obviously bloggers out there for whom the opposite applies, and whatever they have to do to climb out of the woodpile and be noticed is — quite literally — their business and not my concern. I just realized that it's fine for me not to venture out onto their playing field and lose sight of why I'm doing this.

The internet is already an unnecessarily competitive place. The point at which something turns into a stress-filled endeavour to keep on achieving (more, bigger, better) is a point that I don't want my journey to reach. Therefore, taking part in an event that attracts new visitors by reason of a mass generic giveaway, only to have the majority of them run off a minute later and never return, is not likely to be on my agenda again.

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And it's not just about these types of giveaways. Back in January, I received a message from Craftsy's affiliate manager with the subject line, "Do you want complimentary Craftsy supplies for review?" (And make no mistake, at no point did I think that I was being singled out with that email.)

Had this offer arrived last November, let's say, I probably would have signed up. I declined for this reason: I don't want to sell myself out. Yes, I understand that companies say they want your unbiased opinion even as they shower you with free stuff, but how often do you think that those reviews remain unbiased, especially when you see "sponsored post" after "sponsored post" appearing on a blog?

I wrote a review of a Craftsy class on my own when I got it free for signing up as an affiliate. If you've read it, you would have no doubts that it was my honest opinion. Promise me more free stuff to review, however, and who knows if that "unbiased-ness" might not start to head south without me even realizing.

If I see something that I like, that has relevance to what I'm doing here, I will write about it. End of story.

If you're a blogger, have you given any recent thought as to why you're blogging? If it's been awhile since you started, do you think your objective has changed since the beginning? If you're not a blogger, have you noticed any of your favourite blogs changing their focus? For better or worse?


  1. Interesting thoughts on the whole give away thing. I have to admit I have been one of those people who would do just the bare minimum, and move on. It just depends. Sometimes it was because I already subscribe to the blog, so I didn't feel the need to do anything else. Other times, it was because I poked around to see if there was anything that I found interesting in the blog's posting. Sometimes there wasn't, but often times this has been a way for me to discover new blogs that I hadn't been familiar with prior.

    As far as posting sponsored content... that's a whole different ball game. I think it's ok once in a while, because a lot of time it's for a product or class I'm unfamiliar with. I'm trusting the blogger to be honest, because this will influence my decision as to whether I seek out further information. I understand that sometimes people are compensated in some way, and that's ok to a point. But, when I start seeing every other posting is a sponsored one, I get turned off. I will eventually stop visiting or unsubscribe from that blog.

    1. First of all, thank you very much for popping up and leaving a first-time comment. (Unfortunately, I can't respond directly to you so hope you will return to read this.)

      I totally understand the situations you describe. Giveaways are sold as opportunities to showcase one's blog to a whole new audience but it's a very broad, untargeted audience that arrives. (In fact, I hadn't realized how widely varying a topic like "sewing" actually is.) Under those conditions, there tends to be a basic human instinct to be affected by the numerous "hit and runs" than the few "stickers".

      Interesting to hear your thoughts on the whole "sponsored post" arena, too. Thanks again for taking the time to share.

  2. Hi Rochelle! I totally understand your thoughts on offering a giveaway. I've entered plenty of contests and have observed the majority of comments being of little value to the blogger. Many seem like "fly-by" commenters just scurrying from one contest to the next with no intention of reading the post or digging into the content of the blog at all. Fortunately, for me, I try to write meaningful comments and take a tour of the blog to find what else appeals to me. I have learned everything I know about quilting and sewing (besides a required semester of sewing in junior high eons ago) by reading blogs like yours. I also follow many blogs for that purpose. No, I don't read every post (who could?), but I keep an eye out for what calls to me. Those sponsored posts tend to turn me off, especially when everything about the product is perfect.

    I am a blogger and I started simply to record my projects and journal my life. I haven't been consistent and it often bugs me that I'm not. My blog has developed more into sewing projects rather than what I intended it to be, but that's OK. We all change and grow. Someday, I may offer a giveaway. I'm sure I'll experience the empty feeling you had with so many empty comments. It's a learning experience, but you do find a few golden eggs in the batch and that makes it all worthwhile. That's how I found you!

    1. Yes, Kathy, it is both humbling and heart-warming to hear such affirming feedback from my winner. Many thanks for responding to this post, as I had a niggling thought at the back of my mind that — while I wanted to be totally open and honest about this — I didn't want to offend those who actually did find my blog through that process.

      Appreciate your insightful thoughts on the whole giveaway and sponsored post thing. And I hope that your future giveaway offers you more in return; but if it doesn't, you are definitely going in with eyes wide open. Best wishes on your continued blogging and learning. I think most bloggers will agree that it is a personally rewarding activity no matter what course you follow.

  3. I haven't taken part in Sew Mama Sew's giveaways for a few years now. New 'followers', in general, didn't stick around. Although initially disappointed, when I thought about it from the other side, I didn't continue to read all the blogs where I'd left comments in the hopes of winning something, even though, at the time, I had left meaningful comments and had a quick look around their blogs.

    Same as you, our laws dictate that giveaways can't be left to chance, however, I was obliviously unaware of this at the time.


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