Sh.t You Should Know About Blogging. Running a Legal Giveaway

Did you know there are laws about what you can and can not require in a giveaway? Did you know that as bloggers, we don’t actually have “giveaways”? Did you know that you can’t actually require someone to follow your blog to enter your giveaway? I bet you didn’t! Cause I sure as heck didn’t before I did some research. Turns out most of us haven’t a clue about how to run a giveaway without risking a lawsuit or a run in with the FTC.

Giveaway vs. Sweepstakes vs. Contest vs. Lottery:

Most of us call it a giveaway, and while that is not “wrong” per say, Its not legally accurate either. The legal term for what we, as bloggers, do is  “Sweepstakes” not quite as catchy though, eh?

I like how Sara from Saving for Someday defines the differences between Sweepstakes, Contests and a Lottery.

Sweepstakes are prize giveaways where the winners are chosen by the luck of the draw. Prizes can be almost anything a blogger can think of from handmade cards to an all expenses-paid trip.

Contests choose a winner based on some merit. The winner is chosen based on some criteria such as best photo, funniest parenting tip, etc.

A Lottery is a prize drawing where people must pay money to buy a chance to win. Lotteries are highly regulated and should not be run without consulting with legal counsel.”


The Tricky Part:

Did you know that asking someone to Like your page or follow your blog is classified as a “consideration”? Required considerations are BIG no-no’s!

“Consideration – something of value. Often it’s money, but it doesn’t have to be. Depending on what you require entrants to do, you could be pushing the envelope on this element. Each state may have their own particular definition making it very difficult to manage.

When it comes to bloggers, there are few things more valuable than followers. As such, requiring someone to ‘like’ you or ‘follow you’ could be construed as consideration. Even more important, asking an entrant to go to a third-party site, navigate to find a product or services and then report back to your site is even more likely to be deemed consideration and thus placing your giveaway into the classification of illegal lottery. Time is exceedingly valuable!” ~ Sara from Saving for Someday

My Interpretation: Requiring someone to Follow your’s, or any other blog, as a mandatory entry, is probably against the law. From everything I’ve read, adding these as OPTIONAL entries is ok, but that is a grey area. The internet is changing and expanding faster than law makers can make the laws. Err on the side of caution!

The only mandatory entry that is really safe to require is a comment. ie: “Leave a comment below telling me your favorite color”


Your Giveaway, Sweepstakes or Contest must have OFFICIAL Rules:

Official rules need to include the following…

  • It must state “no purchase necessary”
  • It must state eligibility requirements – Age, residence, etc.
  • Duration (start and end dates) and any deadlines.
  • Prize description. Yes you need to be specific. Yes you need to include the retail value (approximate retail value if actual price is not known).
  • The odds of winning. Most of the time, blogger run giveaways don’t have specific odds. Include something along the lines of this statement – ” The number of eligible entries received determine the odds of winning”
  • It must include how to enter.
  • It must include how and when the winners will be selected.
  • Include a liability release (you don’t want to get sued!)
  • What you will do if the prize is forfeited or unclaimed.
  • Who is responsible for paying any taxes related to the prize.
  • That you have to right to obtain and publicize the winners name and likeness.

And always, ALWAYS include “Void where prohibited by law” ALWAYS!

There is lots that you should know about running a giveaway. Some of it should just be common sense, like use a random number generator to pick a winner or a that giveaway app like rafflecopter makes it a lot easier. Each country and state have their own laws regarding contests and giveaways.

And In case you were wondering, I am not a lawyer. In fact I didn’t even take law classes in high school… so this information should be viewed as my interpretation of the “rules”. Do your own research and cover your butt. Just saying.

IF you want to do your own research (and you should) these are the articles that I learned a lot from!

Blog Law Series by Saving for Someday


Blog Giveaways: staying Legal by Crafter Minds

Giveaway Laws and Your Blog by The Work At Home Wife

Ensure your Giveaways and Contests are Legal by Dummies


Now onto the part of this post where I rant and rave about giveaways….

Did you know that a giveaway that includes more than 2 other bloggers can take upwards of 8+ hours to put together? That is a whole freaking work day! We’re talking lots of emails, spreadsheets, stress, photos, graphics, images, pic monkey collages, stress, HTML coding, button making and then more emails!

So here’s what ticks me off… and yes I am speaking from personal experience… I go through the hassle of putting together a kick butt giveaway, say for instance a $150 target Gift card, and when I go to pick a winner, I have to redraw a winner 4 times. Why? Because someone didn’t do what they actually said they did!!!

Most bloggers take the time to verify the entries. I do. So we know if you didn’t actually like that facebook page, or leave a comment like you said you did.

In my books… saying you did an entry that you didn’t do is cheating! And my mother told me that cheaters never prosper. So there *insert me sticking my tongue out at you*


And the other thing…

I enter giveaways. Sometimes lots of giveaways. And if you want me to follow 10 other blogs by email or GFC before I can even get to the regular entry stuff like twitter and facebook, I’m not interested. That’s just crazy!

**Disclaimer** In case you couldn’t tell, I am not a lawyer. This is my opinion. If you get in trouble, its your own fault 😉 I am not to blame. I’ll say it again… do some research!

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79 Responses to Sh*t You Should Know About Blogging: Giveaways have Rules!

  1. Casey says:

    Perfect timing here. I’m planning my first giveaway and I had no clue about most of these points. I think most blog giveaways I’ve entered have broken all of these rules too!

  2. I had no idea that giveaways should have these kinds of rules and that it was that big of an issue! This is something I will definitely be doing more research on for future giveaways. Thanks for the info.

  3. LJCMuses says:

    Thank you very much for the info!

  4. Sarah F says:

    Great post! Thanks for sharing!

  5. pintsizedbaker says:

    On the verification of the winner – HOW do you get the info? 300 GFC followers might be easy but 5,000 FB fans, not so much. I could not verify an Instagram follower on a SWEEPSTAKES that I hosted so I moved on. Do you know of a way to EXPORT followers and search that way? I've been trying to figure it out. I guess I should just skip it if it's difficult to verify.
    What about Sponsors who are providing the product? If they want FB followers / Twitter followers how can I verify that? It's crazy what I have to go through to verify entries sometimes.
    Thanks for the info!

    • JenniferJayne13 says:

      Thats part of the complication of having these massive giveaways. They're great for traffic, impossible to police/maintain. I decided for myself that if I can't positively prove they didn't do the entries, I will award the prize. As for sponsors, I've had other bloggers ask me to check my facebook followers, etc. to see if they did what they are supposed to. I'm thinking that for future giveaways I am going to limit the number of entries… less entries means less to verify.

      • pintsizedbaker says:

        Another Question… The difference between a Lottery and a Raffle. I recently had a raffle at a school function to raise money for a charity. The winner of the raffle decided that she did not need the grand prize so she returned it to me (it was my mother-in-law). I was planning on taking the grand prize to my blog with a requirement to donate $5 to the charity for a chance to win the grand prize. To me, it's not a Lottery because they are not winning MONEY, but I can't figure out what the legal difference is. I've gone through the links and Googled it, but can't get a grasp on it. Any suggestions.?

        • Beth says:

          When I was in non-profits, I was given to understand that even if the PRIZE isn't money, if you have to spend money to gain an entrance into it (i.e. purchase a product, make a donation, etc) *that's* when the rules are a whole lot stricter.

        • Sara Hawkins says:

          Raffles are the same as a lottery, but permitted under certain circumstances by state law. A school is likely able to conduct a raffle because the laws of the state allow it. If a private individual does the same thing it may be a lottery and since no state permits private individuals to conduct a lottery it woud violate the law. Some businesses are permitted to conduct raffles, but, again, it is regulated by the state.

          Lotteries do not require the winner to win money. Many lotteries have non-cash prizes.

          • pintsizedbaker says:

            Thanks so much. I'll have to talk to the school and maybe run the raffle through them. If the school is raising money for the charity and the school is holding the raffle, I can point my fans there instead.

        • JenniferJayne13 says:

          Sara left a great answer to this question! From what I understand, anytime you ask for money, whether its going to you or a charity it becomes a lottery. $ = lottery. Make sense?

  6. Crystal says:

    I totally agree!!!

  7. Yeah, I've stopped entering giveaways that require me to do 1000 things, especially if it's a relatively small prize. I might follow on twitter, and I'm happy to leave a comment, but that's enough.

  8. Julie says:

    Thanks for all the great information! I think for me, this has just confirmed for me that giveaways are just not my cup of tea…lol. I will donate to group giveaways, but as far as sponsoring them myself – I am going to have to pass. Juat sayin'. Miss you sweet lady…..did my card ever make it?????

  9. Thanks for this great information! I agree with everything you are saying and I think it is good to get this out there (especially for newbie bloggers like myself!). Who knew that giveaways/contests/etc. could have such rules but it makes perfect sense!

    Thanks again!

  10. Natalie says:

    That is the reason why I don't enter or host giveaways anymore. Follow 10 blogs and subscribe via email… MANDATORY!!! No thank you.

  11. Michelle says:

    These are all great tips! I’ve been wondering about the correct way to have a giveaway for quite some time

  12. Shane Russell says:

    Thank you for posting this. I just updated my official giveaway rules with some more info that I was missing.

  13. darlene bohannon says:

    im glad you posted this. i enter a lot of giveaways and dont like that i have to follow all the bloggers on twitter,fb and etc. such as following 10 blogs to qualify for 5 entries. sometimes i cant follow,because im at a limit.its really fustrating ,when you are already following 9 of them and cant follow the 10th one. i sure hope all the bloggers having sweepstakes get this right.

  14. Amen to the mandatory entries part! Now, I have never "made" anyone like a page, or follow a blog, etc for entries on one of my blog's giveaways. I prefer someone to follow via social media because they WANT to, not because I am forcing them too. And yes, large group giveaways are a TON of work! I have been steering clear of hosting any more. I don't have the time.
    Thanks for looking up the legalities!
    I pinned this for future reference for my next giveaway. 🙂

  15. Beth says:

    Thanks for the heads up! The FCC gives me a headache. 🙁
    I never cheat on giveaways BUT I once was unknowingly entering the wrong username for a certain social media (thought it was my name, which is what appears on everything, until I realized I ought to check via the profile URL…whoops!), so that was an unnecessary hassle for the host. 🙁

  16. terri jacobo says:

    wow jennifer! thankyou so much for posting this info! i have done a couple "giveaways" on my fb page to get likes and i will for sure take more time to follow the rules so that im doing it right- and so im covering my butt!

  17. AnnaZed says:

    I know you aren't a lawyer, but that was exceedingly well written! I'm still confused about the facebook likes though because every single giveaway i enter uses them – that's every single one , and I enter lots of them.

    The thing that makes me crazy (ok not crazy, but bugs me) is that the Rafflecopter (or Giveaway Tools or whatever) calls me one thing and links to a certain email (my facebook one) but on a lot of sites my commenting name is different (WordPress for example, and this site too) then my twitter name is different and the GFC name is yet another and I wonder if I get disqualified because the bloggers think I cheated and didn't do the required thing. I won't say I loose sleep over this (well, maybe once) but I do wonder.

    • JenniferJayne13 says:

      With so many options for entry it can be hard to verify. But when you use raffle copter it tracks those requests to the email attached. I can't speak for other bloggers, but I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their entries. I have emailed potential winners in the past to check and see if they followed me under a different name etc. And thanks 🙂 I love writing!

  18. charj says:

    Hmmm. . .I subscribed your blog with Sage RSS reader which is not tied to an email account or personal profile. Would you be able to verify this if I won a giveaway?

  19. terri says:

    i had no idea there were so many rules you bloggers had to follow for the giveaway. i agree with the 'too darn many things to click on for a small prize'. i am, though, very, very grateful for the giveaways and the generosity of the bloggers that put them on. i was tickled to read your post and i have a better idea of what it takes to put one on but i hope your information doesnt give anyone any ideas of 'how to make trouble for a blogger' now that they know the scoop. you know how some a-holes can be. i would hate for someone or a lot of someones to get in trouble just because someone is a jerk.

  20. Sara Hawkins says:

    Jennifer, thank you for quoting my article and linking to it. ~ Sara

  21. Thanks for the info! I totally agree with the annoyance of giveaways wanting people to follow things…If I want to follow you I will, it should not be a requirement to enter a giveaway.

  22. What great information!!! Thanks for opening my eyes to all this. I had no clue and I’m definitely not doing things the right way. Only partially right.

  23. lydsrich says:

    Great tips, Jennifer!

  24. stephanie says:

    Thanks for the tips. I enjoy entering, and have fun winning sometimes, but the embedded entries make me crazzy, fo here, enter this rafflecopter, to like ALL 10 fb pages, then back …. if I get lost, or my browser freezes, I am out! A small prize, should only have a few requirements.

  25. Wendy Mastin says:

    You Go Girl!!!

  26. Monica says:

    I have done a post like this before ;). People really need to study the rules of this. Just FYI validating entries generally you have to give it to the entrant. For example if you required someone to comment by telling you what their favorite color is and they completely ignored that question and just told you how great the product is and how much they want to win it you still have to give it to them because they did comment even if it wasn't to answer your specific question.

  27. Amazing, amazing, amazing. Thanks for this! Pinning it for the future 🙂

  28. Miss Angie says:

    Great article! Thanks for this info!

  29. […] Sh*t You Should Know About Blogging: Giveaways have Rules! Legally speaking, that is. […]

  30. SheisSantana says:

    I agree! I HATE giveaways that are so difficult to enter.. like i wanna follow 10 ppl blogs that I dont know… ugh… I like simple.. besides we dont want to "work" for a entry in a giveaway….

  31. Christy says:

    Great info! I've never run a contest, giveaway, etc. I may not have a ton of followers, but there's something satisfying about knowing every like, etc is legit. They "like" me because they are really interested in what I have to offer not because I'm giving away a prize:)


    • JenniferJayne13 says:

      So true! Organic growth is great 🙂 I like doing occasional giveaways as a way to treat my readers 🙂

  32. Sarah M says:

    I use Rafflecopter and make those entries optional, but they always include liking a page, following on twitter, etc. I guess I'm in the gray area. I've had vendors request mandatory entries before and I will be declining those in the future.

    • JenniferJayne13 says:

      Using Facebook and such as optional entries is OK. As long as they don't violate the FB policies. Some vendors don't realize that you can't request those as mandatory. 🙂

  33. Vikki Billings says:

    I enter giveaways, and lots of them. I just wanted to first say, Thank you to all the bloggers for what you do! I appreciate the work that goes into running these giveaways. There are a few things that make me consider not entering, The first thing is, if they want me to do 100 things for a coupon. I think what you have to do for entries should be equal to the prize that is being given away. I too consider it cheating if you say you did an entry but you really did not. I do not click it if I do not do it. Another thing is when it says that a giveaway ends at 11:59pm est and its 8pm est time and the giveaway is closed. Again please let me say how much I appreciate what bloggers do, I am disabled and my fiance and I barely make bills each month and the prizes I enter for are things I need or for things that I can give as a gift for my family. I am so grateful for what you all do, I was able to provide Christmas for my family through contests, giveaways and sweepstakes last year. It means a lot to me. I also feel like if all you are going to do is complain about giveaways do not enter. (<This is for those that enter) The Prizes are very real and as for me I appreciate so much what all of you do! Thanks!!

    • JenniferJayne13 says:

      I'm so glad that the giveaways help provide for your family! Those are the kinds of stories I love to hear 🙂 There are definitely some areas us bloggers need to get better at when it comes to giveaways. Some of its because we just don't know and I'm trying to help them learn 🙂

  34. […] UPDATE:  Read this awesome post (with links) about GiveAways– Busy Being Jennifer […]

  35. OneMommy says:

    Pinning this now!
    I always forget the "void where…"

  36. Bonny says:

    Thanks for the information. I've pinned it for when/if I decide to do more giveaways. I did quite a few for my blogiversary in April, but the time they took wasn't really worth it for me, especially when considering all those laws and rules.

  37. Tasha says:

    If you use Rafflecopter or Giveaway Tools for your giveaways, the majority of these rules are out the window. Both companies get around these rules safely. It's all about the wording. Especially for the Facebook rules.

  38. […] come up with a ton of results sharing about the same bits of information. My good friend Jenn even wrote a post about it. I started really researching giveaway rules recently in preparation of a pretty EPIC giveaway […]

  39. Cindy says:

    Wow, thank you so much for the info. I am putting together my first giveaway and this is just perfect info. Do you recommend a certain service to do the giveaway? I've seen a few out there.
    Thanks, Cindy @ Crazylou

  40. Annie says:

    Thank you for this! I am just starting out blogging and I read A LOT before I make any decisions. I was considering (at the beginning of December) a giveaway to attract some attention outside of my family and friends but it doesn’t seem worth it at the moment.

    • HI Annie! So glad you found this post! Blogging and giveaways in particular, can be time consuming! Feel free to pick my brain if you want! I’m always happy to share my blogging know-how with people that want to learn 🙂

  41. […] Laws concerning giveaways, sweepstakes and contests.  If you are considering or already do contests on your blog, you really should check out this article.  It is a wealth of information. […]

  42. […] Laws concerning giveaways, sweepstakes and contests.  If you are considering or already do contests on your blog, you really should check out this article.  It is a wealth of information. […]

  43. […] 3. Stuff You Should Know About Blogging: Giveaways Have Rules […]

  44. Rachel says:

    I totally just pinned this! Thanks for the resource. I love entering "sweepstakes" online and totally agree that the entry options should be brief…I also hate being sent to a list of a bunch of pages to like or follow as a single option!

  45. Meez Coins says:

    Rules are good. Don't get mad at me lol

  46. […] must have the same value assigned to them! Easiest to make them all +1 point.- Your giveaway NEEDS to have the Terms & Conditions in the widget or underneath the widget- You cannot extend a giveaway deadline, even if the entries […]

  47. Blair says:

    This is a great inspiring post.I am pretty much happy with your good stuff.You put very nice information

  48. Ruz Ramos says:

    Thanks a Million for thanks valuable information, As a newbie Blogger I appreciate! I have come a cross a few Bloggers that dont educate me as a newbie and sometimes leave me in the blue.. I Love to blog and share many of my finds and giveaways with my readers, I have a few more question to ask you if its possible..where can I message you or email you at?


  49. Gretcholi says:

    Great post! Thank you for the information- it's incredibly helpful as I plan my first giveaway. Plus your 'ranting and raving' at the end made me laugh, so double bonus :c)

  50. swathiiyer says:

    Nice to know that ,this will be handy when next giveaway in the blog.

  51. […] it just takes the right information to set you on the legal giveaway path! Both Jennifer (Click Here)  and Taylor  (Click Here & Here ) have great posts on this […]

  52. Brittany says:

    Thank you so much for this! I literally just went to my giveaway and updated some of the legal language based on this. Also, I completely agree with the amount of time it takes to put these things together – wow! I was really shocked my first time.

  53. Jessica says:

    Yes!!!!! Agreed about the cheating aspect. My first giveaway I was shocked by the number of entries versus the number of notifications I was getting for likes on my page!! Really folks, how long does it take to hit that Like button?? It's THERE. U DONT EVEN HAVE TO WORK TO DO IT. It's unfair for those who do the tasks. I don't care If u only contribute to one task if that's all u claim and u win, congrats to u!! But seriously. Why r u gonna claim u followed me on Twitter when I can see u NOT FOLLOWING me. It's almost comical. They think they r getting by on us, but nope. Jokes on u. I will always double check any entries u do for me from now on.

  54. do u need to pay anything if u win in a giveaway??

    • JenniferJayne13 says:

      Legally, the host of the giveaway can not require you to pay anything if you're the winner of the Giveaway/sweepstakes. Some bloggers/biz owners falsely think that they can require the winner to pay their own shipping fees. This adds value/consideration to the prize and puts it into the arena of an illegal lottery.

  55. Wendy Lindsey says:

    Who knew there were so many restrictions! I used to run a blog and held a handful of giveaways. I've also won a handful of giveaways hosted on other blogs, but it's been months since I've won anything. I think the biggest beef I've had as an entrant is not knowing if the giveaway is legit… how does anyone entering know for sure? And many of these blog giveaways are lengthy and time consuming.
    Thanks for sharing this info. If I ever get back into blogging, I will use this post as a reference. ; )

  56. […] Sh*t You Should Know About Blogging: Giveaways have Rules! […]

  57. Thanks so much for this very useful information. I am doing a simple gift card for the person who puts the right answer in the comments, who knew it was this involved!

  58. Jessica says:

    Great post! Thanks!

  59. Kat B says:

    Did you happen to come across anything in regards to the following?

    I’m launching my website/blog soon and I planned on doing a “giveaway” of sorts, however it isn’t meant to be any sort of “entry”, and I don’t think “giveaway” is even an appropriate word. What I’m looking to do is send framed art prints (my original art, of course) to the first X people who follow my blog. More of a “thank you for supporting my first steps in blogging” whether or not they stick around. Any advice is appreciated and, of course, I understand that you are not a lawyer and anything I do is at my own risk. Thanks!


    • Jennifer says:

      HI Kat!

      I’d say thats more of a “Freebie” for subscribers. If you can make sure that its clear that only X number of subscribers receive it on your sign up form, you should be good. ALso be sure to stay on top of the number, so as soon as you’ve met “X” you can remove the offer. Oh, and I just thought, that you’ll need to offer people the option to “opt out” of receiving a physical product, because not all will want to provide a mailing address. Hope that helps!

  60. Shameka says:

    I could not have come across your blog post at a better time. Thanks for all of your knowledge in regards to Done Correct giveaways. I want to do a launch celebration by doing a give away/sweepstakes for the launch of by blog/youtube channel and am curious if the rules are the same on all social media platforms or is there different rules for each platforms?

    • Jennifer says:

      I’d double check the terms and service of each platform to make sure you’re not violating those, but otherwise, the legal side is the same across the board 🙂

  61. Alex says:

    Thanks for sharing

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