I am warning all companies right here and now, not all bloggers are honest. Now you will find the vast majority of them are, but then speckled in there are a few bad apples. It happens in everything, but you have got to do your due diligence in researching a blogger.
And what I’m here to talk about today is the bloggers who don’t stand up to the standards I would think a company wants.
I have been running giveaways here on my blog for the past year plus. It’s great for the blogger to get more exposure and for the company too. But there are certain rules that we as bloggers have to follow. And I know at first I wasn’t aware of them until I started talking to more bloggers.
If a blogger has been in this for a while, then I would expect her to know her stuff. Now she doesn’t have to know EVERYTHING pertaining to FTC (Federal Trade Commission) guidelines when it comes to running giveaways, but honestly some of this is just common sense. It needs to be fair and it needs to be clearly stated who is eligible.
Over my time as a blogger who runs giveaways I have been doing my due diligence in finding out the best way to run giveaways and making sure it is done correctly. While no one from the FTC is actually monitoring the millions of blogs that are out there I certainly want to make sure all of my ducks are in a row and that I’m not doing something wrong which a disgruntled loser of said giveaway could call the powers that be attention to.
So I have read up about everything I can get my hands on. Things from the Bureau of Consumer Protection about promotion. Which basically tells you how not to be deceptive. Don’t dangle a carrot in front of people’s faces that you’re not going to follow through on for whatever reason. And before you say, but I’m not selling anything here, oh yes you absolutely are. You are selling yourself and people are paying with their time and trust me, people do not want their time wasted.
Tons of bloggers have talked about this like here with Blog Giveaways: Staying Legal. One thing that stuck out to me here was that you have to accept all valid entries. And valid is pretty loose in favor of the entrant. If you require a comment and they don’t answer your specific question you still have to count it because they took the time to do the comment. Remember this one people because this is what has prompted my writing about this topic today.
Then there is this little gem from Social Media Explorer called Next Crackdown On Bloggers: Sweepstakes And Contests. I love this one because it breaks down all of the things you must make clear in your rules and guidelines. A great check list to keep when you’re putting together your giveaway or sweepstakes rather. It also explains the difference between these things just for clarification purposes. And did you know that Facebook has its own guidelines that cover sweepstakes? That’s right, when you get Facebook involved they don’t look too kindly on certain things. Well, that’s linked to in there too.
So lots of reading has to be done to make sure you’re following the letter of the law when it comes to running giveaways on your blog. And this is just federally speaking. Each state has their own rules too. For example, New York and Florida both have certain bonding criteria of a sweepstakes. If a prize is valued at a certain amount of money, then you have to get it bonded. And that might be a hefty price tag for the blogger and one which she may not be willing or able to deal with.
How Does This Hurt Companies?
So now you’re wondering as a large company if you outsource giveaways to bloggers, then how does their mishandling of a giveaway hurt me any? Well, you see the company is still responsible for this stuff. Of course you can only do so much. Telling a blogger what needs to be in there for example. If you can prove that you supplied all of the requirements to the blogger and she did not follow through, then you’re probably going to be free and clear. But remember this is also taking up your valuable time having to fight claims of mishandling of a giveaway.
So it’s best to make sure you’re working with a legitimate blogger. One who’s going to follow the rules. Not one who likes to break the rules and do things however she wants to do. Not someone who refuses to take the time to learn the laws which regulate this kind of business. Not someone who bans people from her site just because she doesn’t like them.
And realize that people who are aware of the rules are going to be entering these giveaways too.
That’s Right, I Enter Giveaways
In addition to the occasional giveaway that I run on my blog I also enter them from time to time. And I will tell you I get a bad taste in my mouth not only about a blogger who doesn’t follow basic rules pertaining to giveaways, but also about a company. Because between the two one of you should know what’s going on.
Here’s a story about what happened to me which has put a sour taste in my mouth about blogger giveaways. Now keeping in mind that I truly believe this is an extremely rare situation. I believe in my heart that most bloggers want to do honest and fair giveaways for their readers. And of course in many cases we are not lawyers and are not always completely up to date on the laws, but basic common sense does tell us that we need to run fair giveaways and there are certain ways to achieve that. Banning people is not one of them.
So yesterday I saw that Danielle Elwood dot com was giving away a blogger notebook. Nothing big, just a little one subject notebook that she probably paid all of 50 cents for. I don’t really need a notebook, but I’m a blogger and exactly the person this giveaway was being promoted to. So I entered. There were three things on this Rafflecopter widget that I had to do. Leave a comment with the url to my blog, like on Facebook, and follow on Twitter.
Now, I will admit Danielle does not like me. As a matter of fact she has me banned from her twitter. I have “known” Danielle since before she was a blogger and I have challenged her every step of the way with what she writes. I rarely see eye to eye with her. And she does not like when I point out her inconsistencies. And I’m not talking how she changed her mind on something about being a parent from her pre-parent days, I’m talking about how she writes one thing on one blog and then a few days later something completely opposite on another blog.
So why do I continue to follow her and read her? Because we are in a very similar niche. Heck we even live in the same state. Because I have two children who are the same age as her children and I personally think it’s good to be open minded enough to read opinions that don’t jive with your own. If nothing else it makes my convictions stronger that I am doing things right. I am not fearful of a different opinion. I encourage it and ask for it. People like Danielle on the other hand throw temper tantrums and cry troll when people don’t agree with her. Certainly makes it difficult to learn from others when you’re sticking your head in the sand.
But that’s neither here nor there. I entered the giveaway. I commented with my blog URL as requested, I tried to follow on twitter but couldn’t, and when I went back to see if my comment had been approved just moments later I got this page:
See up there in the browser? That’s her website address and this is the page I am now brought to because she has decided to have a personal vendetta against me. I think it’s safe to assume that I will not be winning that notebook. That my comment did not get approved.
In this case this is a self hosted giveaway so at least she’s not dragging a poor unsuspecting company into her illegal activity. But as a consumer, I am not happy about this. I have just as much right to enter this giveaway as the next person. And remember what I said to remember from earlier? The thing about determining a valid entry? Yup, I took the time to comment. Heck, I answered the question she asked even. And literally minutes after doing so I have been banned from her blog.
Now you tell me, is that fair? Is it fair to say well I don’t like this person or what she stands for so I’m just throwing this entry out? No, it’s not fair or right at all. And according to the FTC, it’s also illegal.
It’s illegal on so many levels. The Bureau of Consumer Protection would consider that to be a violation of the FTC’s Deception Policy Statement. While no actual money changed hand, remember I am still a consumer of the blog and what she’s selling is her words. I was deceived into believing I had a chance at winning something she intended to be for blogger. I clicked on the link from her Facebook fan page which had these words with the link:
Blogger? Enter to win! I am giving away a blog notebook!
So, looks pretty deceptive to me. Yes, I’m a blogger. I went there to enter to win and my entry has been declined because why? Not because I’m not a blogger because I clearly proved that by linking to my blog as asked. Not because I don’t live in the US. Not because I’m not 18 or older. Nope, simply because she does not like me. It’s clear as day here people. And that is unfair. We don’t get to pick and choose who can enter our giveaways and the winners need to be chosen completely at random, not after weeding out all of the perceived bad apples.
What Does This Mean For Companies Moving Forward?
While this particular giveaway was self hosted I will tell you this doesn’t help companies moving forward. When she has a giveaway which is sponsored by a company, which she will, I am now unfairly not being allowed to enter her giveaway. How do you feel about that companies? I see a giveaway posted somewhere for a cute cloth diaper lets say and I click on it and guess what? I’m deceived again into thinking I could enter, but instead I’m brought to the same page saying, “You are banned.”
So guess what companies! This little stunt of hers has now just fallen right into your laps. Every company from here on out who works with Danielle Elwood on a giveaway is now violating FTC guidelines and they are deceiving consumers. Is that what you want to get yourself involved in? I certainly wouldn’t want my name being associated with FTC violations and deception of consumers.
What’s A Company To Do?
More research has got to be done of bloggers before you align yourself with them. It can’t be based solely on numbers because you are talking about your reputation. You must delve deeper into the blogger. Do a google search. Read up. Do your homework.
Read how they have run their past giveaways. See how things were handled. If possible see if problems came up. You might even want to try contacting other companies, especially if there was an issue, to find out how it was addressed and what it was like working with that blogger.
And please make your requirements more stringent. Require them to not have people banned from their site or from commenting. Require that they not have people banned from Facebook and Twitter if they are going to use that as an entry. And require them to dot all of their i’s and cross all of their t’s.
Read up on the FTC guidelines when it comes to running giveaways. Give your bloggers the tools to represent you correctly. Then you can avoid embarrassing and costly situations like this. Because lets face it, this does cost you as a company.
As a blogger I will tell you I also am not opposed to signing contracts which tell people clearly what is expected. This way both parties are in agreement. It protects me, the blogger, and it protects you, the company. I have in many cases signed contracts to work with a company and I do everything in my power to make sure I am representing them the way they want to be represented. I hope more companies see the advantages of protecting themselves in this way.
This should all be common sense, but sadly it is not and we have to protect ourselves. Have you been the victim of an unfairly run giveaway?