Are Live Giveaways [On Twitch] Worth It?

This article is one of many follow-ups to our most popular article, The Honest Way To Succeed On Twitch And Social Media – if you love it, please leave comments.  We are considering doing video, eBooks, and other content to help everyday folks really figure out social media..  Give us the creative nudge we need and share this forward… Or leave some thoughtful comments to keep the discussion going (to may have mentioned this already)!

Giveaways are something everyone has dabbled with on Twitch.  They’re a fairly common practice yet few really know what they are doing.  This is not a jab at Twitch streamers, bloggers, or anyone doing business and creating online.  Social media is something you just never fully master, even if you have formal education and extensive experience.

A debate I’ve had with many Twitch streamers, including our pals Link & Lily over at Linkwall, is this:

Are giveaways even worth it?

That’s a loaded question because, if giveaways didn’t produce results, people would never do them.  So the real issues here revolve around whether giveaways are right for your brand and how you should go about doing them.


My Fun (And Not So Fun) Experience With Giveaways

Once upon a time, I was a partner and part owner over at Social Prize, a company that was poised to take the social media world by storm.  Me and Spathizilla turned the platform into something worth talking about.  On the surface, it was a giveaway platform like Rafflecopter, Woobox, Offerpop, and whatever else you can think of, but we were building it to be more than that.

Sadly, our vision would take time to bring to life and we came into the business after the company had pissed money away.  It’s no fun building up a company when it’s recovering from serious debt and really piss-poor missteps..  But that’s another story for another time.

Being a part of Social Prize and involved with countless giveaways as a publisher, consumer, and product manager made me realize that giveaways really do work..  But most people on social media, Twitch in particular, are doing them wrong because they don’t have that background.  There are legal risks, hidden costs, subtle strategies, and much more to consider beyond the simple tactics and tech of merely executing them.

Let’s explore some of the nuances of giveaways together…

Fat Business Man With A Cigar

Legal Poop About Giveaways, Sweepstakes, And Contests

First and foremost, it is very important to differentiate contests from giveaways because they are NOT the same thing.  People often use the terms “giveaway” and “contest” interchangeably but, the bigger your brand, the more dangerous this faux pas becomes.  Here’s why:

  • Giveaways [and sweepstakes] are supposed to be 100% random or luck-driven.  Any performance piece or “purchase” could put you in the dangerous territory of illegal gambling.  At the very least, labeling a contest as a “giveaway” would be a failure at managing expectations.
  • Contests are performance-driven so the time required to succeed in them is far greater than what you’d see in giveaways.  It’s also more easily understood that it’s not a “set it and forget it” proposition for publishers and participants alike; that is, people know there is a need to put in continued effort.  Conversely, the notion of daily entries on giveaways often eludes people.

In addition to the aforementioned distinctions, there are legal risks with giveaways, contests, or any sort of social media or marketing promotion.  Twitch continues to update their Terms Of Service but this is what they have to say about promotions (i.e. self-promotion and sales/marketing) in general as of March 26, 2015.  You are not allowed to…

make unsolicited offers, advertisements, proposals, or send junk mail or spam to other Users of the Twitch Service, including, without limitation, unsolicited advertising, promotional materials, or other solicitation material, bulk mailing of commercial advertising, chain mail, informational announcements, charity requests, petitions for signatures, or any of the foregoing related to promotional giveaways (such as raffles and contests), and other similar activities;

Yet people do giveaways on Twitch all the time.  As with any legal jargon, you have to read between the lines.  Twitch has been known to say things like “we are in the progress of updating our terms of service” and “we have discretionary power [to do whatever the hell we want]” so be wary of this.  There are always rules and laws on the books that don’t get enforced until you ruffle someone’s feathers.

The key to any sort of marketing is making sure you represent your brand properly, manage expectations effectively, and avoid misrepresenting your offerings.  In other words, don’t bait and switch people or you may find yourself in the midst of a legal battle.  With regards to Twitch, you want to make sure the brunt of your activity is gaming-related (non-gaming content can get you suspended like we did on GeekyAntics TV) and serves their best interests first and foremost; namely, you want to keep their users happy and on their platform.

No Purchase Required.  Make sure your giveaway has an easy entry method and an alternative for those that may not be able to get in via conventional means.  The bigger the prize, the more important this is.  While people are paying with their time and money, make sure they are not actually spending money to earn an entry.   There are also rules that vary by state and country regarding the prize value, tax liability, and the like but that information can be found online or via an attorney for little or no money if you’re smart about it.


What Are You REALLY Trying To Do With Your Giveaways?

Before you do a giveaway (or another one), be honest with yourself:

What are you REALLY trying to do with your giveaways?

If you can honestly say you are doing it 100% for the community with no concern about what sort of results you get..  AND you can afford to spend money frivolously, then you can probably skip the rest of this article.  For the rest of us who are NOT one-percenters, though…

Giveaways can serve many purposes but essentially you are looking at these goals and benefits:

  • Simply pad your numbers
  • Gain a temporary spike in traffic/attention
  • Promote sponsors, affiliates, and partners
  • Grow your audience
  • Reward your most loyal supporters
  • Improve retention/loyalty
  • Re-activate your audience
  • Identify your core audience
  • Build credibility or trust
  • Expand reach and brand awareness

Most folks I have encountered get a fleeting sense of gratification from padding their numbers or seeing a spike in attention.  The problem with this short-sighted approach is that you end up attracting people who only want free stuff and don’t care what you have to share.  This is why some Twitch streamers think giveaways are a waste of time.

The truth is that, as with any marketing, you want to extend your reach.  The people you initially reach may not be your target audience but they can help you connect to those that are closer to the mark.  The better your messaging and engagement, the greater the chance that your content or promotion will go viral.  Just remember: viral marketing is as much an art as it is a science so you have to be willing to experiment and fail a lot before you reach a major break-through.

Be honest about what you want from your giveaways and other marketing efforts so that you can establish mutually-beneficial scenarios and avoid any bitterness or burnout down the road.  It’s okay to be selfish but make sure you are providing value for what you expect in exchange.  The more involved giveaway entry methods are, the greater the immediate and potential rewards and feedback should be.


Why Live Giveaways Are Mostly A Waste Of Resources

Do you want to “own” your audience or just give money away, perhaps making someone else even richer?  The answer should be simple yet content marketers every day are giving money away to Amazon / Twitch, Facebook, Google, and other juggernauts who really don’t need it.  Then they ultimately burn and crash.  It’s a shame and it happens all the time.

Live and flash giveaways are fun but they should not be your primary focus.  Why?  Because chances are you are drawing people deeper into someone’s ecosystem and not your own.  On Twitch, live giveaways may get you more followers but, really, you’re just helping Twitch retain their audience while you hope those followers eventually come back or at least stayed subscribed.

Doing giveaways during a Twitch, Google Hangout, Periscope/Meerkat, podcast, or other stream (or any live event, at that) is a fun way of rewarding those that joined you live..  But it doesn’t have the long-lasting effects of, say, a giveaway on your own web site or blog.  Driving people to a place where you have more creative freedom, flexibility, and fun is key.

I’m not saying don’t do live giveaways but, instead, try adding an extra step in there.  Make sure people really want the freebies.  The extra step of going to a blog, web site, or even a Facebook fan page will help you determine who your highly-engaged and most loyal supporters, your core audience, are and those are the people that will help you get real results.  Those are also the people you really want the reward and appreciate the community and/or content you are building, not the lurkers who drive-by to snag goodies and then never even so much as send you a post card.  In the marketing world, requiring extra steps is part of pre-qualifying leads and driving more targeted, engaged traffic. On Twitch, it is possible to reward your most active and oldest followers (an effective approach since people can easily unfollow on Twitch) but the ease-of-entry (low barrier to entry) makes the reward less fulfilling, I find.

I’m a big fan of Rafflecopter, one of our sponsors at GeekyAntics, but there are other options.  What I like about this approach to giveaways is that you can create landing pages where you can drive people through the desired behaviors you want to drive.  The giveaway widgets can be published on multiple sites and Facebook fan pages to drive these valuable activities. For example, if you want people to subscribe to your mailing list or follow you on Facebook.  This helps with a thing called CRO, which refers to these fancy little marketing things called conversion funnels

classic-conversion-funnel Conversion-Rate-Optimization-Funnel-Web-waverers-versus-loyalists

Giveaways Done Right Are Effective For Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)

In my consulting work, one thing I have learned for certain is that most online content is not designed with CRO in mind.  Twitch is especially bad at converting people; that is, converting a viewer to a follower and then a subscriber natively is hard enough..   And GOOD LUCK if you want to convert those viewers into something beyond the scope of Twitch (which, BTW, technically is against their Terms Of Service – DOH!).

If you are doing anything online, converting leads into more meaningful things such as friends, affiliates, partners, super fans, clients, or whatever it is you seek..  THAT should be your focus.  Giveaways done right are highly effective for CRO but don’t expect to get it right the first time or so.  That’s why optimization is an ongoing process, not a single tactic or magic bullet.

Think about it this way: you build a giveaway to focus on specific behaviors or a single behavior/platform you want to really develop.  You communicate clear value for the activity or task.  Each time someone completes such tasks or activities, they are closer to you and your brand(s).

Take the example of Rafflecopter.  The giveaway participant that subscribes, follows, favorites, comments, and completes every call to action thereof on your giveaway [or landing page] is exponentially more likely to tell friends about your content and return to check out your other content.  The more involved an activity or behavior is, the deeper in a conversion funnel it is and the harder it is to drive. In other words, the greater the value to you is, the more trust and value you need to build to drive conversions.

As such, a great way to approach giveaways or any social media marketing is to have conversion goals in mind before launching.  Consider the following:

  • Which behaviors do you value most?
  • Which activities require the most trust and time?
  • What can you do to earn or exchange for that time and trust?
  • Is your value proposition clear enough to engage the desired behaviors and results?
  • Are the prizes/incentives/value a fair exchange for what you want in exchange?

Giveaways have to be balanced so that there is a sense of balance and fairness.  Once you have your conversion goals mapped out, rank them and weigh them a bit.  Get a feel for what things are the hardest to drive versus what is most important to you in the long run and immediately.  This will help you figure out what to focus on now. Celebrate the small wins while building towards high value goals.

E-mail marketing is a great way to do lead capture and lead nurturing.  As such, make sure you at least capture valid e-mail addresses as it not only helps you fulfill prizes but also build stronger relationships.  In this manner, you can drive people from the first date to the second date and, ultimately, “best friends for life” or superfan status!

Giveaways CAN be effective as a start but remember to drive activity from event to event. It’s not how many followers, subscribers, likes, and other crap you get..  It’s what you do beyond that.  Keep that momentum going and then you can have fun with giveaways and social media marketing.

Most of all, remember that you want to commit to a series of small test runs.  Experiment to see what works best for you.  Keep it simple.  A sustainable long-term strategy is better than a huge, short-lived tactic.  You want to be able to build upon successes and scale your results. Think of it all as a marathon, not a sprint, and you’ll drive results that really matter.

Good luck, friends – and don’t forget to enter our GeekyAntics giveaways!

Oprah Winfrey says we are all tiny.

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Remember: you’re not oprah – Keep It Simple and Small…  At least for starters!


Hello, my name is Yomar but friends call me Yogi!I am the founder of GANG.My goal is to help the little geeks create a voice for themselves and grow their audience without the usual exclusivity and snobbery found in the world, both offline and online.My background is in IT, marketing, writing, and game design.I'm excited to put my diverse skill sets to some good use and help others!

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About Yogizilla

Hello, my name is Yomar but friends call me Yogi! I am the founder of GANG. My goal is to help the little geeks create a voice for themselves and grow their audience without the usual exclusivity and snobbery found in the world, both offline and online. My background is in IT, marketing, writing, and game design. I'm excited to put my diverse skill sets to some good use and help others!


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