Thursday, March 22, 2012

Checklist for Doing Reviews and Giveaways on Your Blog

Many bloggers know that reviews and giveaways are a way to attract more visitors to your blog. The downside of doing reviews and giveaways is that some people are only looking for contests to enter and prizes to win, so they may not stick around after the giveaway ends. The upside is that you have the chance to review products, you have the opportunity to give back to your readers, you can potentially gain more of a following, and you can help companies you love gain more exposure. I wanted to create a basic checklist for bloggers new to doing reviews and giveaways, so they could easily start out with all of the information they need. I did do a basic post about this before, in regards to where to find items to review. I will also explore each topic further, and I will include links to some helpful information.

So, before you start doing reviews and giveaways, here are a few questions to ask yourself.

Why would you want to do reviews and giveaways on your blog? Is it all about the fun of doing the review and giveaway, or is there work involved? How much work is involved? Doing reviews and giveaways are fun, but they also take work. Click here to learn more.

Do you have social media networks in place? Sponsors want to know your numbers. Some want to see a large following, while other only care that you have some amount of readers. Click here to learn why social networking is so important.

Do you have unique content and quality articles on your blog? You should have a good mix of helpful information and quality posts on your blog. When new visitors come to enter a giveaway, you need to have posts they want to read, so they stick around for a while. Learn more about creating quality posts on your blog.

Do you have a disclosure policy? By law, you need to have a disclosure policy in place on your blog. You need to notify visitors to your blog what types of payment you receive for posts, and if that affects the content you post. A lot of bloggers have different opinions on the way disclosures should be worded, but you should be transparent and let readers know you received an item for free or if you were paid to write that post. Even if you dislike having to reveal that information, it is a law. Create a free disclosure policy.

Do you have review and giveaway guidelines in place? The review and giveaway guidelines are different than the disclosure policy, as this is more for potential sponsors. You should have a page on your blog that covers what types of items you will accept for reviews and giveaways, such as only family-friendly items or no sample-sized products. You should also include information about not paying for shipping fees and that the sponsor agrees to send the giveaway item directly to the winner.

So, now you have reached out to a few sponsors or maybe someone contacted you. What do you do now? Ask yourself these questions.

Have you covered all the details with the sponsor? For the details, you need to find out if the sponsor wants the review posted within a certain time frame and if you are willing to do that. Be open and honest, if you know you may not be able to do the review for 4 weeks, then let the sponsor know the review will be posted within 4 weeks.  Ask the sponsor if he or she wants you to link to any particular sites in the review/giveaway, such as a website, Facebook page, Twitter account, etc.

Will you use Rafflecopter or do entries as blog comments? Before Rafflecopter, it was the norm to do blog comments as entries, then readers could leave a new comment for each extra or additional entry. Rafflecopter may seem challenging at first, but it really makes the giveaway much easier for both you and your readers. Some people skip blog giveaways that don't have Rafflecopter.  You don't have to use Rafflecopter, but I do recommend it. I will cover Rafflecopter basics in an upcoming post.

Did you take personal pictures? This is something that even I have a difficult time doing sometimes. We definitely try out and review each product we receive to review, but sometimes I get so caught up with everything that I forget to snap a personal picture before posting the review. The pictures that a sponsor sends you are fine to use, but a lot of people do like to see a real picture of the item being used. Sponsors also appreciate the personal pictures, so they know their item really was reviewed. If you do not want photos of your children or family on your blog, consider just snapping a picture of the item somewhere in your home.

Did you include a little information about the company? Not everyone does this with blog reviews, but I make it a point to include this information. Some sponsors send me a little paragraph they would like included, but I usually write my own. It does take some effort, since you should not just copy and paste anything from the sponsor's website. (If you do this, you need to give credit back to the company where you took the paragraph from. You should only use a few sentences at the most, otherwise your content will be flagged for plagiarism which can affect your Google page rank.) I recommend taking a minute to read the about us information on the sponsor's website and writing your own paragraph. This gives you unique content and shows the sponsor that you took the time to create a quality post.

OK, your post is up. Now what?

Did you send the sponsor a link to the review/giveaway post? The sponsor will probably want to know when the review and giveaway is posted, so it is a good idea to send him or her an email with a link once you have it ready.

Are you promoting the review and/or giveaway? If you only did a review, you should at least post it on your Facebook page and Tweet about it. If you are also doing a giveaway, you should post it to your Facebook page and Tweet about it, at least a few times. You can also add it to sweepstakes directories and giveaway linky's on other blogs.

The giveaway has ended. What's next?

Did you validate the entries? If you have a lot of entries, it is time consuming and difficult to check every single entry. What I know that many other bloggers do is to only check the entries of the winner. If you used Rafflecopter, it will be easy to select the winner. You can randomly select the winner through your Rafflecopter page, and then open the list of entries to see that winner's entries. Make sure to check and see if the winner really did leave a comment, follow you on Twitter, etc.

Did you email the winner? Now that you have a winner, you need to send the winner an email and get the information the sponsor requested (email, mailing address, product choice if they had options with the giveaway). If sponsors want to handle the finer details, such as product size/style/design themselves, then you most likely just need to confirm the email address and possibly get a mailing address.

Did the winner respond? Many bloggers give the winner 48 hours to respond before selecting a new winner.

Did you send the sponsor the winner's contact information? Make sure to send the winner's contact information to the sponsor. You should also include a little note letting them know you appreciate this opportunity. You may even want to say you would love to work with them in the future, if they are interested.

Hopefully this is the point where everything ends and you have successfully completed your first review and giveaway. Unfortunately, (and this is rare) a sponsor does not send the winner the prize. In these cases, you may need to contact the sponsor again with a friendly reminder, and if you continue to receive no response, you may have to try and contact them another way (through Facebook, another contact email address, through Twitter, etc.) If this continues, you may have to update your blog post letting readers know they never followed through. It is disappointing when this happens, but this is not the norm. Many sponsors are excellent to work with and always reply to emails within a timely manner.

Do you have any information to add to this checklist of questions to ask yourself about doing reviews and giveaways on your blog?

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