Blog Promotions: The Difference Between Giveaways, Contests, and Sweepstakes

We’re having our first giveaway at Bloggy Law: a free Blogger Rate conference pass to BlogHer PRO ’13. Before we get to the BlogHer PRO conference ticket giveaway, let’s do a little blog and brand building and talk giveaways, contests, and sweepstakes.

This article will address the difference between giveaways, contests, and sweepstakes, which you need to know if you or your company are giving your customers or readers a “free” prize. Depending on what type of promotion you run, different laws apply.

Am I running a giveaway, contest, or sweepstakes?

This is a bit of a trick question.

First, what’s known in the online space and blogging world as a “giveaway” is actually either a contest or a sweepstakes, depending on how you’ve set it up.

If you pick the winner of your giveaway based on skill to win the prize and your participants have to pay some value to participate in the giveaway, your giveaway is actually a contest. This means you have to comply with the contest laws that govern your blog or company.

On the other hand, if your readers do not have to pay value or use any skill to participate, you’re running a sweepstakes.

Second, your giveaway could fall into the illegal lottery category.

If your readers pay or promise to pay value for the chance to win the prize you’re offering, you’ve created a lottery, which is probably illegal in most cases – and definitely illegal in California.

Why does the type of promotion matter?

You’ll always have to follow the federal, state, and local rules that apply to your promotion regardless of what type of prize event you run, so in that sense, it doesn’t matter. Where you really need to be careful is avoiding running a promotion that is actually an illegal lottery.

How do I avoid running a lottery?

Since most giveaways run on blogs or on social media properties involve a prize (the freebie you’re giving away) and chance (winner selected at random), the area you need to pay attention to making sure you don’t require consideration – that “pay value” piece discussed above. Consideration has been interpreted differently in various jurisdictions, but there are a few main things to keep in mind.


Ask yourself:

  • Am I requiring monetary payment as an entry requirement?
  • Am I requiring something of non-monetary value, but value nonetheless to myself, my blog, or my business? (The law isn’t clear, but it is entirely possible that a court or regulatory agency could find that non-monetary consideration could include things such as Facebook likes, Pinterest pins or re-pins, tweets, Instagram sharing, Google+ +1’ing, signing up for a newsletter, providing a name and e-mail address, filling out a survey, logging in to your site to enter, requiring a lengthy entry process, visiting another site and reporting back in a comment on your post, etc.).
  • Am I requiring excessive tweets, likes, or social sharing? (Keep in mind Twitter’s contest guidelines that specifically discourage posting the same tweet repeatedly).

If you answered yes to any one of the above, it’s possible you may be running up against lottery issues and it’s time to either scrap the giveaway, rework it, or seek legal counsel before proceeding.

Note: Although a giveaway is included in this post, we are not representing or advising that you should run your sweepstakes in the same manner. Should you choose to copy the giveaway method and/or language, you do so at your own risk. We advise consulting your own attorney if you need legal advice regarding promotions. Bloggy Law and its owner do not provide legal advice on this blog and you cannot rely on it as a substitute for legal counsel.

What are your biggest concerns or questions about running promotions from your blog or on your social media properties? Share them in the comments or e-mail us at bloggylawyer [at] gmail [dot] com and we might address it in an upcoming article or in our weekly series, What’s The Deal.

BlogHerPRO ’13 Conference Ticket Giveaway

BlogHer PRO ’13 is a business development intensive, a sort of mini-MBA for bloggers and entrepreneurs ready to take their businesses to the next level. Learn from pros like keynote speakers marketing expert and film producer/director Porter Gale and musician and social media phenomenon Daria Musk, as well as a powerful lineup of business superstars, like Simple Green Smoothies‘ own Jadah Sellner on how to use design and community to productize your brand (who we had the privilege of keynoting our The Morning Assembly Bloggers’ Night of Big Ideas: Turning Your Passion Into a Profitable Business event earlier this year), MeMeTales Founder Maya Bisineer on taking your blog and business mobile, and Connie Chang, social media strategist at LinkedIn.

I'm speaking at BlogHerPRO '13!

The focus of this year’s BlogHer PRO is Positioning, Productizing, Prospecting, Pitching & Pricing, Partnerships, and Producing. Tuesday, October 22nd is a half-day single track business development intensive and Wednesday, October 23rd will offer a Content Track and a Monetization Track, with an Eat-and-Earn lunch break featuring demos and networking opportunities.

I’ll be speaking on Tuesday afternoon at the Partnerships Panel with Kristin Herwitz, in-house counsel for BlogHer and owner of the food blog, Batter Licker. We’ll be demystifying legalese in contracts and giving you tools for effectively negotiating contracts.

Enter Bloggy Law’s giveaway for one conference pass to BlogHer PRO ’13 on October 22-23, 2013:

1) Mandatory: Subscribe to our newsletter here with your first and last name and valid e-mail address;

2) Optional: Tweet that you entered this giveaway and include this link: and the hashtag #BloggyLawGiveaway.

Giveaway Rules

  • No purchase necessary.
  • Prize is one Blogger Rate conference pass to BlogHer PRO ’13, to be fulfilled by BlogHer, Inc. No other prize or compensation is included (e.g., a Company Rate conference pass; transportation expenses; lodging; etc.). As a BlogHer PRO speaker, BlogHer, Inc. provided me the opportunity to give away one Blogger Rate pass to my readers. If BlogHer, Inc. does not fulfill your prize, Bloggy Law and its owner are not responsible for prize fulfillment (i.e., Bloggy Law will not buy you a ticket to BlogHer PRO).
  • Open to individual U.S. residents aged 18 and older only; void where prohibited.
  • One entry per person; unless entrant fulfills optional entry, in which case two entries total per person are permitted.
  • Giveaway ends Friday, October 11, 2013, at 5:00 p.m. PDT. Winner will be selected randomly and notified via the e-mail provided during newsletter subscription sign up (i.e., the e-mail you used for the mandatory entry) on Friday, October 11, 2013.
  • Winner agrees to allow Bloggy Law to share his/her e-mail address and first and last name to BlogHer, Inc. for fulfillment of the prize.
  • Prize unclaimed after 48 hours from notification is forfeited and Bloggy Law reserves the right to select another winner.
  • Bloggy Law reserves the right to cancel the giveaway at any time.
  • A full price Blogger Rate ticket to BlogHer PRO ’13 is $199.00 as of October 7, 2013. Winner is responsible for reporting the value of his/her prize where required.

Disclaimer:  This article is intended to be a general resource only and is not intended to be nor does it constitute legal advice.  Any recommendations are based on personal, not professional, opinion only.  For information on how to use this site, please read our Disclaimers and FAQ pages.