Many blog for the joy of sharing and writing, but when it comes to your creative business, your blog is an important marketing tool. Ultimately, you need to get in front of people’s eyes, so the right people can find you and fall in love with you. Great products, services and content keep people coming back, but driving new traffic to your blog is essential as well. Otherwise, you won’t get new readers to continue growing your audience.

So here enters the giveaway – one of the many marketing promotions used by bloggers. It is meant to attract lots of people given the FREE aspect, but are you really accomplishing something? I’ve been trying to understand how one goes about a giveaway and if they truly work as a marketing tool. Of course, I understand that many giveaways are about giving back to your current readers…sort of like a thank you or perhaps a pay-it-forward idea. But I’m talking about using giveaways as a business tool.

I’ve experimented with giveaways in the past

There’s no doubt that giveaways attract people. I’ve had experience in getting a huge boost in traffic and so many more comments than usual. But sometimes I think you are attracting the wrong people. After all, there are websites dedicated to simply listing giveaways online. I’m pretty sure there are crawlers out there who enter all of them and win just by sheer volume and chance. It doesn’t seem like a giveaway would attract  the right people. In fact, it sort of runs into the subject of free stuff and how offering lots of free, actually dilutes your audience. I know that Sister Diane has blogged a lot about the topic and it’s definitely something I wrestle with.

If you are trying to make a business out of your creative work, getting an audience of people who are only looking for free stuff doesn’t work! Certainly there’s something to be said about community participation and the sharing of ideas, so it’s not all about sales. But ultimately, you do have to find potential customers…otherwise your business isn’t a business.

In my opinion, I think giveaways do work, to a certain extent. If you think about advertising in general, there’s the idea of brand advertising. You are just getting your brand out there and more known in the community. So you aren’t pushing a specific product with your advertising, you are just saying here I am and I’m kick ass because of xyz. This plants a seed…so when people actually need your particular product or service, they will say – hey, I have heard of them before…and hopefully it leads to sales.

So giveaways do help in the brand advertising department…but you have to realize that posting on your blog alone, will mostly attract the “I want free people” and your current readers. You have to do a lot of promotion to get brand new people into the game. That’s why many folks do a giveaway on someone else’s blog. You auotmatically get the brand advertising with a whole different audience. In a way, it is like partnering up with another business…because you might have a common audience.

I’ve joined giveaway events – reaching really huge audiences

But what if you want more? This is when a giveway is coupled with a product review or hook to sign-up or get connected in some way. When you include a product review, you are in fact trying to “sell” a particular something…usually what you are giving away. No doubt that if someone really wants the product, they’ll just buy it directly. So you get the branding and the sales offer.

In addition, if you ask people to follow you in some way, then the connection has started. Although you might not retain all those people – many just subscribe and unsubscribe from newsletters for example – you will still get a certain amount of new eyes following you in the end. I think you have to realize that it is okay to say goodbye to the people who are uninterested. They aren’t your people, afterall.

So I think giveaways work, but to maximize the potential you should try to hit all options available to you and get the most out of your effort. If your goal is to attract a new audience and potential customers, you need to reach a new audience, introduce something specific and get people hooked in some way.

What do you think about giveaways? Have your experiences been positive or negative? Do you track the success (or failure) of your giveaway?