This spring, I hosted my first ever Instagram giveaway in celebration of my birthday. It was something I had been wanting to do for a looooong time, but the whole thing intimidated the heck out of me. I thought my account was too teeny. I thought people would look at a prize package full of my stuff and think to themselves, “Eh. It’s cute, but I’m not going to waste tagging my friends and family on this one. I’ll save that for the good ish.” I thought that when I approached other makers about teaming up with me, they would look at my puny little account and say phewy.
I know: boo hoo. And also, just totally dead wrong.
The whole process was honestly just so freaking fun and 100% validating and encouraging. I built some really cool connections with the makers I collaborated with. I saw a major boost to my follower count (I know this isn’t everything, but there’s no denying it’s *something*). PLUS! As an unexpected and awesome bonus, I made several custom orders as a direct result of the giveaway package.
If you’re a maker or an artist or a writer on Instagram, and you are considering whether or not to host a giveaway, I strongly encourage you to do so immediately! Like, now. Except hang on for one little second and read on. Cuz I did some things right, and I for sure did some things wrong, and - lucky for you - you can learn from my mistakes. Save yourself some time and frustration and read the 10 things I learned from my first Instagram giveaway below. A few of the items are written from the perspective of a maker, specifically a knitter or crocheter, as that is my primary experience, but the principals can be applied to anyone.
ONE: Get over your fear!
Without a doubt, my number one lesson from my first Instagram giveaway was to get over my fear and excuses. Get out there! Make the ask.
If you’re feeling intimidated about approaching the type of makers you would want to collaborate with because their account has more followers than you or they’ve been doing it for longer, I totally get it. I was right there with you. But trust me, you will be pleasantly surprised at how willing others will be to work with you, even how grateful they are that you asked! Sure, there may be some who politely decline the offer because they just hosted a giveaway of their own and don’t want to do too many back-to-back or because they are just not in a financial position to give something away, but I guarantee you this is going to be the exception and not the norm. Other makers know that there is power in collaboration! We rise by lifting each other. In a group giveaway, everyone wins. So don’t devalue yourself!
(A note on this: when deciding who to approach about collaboration, remember to look to your right and your left, and then just above you. As in, who are your peers? Who is at a relatively similar place on their journey as you, both in terms of skill and following? Who would benefit equally from running this giveaway? Make sure you are approaching at least one person at this level. And then, who is just ahead? One or two rungs above you in terms of Instagram followers and experience? These are your ideal collaborators. If you go asking the person with 200k followers, I’m not promising the above results. Unless you yourself have 100k. At which point I’m assuming 2 things: 1- you don’t need my advice and 2- you’ve already run about a billion giveaways.)
TWO: Come up with a theme for your giveaway.
The items are going to photograph best if they are in some way cohesive. This can be as specific or as general as you want. Mine was “spring”, and I told the makers I collaborated with that I was looking for items in soft, springy colors. The result was a flatlay full of pink, turquoise, lavender, and neutrals that looked totally lovely together. If you’re a perfectionist about your grid, like I am, this part is going to matter a lot.
THREE: Consider doing a two-part giveaway.
Chances are, your Instagram followers can be broken into two groups: fellow makers and customers. The fellow makers are there because you have something in common, because you work at the same things, because you’re part of a tribe. The prize package that those people are going to go coo coo for is full of supplies and patterns and inspiration and probably a fair bit of caffeinated motivation. That is an entirely different prize package from the one your customers will want. Your customers want completed items! They want gift certificates to your shops. They want first dibs at a new product line. Remember, they are there because they can’t (or have no desire to) make it themselves. If you create a package full of yarn and patterns and hooks (or whatever the relevant materials and tools are for your particular craft) you risk leaving a whole half of your audience completely disinterested.
FOUR: Communicate, communicate, communicate!
Create a group message with your collaborators/giveaway contributors: stay in communication about when their giveaway items need to be shipped, when the giveaway itself will start, what the rules of the giveaway are, etc. I did not realize the value of this until we were about two thirds of the way through the process, and it led to a few hiccups (see below).
FIVE: Don't make promises you can't keep.
Do NOT set a hard deadline for the start date of the giveaway before you have all items in hand. As mentioned, miscommunication happens. Shipping happens. If you’re planning to photograph all of the items together (recommended), do not promise to launch the giveaway on a certain date before you can actually guarantee that will happen. Build anticipation, by all means! Tell your Instagram followers that it’s “Coming soon!” Post sneak peaks of the items that have arrived. Share un-boxing videos on your stories. But until you are in a position of complete control - until you have all the items in front of you and are ready to snap a picture - do not promise anything.
SIX: Roll with it!
If you did happen to make a promise you couldn’t keep, don’t let it stress you out. You’re giving away free things here! If something has to change, people can be patient, in my humble opinion. Keep it fun, make a goofy apology, and move the funk on.
SEVEN: Don't drag it out.
Allow people to enter your Instagram giveaway for about four days. Even a super active post seems to die after about that long, so there’s really no point in keeping it open longer. Plus those who did sign up will be anxious to find out who won!
EIGHT: Set aside time to figure out the winner.
This is not a small task! You will need time to type in all those hundreds of entries (go you!) and then time to verify that the winning names are actually following all of the makers. With my first giveaway, the other makers and I went through four names before we found someone who had followed all the rules and was following all the makers. With each name I drew, I had to wait for each collaborator to get back to me with a yes or a no. Of course, as soon as you have even one “no” you can move on to the next name. Still, don’t be fooled into thinking that picking a winner for your Instagram giveaway will be quick and easy. Try to keep this in mind when you announce the giveaway schedule: when it will start, when it will end, when the winner will be announced. Try to plan this around a day off or a quiet evening with no kids or whatever it is you need to be able to dedicate a couple of hours to finding your winner and announcing on time.
NINE: Ship your items out right away!
This is something I could have done better. Next time, I will have them completely packaged and ready to go before I even close the giveaway. That way all I have to do is address them and send them on their way. Because after the excitement and activity of the actual giveaway has stopped, it can be easy to log the whole thing as “over” in your own brain and move on to the other gazillion tasks you have to accomplish, when the winner is sitting over there anxiously awaiting their goodies. You don’t want to kill all the goodwill you just earned giving away some kick ass items by letting your winner become disappointed or frustrated!
TEN: Nourish the relationships you built.
Send a thank you note to the other collaborators. Like, the real kind. The good ol’ snail mail greeting card kind. Maybe pop a Starbucks gift card in there (because who among this maker crowd of ours isn’t made up of about 90% coffee weight??). Whatever you choose to do here, I highly recommend you do it. Follow up with them. Send the card. Check in on their feeds regularly and comment on their posts. These people are your tribe! Love them hard.
So that’s it! If you have been wondering whether or not you should run a giveaway on your own Instagram account, I hope this post encourages you that you absolutely should, and helps you feel armed for the task! Good luck!