Why Giveaways Won’t Give You More Followers

Every now and then I see people talking about giveaways and how they’re jealous of the “rich” bloggers who can afford to host tons of giveaways, because giveaways lead to more followers. These bloggers feel like they’re at a disadvantage because since they can’t afford to host giveaways, they won’t have as many followers.

Every time I see this, I feel like I need to burst out into an epic song where the moral is: giveaways won’t earn you followers.

What are followers?

Lately the idea of “following a blog” has become the process of clicking a “Follow Me” button. Just clicking the button and seeing the tally go up one. But is that following a blog? No.

Following a blog is checking back regularly to continue reading new posts.

It’s the act of following updates and progress—the act of staying informed. So the key thing here is converting a new visitor into a repeat visitor, meaning they come back again and again.

So how does this relate to giveaways?

Most people who “follow” you for a giveaway just do so for the extra entry, then they leave forever

People who follow you because of an INCENTIVE (like free books) don’t actually care about your content or your posts or your reviews. They care about your free stuff. They want this box of ARCs or this Amazon Gift Card, so they complete all the required actions for the entries, then they leave. Most of those people won’t ever visit your blog again.

These followers aren’t an accurate representation of the people who regularly read your blog

Followers earned from giveaways will earn you some temporary traffic… but that’s all it is: temporary. Here’s an example:

Page view graph comparing normal days to days when you host a giveaway

You see the normal page views, then when it hits the yellow zone, you host a giveaway. So your page view numbers go up—maybe even double. But once the giveaway ends, it’s straight back to normal.

Yes your follow numbers will go up, but that’s just the meaningless tally going up. All you’ve done is polluted your legitimate number with fake ones. There are people out there who create bogus email accounts just for giveaways. So when they complete the entry for “Subscribe via email”, they’re just subscribing with their bogus, throwaway email address that they only use for giveaways. Some people even have separate Twitter accounts with no followers just to tweet about the giveaways they enter.

So when you say you have “500 email subscribers”, it doesn’t actually mean you have 500 followers. It means you have 500 people who are subscribed, but maybe only 200 of those actually read the emails they’ve subscribed to. The others just subscribed for the giveaway entry.

Giveaways can help at first, but they’re not a long term boost

Giveaways can be helpful in your first few months of blogging to help get your foot in the door. They will give you exposure and people will become aware of your existence. They help in the exact same way memes do.

But once you become at least somewhat established, the benefits drop off. You no longer need the exposure boost from giveaways, so all you’re left with are the inflated numbers. Now maybe half of your “followers” actually follow you and read your posts, but the other half are from giveaways and will never visit your blog again.

I’m not telling you to NOT host giveaways. I have no problem with the act of giving away books (or other items). I just wish people didn’t connect giveaways to blog success/traffic/followers because that’s not how it works. Being rich won’t make you a more successful blogger. And I don’t know about you, but if I was a “successful blogger” because I hosted giveaways, I wouldn’t really be proud of that. How can I be proud of the fact that people follow my blog in hopes of getting free stuff? (As opposed to because they actually really like what I have to say.)

Who are you more likely to follow:

  1. Someone who hosts 5 giveaways a week and posts 0 discussions.
  2. Someone who publishes 5 discussion posts a week and 0 giveaways.

I’m going with option #2. I don’t give a rats ass about giveaways these days. I love and follow blogs for the content. I want interesting and thought-provoking posts. I want posts that will make me want to leave a comment. I want posts that get my wheels turning.

Ask any successful blogger and they’ll tell you the same thing: the best thing you can do for your blog is produce quality content. It’s about the discussions, the reviews, the tips, the tutorials.. it’s NOT about the free stuff. Any blog can give something away for free, but not every blog can come up with unique and interesting posts. That’s why people are more interested in the latter.

Don’t stress if you can’t afford giveaways—you don’t need them!

Focus on writing quality discussion posts that will spark interest

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I'm a 27 year old California girl living in England (I fell in love with a Brit!). I like to inject a little #girlpower into the WordPress development community by teaching women how to be coding badasses. more »

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45 comments

  1. Very true. Giveaways help spread the word of your blog in the beginning and that gets you followers, but giveaways do not mean repeat followers which is the kind you want. But I love doing my weekly or so giveaways (usually from a book blitz or blog tour) on books I would love to read but don’t have the time because I love entering giveaways myself. People know they can come to my blog and I will always have a giveaway(s) up. I know some of those people just come for the giveaways but that’s okay. Some people only comment on reviews, some only comment when I do discussions pieces. Every followers likes something different. But giveaways do not give a blogger a leg up like most people think.

    Jennifer Bielman recently posted: Review: Sacrificed in Shadow by S.M. Reine
  2. So true! And, yes, I do agree with Jennifer up there too. πŸ™‚ I like hosting giveaways for the traffic aspect…I hosted a giveaway/linkup last month, and I was pretty happy with the amount of people linking up because they’d heard about it on twitter. Just random. But I agree. I’d more likely to follow a blog that posts awesome original content then heaps of giveaways.

  3. It’s true! I don’t do many giveaways. I want people to follow my blog because they like it. Not because of the giveaway. There is one blog I once followed, but I unsubscribed. I won’t give the name, that would be mean. But lately it’s only giveaways on her blog. Sure, they are awesome and amazing, but I want to see some discussions or reviews too! And another blog that only does book blitzes and those things. I don’t like that either. I want other stuff too!

    Bieke @ Istyria book blog recently posted: Best of 2013
  4. So true! Personally I like to hold giveaways occasionally on my blog. I always love when I get an email saying I won a giveaway so I like to be able to do the same to others sometimes. I also do it for a few extra followers. For me, a giveaway or giveaway hop is a way to get people to my blog. It’s then up to me to keep them there! This has worked quite well so far. While I do experience quite a spike in followers during a giveaway I don’t really consider it of too much importance. It’s when my comments and daily views go up after a giveaway that I know I’ve done right. Of course they never go up anywhere near as high as my so called followers have, but I do enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that, yes they may have come just for the giveaway, but I managed to keep them around with my content! Perhaps this was just because, as you said, I was a small blogger and needed to get people to my blog in the first place. But to be honest I hope to continue with the giveaways in the future. I just love knowing that I may have given someone the opportunity to read a book they wouldn’t have been able to otherwise! Really great post!

    Jennifer recently posted: The Sunday Post
  5. I agree. I’m ashamed to admit that I was one of those ‘followers’ when I first started blogging. FREE BOOKS! I subscribed everywhere as long as I could enter.. Later, I went back and said to myself: only follow the people you are interested in and only join their giveaways. So I unsubscribed to those blogs and I’ve never done it afterwards. I’m always happy when someone addresses this matter, because I just don’t have the money now to do a giveaway. I’d love to, but it’s good to see that it’s not what blogging is about πŸ™‚

    Mel@thedailyprophecy recently posted: Review 226. Ruth Warburton – Witch finder.
    1. I was exactly the same way. I saw FREE BOOKS and did everything I could to enter giveaways.. but I never actually stuck around on any of those blogs. πŸ™

  6. Yes! I love this! When I first started blogging I always wondered if I should be doing giveaways, but didn’t have really any income. Now that I have a job, I’ve done a few–just two in the past six months, I think–and I agree. I do think giveaways have some merit, but for me, it’s not so much new potential followers but just the reach–I can post a giveaway on a few linkys, and the twitter option gets the word out too. And that’s helpful, and of course I love new subscribers, but I really want my giveaway to celebrate the people who I know are celebrating my blogging with me because they like the content–the ones I know read most of my posts and comment and the people I’ve interacted with in the community. If I get new real subscribers & followers from a giveaway, that’s GREAT. If not, I’ve already done what I’ve sent out to do–celebrate the people who make this community what it is for me!

  7. I like giveaways because I like spending money on books, and if they aren’t for me the better because I really don’t have much more room for books. Personally though, I’m not sure why people might be jealous because they can’t give giveaways. I’m more jealous of the people who have discussion post every week. One of my New Years resolutions is to write more discussion post, however, for the past couple of days I’ve only sat in front of my computer not sure what to write about.

    Jessie @ Jessie's Book Place recently posted: 3rd Blogoversary!
  8. Amen sister! I love all the points you made. I personally might have not found a blog in the first place without all the giveaways, but once found I’ll always keep going back to the blogs no matter what. I think it pretty awful that someone else might unsubscribe after that giveaway is over. Thank you for sharing this post.

    1. I think that’s a great mentality. πŸ™‚ If I do giveaways these days it’s for the same reason. I want to thank my existing followers; it’s not about trying to get new ones!

      1. I agree with wanting to reward those who regularly follow a blog, but how do you avoid getting the ones that are passing through from winning what you hoped would go to a true follower?

  9. I’ve only hosted two giveaways in my two years of blogging (not counting blog tours or author sponsored ones) but it wasn’t to get followers. Yes, my follower counted jumped up, but I knew people just followed then unfollowed when it comes to giveaways.

    I use to worry about the fact that I couldn’t host regular giveaways, but now I don’t care. I may not be a popular blogger, but I do have “regulars” who stop by almost every day and that makes me happy. πŸ™‚

  10. I used to do a bunch of giveaways at first and it did help me get noticed, but you’re right about it not getting you followers. I have a bunch of people following from those that have never commented, especially on Twitter. I might do some down the road for the sake of giving something away to celebrate a blog anniversary for instance, but I’d rather have more meaningful posts.
    Great topic!

    Kelsey recently posted: Showcase Sunday (59)
  11. Perfect post is perfect.

    A few years ago when I started my blog, I thought giveaways were the way to go. I’d gain “followers” that never came back. Or I’d go around and follow a bunch of blogs to get them to follow me. Now, I met some kick-ass people that way. But I also never went back to a lot of those blogs. And I got tired. Really quickly. So I decided to re-invent my blog at WordPress and I’ve NEVER looked back.

    Giveaways…eh. I don’t even enter as many as I used to, because sometimes the required entries are to follow the person – and if they aren’t someone I was considering following anyway…nope. I’d rather have genuine, loyal readers and commenter, and would rather BE genuine.

  12. Ashley, I love this post. You are so right about giveaways, they are a TEMPORARY fix. I just put up my first giveaway on the blog, it’s been about a year since I’ve hosted one. The only reason I would host a giveaway is because I loved a book so much that I want to share it with someone else. Other than that I could care less lol. I love having those readers that constantly come back, read, comment, who actually care about you, your blog, and your content.

    Giveaways are okay but I’d rather post like you said, quality content. I post reviews, life posts, music posts, and tv show posts, and people really seem to respond most to my personal life posts and discussions.

    Thanks so much for voicing this wonderful discussion Ashley!
    Best xoxo,
    KG
    http://www.thatgirlkg.blogspot.com

    KG recently posted: Reaver by Larissa Ione
  13. Personally, I think if you’re going to host a giveaway at of your own pocket it should be in celebration of already having reached a personal goal for your blog or a special event to you. I totally agree with you. It’s not just about the follower count. It’s really the page views that matter.

    Stephanie B recently posted: Stacking the Shelves #3
  14. I was thinking the same thing recently. I go out of my way to host some giveaways and that last one was extremely frustrating to deal with that I don’t think it’s worth it in the long run. I’ve decided to limit giveaways funded by my own funds. I will host some for blog tours, but I want me blog to reflect me and my followers should be people who want to know me. I’m not all about the numbers and even recently went through my Bloglovin’ feed to update who I follow and why. It’s clean up time around here.

    Thanks for the great post that just made my decisions that much easier. πŸ™‚

    Chrystal @ Snowdrop Dreams of Books recently posted: Personal Reading Challenge: January 2014
  15. Great discussion topic! When I was a newbie, I thought that giveaways were the way to go. I’m thinking “Yay! More followers!” I found out the hard way that what you said is exactly the truth. Did I gain new, repeat followers? Yes. Have I found new blogs this way? Yes. However, in the end, it wasn’t enough to actually account for anything. I still participate in giveaways from time to time for fun and exposure to newer bloggers but I know not to set my expectations so high now.

    Ashley @ Dr. Pepper Diva recently posted: *Guest Post & Giveaway* Love Me Not by Reese Ryan
  16. I don’t do giveaways period. I’m 13 and living in Canada where going to the movies and shipping are more expensive than buying the actual book/movie. It’s just unreal for me.

    Anyway, thanks so much for writing this! I hate it when Pubs think that a blogger having 1000 followers on BL should recieve a review book when only like 100 of them actually check the blog. It isn’t fair for the little bloggers and that’s something that’s been turning in my brain for a long time. (That and what you said about the pageviews…)

    Nova Lee @ Out of Time recently posted: Nova Rants: Book To Movie Adaptations
  17. I actually just hosted my first giveaway in hope to boost my followers. Once I saw the twitter descriptions I realised that A LOT of them are separate from their real accounts, just so they can follow whoever and tweet.
    I don’t regret it, though. I noticed some genuine followers as well, who looked at other posts and left comments. I guess giveaways are positive and negative – though you are right about not being jealous of popular blogs who host a giveaway every week with thousands of followers – it’s possible that the majority of them aren’t really “following”.
    it’s sort of like preferring to have a couple of close friends, rather than have lots of people you talk to. The close friends are the ones who comment, who actually read what you write – whereas the people you talk to are their for a brief look and then their gone.
    Great discussion, Ashley, I love how you have out this out there!

    Brea Johnson recently posted: How do fictional characters influence you?
  18. Good points. I’ve done some giveaways and they jumped my follower numbers up, but my traffic really hasn’t grown and subsequent giveaways have not resulted in a huge increase of followers. Maybe I am getting in front of more people this way, but more than likely, it is just buried in the noise. I know I follow so many people I could never keep up with them all, and I’ve done the same when I’ve entered giveaways (just followed for the giveaway and never visited since).

  19. I totally agree! I love interacting on people’s blogs, and I mostly follow people’s blogs and befriend them by the content they post. So I agree, giveaways seem to be only temporary, although sometimes I can make a friend through a giveaway, although it’s kind of rare. I totally agree what you mean about someone’s content though. I think it’s so hard to post really good content, but it’s a lot easier to giveaway stuff. Fantastic post, though, Ashley! <33

    Eileen @ Singing and Reading in the Rain recently posted: Feminist Sunday (1): What is Feminism?
  20. Yes, I enter giveaways they are great, but I with you I would love to follow number 2 over number 1. I want real followers to follow my blog not ones that follow just because I hosted a giveaway. I don’t have money for my blog so I’m yet to host a giveaway so I know my readers are there for the sole purpose that they enjoy my content. Thanks for the reassurance to us rather small blogs.

  21. I’m actually a little wary of hosting giveaways as I did a few when I first started writing book reviews (donated by authors), but no one actually entered them even though I was promoting it which was very disheartening. So I figure I need more devoted readers first and then include giveaways if I can (just because I like giving stuff away, not because I think it makes me or my blog any ‘better).

    But when it comes to entering giveaways, I love entering and if I find I have nothing to do I will actively look for giveaways available. But I do this mainly to find new blogs, and I never choose to follow just for the extra entry – if I don’t like the blog, I’m not going to follow no matter what you offer me (unless it’s physical cash and then I might for a week or two, but what would be the point of that!).

    Tamara Epps recently posted: Teaser Tuesday (14 Jan)
  22. Yes yes! I’ve decided to cut back oodles on giveaways this year. Instead of joining a hop every month I might jump on one if there’s a book I love that I want to give away anyway. Other than that it’ll just be the publisher sponsored ones that aren’t going to be on a hop. So they’ll pretty much only be found by my followers that already check my blog regularly to begin with. Which to me I’d rather give the books away to a loyal reader than to a greedy book giveaway goblin. I mean hey nothing against wanting free books, I like free books just as much as anyone else. But I can’t believe that some people literally spend THAT much time entering giveaways. They could work and buy that many books for the hours of time they spend entering giveaways! Boggles my mind haha.

  23. I agree completely that giveaways, while, fun, are not very good at increasing traffic or followers. I’ve only hosted giveaways sponsored by publishers (about once a month), and I’ve quit making my readers jump through a bunch of hoops. I got tired of begging for people to like me on Facebook or follow me on Tumblr or Twitter or Goodreads. It’s just not worth it. My giveaways might only get 40-50 entries, but that’s okay — the winners are almost always my friends and followers who really will enjoy the book!

    Tara @ The Librarian Who Doesn't Say Shhh! recently posted: The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider | Review
  24. This is a great post. I recently started a blog and have become extremely discouraged as I have a few followers and no traffic. I know it takes time to build it up but it still stings a little when I see such low or no numbers. I almost hosted a huge giveaway when I was stalking reading through your posts. This made me really look at my blog differently. I want to post about books I like to read and enjoyed and have people who are really interested return to my blog. No just the constant fluff of the newest hottest but what is actually like. My blog is to share what I’ve enjoyed not what everyone else enjoys so inspired by you I’m gonna to stick to that. I did want my approval rating for netgalley to improve but hey it’s all good. I love my blog. Thanks for all the amazing advice!!
    ~ Brittany

    1. I’m glad this post was helpful to you!

      One thing that might help you is participating in memes. Don’t participate in A TON, because if your blog is only memes that can turn readers away. But pick one or two that you like, link up with them, and that’s a great way to start getting some visitors. πŸ™‚ You shouldn’t rely on memes forever, but it can be a good way to get your foot in the door!

  25. So, so, SO true!! I fell into that trap, that giveaways and social follows build your blog. They don’t – they just trick you, readers, and potential sponsors into thinking you’re popular. Just watch out; tell that to the majority of mommy and review bloggers and they’ll be really, really pissed.

    Alena Belleque recently posted: Fruit Infused Honey Lemonade #Recipe
  26. I was following an artist on Flickr, even bought a couple pieces of his art. He hosted an Instagram giveaway. The prize was to be an original piece of art. This happened back in January. He chose two winners, one of which was me. When I contacted him about the prize 4 months later he rudely blew me off. I didn’t know about this giveaway to get followers thing. Makes sense now. Why someone would want to offend a paying customer I have no idea, the retail relationship was nothing but cordial.

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