Part I

Planning Your Sweepstakes

Should I run a sweepstakes?

Sweepstakes can provide amazing results for your business, but they're not a silver bullet for marketing. A successful campaign requires total commitment and execution—more importantly a willingness to think for yourself rather than copy what someone else has done.

questions large questions

Before getting started, ask yourself these three questions:


Does this make sense for my business?

Consumer-facing companies are going to have an easier time with giveaways because their products and messaging tend to be very visual.

If your customers are other businesses, odds are your product is more abstract, like a service or software. You’ll need to get creative to see amazing results.


Are we prepared to provide a great prize?

We’ll talk about choosing a prize later in the guide, but it's worth keeping in mind that picking a prize of extremely low value will hinder your results.

The prize you choose should be valuable enough to get people excited about your promotion—this doesn't always mean it has to be expensive!


Are we willing to make this really awesome?

If you think that you can just launch a sweepstakes and set it on autopilot in hopes that it will take off on its own, think again. If you want results, this will require your full attention.

The last thing you want is a half-baked promotion that doesn’t take off due to neglect. Later in the guide you'll learn how to set goals to ensure a successful promotion.

basketball hoop

Setting goals

First and foremost, consider what you want to get out of running a sweepstakes. Do you want to grow your email list? Get more exposure for your brand? Increase sales and likes on Facebook?

To begin planning your sweepstakes, you will need to create a set of predetermined goals. This will allow you to determine whether your promotion is successful once it ends. We see way too many businesses running sweepstakes with no objective in mind; they just let it loose, watch as it flops, and say, "well, that was fun. It was worth a shot."

Your goal should be specifc, and you should be able to determine whether your sweepstakes was successful by answering Yes or No questions, like these:

  • Did we get X new Twitter followers?
  • Do more people read our newsletter as a result of the giveaway?

They just let it loose, watch as it flops, and say, "well, that was fun. It was worth a shot."

excel demo

Tracking your goals

You can do something as simple as creating a spreadsheet to set and track your goals. We've created a spreadsheet template that you can use to track your goals.

View on Google Docs

Figure out the details

To get your sweepstakes up and running, you’ll need to figure out the basic details of it first. Having all the details sorted out beforehand will help you in the long run when it comes time to put the sweepstakes together.

Start with the title

Win a Hawaiian Vacation valued at $5,000


Hawaiian Sweepstakes

Which title caught your attention?

Use something attractive that will grab people’s attention. These two titles are both pretty simple, but one is far more enticing than the other. It helps to be specific or aspirational—give your audience a glimpse into the new life that will be theirs if they win your sweepstakes.

What is the title of your sweepstakes going to be?

Use eye-catching imagery

It's no mistake that most sweepstakes are very visual. People are incredibly careful about what they share online because they want to be seen as someone with good taste. This is especially true for sweepstakes, where people are encouraged to share. Having a great looking product image means that more people will be inclined to share. If it's an ugly image, many will avoid sharing it. Vain? Maybe a little; but that doesn't make it any less true.

You’ll need to use imagery that grabs the attention of the end user and makes them say, “I need to have that.” Don’t skimp on the images.

Not good

poor gum image


good gum image

Not good

poor macbook image

Very good

good macbook image


Depending upon the value of the prize, you may want to consider drawing more than one winner. In our experience, any prize value under $100 should have at least 2 winners—if it’s in your budget.

Having more than one winner motivates people to enter because they have a better chance of winning. Generally speaking, the more winners you have, the more entries you’re going to get.

If you're drawing more than five winners, consider running multiple smaller sweepstakes back-to-back. This will allow you to collect data, learn, and improve the second time around.


When choosing the duration of your sweepstakes, keep a few things in mind:

  • If you run it for a short period of time, less people will have a chance to enter.
  • If you run it for too long, people will either bug you to see if they've won or (worse) completely forget about your giveaway.
  • It's worth testing several time lengths to find what works best for your brand.

A period of 4 to 8 weeks has been the sweet spot for our sweepstakes. It provides your audience ample time to enter and gives you enough time to adjust your marketing efforts based on the sweepstake's momentum.


Selecting your channel

When it comes time to decide where you want to run your sweepstakes, you need to decide where you want to host it - on your website, Facebook, or another platform?

We encourage you to run sweepstakes on your own website.

We suggest hosting your sweepstakes on your website instead of on Facebook or another platform.

Using social media sites is a great way to connect with your customers, but social platforms should be used as tools—they should augment the marketing efforts based on your website.

You don't own your social profiles

You don’t own your Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest page. It's easier to leverage social media by hosting the sweepstakes on your own site and driving traffic from your social profiles to your site.

Differentiation is hard in social media

It's hard to tell brands apart based on their social profiles. By hosting your giveaway on your own website, entrants will be familiar with you later down the road when they receive your marketing messages.

'Like gates' are unnecessary

Forcing people to like your page before they can enter a promotion is redundant. Your giveaway should encourage them to like your page for extra entries. Don't force it; if they like it, they will do it on their own.


bonobos giveaway

Even if your goal is to get more likes on Facebook, you don’t have to host it on Facebook to get those likes.

On August 27, 2013, Facebook loosened up their promotion guidelines to allow businesses to start running giveaways right on their timelines. With this change, you can now choose a winner based on likes or comments. We still suggest you run your sweepstakes on property you own, as there is no way to gather email addresses or other valuable information from users through their likes or comments. Most importantly, you won’t be able to re-market to these people in the most effective way: through email.

What is required to enter your giveaway?

Collecting information is the main reason you should be running a sweepstakes. Choosing which information to collect, however, can have a major impact on the success of your sweepstakes. At the very least you should collect an email address from a user when they enter. This creates a frictionless experience providing an extremely low barrier to entry, which will ultimately increase your conversion rate. Unfortunately, many businesses running sweepstakes require way too much information to enter.

If you require a name, email, phone number, address, age, and gender... you’ve gone overboard and it will affect your opt-in rate.

Keep in mind, 99% of people who enter won’t win, so most people don’t want you to have all that extra information about them. Requiring too much information creates a huge barrier to entry, and it increases the time it takes for a user to enter your sweepstakes.

Even if your excuse is that you need the information so you can ship out the prize, you can collect that information from the winner by contacting them via email after the promotion ends. When it comes down to it, we suggest asking for just an email address, and at most, a name.

Breadth vs. depth

Who are you trying to reach?

When running a sweepstakes, you need to decide if your goal is to target your audience and only attract people to enter your giveaway who are potential customers, or, if you want to cast a wide net and collect as many entries as possible.

It can be very tempting to cast a wide net and promote your sweepstakes everywhere, but remember, you’ll end up building a list that isn’t targeted and will be hard to market to. In the long run, no matter how many leads you collect, it all comes down to how you build the relationship and sell to the end user.

How are you planning to deliver extra value to the people who enter your sweepstakes?

It can be very tempting to cast a wide net and promote your sweepstakes everywhere...


Mobile first

Mobile and tablet devices are taking over, and you need to make sure your sweepstakes works properly on mobile devices. If you run a sweepstakes that is not optimized for mobile, you’re doing yourself a disservice and missing out on the opportunity to collect more entries. From 2016-2018 Mobile Internet has accounted for ~60% of traffic, so you need to have mobile in the front of your mind when setting up your sweepstakes.

If you plan on running your sweepstakes on Facebook, keep in mind that page tabs do not show up on mobile. If you set up a giveaway with ViralSweep on Facebook, you’ll be provided with a link that you can share that automatically brings mobile users to a page where they can enter the sweepstakes.

Establishing your rules

Run your own giveaway.

We encourage you to follow along and build your giveaway as you read this guide. It takes just minutes to set up your first promotion!

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Sweepstakes official rules

You need to make sure your sweepstakes official rules are compliant with local, state, and federal laws.

ViralSweep provides a sweepstakes rules template that you can use to quickly get your sweepstakes up and running, but if you’re a larger brand, and the approximate retail value of the prizes is close to $5,000, we suggest having your lawyer draft up your sweepstakes rules.

If you are located in the European Union, you need to comply with GDPR when running any type of promotion. Be sure to refer to our GDPR overview for more information.

If you plan on running your sweepstakes on Facebook, you need to also be compliant with their promotion guidelines. For Facebook, the most important things to remember are:

  • Provide a complete release of Facebook
  • Acknowledge the promotion is not sponsored, endorsed or administered by or associated with Facebook
  • Disclose that the participant is providing information to your company and not Facebook.

Choosing your prize

To be compliant, every set of rules must indicate:

  1. No purchase necessary
  2. Geographic locations that are eligible to participate
  3. Opening date and time as well as ending date and time of the sweepstakes
  4. Number of prizes, the approximate retail value, description of the prize and odds of winning.
  5. Complete name and address of the sponsor of the sweepstakes
  6. How winners are chosen
  7. How prizes will be awarded and whether all prizes offered will be awarded
  8. How a list of winners can be obtained
  9. Restrictions on participation of certain groups (age, location)
  10. How you will use entries in the future (ex: marketing emails)

Sweepstakes rules template

Value proposition

Choosing the right prize

The value proposition is one of the most important pieces of a sweepstakes. The prize that is being given away will be a large factor in determining the success of your giveaway. If the prize is not suitable for the audience you are trying to target, your promotion will underperform.

You may be thinking, “Let’s give away an iPad!”

No. Stop it. Stop right there.

There’s a 99% chance that an iPad has nothing to do with your business, and while it may be a prize people want, it will not bring you the targeted audience that your business needs. When choosing the right prize for your promotion, it has to be a mix of something that is relevant to your business and something that your customers really want. If it is entirely one or the other, your promotion will not perform as well as you may be hoping.

Remember, the prize is the number one thing that will impact the number of entries your promotion receives—a good prize is like steroids for giveaways. It is also worth noting: if you have major barriers to entry for your promotion (long entry form, requiring Facebook login, etc), your total entries will suffer. Below are two example promotions: one correct and one incorrect.

Lesson in prize selection



Online store that sells clothing for newborns.

Prize Ideas

  • Gift certificate to the store
  • An entire outfit
  • A specific piece of clothing
  • An unreleased piece of clothing from their new collection

Powerful Prize Ideas

  • A new wardrobe every month for a year
  • A year’s supply of diapers plus matching clothes for mother and baby
  • A nanny + date night once a month for a year

These type of prizes work for this particular store because they are all related directly to the store, its products, and the desires of their audience. Since the offering is specific, they will be able to build a list of qualified leads (in this case, women with newborns) who are interested in their products.

When it comes to the prize, the winner should get to choose the exact size and color they want. A common mistake we see which drastically affects a promotion’s results is when a store offers a specific color or clothing size for the prize.

Remember to be sensitive to your audience; the prize needs to appeal to everyone in your target audience, so don’t restrict the prize to an exact size or color.

Avoid weak value propositions



Local hair salon that services women only

Prize Ideas

The salon owner thinks that offering an iPad will excite her current and potential customers, which will drive them into the salon to purchase her services. The owner launches a promotion on Facebook, giving away an iPad. They begin promoting the giveaway online and in the salon by telling people to like the salon on Facebook and enter their iPad giveaway.

Where it went wrong

Giving away an iPad on the salon’s Facebook page without any type of geographic restrictions on the promotion means that they will be getting entries from people who are not in the same area as the salon.

Asking people to “like” their Facebook page to win an iPad will just mean they will get a bunch of likes, with no way to directly contact each potential customer.

An iPad giveaway will also attract the bald guy Bob who doesn’t care about the salon and just wants an iPad. Offering a prize that involves coming in to the salon would ensure entrants are in the target market.

The salon owner should offer a prize that is related to her business. For example, offering a free haircut or free highlights will attract the right type of audience. The salon should drive traffic to its website from all of its social channels. Even though the volume of entries may be much lower, they will be qualified leads which means that when the salon owner reaches out to them via email, they will be much more engaged and responsive.

Avoiding a weak value proposition

So you’re going to give away a prize that is relevant to your business. That’s a great start! The prize is a $10 gift card that people can use in your store. Err, that’s not so great…

This is a weak value proposition because it’s not going to be worth people’s time. At least, most people won’t perceive it as being worth their time, even though every customer would undoubtedly say yes if you asked whether they’d like $10 off of their purchase.

If you couple a weak value proposition with a complicated entry process, you’ll be left scratching your head, wondering why your giveaway was so… blah. The value of the prize needs to get people excited enough to spend the time entering and sharing your sweepstakes, but not be so big that your company could suffer if the promotion does not do well.

Remember, your prize doesn't need to be expensive. It needs to be interesting and inspiring.

Can't come up with any ideas?

Use our value proposition framework

  1. What niche is my business in? (fashion, electronics, jewelry, sports, etc).
    My niche is ______________.

  2. Who is our ideal customer that we want to target?
    Our ideal customer is (Male/Female)
    Our ideal custom is between the ages of (13-17) (18-25) (26-31) (32-40) (40-50) (50-60+)
    Our ideal customer is (Single/Married/Married with kids/Divorced/Widowed)
    Geographic location: Anywhere or Specific location: _________
    Income level: (N/A) ($30,000-$50,000) ($51,000-$75,000) ($75,000-$100,000+)

  3. What is our budget for the prize?
    Our budget is ____________.

  4. We’ll have _________ winners.
    If the prize value is below $100, we would suggest having multiple winners. Having multiple winners will help to increase the volume of entries your promotion receives because people have a greater chance of winning.

  5. What is the prize we will give away?
    The prize is ______________.

  6. Is the prize something that people will care about?
    The prize and its value needs to be something that people get excited about. Offering a prize that feels “cheap” will turn people off. If your prize’s value is on the lower end of the spectrum, have multiple winners to increase the attractiveness of the promotion.

  7. Does this prize align with our target audience, and ensure that we will build a list of qualified leads?
    If yes, you’re done.If no, re-evaluate the prize choice before running your promotion.

View on Google Docs

This simple format should help in coming up with a strong value proposition. You can even reach out to a few people to see if the prize you’re considering interests them. Another idea would be to survey your audience by presenting them with several possible prizes and whichever one gets the most votes you can use in your giveaway.

In the example of the hair salon, it could be salon service and a night out for the customer to flaunt their new hairstyle. Turning your product into an experience is a great way to get your audience to think about how they would use your product and why it could be valuable to them. Something more than just giving away your own product.

In the end, your plan will look something like this:

Niche: Fashion
Budget: $500
# of Winners: 2
Ideal customer: Female, ages 18-25, single or married, income level of $51,000 and above.
Prize: Up to $250 to spend on any pair of pants from our store
Is prize relevant to customers? Yes
Is the prize relevant to our business? Yes

Think outside the box and create a promotion that inspires or motivates your target customer.

viralsweep faded logo

That's it for planning!

Now that we have all the details hashed out and we have a clear plan of action moving forward, we can start building our sweepstakes.

Now to set up our giveaway!

Go to Part II

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