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How to Run a Social Media Giveaway

Last updated on January 4, 2022
16 minute read
Key Takeaways

  • Read up on important legal considerations and platform guidelines for giveaways.
  • Learn how to choose the best type of giveaway for your goals.
  • Follow the step-by-step process to launch a social media giveaway.

Skill Level


An effective way to encourage followers to engage with your brand and increase their interest in your offerings is by running a social media giveaway. Giveaways give your followers a chance to try out what you have to offer for free, and they can be a great way to reach new audiences. After all, who doesn’t love free stuff?

While giveaways are fun and engaging, it’s important to follow all the rules of your state and of each platform to ensure your campaign is legal. This guide will cover the different types of giveaways and legal considerations as well as the step-by-step process to launch your first giveaway.

Keep It Legal

The first step toward creating a giveaway campaign that complies with local rules and platform guidelines is to understand the different types.

  • Contest: A contest requires participants to submit something that follows defined criteria, such as creating a caption for an image, writing an essay, taking a photo, etc. The winner is chosen based on merit – the business running the campaign chooses the best entry as the winner.
  • Sweepstakes: There are no defined criteria to enter a sweepstakes; users simply like or comment on a post to enter. The winner is chosen at random. 
  • Lottery: Like sweepstakes, the winner of a lottery is chosen at random. The difference is the user must exchange something of value to enter the lottery, such as making a purchase, paying a fee, and more. Rules around what is considered “valuable” differ, so it’s important to read the regulations for your state. For example, some states consider contact information to be of value, so requiring users to enter their email could turn your giveaway into a lottery rather than a sweepstakes. However, private lotteries are illegal under state laws in the U.S., and under federal law, it’s illegal for U.S. citizens to participate in foreign lotteries. The bottom line is you do not want to run a lottery. Ever. So be sure you’re not requiring contestants to exchange anything of value to enter your giveaway. 

General Best Practices

To further ensure the legality of your giveaway, there are a few best practices you want to follow. 

  • Clear language: The best way to avoid legal issues is to use the clearest possible language to explain eligibility and the official rules of your giveaway. This includes using terms like “no purchase necessary” and “purchase does not enhance chance of winning.” Make sure you’re explaining the method of entry in any post promoting your giveaway, including age requirements, as well as the beginning and end date of the promotion, including time zones. If you’re running a contest, clearly explain the judging criteria, such as “essays will be judged on creativity, quality, and adherence to the topic and length requirements.”
  • Landing page: It can be tricky to cover all the legal language in your post, so create a landing page that explains all the rules and link to it from your promotional posts. 
  • User-generated content: If you’re asking users to submit user-generated content such as photos or videos to enter the contest, be sure to explicitly state how their entries will be used. If you plan to use them in your marketing materials, be sure to collect a release statement from participants. You can include this in your entry form. Never solicit testimonials in exchange for entering a contest, as this could be considered “buying” reviews, which goes against the guidelines of most platforms.
  • State laws: Even if you’re sticking to federal rules and platform guidelines, there can be particular state laws that will affect your giveaway. Read up on some federal and state guidelines, and do your own research before you launch your campaign.

Platform Guidelines

Here are some main guidelines to consider per platform, but be sure to read up on the official rules before you launch your campaign to be sure you’re getting the most up-to-date information. 



  • You must communicate the official rules, offer the terms of eligibility, and communicate your compliance with applicable rules and regulations. 
  • You must release Facebook from liability and acknowledge that the promotion is in no way sponsored by or associated with Facebook. 
  • Promotions may be administered on Facebook Pages, Groups, and Events. However, personal timelines and friend connections can’t be used to administer the promotion. This means you can’t ask your followers to post the promotion on their own timeline or friends’ timelines or tag their friends in a post to enter.
  • Read the full Facebook guidelines


As a Facebook property, Instagram’s rules are fairly similar to those outlined above. However, there are a few differences. 

  • Instagram states that you can’t encourage incorrect tagging to enter a giveaway, such as asking users to tag themselves in a photo where they don’t appear. 
  • Instagram doesn’t explicitly say you can’t use personal timelines or friend connections to promote a contest, so many brands do ask users to tag their friends in the comments to enter or post a promotional post on their Feed or Stories.
  • Read the full Instagram guidelines.



  • Include a rule that says people who create multiple accounts to enter multiple times will be ineligible. (Otherwise, they’ll be liable to get their accounts suspended by Twitter.)
  • Set clear guidelines that discourage posting the same Tweet repeatedly. Make it clear that duplicate Tweets or Retweets will not be accepted. 
  • Ask users to tag you in every entry so you don’t miss any participants when you’re tallying up your entries to choose a winner.
  • If you’re asking users to include a particular hashtag in their Tweets to enter, make sure it’s relevant to the topic. 
  • It’s your responsibility to ensure you’re following all applicable laws and regulations. 
  • Read the full Twitter guidelines.



  • You can’t require users to pin a specific image to enter. 
  • Don’t allow more than one entry per person.
  • You can’t suggest that Pinterest sponsors or endorses your giveaway.
  • Read the full Pinterest guidelines.


TikTok has not published any official contest or promotion guidelines, but you can read their advertising guidelines to get an idea of their general posting rules. 

Steps to Launch Your Giveaway Campaign

Now that we have all the important legal information out of the way, you can get started on your giveaway campaign! Follow these steps to make sure your campaign is effective and engaging.

Determine Your Goals and Audience

As with any marketing effort, you need to start by setting a goal for your campaign. For example: 

  • Gain new followers
  • Increase your engagement metrics
  • Solicit user-generated content
  • Increase your social following 

Once you have a clear goal, think about who your audience is. If you’re looking to solicit user-generated content, then your audience will likely be your existing customers – people who have been on an adventure with you. If you want to increase your followers, your audience will be people who are interested in your industry, such as outdoor enthusiasts or foodies.

Choose a Prize

A great prize is what will entice users to enter your giveaway and help you reach your goal. Your giveaway is an opportunity to showcase the great experiences you offer, so an ideal prize would be offering a free tour for two, a free activity for a family of four, or another way for people to enjoy your tours or activities. Another option is to offer a gift card that can be redeemed for any one of your offerings. 

Pro tip: If you’re offering prizes that are outside of your products, there are a few more legal considerations to keep in mind. For example, if you were to give away an Amazon Echo, you couldn’t use the words “Amazon Echo” in the name of the promotion unless the company was sponsoring the giveaway. You can, however, list the prize in the contest rules.

Decide on the Entry Criteria and Timing

Now you need to decide what users need to do to enter the contest (keeping the platform guidelines above in mind). This should be in line with your goals. If your goal is to get user-generated content, you could create a contest where customers submit a photo. Keep this in line with your brand as well. For example, if you offer birding tours, you might ask participants to send their best photo of a bird in flight. 

You also need a clear timeline for your contest. Keep it short enough to stay top-of-mind (if you give participants too long, they might lose their sense of urgency and forget) but long enough to give people a chance to enter. If you’re running a contest, you’ll need to give participants enough time to put together their entry. For example, if you’re soliciting videos, people might need a couple of weeks to create theirs. A sweepstakes can be entered more easily, so you can keep the length shorter (about a week). 

Create Your Giveaway Posts

With all the logistics in place, it’s time to get creative with your posts to promote your giveaway. Be sure to use exciting imagery with bright colors to capture your followers’ attention as they scroll through the feeds. The word “giveaway” should be front and center! As far as copy goes, you want to keep short, clear, and enticing. For example: “Got weekend plans? We’re giving away a free tour for two, the perfect way to enjoy the long weekend! Tag your bestie who you would invite on an adventure.” Below your main text, post the eligibility requirements and official rules, or a link to the landing page where they can find the full information. Be sure to call out the length of the giveaway and the date when winners will be announced. 

After your initial promotional post, post a reminder every few days so those who haven’t had the chance to enter yet can see it. If you’re running your giveaway on Instagram, you can re-share your original post in your Stories so people can click directly to it. If you have the budget, you could also boost your giveaway posts so more people outside of your followers will see them. 

Tally Up the Results and Announce the Winner!

Once the entry window is over, it’s time to tally up your results and choose the winner. How you do this will depend on whether you selected a contest or a sweepstakes. If you ran a contest, you’ll need to gather all your entries and have your panel of judges select the winner based on the predetermined criteria. If you ran a sweepstakes, you can enter all your participants in a spreadsheet, assign each a unique number, then use a tool like Google’s random number generator to select a winner. Make sure you choose a fair and efficient method to select your winner, and document it using screenshots and saving your files. 

Analyze the Data

A giveaway is not just about giving away freebies, but also about achieving your social media marketing goals. Once your promotion is over, use the analytics tool of the platform you selected to find out whether you met your goals. Look at your engagement metrics, new followers, and other KPIs. By analyzing this data, you can understand how your giveaway performed and use any insights to do even better next time!

As you can see, there are a few considerations to keep in mind to make sure your social media giveaway is efficient, engaging, and follows all the necessary guidelines. However, they can be a fun way to engage your followers, gain new ones, and give something back to your online community. Once you’ve run your first giveaway and become familiar with all the moving parts, you’re sure to be excited to start your next one! For more tips on making the most of your platforms, check out our social media guides. 

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