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The ethics of giveaways. Love them or hate them?

Giveaways. Love them or hate them- if your a blogger you cannot ignore them! 

Perhaps I’ve decided to write this post because I am participating in more giveaways lately, but overall I’ve  thought a ton about the issue of bloggers hosting giveaways or writing reviews in exchange for a product or compensation. 

When I started blogging I was intrigued and also weirded out by giveaways. It was really cool to see some blogs giving away nice items, but I came across other sites that seemed to just throw up every possible giveaway- tasteful or tacky. Odd stuff that didn’t fit the theme of that persons blog or even items I would never want. It was evident there was no thought process involved- for some it was simply a way to gain more followers or make money.
One of the founding principles I desired to build my blog upon was ethics. I want to do a gut check every time I am about to hit “publish”. This blog is important and reflects who I am and what I believe. Not to mention it goes live all over the Internet for all to see once I publish a post. 
With that said, blogging is hard work. There are many hours spent organizing posts, brainstorming about ideas, collaborating with other bloggers on series and projects, LOTS of time writing and editing, and networking amongst other bloggers. It can be a full time job if you allow it. The beautiful thing about blogging is you work for yourself. The hard part about being your own boss is making tough decisions about what is BEST for your blog. One of the first decisions any blogger must make is whether they will ever accept compensation or goods for their writing. If you will ever accept compensation or goods in exchange for providing a review or giveaway, you will have to use your judgement in making good decisions. 
Giveaways are a simple concept. They are an easy way to gain new exposure and interest. I come from a marketing and advertising background, and giveaways are no new thing in the business world. I set up tents at expos and gave away candy, silly swag, hats- ANYTHING in hopes that people would come see my cool booth and wanna talk to me about my company. Did I feel bad about it? No! How else do you grow a business than engaging with new prospects? All businesses in some way or another do this. Commercials, ads in local magazines, door flyers- these are all attempts to reach new customers.
Let me tell you- giveaways and reviews with bloggers are smart for businesses to participate in. The company I worked with spent THOUSANDS of dollars to have a tiny ad run in a local publication or newspaper for only a MONTH. A business can have a blogger write a review and giveaway an item to an engaged audience for the cost of the goods. Think about it- the local ad is a crapshoot as far as an engaged audience. A blogger has readers that trust the blog and enjoy reading it. The local ad runs for a month. The blog posts is there forever (or as long as the blogger leaves it). The cost for a small add to maybe reach hundreds or hopefully thousands is pricey. The cost to reach hundreds or thousands of readers on a blog is definite, and the cost to the business minimal. So- yes, companies really want to work with bloggers! Bloggers are smart, educated, social media savvy people that are typically really well networked!  
Now for the bloggers. Like I said, we work hard! I find no issue in bloggers making money. It is like running a small business. You are providing articles for people to read. You are your own, branded, freelance writer working for your website! How cool is that? I hope that bloggers make money, because blogging is hard work and it takes money to run a blog. I personally pay for my site hosting fee, editing software, bulk email program, and a membership for a program to do link ups and giveaways! That does not include money to pay for my design or advertisement. So I do need to find ways to make money so that I can run my site effectively. Even if my site is going to be not for profit I will still need to find funds to cover my site fees. 
The ethics part is where things get muddy. As my own manager, I need to be wise in deciding which companies I want to endorse. Do I like their product? Do I think the way they do business is good? Am I accepting the review or giveaway just for the money or just to gain more followers? Does the product FIT the theme of my blog or will my readers like it? Can I write a fair review that I agree with deep down? Is the giveaway or product ethical? Because if the answer to any of these questions conflicts with my gut feeling- no matter how much the offer is or how many new followers I will gain- I need to say no and turn it down! Sometimes we take chances because we obviously do not know everything about a company, but I want to make my decisions based on reasonable common sense at least. I have turned away opportunities because I did not feel right about them or I felt that it did not fit my blog and audience. It was hard to say no, but I am always glad I did the right thing.
I just felt this needed to be written because I’ve seen a lot of comments, tweets, and discussions about giveaways and reviews and feel there really is a middle ground on this issue. It can be hard to see clearly in the cloudy fog of thousands of giveaways in blog land. Yet there are good bloggers and gals I trust doing these reviews and giveaways in a fair and right way. Just thank the company for sharing the product wit us (they are smart), enter, and feel no shame! And for us bloggers who feel guilty earning anything for our hard work we need to stop. We work too, and if our blog is our business, it is good to make a little living off of it! 
This is just my two cents. I would love to hear from you all! 🙂
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  • Reply Danette

    “This blog is important and reflects who I am and what I believe.” Love this.

    July 4, 2013 at 3:09 pm
  • Reply Diane VintageZest

    I’ve been blogging for 6 months but a follower for much longer, and I don’t find it a problem to hold giveaways, especially if they fall in line with the topics that you normally bring up in a post. The giveaways I’ve had were all items that I either personally handmade or used myself, then contacted the company to give the items away because I endorsed them. I feel it’s like sharing something that you really like with a group of friends!

    I totally agree when you said, “Sometimes we take chances because we obviously do not know everything about a company, but I want to make my decisions based on reasonable common sense.” It’s like when I pin a new recipe that I want to try out. In a way I am endorsing this recipe to my Pinterest followers, but in reality, I have never made the recipe. Therefore, I can’t know everything about this recipe and the source from where it comes. Another example is when a blogger features recipes & projects from a link party. You understand that the host cannot possibly try every recipe and project out, but she chooses to share something that she likes, without having personal experience. I trust your gut so far!

    July 4, 2013 at 4:05 pm
  • Reply Another Clean Slate

    I’ve done two giveaways so far. I think you are right in it being a balance as long as people don’t go overboard. I don’t mind but I don’t want my favorite bloggers to only post them!

    July 4, 2013 at 9:57 pm
  • Reply Kelly {Sparkles and Shoes}

    I think they are great if done sparingly and appropriately, I love your insight! That said – I found your blog through Amy’s Amazon birthday giveaway and I am so glad I did, I love it and I am now following you!

    Sparkles and Shoes

    July 8, 2013 at 3:44 am
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