How to run an ethical Instagram giveaway

Unethical brand partners

A new brand partnership or sponsorship is a great chance to do a giveaway. If your following is large and the brand is new, this is a chance to ask your followers to go follow your brand partners to get them set up. If your following is niche and the brand is large, this is an opportunity for the brand partner to introduce themselves to your audience through promotional services or items. But be aware that when you partner with another brand, even just for a giveaway, you ‘get into bed’ with them in a public way. You need to be accountable not just for the giveaway but for the brand partner in general. Imagine being a woman running a giveaway with a brand who later has a controversy over sexism in the workplace. Or worse, imagine offering items to you audience in a giveaway that are later recalled or poorly reviews. So when deciding to partner with another brand for a giveaway it is imperative that you do your homework.

Solution: Demand information up from.

Vet your brand partners. At a minimum you should be asking for a statement of BLM, and if you are using physical items you should have an understanding of how they handle their goods in a COVID-19 safe manner, and how they ensure fair wages. Obviously this is down to you and your following, but your following may ask these questions to you during your giveaway, so it is perfectly okay to demand information up front.

Solution: Choose small retailers and artisans

Sometimes being small is better. Not only do smaller artisans really need the boost right now, they also may offer better packaging and delivery standards to larger retailers. We’ve all seen the small Etsy shopping tik-toking their packaging processes with love and care right?

Offering the wrong prizes

Your choice of prize will be contingent on your type of account. If you are an illustrator you might offer the chance for a portrait of a follower, or if you are introducing a new brand partner they may provide some items to giveaway. Some common giveaway prizes are free products/services, discount vouchers or gift cards, or physical products. But not all prizes are created equal.

Solution: Engage the audience in selecting the prize

The brand Poly Pages frequently runs book giveaways via their Instagram following. While sourcing books via Amazon would enable a quick delivery and a wider geographical scope, they say it would run counter to their principles. “We publicly joined the call to boycott Amazon, so when we started rewarding our followers with giveaways, we couldn’t very well have them delivered in Amazon boxes! So we got round this by running giveaways but purchasing the prize from a local bookstore close to the winners house. In some cases we could even make this part of the giveaway — asking entries nominate your local bookshop.”

Solution: Check the products in advance

If you are partnering with a large brand then this may not be possible, but where it is always try to see the products in advance. Test them out. Review them for yourself. You can always make this part of the brand sponsorship deal, or if you are running your own giveaway you can make sure it’s something you would really need.

Not offering terms and conditions

Every online giveaway legally has to include terms and conditions. If someone doesn’t see terms and conditions this is a red flag and they may not engage. If you’re terms and conditions are not good enough, you may end up with confused or annoying followers. More disturbingly there is a new scam has flooded Instagram in 2021, which targets those that enter your giveaway and poses as your account to get information and money out of your followers. You don’t want to open your followers up to that!

Solution: Be clear, concise and transparent

Make the T&C’s part of the post, not in a story or separate post. Use the carousel feature to do this, in which you can swipe to see T&C’s, or simply put this in the caption. This should include crucial information, like the name and contact details of the organizer, how to take part, how long the giveaway is running for, how the winner will be selected, what happens to your data. You should also include confirmation of which account will be following up when the winner is announced in the post caption or carousel.

Solution: Update the caption when it is closed

A simple ‘closed’ goes a long way. Make sure you update the caption on your post as soon as the giveaway has closed. As a bonus you can then leave your content up on your feed to fill out your grid.

Image shows a ‘CLOSED’ giveaway edit to a post

Selecting a poor-winner

Most giveaways could use a random selector- simply pay a few USD for a bot to trawl the handles from the comments/likes and use a random number generator to select the winner. Using this method may make it easy on you, but those that enter with multiple accounts or comments will corner a much higher chance to win. Ideally you want to have a winner who is going to continue to follow the account after they win, and maybe even offers to take a selfie for your feed to give you some content. The worst case scenario, you end up choosing a bot or scammer who then leaves your account, and may even replicate your hard work to run their own giveaway under the pretense of being you.

Solution: Resist the urge to randomly select.

If your giveaway is to be ethical, and successful, it makes more sense to reward your loyal and genuine followers. One way to do this is to build the evaluation into the entry requirements. For example, a ‘caption this’ giveaway requires individuals to engage with a post and propose a caption. You can then take the opportunity to verify if the account is genuine, and evaluate that the account is in line with your brand ethos.

Announcing the winner before verifying them

Whilst you should absolutely announce the winner after your giveaway closes, remember that consent to enter a giveaway is not consent to use a follower’s username, image or real name. You need to go get that once you have selected the winner independently. Imagine how invasive it would feel for you to have your name, username or maybe even photo reposted without your knowledge! This becomes especially important if you run a niche community — such as an account with a sexuality, identity or political twist. You may accidentally ‘out’ your follower when they don’t want to be.

Solution: Get consent to post

You can do this in two ways. The first is up-front as part of the terms and conditions. This makes the consent to being named a contingent part of the entry requirements. However, this may potentially this will alienate some of your followers. The second, is simply approaching the winner after selection and asking them “Can you confirm that we have your consent to use your name/image/tag you in our public feed?”. Crucially, this means that their consent to share their win is optional, and they may choose not to.



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Claire Louise Travers

Claire Louise Travers

Claire Louise Travers is a writer, podcaster, and humanitarian aid worker. She writes on Medium about polyamory, ethical aid, and international development