Tools for Writers: Rafflecopter

by Cat Rambo

Cat RamboA long-standing practice in book promotion is giveaways, particularly since book giveaways may help drum up reviews as well. You can conduct such giveaways in a  simple fashion, asking people to leave a comment on a blog post or social network page in order to be entered.

Or you can use Rafflecopter to create a significantly slicker and more professional looking entry form that can be embedded in a blog post or web page or shown on Facebook. Like many web tools, Rafflecopter has free and paid versions. While I’ll focus on the free version, I’ll include information about what a paid membership offers that might tempt those figuring out where to allot their budget.

Once you’ve set up a free Rafflecopter account at www.rafflecopter.com, you can create your first giveway widget, which is a chunk of code you’ll cut and paste into a blog post. Name the giveaway and add the prize or prizes that you’ll be offering. Then set the options by which people can get entries in the contest.

The free version allows you these options:

  • Tweet about the giveaway. You provide the message that will be the default tweet, which will include a link to the blog post announcing the giveaway.

  • Follow an account on Twitter. You can include multiple accounts.

  • Like a Page on Facebook. You can include multiple Pages.

  • Leave a comment on the blog post.

  • Invent your own option. If you do this, you’ll need to figure out some way you can verify their entry.

  • Viral sharing. If you select the “Enable Refer-a-Friend” button, when someone enters the contest, they will receive a URL they can share with their friends on social networks in order to get one entry for each friend they refer.

These options can be mandatory or optional. For example, you could set up a contest where someone must follow an account on Twitter before other choices open up to them. You can control whether a person can only enter once during the course of the contest, or enter again every day, as well as how many entries each option counts for.

You will set the beginning and ending time/date for the contest as well as determining when you receive notifications about it. Rafflecopter lets you randomly choose entrants from the pool after the giveaway and also daily winners during the contest period: you tell it how many people to pick and it generates the list. You can verify the entries through Rafflecopter at this point. Once they’re chosen, Rafflecopter allows you to display the winner or list of winners on the widget.

Running a Facebook contest can be done with the Rafflecopter Facebook app. On your Rafflecopter dashboard’s embed page, click “Install to a Facebook Page.” This allows you to put the widget on any Facebook Page that you are an administrator for.

You can run the same giveaway on both Facebook and your blog at the same time, but you can only run one giveaway at a time on Facebook. People who want to enter the contest via your Facebook Page will have to like the page first.

As a cautionary note, read the Facebook guidelines on Pages before you begin; violating the guidelines may lead to your Page getting pulled off Facebook. Similarly, read the G+ guidelines before including a entry option like +1ing a G+ post, because such entries violate the guidelines.

Rafflecopter also offers a “Facebook flash giveaway” app that lets you randomly select winners from a group of users that have liked or commented on a Facebook page update. This is well suited to very short promotions, like one-day giveaways, since with longer contests, the Facebook post will have passed out of most users’ news feed.

All of the above is available with the free version. The Blogger version of Rafflecopter currently costs $7.99 a month. It allows you to add photos to accompany prizes; provides added entry options such as taking a survey, joining a mailing list, pinning an image or following someone on Pinterest; and the ability to change the start and end times of the giveaway on the fly.

The Business version of Rafflecopter currently costs $49.99 a month and offers integration with email lists like MailChimp and real-time analytics, as well as letting you remove or substitute your branding for the Rafflecopter branding. It also includes a support chatroom.

Overall, Rafflecopter looks like a great tool. No wonder I’ve been seeing more and more Rafflecopter contests spring up. I’ll be using it for the book I’ve got coming out this November for sure. One practice I’ve seen in many contests that seems like a good idea is creating giveaways that combine several authors or works, allowing people to enter multiple times by “liking” each separate author or following them on Twitter, for example. This seems like an excellent way to make Rafflecopter contests even more effective.

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Cat Rambo’s most recent short story collection, Near + Far, appeared last fall from Hydra House. Find links to her fiction as well as her upcoming online classes on her website, http://www.kittywumpus.net.

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