13 mistakes promoters make when running competitions

You may already have read my blog post The top 10 mistakes compers make, but promoters are often guilty of errors too, which can lead to frustration and disappointment for competition entrants.

This post outlines 13 common mistakes businesses might make when running competitions. It’s also worth having a read of the CAP Code section on running prize promotions – if you don’t follow the code, you may be at risk of an ASA complaint against you.

13 mistakes promoters make when running competitions

1. Missing terms & conditions

When you share marketing for a new prize promotion, the essential T&Cs (closing date and time, entry method, prize details, etc.) should be clearly stated on marketing material. But there should also be a link to the full terms and conditions too – and this link should work! Surprisingly, a lot of big brands forget this – Tesco in particular have a habit of advertising promotions in store before updating the competition page on their website.

All prospective entrants should be able to read full T&Cs before they decide whether or not to take part in a prize promotion – so it’s essential to make them accessible. It’s not enough to lazily add ‘T&C apply’ to your post – you need to actually write terms and conditions, and link to them too.

One more thing – stating ‘winner will be drawn on Sunday 25 November’ doesn’t tell entrants when the competition actually closes – does it close on Sunday, or before Sunday? You must include a closing date and ideally the time too!

Also see: Essential terms and conditions for a competition

2. Choosing a winner who didn’t follow the rules

When choosing the winner, re-read the full T&Cs to ensure it’s a compliant entry – did they enter before the closing date and do everything required? Did they use the correct tags, and follow the account? If the promotion required a purchase, ask for proof in the form of a till receipt or photo of the unique code used. As promoter, make sure you’re following the rules too – don’t draw the winner before the closing date, and don’t choose the most creative entry if the rules state it’s a random draw.

See also: Judged vs Random: which is best?

3. Extending the closing date

So your promotion has been so hugely popular you’ve extended the closing date? We all know what this actually means is that you’ve not had enough entries! But changing the closing date is unfair to those who have entered your competition already, and it can only be done in unavoidable circumstances (see CAP Code, 8.17.4e) – for example, a distribution problem with promotional packaging. Changing the closing date makes a promoter look incompetent and untrustworthy. And while we’re talking about closing dates, use 11.59pm rather than the confusing ‘midnight’ as the closing time, as sometimes midnight is considered the start of the day rather than the end.

See also: Can a closing date be changed?

4. Encouraging entrants to spam

‘Tag as many friends as you like, one in each comment, each new comment is another entry into the draw!’ is a popular entry method on Instagram, but excessive tags on Facebook or Instagram can trigger a comment ban for the entrant because they are considered to be spam. Asking an entrant to tag two friends in a comment is more than enough to spread the word to hundreds or thousands of people. Asking people to jump through hoops just to win a box of biscuits will put people off and make your brand look unprofessional.

In addition, asking entrants to share a post on Facebook for a prize draw entry is a breach of Facebook terms of use – and can be annoying for the friends and family of entrants who see unwanted, spammy competition posts in their feed. Asking for a like and a comment is enough – and a large number of entrants will share anyway, without being asked.

See also: Is Instagram tagging out of control?

Announcing a winner is a great way to prove your prize promotion was genuine – however, you need to be very careful about doing so. Rather than announce it publicly on social media, contact your winner privately first to congratulate them – confirm they want to accept the prize and that they have complied with your T&Cs (eg. they’re over 18 and a UK resident). Then ask them if it’s ok to announce them as the winner – they have the right to refuse permission under GDPR. Generally though, most winners will be happy to be named and might even send you a selfie with their prize!

See also: Do promoters have to publish winner’s names?

6. Not trying hard enough to contact the winner

Of course, if you can’t contact your winner you won’t even have a winner to announce! Have you tagged your winner in an Instagram story or Facebook post, and not heard anything back? Well, you need to try again!

The ASA say it’s not adequate to only make one attempt to contact a winner. Try contacting privately first, via email, messages, phone, or even by post. If that fails, move on to public tags on social media, or you could even try and tag them in my Competition Winners Facebook group. It’s YOUR responsibility to ensure the winner receives their prize, so do everything you can to contact them.

You should NOT ask your winner to respond by a deadline if the prize is not urgent (eg. concert tickets for the next day). CAP recommend you should give a winner 28 days to respond. Whatever deadline you decide on should be stated clearly in your T&Cs and in your message/email to the winner.

See also: How to contact winners

7. Giving away an irrelevant prize

The prize you choose should be relevant to your target audience. You might presume that everyone wants to win a gadget like an iPad or Apple watch, but does that item have any connection to your business? Is your aim to increase traffic and followers, or to attract prospective customers? If you’re a local business, give away a meal, a beauty treatment, or a voucher to spend in your shop. Ask the winner politely if they would be kind enough to review or post about the prize. If you want to attract paying customers, don’t give away a £100 Amazon voucher – although it will increase your social following enormously, it isn’t likely to get people walking through your door to spend money!

Whatever you do – don’t forget to actually send the prize to your winner! It should be sent within 28 days of them confirming delivery details, but your winner will be much happier if you send it out right away.

8. Not promoting the competition

It’s no good investing time and money into an amazing competition if you don’t actually promote it! Make sure it’s regularly shared on all your social media channels and ideally, it should be on your website too. There should never be a situation where your prize promotion doesn’t get any entries. If you don’t mind compers entering, get it in front of as many as you can by listing on websites like Loquax, Competition Database and The PrizeFinder. If it’s hosted on a Blog or Instagram, add it to my free linky lists. If it’s a creative or purchase necessary competition, let me know about it and I can share with my readers.

See also: Where to promote a competition

9. Excluding ‘serial compers’ or ‘giveaway accounts’

Most of the time, compers are the reason your latest prize promotion actually reaches the wider population, because they will happily share it on social media and with their friends without requiring any incentive at all. So deciding that you don’t want a comper winning your prize is rather foolish! Compers are also prospective customers, and comping helps them discover a lot of brands they become loyal to. If you’re really not keen on compers winning, make it harder for them to take part by avoiding simple entry social media prize draws. Instead, ask for the answer to a tricky question or require a purchase, send the comp only to newsletter subscribers or target your advertising to a specific audience.

See also: Stop Hating on the Sweepers (from the Rafflecopter blog)

10. Assuming all entrants are honest

Unfortunately, a small minority of bad eggs do cheat in competitions. Promoters should do what they can to make it hard for cheaters to win. If you’re asking for a photo entry, make it clear that the entry must belong to the entrant. Before contacting a winner, use Google’s reverse image search to check and see if the winning entry has been stolen from elsewhere.

If it’s a purchase-necessary promotion, ask to see the receipt before the person can enter, rather than after they’ve been chosen as a winner. For text comps, ask entrants to send their full name in addition to a keyword, so they can’t enter from multiple handsets. Don’t run games where the top scorer wins – choose at random from everyone who gets a certain minimum score instead.

11. Not choosing a winner at random

It’s not OK to hand-pick the winner of a ‘random’ prize draw dependent on their witty comment, social following, job or profile photo. And yes, people do notice that the winners of certain brand giveaways on Instagram are always bloggers – or that a Facebook friend of the business owner just happened to win an iPad in their latest prize draw… If you don’t choose fairly, it’s a breach of the CAP Code, and people may lose trust in you.

If you have a budget for your promotion, use a paid app like Easypromos or Woobox to choose a random winner, or use the services of PromoVeritas to conduct an independently supervised draw. If you don’t have a budget, there are still plenty of free ways to choose at random – Good Luck Fairy chooses a Facebook winner, Getcombot chooses on Instagram and Tweetdraw chooses a random retweeter. Or do as most bloggers do, and use Gleam (affiliate link) or Rafflecopter – basic versions are free.

See also: Ten free ways to choose a random winner

12. Not mentioning that the giveaway is on multiple platforms

If your promotion is hosted on multiple social media platforms (Instagram/Facebook/Twitter), make this clear in the T&Cs. Entrants should be aware that their chance of winning is smaller due to the winner being chosen from multiple sources. Make it clear if it’s a single prize, or a prize per platform, and if people can enter once per platform. When you choose a winner, you shouldn’t just choose from one platform – you need to combine all entries and choose a winner from everyone who took part!

13. Sending inconsiderate follow-up emails

Have you ever received an exciting email with the subject ‘Competition Winner’ – but then when you open it, it goes on to say ‘Congratulations! Our Competition winner is Natalie Jones from Stratchclyde. Sorry it wasn’t you this time, but here’s a 10% discount on our latest range of aprons/cheese/sandals…’

Disappointing isn’t it? But lots of businesses do this. Think twice about your subject line – it’s fine to offer a discount to the entrants, and it’s great to announce the winner – but don’t let them think they are the actual winner! Don’t send out an email congratulating someone for entering a competition, and never send out an email to every entrant telling them they’ve won a runners up ‘prize’ of a discount. A discount is not a prize!

And while we’re on the subject of emails, don’t automatically add competition entrants to your mailing list – GDPR states they have to tick a box to confirm they want to hear more from you!

Get it right!

Hopefully now you know where things can go wrong, you can be sure to get everything right with your next competition or prize draw. If you need any advice – or would like me to share your competition with my followers – get in touch via my contact form or tweet me @superluckydi

I’d love to know your feedback on this post – and let me know if you’ve encountered any other problems with running or entering a competition.  

If you’d like to join the SuperLucky Promoters Mailing list, please pop your email in the box below!

6 Responses

  1. Jeremy Stern says:

    It is sad to hear stories of promotions being run wrong: prizes not being sent out, unfair winner selection, weak or no Terms…….. The UK has the most liberal sales promotion laws in Europe. In Italy, if you want to run a prize draw, you have to present your Terms to the Government weeks before, you have to buy an insurance bond to ensure that the prize is awarded even if the promoter goes bust, and you have pay to have a public official oversee the winner selection ( and also there is a 45% tax on the value of the prizes!). We at PromoVeritas are passionate about running things right and keeping the need for tighter regulation to a minimum. So do call out cases of bad behaviour or bad practice One of the worst is ‘Terms Apply’ – and then blank !! But if our name is involved in a promotion, then you can trust it will be run totally fairly.

    • Di says:

      Thanks for the feedback Jeremy! It’s frustrating that it’s actually so easy to get things right in the UK, yet so many promoters can’t manage to even write basic T&Cs or add a closing date.

  2. K says:

    My biggest pet peeve is when the company doesn’t send the prize. I’ve had five issues in the last year or so. Haven’t ever experienced anything like it until 2020 onwards. I understand Covid may slow things down things slightly but most companies are back up and running as normal again.

    Prize 1) was sent after 2-3 months.

    Prize 2) Chose to just ignore my polite DMs after insisting three times since summer of 2021 that they would chase up the prize and send it again. Never received it in the end and don’t expect to at this point.

    Prize 3) still waiting, 134 days later.

    Prize 4) 135 days and counting.

    Prize 5) 424 days and counting.

  3. Lisa Black says:

    Hiya Di hope yu and family are well
    Well what can I say apart from I wish I found you a little early!!!! this is an amazing platform so informative and extremely helpful i can feel your warmth too.
    I’m 6 days away from starting my limited offer so excited, BUT I’ve been sending out teasers for the past 6 days without any T&C as I thought this would be done with the actually promo!!! so today I am going to write that up ASAP.
    I will also get in contact with you with regards your linky list that’s very kind to offer.
    what I am finding tricky Di this is my first time for one so how to word and make it clear is proving hard.
    so I’m offering my planning and coordination services complementary, however all The Bundle of suppliers I have pulled together will need to be paid for by the whoever gets randomly drawn. with a good 40% off. and the bespoke ring will get 10% offer but isn’t included in the bundle. this is for a Autumn Marriage Proposal its to promote my new service.
    still hav’nt to get it on my website or blog as yet. The teasers are on insta fb linkdin and wait for it Di tiktok
    I want to get the wording right and the t&c too which is one of the reasons I hav’nt added to my website also not being tech savey don’t help.
    I would love to be able to get some feedback or advice.

    Kind Regards Lisa Black

  4. Caroline says:

    Applicable promoters who do not follow the (current as at writing this) Facebook Promotion Guideline re: friend connections. I think that it acceptable to ask entrants if they would like to share or tag, but I question if it can be compulsory as at writing this.

  5. ELISHA says:

    I have fallen for the instagram ‘tag all these companies to win’ and there’s about 10 plus companies! Also the tag as many friends and did get a comment ban a few times.

    I do get a lot of those inconsiderate emails! It’s disappointing and misleading.

    All listed Di, is annoying and true but it won’t change, if it does it will take along time to do so.

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