Why you should read the rules

I’m amazed by the number of people that submit invalid entries to competitions and prize draws! In many cases, these are photos or comments which I can see that the entrants have spent a lot of time on. There are hashtags spelt incorrectly, rival brands featured in photos, tiebreaker sentences over the ten word limit… and lots more mistakes!

Every prize promotion has rules. They usually encompass long, boring terms and conditions but also the basic entry instructions. In many cases there’s not much to read – the rules could be as simple as ‘Follow us on Twitter’, or ‘Like our Facebook post’. And for a lot of social media prize draws, it’s easy to click and go without paying much attention to the rules. But there are cases where you really should read the full rules properly before you enter, and that’s when you intend to spend money and/or time on your entry.

Read the Rules - why it's important to check the T&Cs before entering a competition!

When to read the rules…

Creative competitions 

For photo, recipe, video, writing and blogging competitions you need to know how the promoter is choosing a winner, as this affects how much time you spend on your entry. Is the winner decided at random, by judges, or by public vote? Take your time over judged creative photo and tiebreaker competitions. For random prize draws on the other hand, put in a decent entry – but don’t linger over it! If it’s voting, check the T&Cs to see what restrictions the promoter has set on gaining votes.

If it’s a judged competition, there should be a set of criteria for the judges to use to decide a winner. Is it the most original entry, the most unusual, the most relevant to the brand? Some agencies go into an incredible amount of detail, weighting the criteria against percentage scores! Check for exclusions buried deep in the terms – you might not be allowed to use any third party logos in your video (ie. other than the promoter/sponsor), or feature under 25s in your photo (for alcohol brands). If a Facebook comment competition states ‘… in ten words or less…’ make sure your entry IS ten words or less. If it’s a selfie competition, don’t send in a photo of your dog!

It’s best not to eagerly upload a photo the second you spot a creative competition – save the link and go back when you have time to read the full details. Recently I won two selfie competitions where less than 25% of entrants actually followed the rules!

Also check if your entry need to be brand new – or can it be a photo that you’ve previously entered in another competition? Submitting a recycled entry is quick to do, but a Google reverse image search by the promoter could get you in hot water! There’s copyright issues too – be careful featuring brands or music, or submitting a photo that someone else took of you (especially a professional photo).

Many photo and video comps are hosted on social media now, and the inclusion of hashtags and usernames is common – entries are usually tracked by hashtags. So check your spelling before you share!

Purchase necessary competitions

It should go without saying that it’s worth a quick read of promotional packaging before you decide to buy. In some cases, the promotion might be no purchase necessary, or maybe just advertising a free prize draw online. If it’s an expensive qualifying product, make sure you buy the exact product and size, and from the right supermarket! If it’s an instant win, double check the closing date before buying – you want to try and enter during the main promotion, not the ‘mop up’ late entry draw, which offers a smaller chance of a win.

Watch out for misleading instant win promotions that advertise huge prize funds – but where the prizes are only ‘available’ to be won and not guaranteed to be given away. If the small print mentions an ‘algorithm’ to determine winners – be wary!

Blog giveaways

You wouldn’t believe how many winners get disqualified because they didn’t enter correctly using Rafflecopter and Gleam – and most bloggers will check! If there’s a question to answer, answer it correctly. If you need to follow on Twitter – make sure you do it. If there are mandatory tasks (the instructions should tell you what these are) – do them all.

More details to check for…

When does the competition end?

Check the time and date carefully, and don’t leave it to the very last minute to enter as the entry form may well have disappeared – and watch out if you upload an entry at 11:59pm on Facebook, it might well be 12.01am by the time it appears, and you’ve missed the deadline!

How many times can you enter?

Check carefully – does it say one entry per person, per phone number or per household (address)?

Promoters should follow the rules too…

Brands have a tendency to tell you the bare minimum in their social media posts – in many cases, they won’t even bother with a closing date or a link to full terms and conditions. But if you’re unable to find vital information, contact the promoter and ask them nicely where you can find the details!

Unfortunately, not all brands and agencies read their own rules when choosing their winner. In some cases you’ll notice they award a prize to an entrant who hasn’t followed the instructions. But other entrants will be watching for the winner announcement, and may check to see the entry was valid. If the winner didn’t follow the rules, they might not get away with it because someone will point it out!  If this happens, promoters may keep the original winner and award a prize to another valid winner – but sometimes promoters will withdraw the prize from the first, invalid winner. Whoops!

Years ago I tried to get away with entering the same YouTube video in two competitions, but lost out on a £1000 prize because a rival entrant pointed it out to the promoter. Lesson learnt!

Save the rules!

If you’re spending time on a creative or purchase comp, save a copy of the rules. Screenshot them, and copy and paste them into a document too. You’ll be surprised how many promoters sneakily go back and edit Terms & Conditions to move a closing date or change the details… I often read them at the start, and then again before I start work on my entry or buy the product!

Have you got a story about a time you didn’t follow the rules? What happened? Let me know in the comments!

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3 Responses

  1. PrizeDeck says:

    From a promoter’s perspective we try to keep our T&Cs as simple as possible for each giveaway and pretty constant from one giveaway to the next. For example, with our Twitter giveaways it’s generally a case of following and retweeting our pinned tweet for that giveaway for entry. At the moment, our weekly giveaways end at 10PM on a Friday evening and then we launch the next one shortly after at the weekend. This consistency lets our members & followers know what to expect. We have read loads of T&Cs from other giveaways and must say even the big promoters don’t always get it right!

  2. rebecca beesley says:

    I’ve misread closing dates in the past and worked hard on an entry eg on 31st of the month when it actually closed on the 30th. Extended closing dates are a real annoyance and like you say they are sneaky enough to edit the T&C’s so it is not obvious that it’s changed.

  3. Vicky Online says:

    1. I know this is a family friendly blog, but are you familiar with the “Tinder d**k pic” principle? If a man see an attractive young lady on Tinder, but feels she will have a lot of approaches, all he has to do is NOT send her a photo of his boy bits and he is already ahead of 50% of the competition. I find this principle encouraging for creatives when there are a lot of prizes. I won’t be the best, but I might be good enough.

    2. I am constantly surprised at competitions where the blurb on the front page differs from the actual T & Cs and this for big professional companies. (I’m looking at you Visa UK). I am even more surprised that when you ask about this they don’t respond.

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