In my job heading b5media's Community endeavours, I deal with contests and raffles on a regular basis. We always seem to be running a number of them across the network.
And, If you're thinking of running contests or raffles on your blog, here are some tips and ideas that you might like to consider -
1. You can do a giveaway for any reason. Many people do contests and raffles on their blogs when they're celebrating something - blog anniversaries, birthdays, etc. But, you can do one any time. No need to wait for a special occasion!
2. Have a dedicated contest page. This is a page where you can introduce your contest, set guidelines, rules & disclaimers, etc. It's great to have this so people can link to it, if they wish to help promote your contest.
3. Make it clear. Set deadlines (including timezone), how to enter/win, and any other guidelines or instructions. Is it open for international readers or not? Age limits? Spell it all out as best you can.
4. Keep it simple. Although the general idea of the giveaway should be clear, try to make the actual thing easy and simple to understand. Don't make people jump through too many hoops. Take a contest asking people to link to your blog in order to enter, or simply asking people to leave a comment - which one do you think will get more entries?
5. Make it interactive. If you decide you simply would like to ask people to leave a comment on your blog to enter the contest, try to have a question that people can answer rather than just asking them to leave a random comment. As fellow b5er Kori Ellis once shared: A good question can encourage people to respond and join in.
6. Have a clear goal on what you wish to achieve with your giveaway. Hopefully, part of that goal is just to give to your readers - and to foster community. 😉 But, you can have other goals too - like getting to know your readers better, saying thanks, having a new avenue to promote something, etc.
7. Look in to possible legal issues. Understand the laws concerning contests and raffles in your jurisdiction. But, don't let the legalese scare you too much either.
8. Promote your Giveaways. Share it on your Twitter, Plurk, Facebook, MySpace, etc. And, if you have a few blogging buddies, ask them to help you promote it too. If you belong to forums and mailing lists, you might want to share your giveaway on those places too.
9. List your Giveaways in Sweepstakes Directories. I believe that there are a handful of them around, but one place that's usually recommended by folks is http://online-sweepstakes.com . This is especially great if you have something really good to give away. Just remember that if you go this route, you must be ready for an influx of people/comments.
10. Stick to your schedule. If you say you'll close a giveaway at a certain, make sure you do so. When your contest close, announce the winner/s on the scheduled day (or as soon as possible, if you don't have a schedule). If you wish to extend your deadline, announce it accordingly.
11. One interesting tool to draw random winners is through Random.org. You just put in a list of people (participants) in their list randomizer, and pick a winner. You can even do a screencap of your drawing to show who won. I often do this for the 52WoC virtual party raffle draw.
12. Notify your winners. Especially if you don't hear from them immediately. They may have not read the announcement of winner/s yet. A personal congratulatory note might even be appreciated.
Do you have any more giveaway tips and ideas? Perhaps, you can share them with us. If you've held contests and raffles on your blogs before, it'll be great to talk about what you've learned from running them.