Blog giveaways used to be simple

Blogger OrigamiGirl looks at 'giveaway' conventions in the fashion blogging world and how entering these competitions has moved from being a way of connecting with other bloggers, to a streamlined process involving handing over a worrying and ever increasing amount of personal data.

Girl with blue tights, you can't see her head

Image: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Gioia De Antoniis

Origami Girl blogs about fashion, feminism and children's toys at origamigirlheroics.blogspot.com

Before I begin this rant (and be warned, it really is a rant), I will concede something: my blog isn’t all that private.

There are some who share their blogs with the wider internet, but keep its existence secret from their intimate friends. There are some who share their writings only with their friends in a private blog, and the rest of the world does not get a peek.

I do not go to great lengths to keep my blog secret from any group, it is out there if you have heard of my full name and give me a google. In reverse, if you only know my blog title, my full name is out there without too much searching. Indeed it terrifies me how easy it is for my whole world to be exposed by Google. Despite this ease of discovery I still use of pseudonym when blogging. However, this act of creating a layer of privacy is not about demanding, or needing, total anonymity. For me it is simply about not wanting to conflate my personal and professional life. My blog-writing and my work-writing should be under separate names. 

You know what is ruining that? You know what is ruining my happy blog space? 

Giveaways.

Let me explain. A giveaway is a phenemon common to the fashion-blogger circle I frequent. It is the term used for when a blogger is given an offer by a company of a free object to pass on to her followers in return for some advertising. For example, a fashion blogger offers a dress for free to her followers who must fulfil some criteria for a chance to win said dress. The dress company gets promotion to the hundreds who read her blog and trust her recommendations. The hundreds of followers are given a gamble for free clothes.

I have been reading and commenting on blogs for a long time and I have seen my community of fashion bloggers become fully integrated into many companies marketing strategies. I’m going to talk you through the three operating systems in the history of giveaways and how this process of trying to win the unobtainable dress has turned into a privacy nightmare and left me abandoning a number of blogs.

Stage 1

The follower friendly way. In the ‘historic’ way of operating a giveaway the blogger put up some photos of the dress you could win and a link to the dress-shop. The requirements to enter were that her followers leave a comment and their choice of how to be contacted if they win. Her followers are perhaps enthralled with the dress and go buy it anyway when they don’t win.

It is likely that you have to be a follower to enter the competition, but she trusts you to follow in the way you choose, and so gains a few fans who hadn’t been swayed to subscriptions before, or who were searching for giveaways because they love free things. It’s a win-win all round.

Stage 2

The Facebook way. This is where the blogger and the dress-shop have become obsessed with Facebook. To enter a giveaway now you have to: follow the blog AND ‘like’ the blog on Facebook AND  ‘like’ the dress-shop on Facebook as well. Perhaps you also have to follow the blog on Bloglovin so they can have the pleasure of counting their followers in a whole new way. After the giveaway is over you find yourself with a Facebook feed clogged with updates for blogs that you already follow and a stream of pictures of models posing in clothes you can't afford. All I want on Facebook are my friends, not a cluster of adverts.

Stage 3

The Rafflecopter - complete meltdown. This is where it lately all went a little bit mental.

Someone has decided that giveaways now need to be done through a third party mediator. Now, not only do you allow the dress-shop, Facebook and the blog running the giveaway access to your name, email address and buying habits, a third party has streamlined the entire process.

giveaway screenshot

This is the app you have to use to enter a lot of giveaways now. Note the link to Facebook immediately highlighted.

"A custom two pompom barrette of your choice!"

I can just click on ‘recent activity’ and can see who entered!

Screenshot asking for details

Oh look. I either sign in with Facebook or give this company my email address.

"You can earn 11 new entries!"

I entered with a fake name and the email I use for junk stuff to get to the next page. It asks me to finish this entry to unlock the rest? Oh wait, I haven’t done enough?  Apparently I need to follow this blog. I already do follow her via Blogger. But that isn’t enough, it wants Bloglovin as well. 

Like the Cat in the Hat the Rafflecopter says, ‘Oh no, that is not all I can do’. For more chances to win a random thing, I have further options to give away even more of my privacy. Eleven more entries which, note the language, I can earn. I can login to my Etsy account, Pinterest, Twitter. Putting all those separate identities into one zone. The attitude is that the default is to have no wish for identity diaspora, despite the fact that many bloggers use a pseudonym.

Login-in through different accounts screenshot

At no point is the giveway framed as thanking supporters for following your blog, for comforting you in hard times and giving you endless compliments. Now you have to earn your right to have a chance for a free thing. 

When I see a mess of privacy invasion like this, crossing my Facebook, Google account, Bloglovin and other social networks over without giving me any guarantee as to what they will do with my information, I do not want to enter your giveaway. Sadly, it makes me angry with the blogger. It’s highly likely that the bloggers using this app don’t understand the implications. However, those of you who ask for me to follow you in multiple ways should at least consider that too much of anything becomes an irritant.

You don’t even have to do it this way. One of the blogs I love is still doing blog giveaways in what I deem a respectable way. I would like to quote what she says in her giveaway:

“You don't even have to be a follower of my blog. You don't have to like this or follow that... This isn't about self promotion. It's about saying thank you. You can be a first time visitor or someone who has visited my blog since it started three years ago...You can be from half way across the world, my home town, my life here at Kent...anyone is welcome to enter.”

Because honestly, I want to spend more time on her blog and appreciate her more because she asks so much less. So please! Stop using Rafflecopter! Let’s make giveaways about community and thanking followers again, rather than about giving our lives to Facebook.

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