What’s The Difference Between Sweepstakes, Contests, and Giveaways?

Feb 2017
giveaways, contests, lotteries, contest rules, social media contest
Photo Credit: @unofficial.d

One of the most popular and effective ways for brands to create awareness and boost engagement on social media is through promotional campaigns. When we talk about promotional campaigns, we often hear the words “contest,” “giveaway,” and “sweepstakes” used interchangeably. However, there are some important distinctions between these seemingly analogous terms. Before you host your next campaign, familiarize yourself with the differences between each.

Before we dive into technicalities, let’s start with the basics – what’s a giveaway? What’s known in the social media and blogging world as a “giveaway” is actually either a contest or a sweepstakes – depending upon how you’ve set it up.

Think of a sweepstakes as a game of luck.

A sweepstakes campaign is a promotional drawing in which prizes are given away at no charge to the participants. Winners are selected at random.

Think of a contest as a game of skill.

A contest is an event in which people try to win by doing something better than others. Winners are selected based on their submission or performance.

Think of a lottery as a game of luck, with an entry fee.

A lottery is a means of raising money by selling numbered tickets and giving prizes to the holders of numbers drawn at random. The winner is selected at random, but you have to pay if you want to play. This includes raffles and drawings.

Depending on the promotion you run, different rules and regulations apply – especially when it comes to lotteries. Lotteries are heavily regulated and usually only legal if run by the government. When running a giveaway or contest, it is imperative to make sure you aren’t creating an illegal lottery, even if unintentionally. A lottery requires three requirements; prize, consideration, and chance. Think of consideration as monetary value given to the company offering the promotion. To avoid having your contest or sweepstakes fall into the lottery category, make sure it excludes one of these elements.

While social promotions are a great way to stir up excitement on your social channels, take the time to understand the rules before jumping into the campaign game. Get creative, follow the rules, and most importantly, have a little fun. Good luck!


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