Let’s Talk About Giveaway Cheating

Date Fri, March 3 2017

When I got the idea to give away a Starbucks gift card to one of my readers, I wasn’t thinking that I’d have to write this post. In fact, I was mostly focusing on how something I had no use for was going to be good for others.

And good it was! This was a short giveaway but popular nonetheless. Despite being just $10, which I thought to be too low to generate interest, the giveaway was quickly shared. Someone posted it on Reddit, then it was culled into a giveaway listing. Nearly 3000 entries later, it’s over. I’m quite surprised how well it did, but this is good news. Because $10 is a small price to pay for more engaged readers, new followers and an increased network!

But the cost in time and effort was more than I was expecting. See, my giveaways are typically entered by people who follow Reviews by Cole, either via RSS  or on Facebook or Twitter. I’ve got some great readers, but because my giveaway was shared in certain places (and places where people saw only the Gleam form and not the blog post), I saw a lot of new entrants. And many of them were cheaters.

Yup. You read it right.

Cheaters.

I noticed this right away when I was how well my giveaway was doing. Imagine my surprise disappointment when I saw how many of those entries were fake. Because I logged into Gleam right away, I realized that I would need to do so daily to invalidate entries. Knowing this early on meant I wasn’t as frustrated as I would have been if I had gone through entries at the end of the giveaway. Yes, I did go through every entry in an attempt to weed out the fake ones.

It quickly became obvious the type of entries that people cheated on the most

  • Tweets: People would Tweet and then delete, so I’d see a 404 when clicking the link. Or they’d tweet from a private account, which may be an honest mistake, but doesn’t count if I can’t see it.
  • Blogging about the giveaway: People kept pasting my blog URL into the form. Um, nope. Lol! Talk about it on your blog. If not? No points for you. No blog? Sorry. But not everyone has Twitter, either.
  • Following RSS: If you sign up to my feed via email, I can see that. And I did get some new followers using this method. It’s impossible to tell how many people follow a feed if they don’t use email, but five times as many people said they signed up as I can prove.
  • Anything requiring feedback: Leaving a comment on the blog? Entering another giveaway (which you’d think would be right up their alley)? Telling me where you found a giveaway? Anything that required entering text in the form was ripe for cheating, even if there was literally no wrong answer as in the last question!

Fortunately, Gleam makes it easy to deal with those entries. I can invalidate them, so anyone who is cheating will see that they’re not getting points if they signed back in — a sure sign they shouldn’t cheat, right?

Except! Some of those people would delete a tweet that I would invalidate, and they’d come back and do the same thing again, even though their effort was clearly wasted the first time. Want to waste my time? Sure, you’re obviously an egghead. But to waste your own time? What a moron! Ha!

I guess I don’t understand why people would cheat and waste their own time when there are so many easy ways to enter.

There’s a chance that some of those cheaters don’t understand what’s going on because they don’t speak English. Many of these cheaters were from non-English speaking countries. Still, it’s a bit ridiculous.

Typically when someone cheated once, they cheated more than once. So I could get a feel for whether any/all of Tom’s entries were valid. But that leads me to wonder if I should allow any entries for cheaters? I think that I won’t in the future. Cheat once, get caught, and you’re out of here.

I only deleted all entries from one person, but I will likely be more strict next time. Why?

Let’s run the numbers, shall we?

  • At the end of the day, I invalidated over 125 actions.
  • 26 tweets were fake.
  • Of those, 3 people came back to cheat more than once!

Not everything was bad, however!

  • Entrants earned 73 extra entries for referring people.
  • One person referred 58 other people for the bulk of those entries.
  • And one of those referrals got 7 entries for his referrals.

That’s the kind of pyramid scheme that I like! ;)

While not cheating, I was also surprised at how many people were tweeting from accounts that were only for sweeps/giveaways. I considered making this against the rules in future giveaways but ultimately decided against it. See, some of those accounts have large networks, so the exposure is good(ish) for me!

So count this as a life lesson for both me and you. I’ll have stricter rules and clarify entries as much as possible, but I’ll waste less time with cheaters by deleting all their entries, and I may consider banning them from all giveaways in the future. To be honest, most of these people are drive-by visitors, anyway, so it’s not my loss.

But it won’t be their win if they cheat!

2 Responses

  1. Carolsue March 8 2017 @ 9:38 pm

    I entered some of your contests….hope I didn’t accidentally cheat. One thing I’ve encountered (and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t yours) with Gleam, if it says there are 40 entry methods, I do all (or most) of them and end up with only 5 o 6 entries. What is with that?

  2. Cole March 11 2017 @ 5:39 am

    Hi Carolsue, thanks for commenting! There’s a chance if an entry wasn’t right that it was invalidated, and you should see that it was invalid. This notification should give you the opportunity to talk to me or the host and figure things out.

    A few things to remember:

    • Remember to use a public Twitter and not to delete your entries. You’ll need to give Gleam/RC/etc permission to post from your Twitter.
    • Make sure to read entries fully and to provide the feedback required. I had to invalidate some entries because folks weren’t paying attention.

    One thing to remember is that every entry type can be weighted with different amounts of points. For example, I usually assign 1 point to easy “visit this link” type of entries but more for entries such as “blog about this.”

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