Well! What a hoo haa!!

I have had so many messages from understandably concerned people, regarding giveaways,  I thought I would unpick it all in a blog post for everyone to read.

I asked the question directly to Facebook & Instagram and you will find their reply at the end of this post.

Let’s look at the headlines that have had so many people worried

Giveaways are bad. Do not do them. You will be penalised.

Let’s dive in.

First up – Community Guidelines straight from the horse’s mouth


If that seems like too much to wade through….


And here is the part in question. See point 3.

If Instagram was making Giveaways ‘illegal’ do we not think that Instagram would fiddle about with the algorithm to fish for certain words such as ‘giveaway’ and blanket ban those posts? Just like they do with ‘bad hashtags’. They have the technology.

They are simply saying in point 3, that they may not recommend your post as ‘users broadly dislike them’. More on that later.

They even have a Promotion Guidelines Page – which clearly says that giveaways are allowed as long as you stick to the guidelines. Fairly simple so far.

‘But what about accounts that say they have been taken down during or after hosting a giveaway?’

Of late, there seems to be a risk that you could have your account ‘taken down’. But not for the reason you might think. You are not being penalised for holding a giveaway. Scaremongering, hearsay and unsubstantiated ‘facts’ are not actual truths or evidence.

What I think is happening, is this…

You have most likely seen accounts that are mid-hosting, come on to stories to say that there have been scam/clone accounts set up with the same name (by tweaking the name a bit by adding a letter or underscore) That account will DM genuine entrants to tell them they have won and to ‘follow these instructions’ usually by giving away personal information or being asked to pay a fee.

It happened to me last month when I hosted a really successful giveaway with a brand. Multiple scam/clone accounts sprang up and I had countless messages from people who noticed it wasn’t me immediately and started reporting those accounts to IG. I reported them too.

So, if we think with a level head about what we know, what the actual facts are and marry that with what is happening – I’d say that the real accounts that are being taken down have been reported as the  fake/scam accounts, by accident. I know this happens because it happened to me. I didn’t get taken down, but I had some worried people message saying they reported me by accident. Easy to do as the scammers are clever! The fake account’s name is so similar to the real account’s name, obviously. So it would be really easy to report the wrong one.

So although the bottom line is the same, the reason is very different to what you might have believed and that is very important.

Do a giveaway and you risk being taken down.

Scary huh?

And an absolute ball ache for anyone it happens to (I know of no one it has happened to) But the reason is NOT because you have been penalised by IG for doing something wrong. And, in my opinion, the risk is LOW.

I can only think of 2 accounts in the last year who got taken down and they weren’t hosting a give away or doing anything wrong, it just happened overnight. They both got them back in the end. Awful! Make sure you have two factor authentication on (both of the accounts I know had it on but make sure you do it anyway)

I will continue to hold giveaways.

‘But what about the written part in the guidelines – Point 3’ 

This is content that ‘is allowed on our platforms, but may not be eligible for recommendations’

‘May’ not be eligible.

I take this to mean that IG ‘may’ not put your post on the Explore Page. It ‘may’ not push your post up through the algorithm

Or, it might do both.

I asked Amy from @littlehouseinlondon for her thoughts about the current situation regarding fear of holding giveaways.

‘I’ve hosted many successful giveaways over the years on Instagram, it’s a wonderful way to give back to my followers. They have benefitted the brands I have worked with immensely. This can be key growth for small businesses, it increases their follows, website traffic and sales. I make sure I check the rules regularly and I have clear Ts&Cs set out.

I contacted an Content Creator platform and a big brand I work with for their stances on these rumours. They both came back saying they feel it’s ‘scaremongering’ and that they also regularly check rules set out by Instagram and that it’s ‘cash/money’ giveaways that we should stay away from. Most of my giveaways make the Instagram Explore page and are often shown in hashtag suggestions. I plan to carry on running safe, fun giveaways. The last thing brands need right now in this current climate are Content Creators cancelling planned collaborations right before Christmas that could be key to sales and traffic. ‘

‘What happens if my post doesn’t get pushed through the algorithm?’ 

Here is what we know about the algorithm.

We know it works for us, to offer us content it thinks we will engage with to keep us on the app for longer. By engaging with content we like, we are teaching the algorithm to show us relevant stuff. The algorithm is not a dark art to be feared or blamed for a post bombing.

We know that if there is a lot of traffic to and from a post, Instagram will show it to more people.

But let’s take it that IG won’t push your post up like it usually would by using key words or hashtags, for example.

So what?

If your giveaway is being shared, commented on and people are tagging each other, you don’t need the help of the algorithm anyway, surely?


‘What about the drop in followers after the giveaway ends?’

It’s true. You may see a drop off. Here is why.

Some people are serial giveaway enterers. They will follow to adhere to the rules and unfollow once the giveaway ends.

Some people will follow to enter, stick around for a bit and decide you aren’t for them after all.

If the brand you are aligning yourself with is a good fit, and on brand with your brand, you should stay  in positive equity afterwards.

The only reason I can see for a big drop off in followers after a give away is if the rules are to follow both accounts and the prize is fab, but the account holding the giveaway is a bad fit for the brand, or the account holding the giveaway does not produce any other appealing quality content. I have never known of anyone including myself, suffering a mass exodus  after hosting a give away.

Stories of huge drop offs, in my opinion are to be taken with a pinch of salt. If this has happened to you , I would love to know.

I have never seen a drop off on my account after a giveaway – not enough to turn my ninjalitics red, I can do that quite well on my own sometimes haha and I would wager that you have seen that happen to you too


Are Giveaways spammy though?

If the giveaway is genuinely being held to bring that brand in front of your audience, then no.

If the giveaway is being held with the intention of quickly gaining followers and perhaps there are multiple giveaway holders and the rules are that to enter, you must follow X Y Z accounts, then, this in my opinion IS spammy. It is possibly not being held with your followers or the brand’s best interests at heart. And could be seen as going against community guidelines. It is fake engagement, rather like a follow pod. I heartily disagree with both things.

Just because I disagree with them, however, does not make either of them ‘illegal’ on Instagram. I would say, as a word of caution, that your followers can spot this kind of fake growth, a mile off and THAT would potentially be damaging to you, and the brand. Trust can’t be bought, it is earned, after all.

What should I do – I am due to host a giveaway and I am nervous 

Here is what I will be doing.

Ad/giveaway will be clearly at the top. As with any of the guidelines from either Instagram &/or the ASA, your audience needs to be aware, before they engage further with a post, exactly what it is. In this case it’s a giveaway and whether or not you are being paid, it’s also an ad (if you are being paid and have access to the Paid Partnership banner, then I’d use it) Be really clear and transparent about the nature of the collaboration.

I will also be very clear in the Ts&Cs by saying something such as this

Ts&Cs – This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Instagram. The only account that will contact you about this giveaway is me from this exact account. I will never ask you to divulge personal details or ask you to click a link or pay a fee to claim your prize.

Here is what Instagram says

Promotions on Instagram must include the following:

  • A complete release of Instagram by each entrant or participant.
  • Acknowledgement that the promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Instagram.

You will then add the rest of the terms such as end date, and any other terms you’d usually add or that the brand asks you to add.

What about clone accounts though?

Personally I would keep vigilant. Check often by typing your handle in to the search bar – any clone accounts will show up. Unless they have blocked you, in which case you won’t be able to see them. Set up a spare account so you can check. A secret squirrel account, if you will. This way you don’t have to ask anyone to do it for you which is a faff. REPORT them if you see any. Jump on stories and ask your audience to report them. Maybe even ask the brand you are working with to step in and keep an eye/report too.

I was cloned multiple times and have an amazing community who jumped on it and told me/reported and the accounts were successfully removed fairly quick sharp.

Common Sense 

Common sense regarding entering a giveaway must also prevail. Do you give your details to any Prince of anywhere that rocks up in your DMs saying he needs a few quid and then he will marry you and you will have access to his fortune?

It’s the same kind of thing, except they are rocking up, impersonating a trusted account. If you receive a DM saying you are a winner but are asked to click a link or send personal details in which to release the prize – Do not click the link. Do not give any details out. They want you to react quickly. Take a breath. No genuine account will rush you or hassle you.  Keep vigilant online.

Will I lose the trust of my audience

I cannot see one reason why a trusted account who you have followed for however long, would lose the trust of their audience for hosting a giveaway in all good faith.


My own personal thoughts on giveaways are this.

They are really important to help small businesses reach a new audience.

If the both brands (remember you are a brand too) are well suited, matched and aligned, your audience will appreciate it (must have a decent prize though – or it’s not worth the faff of hosting (you) or entering (your audience)) and it should be a success for you both.

The small business will grow hugely over the duration if what I say above is adhered to. This is vital to them and could transform their business over night. Not doing giveaways is making it really hard for small businesses who are struggling already, to be seen.

Big brands and people managed by talent agencies also run giveaways. A lot of them have a contact at Instagram or Facebook – Now I don’t know this for certain but I’d think that if giveaways are as   dangerous as we have possibly been led to believe – I’d reckon the big brands and agencies wouldn’t touch them with a barge pole. If Instagram truly didn’t want anyone hosting them, you wouldn’t be able to host them. Full stop.

The risk seems to me, to be the risk caused by being accidentally reported. And I do agree it is a risk. But I feel it’s a low risk, however you are the only one who can weigh up how you feel about it and decide for yourself.

Hosting Giveaways

If you are going to hold a giveaway, you must be sure you feel it is fair. If you are working with a small brand, almost as a favour, for no fee, that is cool as long as you are ok with it.

Whether you are charging a fee or not, think about all the extra hassle it takes. Shooting the content for the grid and creating stories is a given, but there is no getting away from it, hundreds or even thousands of comments on a post really clogs up your phone!

Think about the duration of the giveaway – too long and everyone has forgotten it, too quick and some might feel they missed out. I usually find Thursday evening – Sunday evening works well for me. That is the maximum. Friday pm – Sunday pm is my ideal.

Don’t make your giveaway spammy or too complicated. Keep the rules simple, stuff like ‘for 10 extra entries share this to your stories and tag xyz’  That could be seen as spammy and annoying. Running a giveaway should never be done with the sole intention of growing. Make sure your giveaway is honest, uncomplicated, on brand and run with the intention of giving back to your community and bringing a new brand in front of your audience. Do all that and you will likely grow your account anyway, but the growth will be real and engaged.

You can say that people must follow you as a condition, but if they are seeing your post it is likely they are already following. If someone is tagged as an entry and pop over to check you out, they can follow along if they want to, which is a much better way to grow, naturally.

What would work really well, is if the brand shares your post to point people over to the giveaway. If it is a big brand you will almost undoubtedly get an uplift if people like what they see. Either way, the brand sharing your post builds trust, completes the loop if you like. Backs each other up.

Decide at the get go who will generate the winner, you or the brand. I use THIS SITE  to randomly generate a winner. There are loads of generator sites but this one didn’t require any details such as  your Instagram details

If it fails (it failed for me last time – I think because I had 2.8k comments and it couldn’t cope – this is also safe, although there is a fee. It is £20 to generate a winner if you have over 20k comments for instance. So you’d need to ask the brand to do this or work it in to your fee. I was really lucky as I was chatting to the brand on whatsapp that evening and they took over with generating the winner. Worth remembering that doing all of that can take hours  (3, as it turned out, that evening) and it is part and parcel of the job.

You need to make certain you are available and working, at the time the giveaway ends, so you can announce the winner, contact the winner, let the brand know, reply to any comments or questions and generally be around and online. My thoughts – not actual rules.


Final Word – a quote direct from the team at FB & IG

Here’s what the team shared.
“Instagram and Facebook have policies against spam, including not allowing people or Pages to purchase engagement – these types of exchanges (‘like this page for cash or a product’) are not allowed. But giveaways (when there is not a guaranteed chance of winning something) are usually allowed. Giveaways that offer product or gift cards in exchange for engagement (‘like this page for a chance to win our product’) are allowed, but giveaways that offer money in exchange for engagement (‘like this page for a chance to win cash’) violate our policies.”
I hope that this has helped to make things clear for anyone wondering what to do, or worrying.

Please do leave a comment below

As ever

Thanks for reading



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4 Thoughts on Giveaways.
    Helen B
    30 Nov 2020

    I just read this and found it very helpful and agreed with all your points thank you for taking the time to write it.

    30 Nov 2020

    This is so helpful .. Thank you xx

    30 Nov 2020

    Thanks for taking the time to write this Sally, I’m about to launch an advent giveaway, so breaks the rules of length of time… but hopefully it will make sense to people in the context of advent calendar style items that add up to be the overall prize!

    11 Dec 2020

    I consider myself well versed in Instagram & policies but this was very helpful & insightful, learning lots too!
    Thank you!
    Made to measure clothing for all sizes, at high street prices ✨

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