The most recent lockdown has once again confined us in our homes, leaving people to cope in a variety of ways. For the ones (un)fortunate enough to be studying from home or not working, it has become a daunting task to schedule day-to-day life in order to cling to some sense of normality. In my bed-bound boredom, in search of something to give purpose and structure to my life, I resorted to scrolling through Instagram. Soon enough, I stumbled across a giveaway which required me to complete only a few simple steps in order to be in with a chance of winning some fantastic prize I can no longer remember: a follow, like and a tag. I followed these instructions and not long after I had discovered the #ukgiveaway hashtag and the world of comping which would take over my life for the next month.
Comping refers to “the activity of regularly entering competitions, for example in magazines or on the internet, in order to win prizes”. The winner may receive anything from staying at a hotel to handmade jewellery to cash. Some take this hobby very seriously, dedicating a significant amount of their time in order to participate in the abundance of competitions and giveaways taking place. Some have gone as far as to fully integrate comping into their lifestyle and make it their full-time job.
Within the comping world, there are endless resources on the internet: everything from how to get started, where to find the best giveaways, to tips on how to create the maximum odds to win. A great number of websites are dedicated to listing all competitions and giveaways across the internet for easier access and are religiously visited by compers.
Social media has popularised the hobby, as giveaways have become a norm in promoting a brand – small or large – to increase their engagement and following on any platform. Competition-hosting is all about publicity, and in the age of social media the number of giveaways and competitions is never-ending. This, in turn, increases your chances of winning, and once you strike lucky, it’s hard to stop.
While I initially started by taking part in a few giveaways here and there, in order to get the real experience, I started dedicating up to an hour each day to my new hobby – besides, in the absence of other planned activities during lockdown, at least it gave me a sense of being productive.
I filtered the giveaways that I entered, scrolling past anything I would have no use for. My sisters became the unfortunate victims of mass-tagging (sorry!) as I waded through the hundreds of Instagram giveaways. It seemed I picked my timing well, with the Christmas period being a time of giving back to followers.
My experiment began in mid-November and would last until mid-December. During this time, I followed over 1500 accounts, indicating an approximate of at least 750 individual giveaways. It only took one week for the first message request to appear in my inbox, congratulating me of my first victory. I cannot deny the little rush I felt. I was hooked. In the following weeks, I would become the winner of nine separate Instagram giveaways, which I have listed below.
23/11: Gratitude Journal
I have my sister to thank for my first win. Inspired by my new hobby, she had nominated me on a giveaway post I had tagged her in. Her nomination led to me winning a gratitude journal from @penpusherinc.
1/12: Celtic Knot of Love Pendant
@hardcandyresinart approached me as the winner of any choice of resin or sterling silver necklace from her Etsy shop. I picked this lovely Celtic Knot of Love pendant. Here, I must make note of the amazing packaging the gift arrived in! This prize reminded me of how important packaging and a personal touch is when it comes to your small business.
1/12: A4 Frisk YUPO Pad
The same day, @myabstractink messaged me to let me know there was an A4 Frisk YUPO Pad (25 sheets) from @frisk_art_materials coming my way. As a procrastinating artist, this is still something I have not yet properly used, but no doubt will in the future!
12/12: Wellness Box
My sister had nominated me for another prize – a wellness box from @futureyoutherapy. A much welcome treat after suffering a particularly anxious week. The box contained many treats, including pink fuzzy socks, wispa hot chocolate, tea, candies, and a bath bomb to heal the soul.
19/12: Wax Melts
The start of my four-day lucky streak! @jmaexmelts messaged me after I was chosen as a first prize winner to receive a big bunch of handmade luxury wax melts. Never before have I used wax melts, but this has now changed. The melts smelled absolutely heavenly.
19/12: Skin Care Products
I won a giveaway hosted by @naturalbeautywithbaby, winning two @terreverdi organic skincare products – a moisturiser and a facial serum. Worth about £80! As a student, I would not ever even consider buying such luxurious skincare products myself. My skin feels like velvet!
20/12: Press-on Nail Kit
@nails.by.jens‘ message appeared in my inbox the day after. I had won a free set of press-on nails with my own choice of design. As an anxious nail-biter, I tend wear press-on nails every now and then for a little confidence boost. This set has undoubtedly been the best I have ever had, with a fabulous Marimekko design to boot.
21/12: Golden Tiara
I won one of the best-selling tiaras from @iqoniques. We’re not talking about some plastic princess crown here but a heavy-ish golden metal tiara that glows in the sunlight. I have never owned anything like this before. I will be wearing it on my birthday.
22/12: Orange Chocolate Brownie & Drinks
@happyheartflow approached me as the winner of her giveaway: the prize being a healthy orange brownie tin from @anutritionistskitchen and @happydoseuk set of three drinks! These arrived separately, with a sweet handwritten note that added a personal touch.
After a month of active participation, I had won all these prizes which added up to approximately £250 worth of items. I felt quite guilty signing up for and receiving so many fantastic products with hundreds of other participants missing out. So, I decided to give many of these items as gift or share them with others so that I could spread the joy instead of keeping them to myself.
A Look at the Numbers:
At the end of the month, I had won a total of 9 prizes after having taken part in 750 giveaways, making my winning rate 1.2%. A full-time comping addict would perhaps look down on such odds, as this would certainly not be sustainable in the long run. Let’s say it takes approximately one minute to join a giveaway – a like, a follow and a tag on 3-5 friends in the comments. This would have taken me at least 12,5 hours, not considering the amount of time put into finding the giveaways, reading through their conditions, and in the end unfollowing the accounts I was not successful with. Not to mention the inconvenience of having my feed completely transformed by hundreds of accounts, through which finding my friends’ posts was nigh on impossible.
My intention during this experiment was primarily to win nice prizes to cheer me up during my lockdown-depression, and in this I was successful: I received a consistent flow of serotonin boosts as packages were delivered to my door, even a month after I stopped taking part in giveaways.
For someone who wants to get into comping as a hobby, I would recommend that you start with small business giveaways. I certainly had more success with accounts with lower follower counts, as your comment does not get lost in hundreds of others. Making a dedicated giveaway account, which would allow for you to take part in competitions that require a post to your story, is also a good place to start – by missing this step I was ruled out nearly 50% of giveaways available!
Find people who are happy to be tagged in hundreds of posts weekly – perhaps other compers from comping forums or inactive accounts of friends or family members. Finally, the world of comping extends far beyond Instagram: if this hobby has piqued your interest, then it is worth to check out forums such as Competition Hunter, Competition Database, and The Prize Finder.
It is important to note that winning is never guaranteed, however much time you put in. Money Saving Expert notes that a better approach is to ‘think of comping as a potentially rewarding hobby, rather than a potentially underpaid job.’ Only thing required is your phone and a bit of time – which makes comping a perfect pastime for students.
From the Point of View of Giveaway Organisers:
At first sight, it may appear that a giveaway is a sure way to boost your Instagram account. Guaranteed followers? Yes please! However, due to Instagram’s new algorithm that prefers user engagement over follower count, a giveaway can severely harm your account and business.
A giveaway that is small and niche-specific, attracting people interested in your area (such as children’s books, dog products, or press-on nails) is likely to bring in more people who are truly interested in what you have to offer. Whereas, a large generic giveaway, such as a piece of clothing, a food hamper, or a gift card, however, are things all of us could be interested in. Yes, your follower count will grow, but is this the audience you were targeting in the first place? Are they interested in your content? The answer is usually no. These followers are less likely to engage with your content, which thus receives less likes, shares, and saves. Instagram detects an imbalance, deeming your “ghost followers” to be “fake followers”, and thus filters your content which is then is not shown to your followers on their feed. It is therefore crucial that your giveaways are closely linked to your brand, and the product you may be selling.
After completing this experiement I would contact the Instagram accounts from which I won prizes from to ask them a few questions:
(1) How many followers did you gain from your most recent giveaway?
The answers varied anywhere from mere 15 up to 100 per giveaway.
(2) How many of these were sustained after the giveaway closed?
The most common answer was about 80-90%. Some did not keep track and noted how difficult it is to specify such a number.
(3) Would you say that giveaways are an effective way to grow your following and engagement?
Each account responded with a confident “Yes!”.
@Penpusherinc would go into more depth, noting that “Giveaways are a good way of building follower numbers and increasing the overall reach of social media posts. That’s not to say that these are the most valuable followers in terms of turning them into customers shopping from the brand – I expect the number converting into paying customers will be low.”
Whie @Beautywithababy added that “I’ve maintained lasting friendships with other Instagrammers due to giveaways. I always follow interesting accounts back.”
(4) Do you time your giveaway(s) at a particular time of the year?
Most businesses responded with a no, justifying the timing by a need for an engagement boost or brand requirements of gifted items.
(5) Any other comments?
“As a relatively new start up, the giveaways were a way to raise awareness of the account and boost followers/engagement – it was enjoyable and nice to see once people found the account, they interacted with other previous posts.” (@futureyoutherapy)
“Having worked for a major magazine publisher for many years, I know that people who enter competitions can be their own demographic and aren’t necessarily the people who will buy your product or visit your shop. There’s still value in having more followers and especially in driving engagement to posts as social media algorithms will get your posts seen by more people as a result.” (@Penpusherinc)
“I found it a bit hard to keep track if everyone followed the rules of the entry. Turns out very few people did. There might be a way of doing this in a more efficient way, but I haven’t looked into it properly yet.” (@myabstractink)
“It was a fun experience offering my first giveaway and it succeeded better than I thought. I was nervous on how I could choose a random comment, but I figured it out by using an Instagram random generator on a website which made it fair for everyone who entered.” (@nails.by.jens)
“I really enjoy hosting giveaways, it’s so exciting to draw the winner. I use custom made software to ensure all entries are counted. It’s important to confirm with the brand expectations before beginning, e.g. who will draw the winner, how it will end, etc.” (@naturalbeautywithbaby)
Inspired by the kindness of these small businesses and Instagram influencers, I started planning my very own giveaway for my own small art business. Having learned the tips and tricks of giveaway planning, I wanted to give back and experience the other side of giveaways – organising one and drawing out a lucky winner.
I plan to return to comping next Christmas, and potentially around other prime comping times: Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and so on. I highly recommend giving comping a try – after all, all that is required is your phone and internet connection to be in for a chance to win things you may otherwise not consider buying or cannot afford. It is a relatively low-effort hobby with a potentially big pay-out, and you never know what you may win!