Saturday, July 20, 2013

All About Contests

Note: This post is about entering, and winning, contests that are on other blogs.  Due to the laws of the internetz, they aren't supposed to be called contests, but actually giveaways.  I don't know why, but for simplicity, I will just refer to all giveaways as contests in this post.

I love contesting.  Entering contests is tedious work, but you know how tedium can feel zen at times?  That's how I get when filling out the same contest forms, over and over.  Then on the rare occasions I do win something, I am filled with so much glee that it makes all the tedium worthwhile.  And then comes the few minutes I am able to gloat to my friends over the cool new thingie I got for free.  So today we will talk all about contests.  First, I'll explain how I got into it.  Then I will talk about how to win contests, then I will list some of the prizes I have actually won.

So, Mannah, how did you start contesting anyway?

It all started in the spring of 2012, when Mr J and I jumped on the baby track.  I started browsing the baby aisle of Target and immediately felt the sticker shock many prospective parents (except Will and Kate, I suppose) feel.  "Holy crap," I thought.  "How are we going to buy a house and clothe a baby at the same time?"  Well we did buy a house last year, but still don't have a baby to clothe (boo).  So I started to wonder how I could get some of this baby junk for free.

What do you suppose I did next?  Yep, I googled "free baby stuff" and, after sifting through a load of junk, I eventually stumbled on a blog that would begin a whole new obsession for me.  The blog I linked to there (enter at your own risk, you may never find your way out again!) actually links up to a bunch of other blogs that host contests for baby junk.  This specific one usually links cloth diaper contests, but as I had already decided to use cloth and not disposable diapers, and I had already seen how freaking expensive those puppies are, I decided it could be well worth my time to pursue cloth diaper contests.  However, if you use disposables, or if you don't have a baby at all, there are plenty of contests out there for you!  You just have to search for them!  I suggest starting out by searching "blog giveaways" on a social network like Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest, there are a zillion of them out there, I promise.

OK!  I'm ready to start contesting!  Now what?

The first thing you should know is that there are two main contest forms: Rafflecopter and Giveaway Tools.  Both are extremely easy to use, once you get the hang of it.  Rafflecopter allows you to sign in to the contest with either your name and email address (which is what I do) or with your Facebook account.  Giveaway Tools only allows you to sign in with your name and email address.  You'll want to make sure that however you sign in, it is with an email you check very frequently.  Many times after they draw a winner and send out the winning email, you have only 24-48 hours to claim your prize or they'll pick a new winner.  So anyway, after you sign in, you go through the list and perform each activity they ask of you, often requiring a Facebook and Twitter follow.  Each activity is allotted a certin number of points and the more points you rack up, the better your chances of winning.

Something you want to look for is daily entries.  Some blogs will allow you to come back every 24 hours and do a new task to receive another point.  Make sure you go back every day and get your points!

What I do to ensure I can get as many Facebook likes as possible and subscribes to as many blog emails, is I have separate accounts.  I have one specific email account that is only for blog subscriptions and, trust me, I get hundreds of emails a day on that one.  But those subscriptions also mean that I get hundreds of points in contests.  I do the same for my Facebook and Pinterest accounts.  My real-life friends don't want to see me spamming their page with my contest likes all day long, so I have a separate account just for that.  As of now, I've reached my 5000 like limit, so I will have to delete some pretty soon.  Why does Facebook have a like limit anyway?  Why do they care if I like more than 5000 people?  I tried doing this with Twitter but they flagged me on two separate occasions because they said I was spamming.  Well duh, all I did was retweet contests, of course I was spamming, but isn't that pretty much what everyone else does on Twitter?  Since I still haven't figured them out, I just ignore Twitter entries on contests, but it pisses me off that I don't get those points every time.  If anyone wants to clue me in on how to get around their stupid spamming rules, I would be thrilled.

After entering hundreds of contests, you must be rich!

Uh, no.  Most of the prizes are small, a retail value of less than $50.  And I probably only win about 1% of all the contests I enter.  But I'll list some of the big-ticket items I've won over the past year and a half.  (These pictures are not my own and are the copyright of the original owner.  I only found them on Google Images.)

Kindle Fire
I was thrilled about this one, and it is definitely the one I've gotten the most use out of so far.

Beaba baby food maker

I never planned on buying a baby food maker, but hey if I get one for free, might as well use it!  This thing looks really cool (from inside the box).

Combi Cosmo stroller
Apparently this is a fancy brand that I've never heard of, so now I'm trying to win the car seat that can attach to it.

Cloth Diapers
This is my own picture, obviously.  The baby items that started this whole obsession!  So far I've won four handmade diapers, one Bumgenius, one Thirsties cover, one Ragababe, one Blueberry trainer, five handmade cloth wipes, one handmade wetbag and one Planet Wise wetbag.  I wish you could see all the adorableness in detail.

I also have a few baby clothes and toys and have won a few gift cards.  Some were good ones, like to Amazon and some were to online stores that I had never heard of.  But that's also a good thing about contesting, you get to experience online retailers you never would have before.

If you've won anything big in a contest, let me know.  Or if you have any questions about how to enter contests, please feel free to ask!

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