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How to Run a Giveaway With a Spreadsheet

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There’s apps for everything today. But sometimes, the best tools are the ones you already have. Your spreadsheet app—Excel, Numbers, Google Sheets, and more—is one of the most powerful applications on your computer. They can crunch numbers, help you with your finances, and if you’re using an online spreadsheet—either Google Sheets or Excel Online—you can even use them to build a survey and gain information from your customers and fans. Then, in the same spreadsheet, you can mine through the data and gain insights on your customers without leaving your spreadsheet.

Spreadsheets are so flexible, there’s little reason to reach for a new app for any number or data related problem unless you have especially large or unusual needs. That’s why I’ve always used a spreadsheet whenever I’ve run giveaways, at AppStorm and elsewhere.

If you’re running a giveaway—at a real-world store, from your website, or even something small among your friends—here’s how you can easily keep track of the entries and pick a random winner using your favorite spreadsheet app.

Collecting the Entries

Giveaway entries
Get your entries in a spreadsheet, and picking the winner will be a lot easier.

The first and most important step, of course, is getting entires in your giveaway. If you’re running a giveaway on your website, one of the most common ways to let people enter nowadays is to comment on your site’s giveaway page, and then perhaps share the entry on their social networks. Or, if you’re running a giveaway at an event or a brick-and-mortar store, you might have paper entries that you’ll need to manually enter. Either way, unless you’re putting all the entries on paper and pulling them out of a hat at random, you’ll need to list everyone’s name and contact info. A spreadsheet is the perfect place to do that, since it’s easy to sort, search through, and rearrange as needed.

And so, the simplest way to run a giveaway would be to do it in a way that’d automatically get your entries listed in a spreadsheet—which you can then use to find the random winner for you, all from one place. If you’d be ok with just letting people fill out a form to enter your giveaway, just check out our tutorial on making a survey in a Google Sheets spreadsheet, then come back here for the rest of the details on using that spreadsheet for your giveaway. You could also use any other online form tool, such as TypeForm, and then export your entries in a spreadsheet format to open in Excel, Numbers, or Google Sheets.

That same spreadsheet export option is your best option if you’re, say, entering everyone on your mailing list in the drawing.

A Social Media Giveaway

If you want your giveaway to get the most entries, though, you’ll need to let people share the post on social networks to enter the giveaway. That gives you extra entries you’ll need to keep track of. You could just add them manually to your spreadsheet, but if you have a lot of entries, that’d be time consuming.

Instead, here’s the best other options:

  • IFTTT: You can’t monitor your Twitter mentions with 3rd party apps today, but with IFTTT, you can monitor every Tweet you favorite. So, one option could be for you to favorite every tweet you see that’s an entry to your giveaway, and IFTTT could then append that tweet to your Google Docs spreadsheet.
  • Zapier: Another web app automation tool similar to IFTTT, Zapier can monitor Twitter for hashtags, so if you have your giveaway entrees use a hashtag it can automatically add them to your spreadsheet as well. It also works with favorites, so you could still favorite any entry tweets that didn’t include the hashtag.
  • TweetDownload or Twitter to CSV: If your contest is over, your best bet is to download an archive of your Twitter mentions. TweetDownload lets you download just your mentions from a simple web app, and works great for this. Twitter to CSV is a Ruby app you’ll need to run from Terminal, so it’s only for advanced users, but can give you even more detailed results if you want.
  • Twitter Search or Snap Bird: Worst case, if the only thing people used to enter your giveaway was sharing a link to your site, you can use Twitter search or 3rd party tools like Snap Bird to search through Twitter for everyone who shared that link, and then can manually add them to your spreadsheet.
Export your Tweets
An archive of tweets from TweetDownload

If you also have entries from other social networks, including Facebook page comments, the best way to add them to your giveaway is manually. That’s difficult and time consuming, but there’s simply no other simple ways to get data from most social networks.

Clean up Your Entries

Once you’ve got your entries, you’ll need to clean up any entries that aren’t supposed to be there. If you used the hashtag yourself, or ever mentioned yourself on Twitter or favorited another tweet, those and more will need removed from your giveaway entry spreadsheet.

To get rid of them easily in Excel, just click the Data tab and select Filter, then click the down arrow on the column with the Twitter account names. De-select the checkboxes by your name and anyone else on your team’s Twitter accounts who shouldn’t be entered in the giveaway, then select the remaining data and copy it to a new sheet.

Remove any extraneous data
Remove any entries that shouldn't be there

Repeat that with any other qualifiers that'll get rid of other entries that aren't supposed to be there. Within a minute, you should have just the entries that are supposed to be entered. All that's left is to pick the winners.

Picking the Random Winners

You’ve got everyone’s entries in a spreadsheet, know exactly how many people have entered your contest, and have their contact info organized. All that’s left is to pick your random winners, and send them their prize.

Using the randbetween function
The simple spreadsheet trick that makes picking random winners simple

The spreadsheet has already been a valuable place to list all the entires, and it’s automatically counted how many entries you have. Now, to pick a random winner, just enter the following in a new cell in your spreadsheet, replacing lower with 1 and higher with the number of entries you’ve had in your contest:

=randbetween(lower,higher)

If, say, you’ve had 287 entries in your giveaway, you’d enter =randbetween(1,287). Press enter, and your spreadsheet will have picked a random number—and that’s your lucky winner. Find the corresponding row on your spreadsheet, and that’s your random winner. You can now announce the winner and send them their prize—or repeat that step as many times as you need to get all of your winners. Do note that some spreadsheet apps, including Excel, will recalculate the random value each time you change anything on the spreadsheet, so you’ll need to copy that number to a new cell first to make sure you don’t lose the number of the first winner.

Conclusion

Running a giveaway can be a difficult, but spreadsheets can ease much of the work. With a few tricks to get your entries listed in a spreadsheet, and the simple randbetween function, you’ll have your random winner picked quicker than you would if you were drawing a number out of a hat.

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