A Math Lesson: When Entering Giveaways, Should I Tag People?

I never thought I’d be writing another one of these Math Lesson posts (the last was on Goodreads ratings), but it has come to my attention that I require math to solve this dilemma I’ve been thinking about recently.

Giveaways. (Specifically book ones, but this could technically apply to anything.)

I have to admit, I’m a chronic giveaway enterer. I see it on Twitter and it’s just click to follow, click to retweet, continue scrolling. And this may be perpetuated by the fact that I regularly win giveaways (say what?), but it’s a very easy way for me to get access to books and ARCs & expand my bookshelf.

I’ve had lots of luck on Twitter & a few lucky breaks on Rafflecopter, but Instagram is the bane of my existence. The bane. I’ve never won an Instagram giveaway and it’s led me to believe in a complicated multi-level government conspiracy (not really, but whatever).

(update: I’ve finally won not one, but TWO Instagram giveaways within a week of each other a couple weeks ago, so maybe my conspiracy theory isn’t so valid)

So, I thought I’d go into dissecting the math behind an Instagram giveaway. I won’t be spilling the tea about all those Twitter giveaways I win (ngl, not even sure what the tea is at this point), but I’ll be talking about Instagram giveaways instead.

Unlike my last Math Lesson post, I won’t be using calculus this time (I think?), but probability instead. And I know. I’ve probably said this millions of times before but I’m terrible at probability. But this is nothing complicated, just fractions, so we’re good!


Before we even begin looking at this, there’s a few assumptions we have to make (stupid math modeling challenges, making me lay out my assumptions):

  1. The giveaways are not rigged. This should be obvious, but I thought I’d clear it up now that the giveaways I’ll be simulating with math will all hypothetically use random number generators to pick the winners.
  2. The giveaways are modeled like so: +1 for generic entry (a reply), +1 for each person you tag (unlimited), +1 for sharing in your stories, +1 for reposting

Hypothetical Situations

When I was thinking about looking at this issue on a math perspective, I didn’t actually know where to start. But, I ran a few hypothetical situations that make this whole situation very easy to understand, so I’ll just be demonstrating my point through these.

In this hypothetical situation, we’ll be determining your chance of winning when your friend does enter with only one entry (aka they just do the reply, not the tags), and when they don’t. We’ll look at this on a scale of when there’s 10 entries before you, 100, and 10,000 (just to be safe).

(Note, the percentage column is before you multiply it by 100.)

That’s a lot of numbers, but what I did was simulate 5 different scenarios with different number of entries outside of your sphere of influence.

So, at first we have you just replying, giving you a chance of 9%, 1%, and .01% for 10, 100, and 10,000 entries respectively.

Then we tested if you replied and tagged one person who entered only once, giving you a chance of 15%, 2%, and .02% respectively.

Then we tested if you replied and tagged one person who didn’t enter at all, giving you a chance of 17%, 2%, and .02% respectively.

Then we tested if you replied and tagged 2 people, both who entered only once each, giving you a chance of 20%, 3%, and .03% respectively.

Lastly, we tested if you replied and tagged 2 people who didn’t enter, giving you a chance of 23%, 3%, and .03% respectively.

Interpretation of the Data

What do these numbers mean? Well, you can find a few trends in the calculations.

The more entries there are, the lesser the effect other people entering will have on your chances. Let’s look at Ex. 4 & 5. When there are only 10 initial entries, you have chances of 20% if they do enter, and 23% if they don’t. But when there are 100 initial entries, your chance stays at 3%. With 10,000 entries? Still at .03%.

Imagine what would happen if there’s 100,000 entries. It basically means you’re an amoeba in the pond, and a bunch of people are going to have to enter (meaning people you influenced to enter, because you don’t count people who are out of your control, so to speak) to drop your chances significantly.

So what this means is, unless you’re entering a giveaway where there are only 10 entries, or if you really really care about the 6th decimal place, other people entering as an effect of your actions won’t harm you when compared with not suggesting other people to enter at all.

Now, if we look at the trends overall, when you compare not tagging anyone, tagging 1 person & they enter, and tagging 2 people and they enter, your chances are always higher when you tag someone, even if they enter. Sure, them entering will drop your chances by a smidge, but them entering and you getting a brownie point for tagging is wayyy better than not getting the brownie point at all.

Room for Error

Of course, the example I used is typically not representative of the regular giveaway. Each Instagram giveaway is different–some give bonus points for things besides tags like story shout outs and reposting *shudders*. Others weigh things differently than the regular giveaway.

The impacts of a heavier weight on tagging people only goes to show how tagging people will be beneficial to you–because if you don’t and everyone else does, that sets you at a larger disadvantage than before when there was a lower weight on tagging.

Similarly, story shoutout are largely dependent on your followers and people who watch your stories. I have friends who never watch Instagram stories, and others who do it religiously. Story shout-outs are like tags, but to your whole story-watching audience. So if you’re a big influencer, there’s probably a smaller payoff in story shout outs than in less followed accounts as more people are inclined to enter and your own chances may even drop lower than they were if you didn’t do a shout out (this is where you may want to get concerned about setting yourself up for failure).

Reposting has a similar effect as story shout outs, except your audience is usually wider AND you can ruin your feed. *shudders*

It’s almost obvious that if you want the best chances, tag people who won’t enter. AKA don’t cajole Taylor Swift into entering the giveaway.  But this brings us to the last portion of this post…

Looking at it Holistically

Because, when we look at everything as a whole, does it matter?

How much do you care that you win said giveaway? How important is it to you really? Does the .00004% boost in your chances make a difference in the long run?

Giveaways are normally a chance for readers to own a copy of a book that they might not be able to own otherwise. A lot of the time, we enter giveaways for selfish reasons–to add to our book collection (like owning two dozen copies of City of Bones) or to just have it.

It’s mainly because we want something. We want that cute, exclusive edition of The Hazel Wood, or a signed copy of An Ember in the Ashes even though we own both in their original, unsigned statuses. But, although it’s super fun and exciting to win these giveaways, does everyone enter them for the same motivations we are?

Are they entering it for a copy of a book that they could check out from their library, or are the entering it because it’s very hard and expensive to ship internationally? Or because they come from an under privileged family and rarely get the chance to go to the library?

There are tons of international English book readers who don’t get as many opportunities to read, and many of us in the book community are privileged Americans who already have access to these books, even if it might be a splurge to buy.

Can’t we just obtain the book from our local library if we really wanted to read it? Wouldn’t we be doing whatever we could to read it? Entering a giveaway is honestly a really flaky way to get access to a book, because chances are you’re not going to win.

Over the month I’ve spent writing this post, I’ve thought a lot about why I enter these giveaways and which giveaways I’ve entered. And I’ve made a few pledges to myself:

When I enter giveaways for myself, it will be for books I haven’t read. In the past I’ve entered for books I’ve read but don’t own, but I’m trying to stray from that mentality. Instead, I’ll try to enter only for things I haven’t read, to help other readers get a chance to read something and fall in love with something new. 

I love entering ARC giveaways because I don’t have that relationship with publishers where they just send me books willy nilly. So, getting access to ARCs for me means that I can add to helping an author boost their book through a review. But from now on, I will not enter because I want an exclusive ARC of Furyborn when I’ve already read the DRC.

I will try to enter giveaways on behalf of other organizations. Div Book Bridge is such a great organization that helps connect diverse bloggers with books that represent them. Wouldn’t it be cool to win a giveaway, and then have the book sent to Div Book Bridge so bloggers who may not have access to books that represent them will get the chance to read? (It’s so important that people from that group get to review books that represent them. You can actually donate/contribute to Div Book Bridge through Ko-Fi or by sending them a book!)

I will enter less international giveaways. International readers have things the hardest. And as much as I sympathize with their plight, what have I actually done to help them? So, part of my pledge is to enter fewer INTL giveaways (like those big “choose a book from Book Depository” ones) with the hope that one day I won’t enter any INTL ones at all so INTL readers who have taken hit after hit (with Goodreads and Netgalley) will hopefully have just a slightly larger chance at getting access to the literature they want.

What will you do?

much love, vicky


6 thoughts on “A Math Lesson: When Entering Giveaways, Should I Tag People?

  1. I will enter less international giveaways. International readers have things the hardest. And as much as I sympathize with their plight, what have I actually done to help them? So, part of my pledge is to enter fewer INTL giveaways (like those big “choose a book from Book Depository” ones) with the hope that one day I won’t enter any INTL ones at all so INTL readers who have taken hit after hit (with Goodreads and Netgalley) will hopefully have just a slightly larger chance at getting access to the literature they want.

    GOSH, YOU’RE AN ANGEL!!!! I’ve been thinking this for some time now! There are already so many giveaways that are US or UK only, so when people host international ones and then someone from the US or UK wins it, it’s twice as frustrating.

    This was such an awesome, well-written post! It took me some time to wrap my head around the math though, lol. But I especially liked your thoughts on why people enter giveaways and how you’ll be changing your mentality towards that. Thanks for writing this, this was a treat to read!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. yeah! we US (and UK and CA after) have things really good because that’s where the English book publishing hub is, and it must be soooo frustrating to see people from these countries win INTL giveaways when readers in the Phillipines or somewhere else could read it.

      And I’m glad you enjoyed the post! Thank you so much for stopping by!


  2. Okay, I’m loving these math posts! I hardly ever enter Instagram giveaways, honestly, because I don’t like tagging people. Which is weird, since I don’t mind when people tag me, but … whatever. I do tend to have good luck with giveaways, though, probably because I tend to enter a lot of them—-I gather up giveaways for my Sunday Post every week, and I enter most of them at least once while I’m at it. 🙂

    You make a great point about giveaways that are open to INT readers, though. I have so much better access to books than they do!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ahhh omg! i’m so glad you’re loving these–I find giveaways so weird in consistency and I end up entering a lot of them too, haha!

      and yeah! I hope we’ll be able to help more INTL people get access to US books ❤


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