Since the beginning of time (relatively speaking, of course), online forums and communities have held contests and giveaways in an effort to grow their member base.

It gets them some attention. They notice an influx of new members. Then the contest ends. Shortly thereafter, most of the new members they noticed are gone.

It’s a repeating story and if you run a contest or a giveaway, it’ll happen to you. Doesn’t matter how great your community is. It’s nature.

You can do things to mitigate it, certainly. You can tie contests and giveaways to meaningful contributions to your community, giving people an opportunity to fall in love with what you offer and, at the very least even if they leave, you have some great conversation that remains after they are gone.

It’s not that doing a giveaway is a bad thing. It’s not. I’ve run them and will do it again. But, it just underscores the fact that we need to embrace what it is and recognize it, to get the most value out of the effort.

Contests and giveaways are marketing for your community. Or if you are a brand trying to bring people to your Facebook page or Twitter profile, they are marketing for that. They are not building community.

They give you an opportunity to build community because they expose people to you. Some people will stay, because they like what you are doing and a connection has been made. The connection is the key. If you are going to keep as many people as possible, you need to engage with them, connect and offer them value. That is your best chance of keeping them.

So, when you are devising your giveaway, think carefully about what you ask of people, what they will be exposed to and any chance that you have to make that connection.

Just don’t be surprised when most of them leave.