Facebook wall competitions – problems & solutions

Despite there being strict guidelines on how you should run your promotion on Facebook, the majority of companies still ignore these, and persist with running competitions on their Facebook walls rather than using an App. Although it might seem like a lot of trouble to set up initially, in the long term it’s much easier to use an App or a simple entry form for promotions – see this blog post for more advice. The simplest solution of all, which IS within Facebook guidelines, is to ask your fans to enter via email with their address details (and the answer to a question if you like) – you then have every entrant’s contact details, and even if you don’t hear back from your winner, you already have an address to post the prize to! If you go down this route, opening a Gmail account specifically for your Facebook competition entries is a good idea. The downside of email entry comps is that non-fans can enter – it would be easy for entry details to be shared on a competition forum, so entrants don’t even need to visit your Facebook page. 

If promoters are insistent on violating Facebook policy and running competitions on their Facebook wall, here are some warnings about what could go wrong, and advice on how to avoid the common problems.

First of all, you should be aware that there are many people on Facebook who have a second account set up for the sole purpose of entering competitions. This is against Facebook rules and gives the entrant a massive advantage – with this second account, where their only friends (if they even have any!) are compers, they can Share competitions time and time again without worrying about spamming people. Once you’ve chosen your winner, take a look at their Facebook wall – if it’s nothing but the same comps posted or shared multiple times perhaps you should think again – or at least dig deeper to see if they have two accounts! It’s not good practice to reward someone who violates Facebook policies with a prize, when so many honest people just use a single account. Unbelievably, some cheats will set up a hundred or more fake accounts, in particular those that enter voting competitions – so be on your guard! If you think an account may be fake, use a reverse image search to check their profile photo.

And another bit of advice: NEVER run a competition where the comment/photo/video with the most ‘Likes’ wins. It breaks Facebook rules, is unfair and will result in you getting very bad publicity – it won’t get you any more fans on your page either, as they don’t need to Like your page in order to Like a post or photo! Read my blog on voting comps for more information and examples.

Types of Facebook wall competitions – and their associated problems


The Problem: When your page reaches X thousand fans you choose a fan at random to win a prize – a simple way to get new fans, yes? BUT when you click on your list of Likers, you can only scroll (very slowly) through a list of the most recent 500 names – and there’s no way to extract them as a list so you can choose one at random.
The Solution: There WAS a script here to extract a list of fans but Facebook changes have resulted in it being unusable – so there is NO solution to this problem. You will have to choose a winner from the most recent fans simply by looking at the onscreen list – which of course is hugely unfair! Still, you’ve learnt your lesson and won’t do this again, right?


The Problem: You ask your fans to SHARE a photo or status to enter a competition, but are you aware that you can ONLY see the names of fans who have shared with the ‘Public’ setting – therefore you’re excluding entrants who have shared with limited friends. Most ‘normal’ people won’t want to Share with their grumpy relatives or ex-boss, but if they restrict the Share to a certain Friends list then their name WON’T appear on your Shares list. Promoters, you can check this by looking at the number of Shares your competition post has; then counting the names listed. You’ll usually be a few short of the total. Another problem with Share comps is that people will Share multiple times to ensure they appear regularly in the list of names – this is likely to be compers using a second account.
The Solution: When you announce the competition, state that entrants must Share with the setting on ‘Public’. You could also ask entrants to Share AND leave a comment, then choose your winner from the list of comments rather than Shares, ensuring everyone has an equal chance regardless of how many times they shared. With this method, you should also be able to tag your winner’s name in a reply to the competition post, congratulating them and asking them to check their ‘Other’ inbox – page admins can only tag names of people who’ve commented so this will only work with a ‘Comment to Enter’ competition.


The Problem: This should be a straightforward way of running a competition, but it’s not. If someone uploads a photo to your Fanpage from a phone, sometimes it’s not visible to you. The entrant can see it on your wall, as can their Facebook friends, but the photo has no ‘globe’ icon underneath it so it’s not visible to the Public, and therefore the promoter can’t see it. I have lost out on two prizes because of this and seen many others confused by it too! It’s particularly frustrating if you need to be ‘the first’ to go to a shop and upload a photo, as if it doesn’t work you have to come home and re-upload from your computer…
The Solution: You should ask entrants to email their entries
 – you can then add these photos to a Facebook album, and ask the entrants to tag themselves if they wish. Doing this also means your competition is sticking to Facebook rules AND you have an email address to contact your winner on! You can see an example competition album at The PrizeFinder Facebook page.


The Problem: There are several problems here – the first is that some people have altered their privacy settings so they can ONLY receive messages from friends. So you won’t be able to send them a message! The other problem is that you can’t send messages as your company page. Facebook are trialling a system where you CAN message fans as your Facebook page, but it will be limited to certain fans. As it stands, a Facebook message has to be sent from a Page Administrator’s personal Facebook account, so you’ll need to mention the Facebook page you’re working for. Another problem is the pesky ‘Other’ inbox, where Facebook files away any messages that aren’t from friends – ALL winning notifications will be sent here. And it’s not easy to find – users need to click ‘Messages’ on the left of their Home page before the ‘Other’ inbox pops up underneath. The majority of Facebook users don’t even know this inbox exists – unlike normal messages, Facebook WON’T send you an email notification if you receive a message in your ‘Other’ inbox.
The Solution: When you announce the competition, clearly state that the winner will be notified by Facebook message – perhaps also mention that their Privacy Settings must allow messages from ‘Everyone’ and that they will need to check their ‘Other’ inbox to see if they’ve won.


The Problem: Promoters can’t get in touch with a winner easily – because they’ve entered a competition on your wall rather than an App, you don’t have a contact email address. So you might announce the winner’s name in a wall post, asking them to ’email address details to sillypromoter@naive.com’. BAD idea. It’s against Facebook rules for starters, and secondly there are dishonest people out there who will see the status update, then immediately clone the rightful winner’s profile and photo, respond to the wall post with a quick ‘Thanks – have emailed!’ and then whizz off their own address details to the promoter, hoping that the rightful winner never sees that wall post! Sadly, this happens regularly – pages like Secret SalesWatches 2U and Weleda are recent victims of fraudulent claims. A second problem here is if your winner has a common name – you announce Jo Smith as your lucky winner, and two Jo Smiths leave a response on your post… which one’s the winner? You’ll probably have to give both of them a prize!
The Solution: Announce the winner in a wall post, but also send them a Facebook message (see above). In your wall post say something like ‘Congratulations to our winner, Maisie McLucky – check your ‘Other’ Message folder for details of how to claim your prize!’. BUT you still need to hope that Maisie sees your wall post – and the likelihood is that, unless she has hundreds of friends who might ‘tag’ her name, she won’t see it at all – only a small percentage of your status updates appear on your fans’ NewsFeed!

The Problem: You’ve announced it on your wall, sent a Facebook message and have heard nothing from your lucky winner. Remember that this is YOUR problem – it’s YOU who broke the Facebook rules by not getting email addresses, and you should do everything you can to get that prize to the winner.
The Solution: When you send your Facebook message, add in a line that says ‘Please email us at sillypromoter@naive.com with your address details within 7 days or we will choose another winner’ – then you can choose a new winner without worrying about the original winner demanding their prize in 6 months time! After 7 days, you should try again to contact your winner by checking their Facebook page for an email or web address – or by sending them a friend request (as you’re unable to add a message to a friend request, they’re not likely to accept!). When all these contact attempts failed for a friend of mine recently, he ended up phoning the winner’s workplace (which was posted on his Facebook page) to let him know he’d won £100!


Many competitions on Facebook are tainted by accusations of cheating. If you run your competition using an App, follow Facebook Promotional Guidelines and collect email addresses from all entrants, that’s the best way to avoid these problems. If you do gather email addresses, you also have the advantage of adding prospective customers to your database (remember to give them an ‘opt out’ checkbox on the entry form though!).

Even the simplest of Facebook wall competitions should have Terms & Conditions including a closing date and entry restrictions (usually ‘open to UK residents aged 18 or over’), full details of the prize and how the winner will be contacted (this is where you can include the extra information on checking the ‘Other’ messages inbox). Save these T&Cs as a Note on your Facebook page and you can just update them for each competition you run.

The IPM are working with Facebook this year to improve the Promotional Policy and make it clearer. This is likely to result in Facebook enforcing it more strictly – so as a promoter, you might as well get to grips with it now, and start running well organised, fair and fun competitions that DON’T BREAK THE RULES!

Further reading: How to run a Facebook promotion – without breaking the rules!
Making Voting Competitions Fairer

4 Responses

  1. Julia Frances says:

    superbly informative

  2. Nicola Lester says:

    I only just read this article and was interested to find out about the ‘Other’ messages in Facebook. I was completely unaware. I won a competition on Facebook in March where the prize was rugby tickets and, by luck, I had searched their website and found that I was the winner (I was desperate to win the tickets). When I asked how they would be contacting me, they said that they had already sent me a FB message, but I told them via a FB comment that I hadn’t receieved one, so they gave me an email address to write to. I sent a message giving loads of information, even describing where my profile pic had been taken etc, then put a comment on their FB page advising that I had emailed from my Sky email account. This was an attempt to narrow the likelihood of someone else trying to claim my prize. After reading your blog post above, I just checked and found my ‘Other’ message where they had indeed notified me. Thanks for highlighting this. Much appreciated.

  3. Kelly Martin says:

    Great article Di, thanks for sharing, really informative.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I only ever share with selected people who are also interested in competitions as the majority of my friends on FB are family, colleagues, friends I’ve met in life. I was wondering if you could set up a list with those friends’ in it and then share as public but exclude that list. Has anyone tried it before I do?!

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