Running a Facebook competition – without breaking the rules!

Please refer to my 2016 post How to run a Facebook competition for up-to-date information!

Since May’s update to the Facebook Promotion Policy, there has been a lot of chatter on competition forums, PR blogs and social media channels about the guidelines and what they mean. It may surprise you to know that the majority of competitions and prize draws hosted on Facebook do not comply with the Promotions Guidelines – in an average day spent on Facebook, I would estimate that only around 10% of the comps I enter are fully compliant with the rules!

For example, a promoter CANNOT run these types of competitions or prize draws:

  • ‘Like’ our Facebook page, and when we reach XXXX fans a random fan will win XXXX
  • Comment on this status and a random comment/our favourite comment/the most liked comment will win a prize
  • Share/Like this status and you will be entered into a draw
  • Tag this photo and everyone who tags will go into a draw for a prize
  • Change your profile picture to our photo and we’ll choose a random winner
  • The XXXth person to Like our fanpage will win a prize
  • Upload a photo/video to our wall and a random/the most liked/our favourite will win a prize
  • Post the answer to this question on our wall and everyone who answers correctly will win a prize.

I’ve noticed a lot of disgruntled fans posting on walls to inform promoters that voting competitions are now banned on Facebook. This isn’t the case! A competition that requires a fan to ‘Like’ comments or photos on a Facebook wall IS against Facebook promotional policy, but promotions administered using an ‘App’ have NO CONNECTION at all with Facebook – so voting competitions which are accessed by clicking a ‘tab’ or link on the left hand menu of a fanpage are perfectly legitimate, even if they don’t seem fair.

Note: Facebook updates in September 2011 mean that a comment or photo can be ‘Liked’ without a member needing to Like the fan page first – this essentially means that running a ‘Most Likes Wins’ competition is pointless in terms of increasing fanbase, as Facebook users are no longer forced to Like the page in order to vote.

Promoters CANNOT announce a winner via Facebook wall post or message – in other words, they should get an email address from every competition entrant so the winner can be contacted by email. This rarely happens – usually, a message is sent from an individual who works for the brand/PR agency/promoter. But be warned – many Facebook users have privacy settings enabled so they can’t receive messages from a stranger – so if they miss a wall post announcement then the promoter has no way of contacting them! If the winner can receive mail from ‘Everyone’ the winning message will go to their ‘Other’ inbox. If the winner doesn’t know about this folder, or they don’t check it regularly, the winning notfication may be missed completely. It’s best to include a line that says ‘Please email us at xxx with your address details within 7 days or we will choose another winner’ – otherwise you could be in limbo without awarding a prize!

To stick to the guidelines, promotions need to be executed using an ‘App’ – the simplest of these are the ready-made ones by companies like Wildfire. These can be adapted to the promoter’s needs, and range from simple prize draws to multimedia voting competitions. If a fan enters a promotion via an App, it should NOT automatically post a message on their wall to say they’ve entered – Facebook policy for App Developers states ‘You must provide users with an easily identifiable “skip” option whenever you present users with an option to use a Facebook social channel.’

So why are so many Facebook pages continuing to run competitions that breach the promotions policy?

In many cases they might not be aware of the rules, or don’t have the time or money to create a bespoke App. It’s actually relatively straightforward to set up a new Tab on your Facebook page featuring a competition. There are no longer any free Apps to run your competition, but using Google Documents you can easily set up a simple form to collect data. You can add Terms and Conditions and check boxes, and then link this form to your Facebook page using iFrame Apps – choose ‘Embed this form in a webpage’ from your Spreadsheet’s Form menu to get the code.

As an example, using this simple Google form I collected entrants’ details for one of my client’s promotions, but the prize wasn’t awarded until the page reached 500 fans – people shared the competition post so enthusiastically it took just 15 hours to get the 300 extra fans needed to do the draw! Of course, the advantage of using an App compared to a competition on a Facebook wall is that you will collect email addresses for your database – although remember to give people the opportunity to opt out. Google Forms also have a public web link, so you have the option to make them accessible to non-Facebook fans by sharing the URL. The main disadvantage with Google Forms is their lack of flexibility – the templates have large text and as Facebook iFrames have a maximum size, you might end up with scroll bars or people not being able to see the bottom of the form at all. To avoid this, keep line lengths short and text to a minimum. If you need to, you can always move your T&Cs to a Note on your page instead.

Here are some other suggestions to how Facebook can be used to promote a competition, without breaking the rules. Be warned though, the promotional policy changes frequently and there are several ‘grey areas’, so these techniques may soon be outlawed too…

  • Host the competition on a website, and use Facebook to promote it.
  • Host it on a blog or Twitter account, and again use Facebook to promote.
  • Post on Facebook ‘Giveaway when we reach XXX fans’ and encourage your fans to Share the post – or you could post ‘We’ll launch a competition if/when this post gets 100 shares/likes/comments’
  • Post a comment detailing the competition, on Facebook and ask people to email their entries – slogans, answers, photos, videos, etc. This will essentially be an email entry promotion run outside of Facebook BUT an album of entries can be created on Facebook, or entries posted on the wall to encourage feedback and interaction with fans.

If not using an App, promoters should use the ‘Notes’ tab on their fanpage to list terms and conditions – this part is VERY important! Even the simplest competition needs to have proper terms and conditions – email me if you’re not sure what needs including.

Please be aware that Facebook want promoters to use an App to run every promotion – if promoters break the rules they have every right to shut their page down! As a small company with a few hundred fans it might be worth risking running a promotion on your Facebook wall, but for a fanpage with thousands of fans, getting a page shut down for the sake of a giveaway really isn’t worth it, and it’s very unprofessional.

I regularly post on promoters’ Facebook pages warning against ‘Most Likes Wins‘ competitions, including a link to the promotion policy. I don’t usually complain if promoters are running the other types of competition I’ve listed above – simply because I think Facebook would be a much less fun place without these impromptu and exciting competitions! I believe it’s just a matter of time before Facebook start enforcing the promotional policy though, and I wouldn’t be surprised if busy UK fan pages like Chat Magazine or Pick Me Up will be held up as bad examples for running competitions on their Walls and announcing winners in comments.

28 Responses

  1. There’s only been a couple of cases where they’ve disabled pages for breaking the rules Shane – one in India and one in the US. BUT the IPM are working with Facebook this year to revise the rules, which hopefully means they’ll start to enforce them! http://super-lucky.blogspot.com/2011/12/ipm-to-help-revise-facebook-promotion.html

  2. Interesting stuff, is there any sign of them actually enforcing these rules? What happens if ou are caught breaking the rules? Will you get a warning to stop, or page suspended?

  3. Interesting stuff, thanks Di!

  4. Jimmy Paton says:

    i was unsure of the rules thank you for for the guide

  5. Kelly Martin says:

    Wow Di, did not know most of this, maybe share this page on competition checkers as so many are going and telling competition runners they are doing something wrong when its the like and shares ones that are… never knew that! Thanks again for your informative post.

  6. Jim Watson says:

    Excellent advise – just what we were looking for – nice work

  7. Lilac Skin says:

    woops! I found out if wasn’t free after i typed this sorry!

  8. Lilac Skin says:

    Hi Di 🙂
    Thanks so much for your response. Sorry I didn’t get back to you before.
    I have found this link, not sure what to make of it. Do you know much about this?? It is free, and able to be used for a giveaway and is facebook compliant? http://apps.facebook.com/my-contests/
    I am desperate to find a good and inexpensive way to gain fans…!! 🙂
    Thanks!

  9. SuperluckyDi says:

    Thanks for that link Claire, I’ve read the post with interest – there’s also another one at http://www.leslielovesveggies.net/2011/10/liking-on-facebook-facebook-guidelines-say-no-i-have-confirmation.html where Leslie has confirmation from Facebook that a bonus entry requiring Facebook action is against the rules. Still, reading through the comments on both pages it seems many bloggers refuse to accept this is the case! I’ve contacted Trace at Facebook myself to see if she can shed any light on the topic.

  10. Hi Di.
    Wanted to ask if you had seen this blog post? She has also written a post about the facebook rules for giveaways and is stating that we cant ask for likes as additional entry even if they have to validate entry by a blog comment is this right, She said rafflecopter is breaking rules and the blog cant act as a 3rd party etc. Take a look I’m confused.

    http://www.bloggingbasics101.com/2011/07/running-a-successful-facebook-giveaway-or-contest/

  11. SuperluckyDi says:

    Thanks for your comment Lilac Skin. If entry into your comp is conditional on the person commenting on your blog AND tagging on Facebook then it’s against the rules. What I suggest you do is make it compulsory for people to leave a blog comment as their entry, and then offer a second entry into the draw for anyone who tags their favourite dress on Facebook. Personally I don’t really like comps where you tag friends in photos as it’s a bit spammy – maybe instead you could offer another extra entry for just sharing your blog post on FB? If you use Rafflecopter you could add all sorts of bonus entry requirements easily – LIKE your page on Facebook, TAG your page name in a status update, etc. Hope this helps!

  12. Lilac Skin says:

    Hi I am so glad I found this blog! 🙂
    I have a question.
    I want to do a competition/giveaway and I was wondering if this would be ok…
    I have 3 dresses I want to give away.
    If I start the Comp/Giveaway with the guidelines on my Blog asking people to go to click the link to the photo album on facebook, tag themselves and 3 friends on the picture of their favourite of the three kaftans, return back to my blog and leave me their email address at the bottom of teh blog post.
    Seeing as it started outside of facebook (but not using an App) would that be ok??
    Thanks!!

  13. SuperluckyDi says:

    You’re right! Bink’d have now started charging, I shall amend the blog post accordingly – thank you for flagging that up!

  14. Anonymous says:

    Just looked and Bink’d is not free as you quoted above?

  15. SuperluckyDi says:

    Well, if you said you were giving away a prize at 1000 fans you can still do it – when you get there, just add an iFrame App to your page (you can just pop a Google Form in there – I can explain how if you need me to) and then ask people to input their Facebook name and email address to enter! You can explain in a wall post that it’s a fairer way of doing it than picking a random fan – because often that fan won’t be aware they’ve won (they might miss the wall post, or have private messaging disabled). I think that’s better than ending the competition altogether!

  16. Anonymous says:

    Hi Di! Thanks for the great article! Very clear unlike the Facebook guideline jungle!
    We started a competition ages ago, when “liking” a page was still a means of entering a competition. At least that’s how I read the guidelines to be Summer 2010. We originally did £50 off our products when we reach 500 fans and another £50 when we reach 1000. We are now in the stretch to reach 1000, currently on 700 but haven’t really advertised this much since August.
    I didn’t realise the terms have changed because Facebook don’t actually notify the page owners. grrrr Anyway, I don’t want to get shut down so I’m thinking of stopping the competition now and just giving the prize to the likers that have signed up so far.
    Do you think that is ok?

  17. Anonymous says:

    Can someone give me an insight into whether this competition scenario is within the Facebook rules??

    Say on your facebook page you advertise to your fans that when you reach XXXX number of fans you will run a competition/give-away… And encourage them to share with their friends so that we get to that number sooner!

    When that XXXX number is reached, you post on your page’s wall advertising that the competition has now started with details. To enter the competition, the user must log onto your website and enter their email via a subscribe form. You then state that the winner will be chosen at random from the list of emails on MMDDYYYY and will be notified via email address chosen…

    Also, in the notes tab on your page you include the terms and conditions of the competition.

    What do you think? Within facebooks promotions guidelines?

    Thanks in advance for your responses 🙂

  18. SuperluckyDi says:

    I think this form of competition would be fine – I don’t think Facebook would approve as such, but as there’s nothing in their policy/guidelines about this particular type of promotion then they wouldn’t be able to do anything about it. This would really be a good way to spread the word amongst Facebook users – but also allow entry to non-Facebook users. You’re not forcing people to LIKE your page to take part – you’re just advertising the fact that when your page reaches a certain number of fans, there will be a competition to celebrate. Good luck!

  19. Anonymous says:

    Cheers Di! At least I know my comp is ok!

    Shout out to the other Community Managers on madeformums! (we run our own comps in our neighbourhoods too ;D )

    Angie x

  20. SuperluckyDi says:

    After a bit of experimentation I’ve just added a section above detailing the use of Google Documents (specifically Forms) and iFrame Apps to run a competition – it’s really pretty simple to use!

  21. Anonymous says:

    I always found that the various FB pages Orion Books have (Cherry Picks, etc) have found the easiest way to do it. No coding requiered apart from changing the picture URL. Brilliant. All they have is a tab with a picture, which list the fact that you need to like them, and then send them an e-mail, and also list the URL of the t&c.

    Yours is very nicely done!

  22. SuperluckyDi says:

    I’m actually surprised that there isn’t another free App – there are other ways of creating an entry form, but iFrames are perhaps a step too far for most of us!

  23. Stralisemiai says:

    Fantastic blog post, someone on facebook was asking for information on hosting her own competition and I posted your blog for her to have a look at.

    I wish other companies would take note.

  24. Stevey says:

    THANKS! Yes you’re right. And the facebook share option is a good idea. Wouldnt have the same viral effect as if it was on facebook, but then you might not have the same hassle and costs of an app. I tried the Binkd app which seemed excellent apart from it being a bit crashy yesterday and Im a little worried about its robustness, particularly as I dont think its very popular at all – >100 facebook fans of binkd. Its amazing how many seem to be going against the rules!

  25. SuperluckyDi says:

    Thanks for the query Stevey – in the guidelines it says ‘You must not condition entry upon the user commenting on a Wall’. So, if you ask people to enter on your website, you can’t then insist they take action on Facebook too, in order for their entry to count. Maybe you could give them an extra entry in the draw if they did post on Facebook? The best option would be to give a Facebook ‘Share’ option after they’ve entered on the website, so your contest link would post onto their own wall.

  26. Stevey says:

    Very clearly thought post, thank you.

    What about if you enter the sweepstake or contest on your website, and then get users to post the answer on the facebook wall with like a unique ID as part of their message?

    Do you think that gets around it?

  27. Rhoda says:

    What a great post, thank you!

  28. squeakymom says:

    A brilliant, easy to understand guide. I’ve passed on the link to your voting comp guide to organisers in the past, this will be joining my bookmarks as well.

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