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.