Facebook Giveaways & Contests: Are You Doing It Wrong?

This article was originally published in 2011. On August 27, 2013 Facebook updated their promotions guidelines. This article is simply a reference for those looking for the original information. The guidelines discussed here are not current. For current guideline discussion read Facebook Giveaways & Contests: New Guidelines In 2013.

Old Facebook Promotions GuidelinesRunning a Facebook contest or giveaway is a great way to promote your Facebook business page and possibly garner more Likes for your page. However, I’ve seen enough businesses and bloggers running Facebook promotions incorrectly, that I thought it may be time to discuss how to run one the right way. What I’ve found is that many times, these businesses and bloggers don’t know that Facebook has specific guidelines regarding how you can (and can’t) administer giveaways and contests.

Understanding the Facebook Promotions Guidelines

For the most part, the guidelines are pretty self-explanatory, but there are a few parts that can be confusing. The result is that even if you think you understand the guidelines, you may not. To help clarify the guidelines and ensure your Facebook promotions are on the up-and-up, I’m going to go through the rules line by line and explain what you need to know.

1. Promotions on Facebook must be administered within Apps on Facebook.com, either on a Canvas Page or an app on a Page App.

What it means: You can’t run a giveaway or contest on your Wall. You must use a third-party application to build and administer your promotion. Not sure where to start? Check out Shortstack.

2. Promotions on Facebook must include the following:
a. A complete release of Facebook by each entrant or participant.
b. Acknowledgment that the promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.
c. Disclosure that the participant is providing information to [disclose recipient(s) of information] and not to Facebook.

What it means: Facebook wants it to be clear to you and your entrants that they are in no way part of your promotion. If you use Shortstack to create your promotion, they have some nice verbiage you can include in your giveaway that adheres to this rule.

3. You must not condition registration or entry upon the user taking any action using any Facebook features or functionality other than liking a Page, checking in to a Place, or connecting to your app.  For example, you must not condition registration or entry upon the user liking a Wall post, or commenting or uploading a photo on a Wall.

What it means: This is where some people get confused. This rule is referring to the act of Like-gating content. When you create a custom Facebook tab, it’s possible to “hide” specific content from non-fans until they click Like. Upon clicking Like, the new fan can then access the hidden content. For promotions, this means that you can hide your entry form until a user clicks Like. After they click Like, they can then complete the entry form to be part of the promotion. It’s important to note that the initial Like of the page did not enter them into your promotion. They only entered the promotion when they completed your form. Rule #4 is stating that this Like-gating of your promotional content is completely acceptable as long as you don’t make the Like an entry.

4. You must not use Facebook features or functionality as a promotion’s registration or entry mechanism.  For example, the act of liking a Page or checking in to a Place cannot automatically register or enter a promotion participant.

What it means: Just because someone Likes your page or uses Facebook Places to check in to your venue, doesn’t mean that you can use their information automatically. You must use the third-party application to provide an entry form. This ensures that the entrant actually wants to enter your promotion. It also means you cannot ask people to Like your page, comment on your Wall, write a status update, or check-in to a Place as an entry to your promotion. These can’t be primary or additional entries. I’ve had some people ask if it’s OK to host a giveaway on their blog and ask people to Like a Facebook page as an additional entry. The logic is that if the giveaway isn’t hosted on Facebook, they should be able to do as they please. Unfortunately, the minute you bring Facebook into the equation, Facebook’s rules apply. It may not be the popular answer, but that’s the answer.

5. You must not use Facebook features or functionality, such as the Like button, as a voting mechanism for a promotion.

What it means: If you want to invite people to post images or video or ideas, then have people vote on them, you have to do it via a third-party app (see rule #1). You can’t ask people to Like a comment or status update in order to win a promotion or help decide who will win a promotion. Many of the third-party apps have options for voting promotions and they are fairly easy to implement.

6. You must not notify winners through Facebook, such as through Facebook messages, chat, or posts on profiles or Pages.

What it means: You must notify your winners via private e-mail (not Facebook messsaging) or via your blog or Twitter or however you want, so long as it’s not on Facebook.

7. You may not use Facebook’s name, trademarks, trade names, copyrights, or any other intellectual property in connection with a promotion or mention Facebook in the rules or materials relating to the promotion, except as needed to fulfill your obligations under Section 2.

What it means: Make it clear that this is your promotion and yours alone. Don’t imply that Facebook has anything whatsoever to do with your promotion.

8. Definitions:
a. By “administration” we mean the operation of any element of the promotion, such as collecting entries, conducting a drawing, judging entries, or notifying winners.
b. By “communication” we mean promoting, advertising or referencing a promotion in any way on Facebook, e.g., in ads, on a Page, or in a Wall post.
c. By “contest” or “competition” we mean a promotion that includes a prize of monetary value and a winner determined on the basis of skill (i.e., through judging based on specific criteria).
d. By “sweepstakes” we mean a promotion that includes a prize of monetary value and a winner selected on the basis of chance.

What it means: These definitions are self-explanatory, but it’s important to note them. The first, administration, is particularly important. See how it refers to “collecting entries”? When you host a giveaway on your blog and ask people to Like your Facebook giveaway as an additional entry, you’re essentially collecting entries via Facebook and you can’t do that unless you’re using a third-party app on Facebook.

What Happens If I Don’t Follow the Facebook Promotions Guidelines?

So what happens if you don’t follow the rules? You could lose your page. Think about that. You lose your content (images, video, notes, status updates…everything), your community (how many fans do you have? Are you willing to rebuild that?), and your credibility (trust is what social media is built on). It doesn’t make sense to risk losing your hard-earned Facebook community when it’s so easy to create a promotion that adheres to the Facebook Promotions Guidelines. If you do lose your page, you can head over to My Facebook Page was Disabled and complete that form to try to reinstate your page.

Update #1 with Information Directly from Facebook

As you can see from the comments to this post, there is still some debate about whether I’m interpreting the Facebook Promotions Guidelines correctly. I decided to contact Facebook directly and see if they could help clarify the guidelines. I wrote in part:

“I’ve written a post outlining my own interpretation of the guidelines (http://www.bloggingbasics101.com/2011/07/running-a-successful-facebook-giveaway-or-contest/). In a nutshell, my understanding is that you cannot ask people to Like a fan page as an entry into a promotion — not as a main entry, nor as an extra entry. I understand, though, that you can Like-gate your entry form on Facebook via a third-party app (but that Like isn’t an entry, it’s a means to get to the entry form).

I’m receiving questions from those who suggest that a blog or blog application like rafflecopter (http://www.rafflecopter.com/) are basically third-party apps and, because they are asking for Likes via those options (blog or rafflecopter), the Likes are legitimate entries. That’s not how I read the guidelines, but I’d like to be sure rather than give inaccurate advice.”

I received a reply from Trace Przybylowicz, an account manager at Facebook, that said simply:
“Hi Melanie – You are correct….”

There you go. Confirmation from Facebook that this article is interpreting the Facebook Promotions Guidelines correctly. I appreciate the lively discussion and questions. And I appreciate that Facebook was able to respond to my query since I know their entire team must be incredibly busy.

Update #2 May 31, 2012

I’ve spoken with several marketing and social media managers who work for national companies. Those people have spoken directly with Facebook about best practices for promotions and how those promotions relate to blogs, and all have agreed that my interpretation and explanation of the Facebook Promotions Guidelines is correct. Here’s what they found out:

  • Can bloggers ask for Facebook Likes as an extra entry for contests or giveaways that they host on their blogs? The answer is no. You simply cannot ask for Likes as any means of entry. Not the main entry, nor as an additional entry. You can Like-gate your entry form as explained earlier in this article, but that Like is not an entry, it’s a means to get to the entry form.
  • Does an application like Rafflecopter count as a third-party application and therefore make it OK to ask for a Like as an extra entry? Again, the answer is no. Since Rafflecopter isn’t hosting your contest or giveaway (it’s just collecting the entries), it doesn’t meet the third-party app requirement outlined in the guidelines. Additionally, since Facebook has confirmed that you can’t ask for a Like as a means of entry inside or outside of Facebook, the point is moot. Rafflecopter doesn’t make it OK to ask for a Like as an entry.