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Facebook Giveaways & Contests: Are You Doing It Wrong?

Old Facebook Contest Guidelines

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, 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 ( 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 ( 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.


192 thoughts on “Facebook Giveaways & Contests: Are You Doing It Wrong?”

  1. I have a question. I’m not really trying to host a giveaway, I’d just like to reward a random person for the fact that my page just passed the 1,000 likes mark. Is that still under these rules? If not, is there a program or app that I can use to randomly select the person?

  2. Hi Melanie. Thank you for posting such great information. My question is, if you are using a 3rd party app and want to do a giveaway do you still need 100 likes? I know to run a promotion directly through facebook you need 100 likes. This may be slightly off topic, but I haven’t seen this covered anywhere and you seem to have a proficient knowledge of facebook’s policies. Thanks in advance!

    1. Tarrin,

      Thanks for taking the time to ask your question. I’m pretty sure you can host a giveaway on your Page without 100 likes. You need 100 to create an Offer, but frankly I haven’t checked to see if Offers are still available. So yes, I think you can go ahead and run your giveaway from your Page.

  3. My question is this as I can’t find it anywhere in the guidelines. Many pages are poppi g up raffling off products made by whams. All of these raffles involve paying a fee to enter and the fee goes to the wham or business that donated the producr being rafgled. The giose of the fee is under donation. You are only paying for a chance to win a product. Is this okay to do because though the women often organizing these “raffles” are trying to spread the interest in some products its seems like they are doing it qrong and possibly violating policies. I’d really juatvlike tobsettle a debate on a page so hope to get some answers. Thanks!

    1. This is a sticky wicket. I’m not a lawyer, but I can pass on information and opinion. I’m not a fan of the pay to play lottery (yep, lottery) ‘giveaways’ for several reasons that all come down to personal preference.

      My friend Sara Hawkins — someone I respect and admire greatly — has an excellent blog where she share a LOT of information about the law and bloggers. I suggest reading this article in particular:

      You’ll note that she says, “A Lottery is a prize drawing where people must pay money to buy a chance to win. Lotteries are highly regulated and should not be run without consulting with legal counsel.”

      You can read more at I recommend that *all bloggers* bookmark that site. It’s an incredible resource.

  4. In the world of internet, the facebook is well known and reliable source for communication and there are a big community which is connected under this media. By using facebook as a source for business promotion, desired task may get.

  5. Hi

    Is it possible to post a question and get users to send their answers via email, and we select 10 winners via the emails? We are not using any Facebook functionality by doing so.


    1. Technically yes. However, fans are generally not responsive to requirements that make them click away from whatever they are doing. If they’re on FB, they don’t like to leave FB to complete a task. Or they decide to wait and do it after they leave FB, but by that time they’ve forgotten or they decide it’s not important. Of course you’ll get some entries, but I don’t know that you’ll get as many entries.

      What is your goal with this type of giveaway?

  6. Great post! I have a question!

    I am hosting a giveaway with about 15 vendors. I would like to make an album on facebook of the giveaway prize from each vendor and have people nominate someone else to win. They would not need to like any pages, or anything along the lines of forcing them to do something they don’t do on their own. It’s a way to win a giveaway for someone else!

    Would this be okay???


    1. You can make an album of the prizes, definitely. And I understand you’re asking others to nominate someone else to win, but how are they doing that? If you are asking them to comment on a photo in the album with the name of someone to win and that’s the entry, then that is a problem for two reasons:
      1) the Facebook functionality (the comment with the person’s name) is the entry and you cannot use FB functionality as an entry. You *must* use a third-party app for the entry form.
      2) According to the TOS (and likely most local, state, and national sweepstakes laws, but I’m not an attorney) you cannot automatically enter someone into a giveaway or contest without their express consent. In other words, you can’t automatically enter all your fans into a drawing and give away a random prize. And you can’t ask others to enter someone else in a giveaway or contest either b/c the person being entered is not the one completing the entry form.

      Hope that helps.

  7. When you organize a contest/promotion which involves tagging on a pictures that is posted on the Facebook page is that a violation of FB rules? I mean, I post a picture and say that the first twenty people who tag themselves win a prize, would I violate the rules?

    1. Yes, Lila, that is a violation of the TOS because you are requiring a Facebook action in order to be entered. You *must* run the giveaway or contest via a third-party app like Shortstack.

  8. I am sure you may have already answered this question but in the promotion of the giveaway can you ask people to like your fan page as long as it is clear that it is not an entry and does not give them a better chance of winning?

    1. Becca,

      As long as the Like isn’t an entry, yes, you can ask people to Like your page. I’ve seen some bloggers tell readers something akin to, “And, while it’s not an entry, we’d love it if you Like us on Facebook!”

  9. Hi Melanie,

    Could I check if we sent an email to a group of people telling them that if they ‘Like’ our page they will have the chance to win a prize (not announcing the contest using Facebook) would that be a violation of Facebook’s Terms?

    Thank you in advance!

    1. Thanks for stopping by DL. I’m less concerned about checking for an email than I am about the asking for a Like. Are you using an app with Like-gating (see article above for description of that)? Or are you saying if they Like the page they are already entered or get an extra entry? If it’s the former, you’re OK; if it’s the latter it’s against FB’s TOS. As for a reminder about the email, I believe that would be OK, but I’m not entirely sure.

  10. Hello,
    I have read the article and comments and its all very helpful.
    But, I still have a doubt what would be right to do and need your professional advice!

    We are a new company and we plan to start business now with the release of our first new magazine. We want to announce the forthcoming release of the first editions and give all interested people the chance to receive a FREE PAPER magazine once it is released, subject to their confirmation of interest sent to us only by EMAIL. The opportunity to request the free paper edition shall NOT be associated with any CONTEST or LIKING THE PAGE and shall be given for a specified period /2 -3 weeks/. There WILL BE NO random choice ect, there will NOT be winners – everyone that sends us a confirmation of interest until the end of the specified date shall receive its magazine once released. Can we do that on facebook WITHOUT Application?
    Thank you so much in advance!!

    1. Annie, the short answer to your question is that yes, what you’re describing can be done via a status update. For example, ‘We launching our new magazine! If you’d like a copy, please email us at xxxx AT xxxxx DOT com.’ But that’s an extra step for your readers b/c they have to stop what they’re doing on FB (which few people like to do) in order to email you. Yes, they could do it later, but chances are it won’t be top of mind and they won’t follow through.

      The longer answer:
      Instead, I suggest using a tool like Shortstack ( to create a Facebook app form that allows people to request the magazine, but that also has a few more fields to fill out (most should be optional, but you’ll be surprised how many people fill out all of the information). Then posting updates that have a clear call to action and a way to fulfill that action (e.g., ‘If you want to receive our magazine click the XXX tab .’).

      One of the key things you’ll want to collect in your tab form is their email address. Here’s why: Every business (blogging or otherwise) should have a strong email list that they send information to. Sending out a regular e-newsletter is a great way to make sales and most people who sign up for emails are your most interested customers and are more likely to buy from you. However, if you’re collecting emails and other information, you will, of course, need to make that clear up front so people understand how their information will be used (i.e., they’re agreeing to receive your email newsletter).

      The added benefit of using a FB application form like this is that you can collect valuable demographic and interest data from your audience.

      I also suggest Shortstack simply because they have amazing customer service and many tutorials on getting started. There is a slight learning curve, but I haven’t found a better tool for creating Facebook apps.

      1. Thank you so much!!!!! I have spent so much time reading and investigating I regret I did not come across your wonderful blog earlier! Thank you!
        I do not know if I am right, but think people are a little bit scared of applications – they usually require access to their personal data ect … and I have the feeling they avoid that, just because they do not know what it is about. That’s why I would prefer to keep it with the simple email …
        Maybe, I am wrong ….

        1. That’s a valid concern, Annie. You could definitely do it either way. It may be an even better idea to tell your fans about the offer and link them to your site where they can fill out a form. That way you KNOW you’re not in violation of the FB TOS. 🙂

      2. Pingback: Screeching to a Halt — Are My Giveaways Violating Facebook Rules? | Hydrangea Hippo

      3. Hi Melanie,

        Thank you for clarifying these issues.

        We’re just about to launch a give-away contest on Facebook’s platform to give away 50 of our product and I found your article to be invaluable. Let’s say I consider it to be the “definitive” word on the subject.

        You present, in clear, easy-to-understand language, the fundamental explanation of the rules required to legally initiate a Facebook contest.

        Ed Leach, Partner
        Ideas With Wings, LLC

      4. Thanks for the article! I read most of the comments and just wanted to ask this question as i am still unsure of the rules. If I offer a gift to the person who is the 100th like of my page, will that be against the rules?? Thanks so much!!!

        1. Just to clarify…here is how i worded it…

          We are so thankful for you for coming to visit our site! HELP us get to 100 LIKES and that person AND the person who referred them will get a special gift from our furry friends…..We thank you!!!

          1. But it’s not foolproof determining who the 100th like is. For instance, say you’re at 99 and then 5 people come and like your page about the same time. There’s no way you can tell which one was first. It’s always safer to just install the Rafflecopter giveaway app right on your Facebook page and make just 1 entry….liking your FB page. Then the draw will be random and fair.

          2. Goose,

            Unfortunately, yes, giving away something to a random fan – even if it’s designated by being the 100th fan – is against the TOS. By wording it the way in your example, you’re enticing people to promote your page in order to win the prize for themselves and their referral – that’s against the TOS.

        2. Hi there
          thanks for the info re Facebook competitions.
          I am setting up a page for a flower grower and they wanted to give a bunch of flowers away each week to someone who had done a random act of kindness. They wanted people to nominate people under a post, then randomly draw someone.
          Does this count as a competition? They are not looking for likes.
          Appreciate your thoughts.

          1. Hi Carla,

            That sounds like a noble idea! 🙂 They won’t be able to do that on their FB wall. They *must* do it via a third-part app and funnel people to the app (just provide the link in the update: “We’d like to reward a do-gooder with some flowers. Nominate someone who has done a random act of kindness here: http://linkToTheApp“). They can create the app in a way that makes people like the page before they can get to the nomination form. If they want to build their email list, they could also ask the user to provide that as well (just tell them you’re using it for the newsletter). The fewer hoops people have to jump through, the more likely they are to finish the process.

        3. As a new business, I am trying to read/learn everything I can so as to do things correctly and not get into any bad habits early on. I really thank you for this article. It is quite apparent to me that many pages do NOT follow the guidelines, and I don’t want to be one of them. I understand the not using facebook as a vehicle for the contest such as in the case of LIKES being counted towards winning the contest, like in the case of user submitted photo entries. Does that apply to caption making contests? Thanks so much for the valuable information you are offering.

          1. Yes, that applies to caption contests as well if you’re giving away a prize. If you’re giving away a prize, then you have to run the caption contest via a third-party app as discussed above.

            If you’re just posting an update with a great picture and asking people to caption it for fun (no prizes involved at all), then it’s OK.

        4. Ok, while I fairly believe I understand this I too tried ShortStack then immediately cancelled it because it seemed a bit difficult. I have a business but just want to encourage people (on my personal page) to “like” a friends page and I’ll give them a Free item. I do have a promotion pending on Wildfire (seemed a bit easier) and I only want to host this for the next 5 days. I don’t want to be in violation of fb policies but need something in black and white as to what I’m to do. All this jargon has me afraid. If I use Wildfire it keeps track of the entries but as a rule I just want people to “like” my friends page and let me know they’ve done so thru my post on fb…just need a little help

          1. Hi Jacqui,

            It sounds like you don’t want the Likes for YOUR page, you want them for your FRIEND’S page. There are two issues here:
            1. You can’t host a giveaway on a Wall or ask people Like something in order to get something.
            2. You can’t pick ‘winners’ from existing fans unless they’ve officially entered a giveaway via an app on the FB page.
            3. If you were to give the freebie to new fans, you’d have to give it to all fans. If you didn’t, it would be similar to #2 because you’d be hand-picking who got the freebie.

            To get around those issues I suggest this:
            1. Have your friend set up a giveaway on his/her Fan Page using a third-party app.
            2. Like-gate the app so people have to Like the page before they can see the entry form.
            3. Within the entry form, have a place where the entrant can note where they heard about the giveaway (and enter your name or business name if they heard about it from you).

            The issue here is that you still won’t be able to incentivize people to go over and Like that other page. You could contribute a prize to the Page owner to give away, though.

        5. I’m a little confused about this part:

          “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”

          But the first part seems to be talking about an “entry mechanism”–ie the way you obtain their entry information. If you make it a requirement that they be a facebook fan (which according to this video by facebook is allowed: ( and record that through an app or blog comment where they state that they do like your facebook page, that isn’t using their mechanism for their entry. It’s using another mechanism to get their entry, but requiring that they be a facebook fan to get that entry. To use their facebook mechanism to enter you would have to say, go to facebook and click like to enter…not “if you already like my page, let me know here to enter.” In other words, letting them know on another app./blog is the entry…so that someone who likes your page and didn’t know about the contest is not automatically entered.

        6. Do confusing when RC says they talked to FB too. But is not asking you to like but rewarding for being a fan.

        7. Hi Karen,

          I don’t think there are limits on how you design your tab image. There is a rule about cover photos and ads that says your images can only be 20% text, but I don’t think that applies to your tabs.

          As you’re making your tab covers, though, be sure to carry your branding through — colors, font, etc. And you can customize the text under the tab. So, for example, if you wanted to create a picture as your tab and put “Click here for giveaways!” underneath, you could do that. But having that text on your tab is fine.

        8. I think you are mistaken about the ability to provide an extra entry to a giveaway for those who “like” a Facebook page. You seem to have imposed your own interpretation on Facebook’s rule, and your understanding contradicts that which I have heard everywhere else, including from “organizations” like Rafflecopter, who have worked extensively with Facebook in ensuring that they are compatible and not breaking any rules.

        9. Hi
          There is a company with a fb page that is running a promo to get to 20k likes. If you like and share and have a friend like and share and leave yr name its a entry. The person with the most wins a pair pf boots. So they are also putting each mame on a drawing for a purse. Now, theres another business fb page whos owner likes this store. The second business has 3k fans. The second bisiness is running on their fb page a link to the first business saying go and like and shate and tell them i sent u so i can win the boots. Everyone who does sp goes into a drawing on her site for a gift if she wins. Is this all legal?

        10. So, question. Raffle-copter words the entry this way: “If you’re a fan on Facebook, you are entitled to a free entry. If not, you can become one here.”
          To my understanding that makes the giveaway legal, because the entry states it’s for fans. If an entrant to the giveaway wishes to become a fan, then they can become qualified to receive the entry. To much legal jargon for me to understand.
          So my question is, does the wording on the entry type make it legal?

            1. Kendra,

              Yes, the way Rafflecopter words their entry is OK. They didn’t used to do it that way, then they worked with Facebook to change the wording and adhere to the guidelines.

          1. Looked into shortstack but can’t make it do what I want it to do for the “free” version. Only want to do one or two giveaways a year and not willing to shell out $30 a month for that. We’re just a little part time business…doing this to help supliment living on disability. Such a shame…that doing the right thing is always so complicated. No questions…just venting and thanking you for this excellent article. Will be sharing it on our business page and my personal page. Would hate it if one of our fans/customers got blocked just because they “liked” a page….

            1. Tessa,

              Thanks for commenting. I looked at your FB page and since you’re under 2k fans, you should be able to use ShortStack for free. Of course, I’m not sure what you want to do for your promotion, but their free option is fairly robust. If you have questions, I do recommend contacting the ShortStack help staff — I’ve always found them to be very responsive and helpful.

              1. Wow, thanks for your response! Wasn’t expecting that! Have been looking into ShortStack… seems a little complicated for what we want to do but will get someone more up on this stuff to look at it for me before we make a decision. Blessings!!!

            2. I’m still messing it up!!! I host giveaways for other businesses and have been running the comps via my blog but I’ve been asking entrants to like the businesses fb page. Grrr! Can I suggest people show support to a page without it being an entry requirement or add a button that says like ‘biz name’ without that being an entry requirement?

              1. Rebecca,

                Yes, you can encourage people to support the business by Liking their FB page, but you muse make it very clear that the Like is not an entry. Something like “While Liking XYZ’s Facebook page isn’t an entry, we hope you’ll show them your appreciation by Liking their page.” Or something more eloquent — I just got home from working out and, frankly, my brain is mush because I’m so tired!

            Comments are closed.