Facebook Contest Guidelines Explained 2012

facebook likes

This article was originally published in 2012 on Social Media Overflow.

All popular Facebook Pages run contests — it’s a great way to get fan interaction and it’s a great way to attract new fans. I’ve personally gained many hundred real fans for my clients using Facebook Contest Apps that I’ve created and they work great. However, most pages have contests where they simply ask users to “like” a picture or “leave a comment” on a status to enter. If you are not using a Facebook App to run your contest, you are probably doing it wrong and there is a possibility that Facebook will one day punish you somehow. There is also a possibility that someone else might report your contest and make Facebook take action. You are not allowed to use Facebook’s comment or like features as a method of contest entry. It is spelt out clearly in the Facebook terms and conditions for pages. Check out section E Promotions and read it carefully.

This image is lost to time.

This is the introduction to the Facebook Contest / Promotions. This is basically saying that you need to have clear rules. Eg. you may need to live in a certain area, you don’t want someone on the other side of the world to win your contest if they cannot even claim it, or you are not willing to ship to them.

You must also make sure your prizes are within your state’s contests and gambling regulations. When I started running Facebook contests for clients I did some research and contacted the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation about what our limits are (they are different state to state, country to country). Our limit here is that a permit is required if the total prize pool for a contest is for over $5,000. Luckily all my campaigns have been much smaller. The cost for us to get a permit here is $325.80, so keep that in mind if you want to give away a car or anything. Also, keep in mind that if you are giving away alcohol there are other rules and you must organise it many months in advance. One of my clients wanted to include a quantity of beer in a prize pack. We found out we needed to apply to do that several months in advance and decided it was ridiculous so replaced that part of our package with a gift voucher, which potentially could have been used to buy alcohol but we suggested you buy meat instead (it was a barbecue supply pack).

So basically make sure you can legally run your contest before you run it. Most things should be fine, just anything that involves alcohol or maybe tobacco or the prize pool is quite expensive, you may need to get it approved somewhere.

This image is lost to time.

This image is lost to time.

This is something else that most Facebook contests are not addressing. I’ve seen a few have a link to their terms and conditions on their website before (to try and do the right thing by these rules / save space on their Facebook status / Picture posts) but they still not using apps, which is a problem.

What sections a. and b. are saying that you need to make it super clear to entrants that this contest is 100% independent of Facebook (as in the company Facebook) who have no involvement or endorsement of the contest. This is because Facebook does not want to be involved at all if anything goes wrong since they had no involvement in the contest. Eg. If someone wins a prize and it is never received, they cannot complain to Facebook about it / cannot sue Facebook if they get ripped off, or the prize breaks or anything. Facebook has nothing to do with the contest. There are thousands of contests on Facebook, Facebook wouldn’t have any knowledge of most of them occurring. Most people should assume Facebook isn’t involved, but for legal reasons, it needs to be said.

Part c. is about making the entrant clear on where their information is going. Now since a lot of people aren’t running contests properly anyway, they wouldn’t bother with this since they’re not really capturing much information (if they are making people “like” or “comment” they’d really just get the user’s name). But if you are running a contest properly in an app you will most likely ask for their full name, email address (very important to get) and maybe a postal address or phone number or whatever else you need.

This image is lost to time.

This means that it is fine for people to have previously liked your page or checked-in or used your app to be part of the contest, but the entry to the contest itself cannot be something like this:

“Who wants to win this awesome DVD prize pack? Like, Comment and share this picture, for each of those actions we will enter your name in the contest  again so you get up to 3 chances to win!”

This is not what you’re meant to do!

You also have to make sure people knowingly enter your contest.

This image is lost to time.

This means you cannot do a status saying “This week we are randomly choosing one of our fans to give a prize to” or “we are giving a prize to our 1000th fan!”. People may not want to enter your contest, they might not even know they’ve won something. Sure winning stuff is great, but Facebook wants people to actually opt into the contests first.

What Facebook wants you to do is use an App. There are many advantages to that but I’ll explain that later.

This image is lost to time.

This means you cannot run a contest where you encourage people to “Like” comments or pictures uploaded by users to help them win. Facebook has even changed the way pages work to prevent this. When I was younger doing promotional stuff for nightclubs with no actual knowledge of the Facebook terms and conditions I used to run contests regularly where users would upload a creative picture they have made relating to a certain theme. I would then make people get their friends to like the pic and then reward the people who got the most “Likes”. My intention here was that (back in those days) you had to Like a page to be able to like pictures on it, so I used to get lots of new page likes every time I did such a contest. This is an example of what you are not allowed to do. I stopped doing this a few years ago once I found out. It is possible to do a similar thing with Facebook apps, where you can choose to make someone “like” your page in order to use the contest app. This is called “Like Gating”.

This image is lost to time.

You are meant to use an app to get their email or phone number so you can contact them directly without using any of Facebook’s features, they do not want to be involved in the contest in any way (except for advertising it / promoting it). I’ll explain why these features are not appropriate.

Facebook Messages: You can’t even message someone as a page unless they have already messaged the inbox of your page. You also can’t easily do this unless you inbox them from your own personal account. People may not feel comfortable with getting messaged by a stranger, especially since they cannot necessarily know for sure that the person inboxing them is the true admin of that page. eg. Mary enters a contest on Facebook Page by “liking” the contest post and a predator notices that and decides to inbox her saying she won and asks her for her address. Mary has no real way of knowing that this person isn’t the real admin of the page. Also sometimes when people inbox you with no mutual friends, the message may not reach your main inbox. I used to have this problem when I was getting inbox messages from people who were trying to buy things off me who had tracked me down online from my own personal blog or other forums, I didn’t even see their messages for months.

This image is lost to time.

There is another inbox called “Other” (click on your inbox and then go to “Other”) I don’t think Facebook really uses this feature much anymore as on my profile I haven’t received such a message in ages, the ones pictured below are all from events I was invited to.

Chat: You can only chat to someone you have added on Facebook (or else it goes to your inbox) so this isn’t really possible unless it’s a personal friend of yours in real life that wins. If you know them in real life, then I guess that’s not so weird for you to approach them yourself, but ideally, you will be dealing with members of the public who enter your contest, not just your friends.

Posts on Profiles: Again, you can’t actually post on someone else’s profile as a Page, so you’d have to do this from your personal account, which would require you to have the winner added… Again this is pretty sloppy and unprofessional to do anyway.

Posts on Pages: Look at the example below:

Example of a typical incorrect Facebook contest:


Example of typical winner announcement post where the winners are announced on the Page:


This kind of thing is very common, it raises multiple problems.

1. You cannot tag people from a page, so the winners will have to rely on it popping up in their news feed, checking back on the page regularly or hopefully a friend sees the post and lets them know.

2. Pages are not allowed to try and message people directly, so you can’t just inbox them to make sure they noticed. It is possible to do, but it’s frowned upon. I have personally won contests and been messaged by the personal account of the admins, I’m happy I won the contest and knew the contest was not being run correctly but entered anyway, I was too polite to point out anything about their methods.

3. You are publishing the email address for people to contact, what’s stopping any other fan of the page from creating a fake email address and pretending to be one of the winners? I know there are ways to validate if it’s the real person, but I am not convinced that all people running these contests would consider those methods, especially if they are not aware or willing to run a contest in the correct way. It is much better to just use an app so there is absolutely no doubt that the winner will get contacted properly.

Other reasons why contest apps are better (other than being the only acceptable kind of contest on Facebook):

They make it harder to cheat (if you have a page and get people to “like” a contestant’s entry to vote for them, there is little stopping them from getting a bunch of fake accounts to Like their entry. This is still doable in some contest apps, but generally, I do not like “voting” contests as people can find ways to cheat. Random winners are generally better. Or chosen by admins (eg. submit a story, submit a photo etc).

What do you think?

Written by Keith Nallawalla

hungry jacks sign

The Correct Way to Make an App for Your Business: Hungry Jack’s Makes It Better App for iPhone & Android

twitter activity

Has Your Team Read Bing’s Webmaster Tools Guidelines?