Running a competition on Facebook

From the old blog.

Competition entry formOver the past couple of days, I’ve been reading up on running competitions on Facebook. This new interest was prompted by a single sentence in a blog post by Leyl Master Black called Top 5 Facebook Marketing Mistakes Small Businesses Make. Leyl’s post is useful reading in general, but what caught my attention was under the section on Violating Facebook’s Terms:

What are the most common violations? Some build a community on a personal page instead of a proper Facebook Page. Others fail to abide by Facebook’s rules around running contests. Read more.

So what are Facebook’s rules around running contests? I’ve promoted contests on Facebook in the past, but haven’t run one. I’ve also entered competitions on Facebook in the past – liking pages, leaving comments – but haven’t won one.

The official Facebook promotion guidelines seem to be located somewhere in the help section of their site, but I have to admit, it was much faster to find them through Google. There’s quite a lot in there, but basically the main rule is: don’t use any of Facebook’s features to run a competition on Facebook. It’s okay to limit competition entry to fans of a certain page, but you can’t ask them to enter by commenting on your wall, uploading a photo to your page, giving a thumbs up to a particular status update or anything like that. You also can’t pick a random fan to win a prize, or contact the winners via Facebook’s messaging service.

To run a competition on Facebook, it seems, you need to need to use a third party application – something that hasn’t been created by Facebook – to collect entries and the entrant’s personal data. There are applications which have been created to run competitions for you (a list can be found on the Social Media Examiner blog post on this subject). Alternatively, you could commission an agency to create a bespoke competition application which can live on one of the tabs of your page.

When people can upload photos and videos and add comments so easily on Facebook, it does seem fairly frustrating that they can’t use those features to enter your organisation’s competition. However, Facebook’s just a platform, and I guess legally they may need to distance themselves from how marketers use it. And of course, you don’t need to run your competition on Facebook at all. You could use your page or even a Facebook advertising campaign to link through to a competition that you’re running on your own site or elsewhere on the web, as long as you don’t violate any other aspect of Facebook’s terms of use.

As I look down my Facebook news feed, I’m constantly being asked to comment or like something to win the next great prize – holidays, iPads and so on - so it seems that a lot of organisations aren’t yet aware of these regulations. However, as the rules from Facebook say “we may remove any materials relating to the promotion or disable your Page, application or account if we determine in our sole discretion that you violate any of our policies”, it does seem that they are running a risk.

Competition entry form image courtesy of

Note: The Facebook promotion guidelines were updated  slightly on May 11, 2011. See this Social Speak Blog post for analysis of the most recent changes.

Natasha Judd

About Natasha Judd

Natasha has been a web geek since she had access to the web and a writer since she could write. She’s been working in digital communications roles for charities, government departments and commercial organisations for more than a decade, and set up Taskforce Digital in 2013. Natasha spends most of her online time on Facebook, Google Analytics, Shopify, WordPress and NetMums.

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