Running competitions on Facebook and the promotional guidelines surrounding them is a topic that constantly comes up for discussion. Companies big and small can be seen breaching them and there seems to be a huge amount of confusion about what you can and can’t do. Contests are a great way of building your community but if you break the rules you risk loosing your page.

The Promotional Guidelines

And of course when Facebook originally issued their promotional guidelines they were huge and very confusing.  If you managed to wade through the legalise language you would usually stumble at the last barrier, the requirement to pass your promotion past Facebook for approval, as a result of the complexity many businesses just shrugged their shoulders and ignored them risking loosing their pages altogether.  Thankfully they have since loosened the restrictions and made them a lot easier to digest and the need to submit your promotion to Facebook has disappeared altogether.  You can view the guidelines in full here.

The key points to remember are

– You cannot run a Facebook competition on the ‘Wall’ of your page.  You must use a third party app or create your own iFrame tab

– You cannot condition entry on taking an action on Facebook, e.g. Liking, commenting or sharing a post or uploading a photo directly to Facebook.  However you can make Liking your page a part of the entry process (but not the only condition to entry)

– You cannot use any action on Facebook as a voting mechanism, e.g. Liking a photograph

– You must include a disclaimer including text similar to:

“This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.
You are providing information to [disclose recipient(s) of information] and not to Facebook.”

I recommend you read the full guidelines and make sure you understand them fully before you launch your contest.

If that still seems confusing here’s a fantastic video from Facebook that puts it in simple terms

Rules Smules, everyone else is breaking them right?

I’m sure you’ve seen lots of busiensses breaking the rules on Facebook and it can be tempting to jump on board, after all if everyone else is doing it why can’t you?  Do Facebook really take down pages that break them?

The answer is yes they do remove pages. Having your Facebook page removed by Facebook isn’t something businesses tend to shout about so it is often assumed that it doesn’t happen.  Small businesses may be able to keep page removal under their hats but bigger brands aren’t so lucky, a quick Google search will give you examples of pages closed by Facebook for breaching the promotional guidelines including FCUK India.

Of course the main reason we run competitions on our pages is to attract more ‘Likes’ so running the risk of losing your entire fan base can’t be worth it, especially as there are some fantastic tools that can help you run an effective competition for free or for a very low cost.

The Good News

Running a competition by the rules is easy.  There are a number of applications that work with Facebook for running legal competitions.  I use ShortStack (affiliate link) as I find it’s easy to customise, great value and there are lots of bells and whistles that can ensure the success of your competition including an option for entrants to tell their friends about the competition or share it to their Wall.  You can run a sweepstakes contest for free using ShortStack and their paid service starts at $15 (around €11) per month with no minimum subscription period.

If ShortStack isn’t for you there is plenty of choice here are three others you may want to look at. WooBox and NorthSocial

What sort of competition should I run?

Facebook competition

There are many kinds of competitions you can run on Facebook and I’ll elaborate on the benefits here over the next couple of weeks but a rough guide if you’re keen to get started:

– For a first competition to build your fan base a sweepstakes works well as entry is simple for your community

– If you have a reasonably active community a caption competition where users vote for the winner will gather momentum and encourage entrants to invite their friends

– If you have a very engaged community a photo contest where users vote for the winner will attract lots of new users and gives you great visual content to share.

I’ll be delving further into competitions on this blog soon so watch this space.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on contests on Facebook, do you enter them? What compells you to enter them?  Have you found them effective for your own business?

If you would like to help you set up a competition on your Facebook page get in touch.