When I logged into my Facebook today I counted three contests in the news feed. As usual, it was three contests that all violates the Facebook rules. I am amazed on the number of “illegal” contests I see pop up in my news feed every day. It is always the same “like this” or “share this” and you might win this basket of products from some company. A couple of times I have contacted the responsible business telling them that their contest violates the Facebook rules. Every time the answer I get is the same… “but everyone do it on Facebook – so figured it was okay”. Today however, instead of contacting the Page owners I will focus my energy on writing this post telling you how you run a contest according to the Facebook rules.
First, you should be aware that when you opened up a Facebook business Page you agreed on some terms outlined by Facebook. One of the more important terms to be aware of is, that you accepted not break their rules. You should be aware that if you run a contest that breaks Facebook rules, you introduce a serious risk of having your Page shutdown and getting your business banned from the largest and most important social network!
I guess that many businesses running illegal contests are doing it unknowingly and not by vexatious. This guide is for you to avoid the pitfalls and still be able to promote your products, services and Page through contests without fear of reprisals.
OK let’s get started… here are the rules your need to be aware of.
1. NEVER ask Facebook users to take action in order to participate in a competition
This means that you can never ask people to Like, Comment or Share your images, videos or other content in order to get a chance to win. Even though you see this kind of appeal all the time it is not legal according to Facebook rules. Unless you are not that invested in this network, I would think it is not worth it to run this major risk. There are no official numbers but I spoke with an employee from Facebook earlier this year and he told me that every day thousands of Pages are shut down or quarantined due to this violation of the rules.
If you are thinking “that will not happen to me” or wondering if this is just empty threats because you have never observed a Page being shut down then you probably never re-visited the Page after entering the contest. Which brings me out on a sidetrack; the majority of people liking your Page in order to win something are contest hunters and will never return to your Page again – so you will not necessarily get new customers out of having this kind of contests on Facebook – you just risk getting your Page banded from Facebook.
2. Run the contest through a third-party app
In order to run a successful contest that does not break any roles you need to use a third-party app. If you search the Internet, you will see that there is a great amount of third-party app providers to choose from. This is no coincidence as developers already have seen the potential in Facebook swinging the scythe hard on Pages breaking the rules. I expect Facebook will have an increased focus in this area in the future as many users are annoyed with having their Newsfeed spammed with contests and even more important business Pages that use contest apps might feel ridiculed if it seems like there is no penalty for those not following the rules.
If you are not into designing an app from scratch there are ready-to-use apps you can buy that fits every need. Amount the often used are ShortStack and WishPond that all offers apps that are easy to set up. Everything that is illegal on Facebook becomes legal once you run it through an app (almost). You can create quizzes, video contests, image upload contests etc. and best of all you can use the app to get in touch with the winners afterwards. This is a win-win!
3. Clarify that the competition is not linked up to Facebook
As Facebook will not allow you to run contests through your Page you need to have a text embedded in your contest rules stating that this is only hosted by Facebook but it is your company that is behind the contest. You need to make this visible as leaving it out is yet another break of Facebooks many rules.
If you need inspiration on how to put all this into writing, you might want to look at what others have done. You might find a phrase or two you can re-use.
4. NEVER contact the winner through Facebook
Even if you have navigated safely through the Facebook rules and created a content, which stays within the rules there are still a chance to goof up.
At the end of the contest you need to notify the winner – the most obvious is to use Facebook, as this is where the content was held. However, this is not allowed under Facebook rules. You cannot send a private message, write it in the comments or even post it on the winners profile as all of these means of communication break the rules. So you need to send an e-mail outside Facebook, call the winner, send a letter, a carrier pigeon or anything else that does not involve Facebook. Otherwise, you once again risk having your Page shut down.