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Facebook Contests: How to Win at Your Own Game

Posted By Carie Schelfhaudt, Mcdougall & Duval, Saturday, February 4, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, November 19, 2013

If you love running contests on Facebook, listen up! You may be losing at your own game. It's alarming to discover the number of financial institutions that are violating Facebook contest rules and regulations in an industry where compliance risks have historically been of the utmost concern.

So, gather a list of your most recent contests and see if they sound similar to the violations below. You could be at risk of losing your page... and your valuable fan base!

Violation #1 Example: Like us to be entered to win ABC!

The simple act of liking a Facebook page cannot automatically enter fans into a contest or drawing. This is against the Facebook rule that states, "You must not use Facebook features or functionality as a promotion's registration or entry mechanism."

However, if you are running a contest on your Facebook page, you can require that customers Like your page as a prerequisite for entering a contest. This process, called fangating, means that fans will see one graphic before they click the Like button, and a second graphic to enter the contest only after they've clicked the Like button. Therefore, fans cannot enter into the contest until they have liked your page. The new Like does not automatically enter the person into the contest, but keeps the contest limited to Facebook fans only. This will help increase your fan count without violating Facebook rules.

Violation #2 Example: Comment on this wall post to be entered to win. Or, upload your photo to enter and the photo with the most likes will win ABC.

Similar to the rule that you cannot use the Like button on your Facebook page to enter fans into a contest, you also cannot use the comment box or the Like button on wall posts as entry or voting mechanisms for a promotion. Facebook rules strictly forbid running contests on the Facebook wall, and that includes entering, commenting, liking or uploading as ways to administer contests. These are all considered Facebook features and functionality.

The best alternative is to direct your fans to a Custom Contest Tab to enter into a contest administered by a third-party app. There are many of these apps on the market today. For a small premium, you can create a contest that is compliant with Facebook's Promotional Guidelines.

Violation #3 Example: Allison Davis, you are our winner! Look in your Facebook Messages to redeem your prize!

According to Facebook, you cannot notify winners through Facebook, such as through Facebook messages, chat, or posts on profiles (timelines) or pages. This does not mean that you can't tell your fans who won the contest. It simply means that you have to find an alternative way to notify the winner and award the prize, such as via email or phone. A custom notification tool is a standard feature with most third-party apps. Alternatively, you could host your contest on your website and direct fans to a custom URL to enter the contest.

But everyone's doing it, you say? Facebook certainly does not go out of their way to inform page owners of their contest guidelines, but they are out there, and not following them could put your page at risk for deletion.

If you're worried about teetering on the line of what is appropriate and what is not, be sure to read the complete list ofFacebook's Promotions Guidelines. And remember, Facebook contests, promotions and sweepstakes must include the following:

1. A complete release of Facebook by each entrant or participant.
2. Acknowledgment that the promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.
3. Disclosure that the participant is providing information to [disclose recipient(s) of information] and not to Facebook.

Continue the conversation online feel free to email me directly at with any questions or comments.

Tags:  contests  facebook  social media 

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