Facebook Updates Promo/Sweepstakes Guidelines – What It Means for Marketers

n10381469571_2067These days, running promotions on Facebook Pages and inside Facebook apps is one of the simplest and most effective ways of engaging Facebook users. However, while Facebook does allow third parties to run contests and promotions on Facebook, it has been posting increasingly specific guidelines throughout the past year detailing just what is and what isn’t allowed.

Now, Facebook has just posted a new set of promotional guidelines that go into much more detail. We’ve excerpted and highlighted some of the most relevant sections below, but the most important part: All promotions that run on Facebook must be fully located on either 1) the canvas page of an application, or 2) in an application box or tab on a Facebook Page – AND you must get prior Facebook approval before the promotion starts.

The Updated Policies

Here’s the most important section of the updated promotional guidelines:

Section 3. Administering a Promotion through the Facebook Platform

You may not administer any promotion through Facebook, except that you may administer a promotion through the Facebook Platform with our prior written approval. Such written approval may be obtained only through an account representative at Facebook. If you are already working with an account representative, please contact that representative to begin the approval process. If you do not work with an account representative, you can use this contact form to inquire about working with an account representative. If we provide you such approval, you agree to the following:

3.1 You will only administer the promotion through an application on the Facebook Platform, as directed by us.

3.2 You will only allow users to enter the promotion in the following locations on Facebook:

3.2.1 On the canvas Page of an application on the Facebook Platform.

3.2.2 On an application box in a tab on a Facebook Page.

3.6 You must submit materials for any promotion you plan on administering through the Facebook Platform to your account representative for our review and approval at least 7 days prior to the start date of such promotion. Promotions not approved in writing within such time period will be deemed unapproved.

What’s Clearly Not Allowed

This means the following types of Facebook contests are not allowed:

  • “Status update” contests (like the one that Intuit ran earlier this year)
  • “Photo upload” contests (like the one Utah restaurant Mo’ Bettah Steaks ran last month)
  • Any kind of contest that requires commenting on or responding to items in the News Feed (brands could otherwise boost their News Feed engagement and thus distribution by constantly running contests in the feed)

Instead, all contest promotions must be run through third party applications, and must be approved by Facebook “at least 7 days prior to the start date.” This is especially important for all Page administrators to be aware of, as many businesses and organizations have been experimenting with different types of contests to drive traffic and engagement on their Facebook Page.

Two More Details

1) Aside from the usual prohibitions around allowing users under 18 to under or including any alcohol, tobacco, etc, in the campaign, the new guidelines say clearly that marketers must not require users to “purchase a product” or complete “a lengthy task” in order to enter.

Section 2. Prohibitions

2.6 The promotion is a sweepstakes that conditions entry upon the purchase of a product, completion of a lengthy task, or other form of consideration.

2) Facebook says marketers must not indicate in any way that Facebook is a sponsor or administrator of the promotion.

Section 4. Publicizing a Promotion on Facebook

4.1 You will not directly or indirectly indicate that Facebook is a sponsor or administrator of the promotion or mention Facebook in any way in the rules or materials relating to the promotion.

Examples of What To Do and Not To Do

Finally, Facebook has given the following examples to help marketers understand how to apply the new Promotion Guidelines:

You cannot: Condition entry in the promotion upon a user providing content on Facebook, such as making a post on a profile or Page, status comment or photo upload.

You can: Use a third party application to condition entry to the promotion upon a user providing content. For example, you may administer a photo contest whereby a user uploads a photo through a third-party application to enter the contest.

You cannot: Administer a promotion that users automatically enter by becoming a fan of your Page.

You can: Only allow fans of your Page to access the tab that contains the third-party application for the promotion.

You cannot: Notify winners through Facebook, such as through Facebook messages, chat, or posts on profiles or Pages.

You can: Collect an address or email through the third-party application for the promotion in order to contact the winner by email or standard mail.

You cannot: Instruct people (in the rules or elsewhere) to sign up for a Facebook account before they enter the promotion.

You can: Instruct users to visit the third-party application to enter the promotion (as described in Section 3.4(i)). Since users must have a Facebook account in order to access an application on the Facebook Platform, if you give this instruction, they will be prompted to sign up for a Facebook account if they do not already have one.

The Page Apps/Management Ecosystem

This update should be a boon to companies like Buddy Media, Context Optional, Wildfire, Fanappz, Involver, theKbuzz, Votigo, and Vitrue that are helping big brands, small businesses, and celebrities engage users on Facebook through white label application platform specifically designed for Facebook Page and application promotions.

By requiring all promotions to occur within applications of some kind, Facebook is both keeping the News Feed cleaner and signaling to the tools community that it wants them heavily involved in the future of marketing on Facebook.

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Leave a Reply

62 Responses to “Facebook Updates Promo/Sweepstakes Guidelines – What It Means for Marketers”

  1. muzakkir says:

    my Connect to All

  2. Jim says:

    Where can I find the earlier version of the promotions guidelines for comparison?

  3. Chad Estes says:

    Previous rules essentially said you couldn’t use a standard Facebook function to enter a contest or sweepstakes. But you can give something to all fans, such as exclusive offers or content.

    The rules are definitely getting more detailed, such as the brand new requirement to approve through Facebook.

    As mentioned, it should also benefit companies like mine, Vitrue, who provide premium social media solutions and services to major brands. As going the lo-fi route using standard Facebook functions is no longer permitted.

  4. Dave Kerpen says:

    Thanks for the shoutout to my firm theKbuzz, Justin. Of most interest to me is the new rule requiring Facebook’s “written approval.” With so many Pages and so few facebook employees, it seems as though that will be an incredibly difficult rule to enforce. I’ve reached out to facebook for clarification.

  5. Thinking Of Running A Contest on Facebook? Think Again! | Facebook, Twitter, Social Networking to Grow Your Business! by Mari Smith says:

    [...] Facebook Expert, Justin Smith, says: By requiring all promotions to occur within applications of some kind, Facebook is both keeping [...]

  6. lenny says:

    I run free gift certificates from local business to help them leverage facebook and increase their overall brand awareness through my fan page…is what I am doing illegal?

  7. David says:

    This will mark the end of Facebook. When a company becomes so big, it will begin to restrict activities on their website to maintain their strangle hold on the industry. Facebook will go the way of AOL, people will leave because of the bad user experience. Freedom!

  8. Is Your Facebook Contest Doomed? New Promotions Guidelines Change Everything! | Allen Mireles Social Media Consulting says:

    [...] you looking for other posts about this topic? Read Mari Smith, Nick O’Neill and Justin Smith’s Inside Facebook, for additional thoughts on the revised promotions [...]

  9. カレル Baloun says:

    Justin, my i2we,inc also has an app platform and we’ve done over a dozen client apps over the last 2 years.


  10. Rachel says:

    Are there separate rules for contests on personal profiles? For example, a blogger running a blog contest, but allowing Facebook comment entries, too, since so many people read their blog on Facebook anyway.

  11. granolajoe says:

    So is it still “legal” to do what Outback and Papa John’s are doing and offer discounts to people after becoming fans of their page?

  12. Peter Corbett says:

    Great article, Justin. We’ve been focusing on this issue for our clients/collaborators and will be doing a deep dive this Friday for all interested.

    You can register here: http://www.istrategylabs.com/2009/11/new-rules-of-facebook-engagement-social-promotions/

  13. E.J. Powers says:

    Thank you for the heads up on this change, Justin.

    According to Section 4 of the promotional guidelines – Publicizing a Promotion on Facebook – Fan page admins CAN still publicize a promotion on Facebook without the need written approval, so long as the contest is administered completely off of Facebook. There are some other conditions here: http://www.facebook.com/terms.php?ref=pf#/promotions_guidelines.php

    Good news for the smaller businesses and organizations out there that could have been bogged down with the red tape.

  14. Whitney says:

    Can you tell us why this has changed? What is the problem with having people automatically entered to win if they are a fan? Or having people upload a photo or comment on a post to be entered? These methods have been widely used in the past and have been very successful.

    Is this change something that is a result of a promotion gone wrong?

    I understand the changes, but I do not understand the reason behind them.

  15. Thomas says:

    I was just wondering – if they say: 4.2 In the rules of the promotion, or otherwise, you will not condition entry to the promotion upon taking any action on Facebook, for example, updating a status, posting on a profile or Page, or uploading a photo.

    They say you can’t condition entry, but can you condition winning by number of thumbs up? :) And pretty much the same way – can you give extra points to those users who will for example share something on their walls? It’d be not a condition, but an option…

  16. diditzism » Blog Archive » 3 Reasons your brand might not be hurt by the new Facebook promotion policies says:

    [...] analysis of the implications of these new policies can be found on the blogs of Nick O’Neal, Justin Smith, Kristen Parrish , CNETand Mari [...]

  17. sadsac says:

    This is all great info Justin, thanks!
    Now the big question, how and where do we submit our contest for approval??

    I’ve been looking for the past 2 days at no avail. Anybody knows how to submit your contest for approval?

  18. Jean says:

    Would these new guidelines prohibit the following: Having a contest, for example first 100 people to become fans win this prize. Can I send a link to the one-time-click coupon via facebook message? Or what if I made a private facebook group with a link to the prize (one time click) that required me inviting them to the group once they become a fan.

    Thanks for your help.

  19. Random Neural Firings » Blog Archive » Friday Random Ramblings says:

    [...] has new guidelines for sweepstakes, contests and promotions. This affects me in my day job (marketing consultant) but also as a blogger who has run some [...]

  20. Giveaway » December's Facebook Fan giveaway | we design. we blend. we blog. The Blend Creations blog. says:

    [...] we would giveaway a product to one of our Facebook fans. We’re changing it up a bit since Facebook revised its rules for running promotions on fan pages.  No longer are we allowed to give something away for your fanship.  In fact, the rules clearly [...]

  21. Facebook just got harder | Tasha Harrison says:

    [...] Now Facebook have created new rules regarding competitions. You can’t ask people to interact with you on Facebook in order to enter a competition, they can only interact with a third party application. Gone are the days of getting more fans by encouraging them to join you in return for maybe winning something. Now marketers have to be more imaginative in the ways they get fans to sign up. In fact this may not be a bad thing, because simply building up a large fan base and bribing them to interact with you isn’t going to build up a long term relationship. [...]

  22. Nuovo regolamento per concorsi e promozioni su Facebook says:

    [...] un approfondimento sulle nuove regole potete leggere questa analisi del regolamento, ma essenzialmente le nuove regole prevedono [...]

  23. Facebooks nye konkurrenceregler says:

    [...] kan læse om reglerne i artiklen Facebook Updates Promo/Sweepstakes Guidelines – What it means for Marketers Skriv en [...]

  24. New Facebook Contest Rules Leave Many Questions Unanswered | Blue Helm says:

    [...] newly unveiled contest rules are, well, confusing. At least that’s the only determination I can come to today. That might [...]

  25. Link Building says:

    I’m sorry, but I have to agree with David. This will mark the end of Facebook, or at least its decline. They’re obviously limiting people’s freedom as a means to protect their own vested interests (i.e. ads!). While I understand it from a business perspective, it runs contrary to the entire social media culture. I frankly surprised by the move and I seriously wonder how they’re going to enforce it with so many users and so little manpower.

  26. New Privacy Policies on Facebook, Cake, and Death says:

    [...] other facebook news, Facebook has also updated its policies on sweepstakes. For more on what that might mean, read this great article on TechCrunch about spamming people and [...]

  27. Susan Getgood says:

    Anyone have any idea on why the prohibition of promotions on dairy products in the new rules. Tobacco, guns and drugs — I get. Ice cream, not so much.

  28. Allison says:

    The facebook rules don’t mention anything about a promotion that involves tagging – like the one Ikea did. That doesn’t really fall under conditioning the user to upload a pic or update their status. The only requirement is to tag themselves or somebody else in a picture uploaded by the company. How would this type of promotion or “game” be subjected under FB’s new guidelines?

  29. 6 Social Media Predictions for 2010 | Social Media Examiner says:

    [...] Facebook caution! Companies that plan on running contests on Facebook need to proceed with caution. Facebook just announced that brands, advertisers, and marketers that want to run contests or sweepstakes on its platform [...]

  30. Kim says:

    Your link that is supposed to go to a contact form for facebook does not lead to that form. Is there a url that we can use to find the contact form?

    Thank you aheah of time,

  31. JeremyB says:

    Allison – Tagging is prohibited because it counts as users providing content. When they tag themselves, that information gets published in their feed, so it uses the Facebook platform and is thus not allowed. Lame, huh?

  32. Updated Rules for Facebook Contests | Social Media Regulations says:

    [...] Article: Facebook Updates Promo/Sweepstakes Guidelines – What It Means for Marketers [...]

  33. Planning a Facebook competition? Forget it! « says:

    [...] of a personal profile and fans Page. There are ways to legitimately run a competition but it involves using a third-party application and getting approval from a Facebook account manager; and that’s [...]

  34. Will says:

    Great Article Justin,

    I am finding it difficult to “contact a Facebook representative for approval” as requested by the new promotion guidelines.

    Do you have any advice for me? Do you know of anyone who has successfully gone through this process?

    Thanks again,

  35. Facebook Promotion Guidelines « Everybody's A Genius says:

    [...] Many other great blog posts have been written about these new promotion guidelines and what they mean to companies, so I won’t reinvent the wheel in this post. See other informative blog posts by Ogilvy’s PR Blog and Inside Facebook. [...]

  36. Josh Martin says:

    I’ve heard that before you can get a Facebook rep to approve your promotion that you must spend at least $10,000 in ads. Basically, if you don’t buy any ads, you can’t run promotions. Can anyone confirm this?

  37. Paula Warner says:

    Received an email from an Amy Doland claiming I won a promotion from Facebook. She claims all I have to do is send my address to a gmail account. Anyone know this lady?

  38. 21 Creative Ways To Increase Your Facebook Fanbase | Social Media Examiner says:

    [...] a fan of your fan page in order to enter a contest, sweepstakes, drawing or competition. See these two posts for further explanation. PLUS, good news: you CAN run contests and sweepstakes with the use [...]

  39. An Open Letter to Facebook » Techipedia | Tamar Weinberg says:

    [...] but I never found out, and to this day most of us really have no idea. Just a few months ago, you removed the ability for businesses to easily run contests on Facebook pages. The stipulations that surround contest hosting on Facebook at this present time [...]

  40. Amanda says:

    this is SO confusing..am I allowed to tell my followers about my blog and that I am having give aways on the blog on my facebook account? Can I give my followers 1/2 price specials through my facebook page etc..why cant they put this all in simple ENGLISH I dont understand most of this techno lingo..

  41. Grace Hester Designs says:

    Next, I will only be allowed to post status on my facebook page (that is viewed by people who CHOSE to fan/like my business in the first place) on Tuesdays and Fridays, and only if I do not use the word “New” or “shop” and if I wear a pink furry hat while I do it.

  42. kathy st jacques says:

    i received a message in my mail here on facebook saying i won 5.5 million dollars through foundation through facebook sweepstakes or something and i wrote the batch # down reference number down and all of that and forgot the email addy but it was from a gy justin clark now can you tell me whats going on

  43. Jon says:

    It still leaves a lot of open area…

  44. Jason says:

    Was just researching this today. They need to make a really extensive FAQ for this one.

  45. David says:


    I have a question regarding running a voting contest on my website using the Facebook “Like” button.

    Would these new rules apply to this too?

  46. Giveaway » December's Facebook Fan (& blog!) giveaway « Modern Jewelry by Blend Creations says:

    [...] we would giveaway a product to one of our Facebook fans. We’re changing it up a bit since Facebook revised its rules for running promotions on fan pages.  No longer are we allowed to give something away for your fanship.  In fact, the rules clearly [...]

  47. Chelsie says:

    Like paula I also was informed I won 50,000 dollars. is this a scam?

    “Get back to us immediately you receive this message on ( fbpaydepartment@live.com ) if you are the owner of this Face Book Account, Because this account have just WON the total sum of $50,000 ( FIFTY THOUSAND UNITED STATES DOLLARS ) in Face Book 2010 promotion.
    Get back immediately to claim your Money.

    Contact Department Contact E-mail ( fbpaydepartment@live.com)

    Thank you.
    From Face Book Promotion”

  48. Megan Byrd says:

    So you have to use a third part to do any promotions and no one under the age of 18 can enter them is the summary?

    And if you have to get your promotion approved where do you go to get it approved because there is no live support to talk to anyone. Any help would be great!

  49. MrSmith says:

    Yes imo, those are all scams … people fishing for stupid people. If it sounds too good to be true etc. ( more of my opinions follow )

    Grace Hester Designs … luv it, betcha look good in a pink furry hat though. ;) Feel your pain, facebook is mighty impressed with themselves, they seem to think the world cannot live without facebooks mighty and wonderous presence. Definitely dont mind stepping on da little people, whenever the feeling takes them. Sadly we are subject to their whims … but there’s always ways around anything … dont get discourage or mad … get motivated/determined and even eh. :D ( see below )

    Amanda, you can offer something to all your fans/likes … that complies with the fb TOS girl.

    As for your blog … could be pushing the limits depending on what the terms/conditions are to participate in the contest. ( also see below, for more of my breath taking opinions. )

    David, if your website isnt hosted by facebook, or on facebks servers … then calm down, take a deep breath … you’re fine. ( see below )

    Here’s the deal … anything that happens anywhere besides facebook, facebook has little say over … so if you want to run facebook contests with whatever terms/conditions happen to appeal to you … then do it. As long as you’re not on facebook itself, blatantly violating their contest/promotions TOS ( terms of service ) then they can go chit in their hat. Which they would have a helluva time enforcing this anyway … if people took the time to fan your fb page … then they obviously liked it.

    And if facebook goes on a mad acct banning rampage … some of their userbase, are not going to take kindly to it. All those commerical fb users and fan page owners have friends and family and etc that use fb … tick enough of them off … they might start looking around for a social net that doesnt stomp on people lol, maybe go back to myspace.

    And they are not giving people the chance to build fan pages out of the kindness of their black, greedy corp hearts. They do it because they have to, it enriches their site … if they alienate alot of small commercial interests … it will leave them lacking in terms of local search and ability to compete with their major adversaries in the internet gaint wars.

    also disclaimer: This kind of thing is also a great reason why fb marketers and people doing business on fb … need to make every effort to collect as much contact info as possible from their fb friends/users and customers. Get as many ways to keep in touch with them as possible outside of facebook. So that if the axe ever does fall … you’ll have ways to keep in touch and contact them … that facebook has no say over.

  50. MrSmith says:

    PS, no matter what fb says, or how heavy handed they try to be … a creative and determined person, will always find ways around them. So take heart people … its just a bump in the road, keep on keeping on I say. :D

    It might be their toy, but they let us play with it … and we shouldnt give it back, just cause fb wants 2 go home, lol.

    Sure they give preferential treatment to big corp spenders … but they better imo, realize where they came from and all the little people. Who put them where they are today.

    Cause how boring would it be, if all you see are major corp ads on fb ? They might pay fb more in terms of ad revenue in the short term … but the little operators add tons of color to their site. So they better take care not to tick too many little folks off.

  51. thierry says:

    I have a few questions; here is our idea for a drawing:

    a-Help us get our page “liked” by (x) users and get a chance to win (prize). Once we reach (x) we launch the drawing

    b-The person clicks “like”, and then sees. Thank you, continue helping us to reach our goal by referring.

    c-When we reach (x), we post an update to our fans, by instructing them the need to come to our website to enter their email address so we can make the drawing.

    d-we contact the winner via email to remit the prize that was announced.

    1-any problem with current guidelines?
    2-any suggestion to modify just enough to go through?
    3-Do we really need a WRITTEN agreement from Facebook?

    thank you for your insight!

  52. Elizabeth Pelkey says:

    I got an email from someone from facebook saying that I won $50,000USD an that the CEO of facebook had pick out my name and some other stuff an I dont know if I really won the money or if its a scam…If there is anybody out there can let me know if this happen to them an let me know if its real or not I would be very gratefull

  53. Maggy says:

    Hi all,

    I wanted to do a photo contest for my small business company to increase fans on our page on facebook. At the beginning I wanted people to download a picture of themself in a specific place. And the winner will be choosed by the most “liked” photos. But after seeing the new guideline I’m not able to do that. If I understand I can create a blog where people can post their photo with the most commented one. I will just post an announce on my facebook page. IS that possible ?

  54. Josh Constine says:

    @Carlton: This is a scam. Ignore it.

  55. Steve says:

    Josh Constine, what is a scam?

  56. Facebook Promotions: What You Need to Know - The Marketing Source says:

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  57. 21 Creative Ways To Increase Your Facebook Fanbase « SiMedia says:

    [...] a fan of your fan page in order to enter a contest, sweepstakes, drawing or competition. See these two posts for further explanation. PLUS, good news: you CAN run contests and sweepstakes with the use [...]


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