6 Tips for Running Promotions Within Facebook’s Guidelines

Promotions are an increasingly popular way for marketers to reach Facebook’s 400 million monthly active users. After all, if you see an item in your news feed about a friend getting a free burger, or entering to win an Xbox, you’re quite likely to check out how you can get the same thing.

But promotions are legally regulated through the United States and the rest of the world, prompted by countless fake giveaways, confusing prize terms, etc. For this reason, Facebook takes a number of precautions to protect users and itself from bad characters.

The company has been developing a set of official promotional guidelines beyond the general terms of service that all users, developers and advertisers also must agree to. The document has seen significant revisions over the past year or so, to try to explain what is or isn’t okay for the thousands of marketers that have recently become active on Facebook. The guidelines govern the publicizing and administering of any sweepstakes, contests, competitions or other promotions on Facebook and may change at any time without notification.

Facebook also makes clear that it can disable the Page and/or account of anyone who violates its terms of service and guidelines.

Because the rules are complex, we thought it’d be helpful to compile a list of tips for Facebook promotions, based on the guidelines last updated on December 22, 2009. Some recommendations are pretty common-sense while others are quite nuanced, and are the result of conversations we’ve had with Facebook and marketers over the past months and years.

Note that the guidelines are updated often; a more detailed explanation is available within Inside Facebook’s Marketing Bible. Also, to be clear, the promotions you see screenshots of in this article are all considered appropriate by Facebook.

1. Read All the Promotions Guidelines

This sounds obvious but Facebook has continued to expand the document, so make sure you are up-to-date with all changes. The guidelines currently include information on what Facebook’s definition of a promotion is (including “sweepstakes,” “contests” and “competitions”), as well as general terms that apply, aspects of promotions that are specifically prohibited, specific ways campaigns need to be administered and publicized, and Facebook’s legal protection and rights. And, as part of a big update last fall, it added a list of specific types of actions that promotions can or can’t include.

Between the terms and the examples provided, the guidelines should give most marketers a pretty good idea about how appropriate their promotion is for Facebook.

2. Clear the Promotion With Facebook First

Anyone who wants to run a promotion on Facebook first needs to get approval from an account representative at the company. In order to access a representative, though, one first needs to spend around $10,000 in Facebook advertising.

A main reason, according to Facebook, is that it needs to manually approve all promotions to ensure that each one is legal. If you’re with a small business or other organization with a limited advertising budget, a Facebook promotion is probably not for you. In this case, however, we suggest you experiment with a small amount of Facebook advertising targeted at the sorts of users you hope to reach. If those efforts are successful, more ad spending — and a promotion — may very well be worth the expense.

Obviously, anyone who seeks approval for a promotion from Facebook should first follow step 1.  If, however, you’re promoting a contest that involves Facebook (via Facebook Connect) that takes place “completely” elsewhere, on your own web site for example, you don’t need prior written approval. But you still have to stick to Facebook’s basic terms regarding Connect.

3. Don’t Call Facebook Your ‘Partner’

Facebook’s promotions guidelines state repeatedly that you can’t say that you’re partnering with Facebook, to quote, “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.”

We’re highlighting this guideline in particular because we still see some companies make this mistake. For example, you can’t say “We’re launching with Facebook today” in a press release if all you’re doing is launching a Facebook Page. Instead, you should say something like “we’re launching on Facebook today.”

As part of this guideline, you should also make sure to not use Facebook’s “name, trademarks, trade names, copyrights or any other…intellectual property” unless the company has given you prior consent.

4. Understand Local Rules, and How They Affect Your Facebook Promotion

Due to decades if not centuries or millenia of shady promotions around the world, a host of country and state-specific laws create certain restrictions on Facebook.

For anyone looking to run a promotion outside the US, note that all “sweepstakes” — or a promotion where prizes or winners are based on chance — are not allowed in Belgium, Norway, Sweden, or India. Make sure Facebook users from those countries will not be able to participate.

A number of other rules are based out of US state and national law, and influence what Facebook does not allow anywhere. Prohibited promotions include those that market to people under 18, to countries embargoed by the U.S. or require the “purchase of a product, completion of lengthy task or other such considerations.”

Any prize that promotes “gambling, tobacco, firearms, prescription drugs, or gasoline ” is not allowed on Facebook. The prize itself cannot include “alcohol, tobacco, dairy, firearms, or prescription drugs” — so its okay to promote alcohol as long as you don’t award it or break any related laws. The surprise in this latter category is that you may not administer a promotion on Facebook if any dairy products are part of the prize — this is due to some US state laws, and Facebook has previously said that it is working on allowing dairy-based prizes.

5. Heed Facebook’s Formatting Requirements

Facebook has a very specific way in which promotions may interact with their platform, again, a good idea to read these before designing your contest.

You can only administer a promotion through an application on the Facebook Platform and you can only have users enter the promotion in specific locations on your Page. Either the canvas Page of an app or an application box in a tab on your Page may be used for entry into your promotion on Facebook.

Also, Facebook has some very specific language you need to include in your promotion that essentially notes that it is in no way sponsoring your promotion. It reads as follows: “This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. You understand that you are providing your information to [recipient(s) of information] and not to Facebook. The information you provide will only be used for [disclose any way that you plan to use the user's information].”

And, you have to designate someone as the primary contact person for communication associated with the promotion.

6. Don’t Require Facebook Actions

You basically cannot require users to do anything on Facebook as a condition of a promotion other than becoming a fan of your Page.

There are a lot of “don’ts” in this category. The exact language: “[Y]ou 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.  You may, however, condition entry to the promotion upon becoming a fan of a Page.”

The guidelines offer examples of what this means in specific terms. For example, you cannot require users to post a photo or status comment as a condition of entry, but you can use a third-party application to do this.

You can’t automatically enter users who become a fan of your Page, but you can allow new fans to access a third-party app to do so. You can’t notify promotion winners via Facebook with messages or profile posts, but you can get their email or use an app.

Most especially you can’t require people to sign up for a Facebook account before entering a promotion.

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Leave a Reply

52 Responses to “6 Tips for Running Promotions Within Facebook’s Guidelines”

  1. Yee Lee says:

    check out Wildfire Interactive (www.wildfireapp.com) — they have these best practices and more baked into their Facebook promotion management service. Facebook itself uses Wildfire to run some of their own promotions!

  2. Kris Olin says:

    Great article! Thanks Sara! Yes, Facebook promotions are indeed a great way to increase your fan base, create customer loyalty and make your brands stronger within your target audience. You just need to make sure that you do it in the right way. You need to pay attention to your freebie, or the promotion product give away. It needs to be in direct relationship with you main product. This is important expecially in EU and Scandinavian countries where furniture retailers used to give Christmas hams to everyone who bought a sofa. Seriously, they did!

    Kris Olin, MSc (econ.)
    Author of the Facebook Advertising Guide

  3. Michelle Pryor says:

    Great article!

    We have experienced that you need to get written approval from Facebook if you intend to have a competition or sweepstakes, because of the significant legal implications. Our FB rep has not required us to get written approval when we have distributed coupons via an application that requires recipients to be a fan.

    Michelle Pryor
    Founder & Account Director, Sprokkit

  4. Richard Krueger says:

    The new rule that has my clients most concerned is the requirement of a minimum $10K ad spend in order to get Facebook’s approval. While it does make sense to advertise a promotion within Facebook, many smaller companies won’t have the budget. I understand Facebook’s rationale, but as a marketer, it doesn’t make me happy.

  5. Gail Kent says:

    I agree with Richard. Very self serving of Facebook. Their developers aren’t too busy to shut you down if you violate their rules, but they’re too busy to approve your promotion unless you spend $10,000.

  6. Kelsey says:

    Thanks for the writeup. I will eventually spend over $10k, but I’m not willing to wait until then to run a promotion. Where can I get more information on Facebook Connect contests etc?

  7. Running Contests & Promotions on Facebook « Fast Aperture says:

    [...] 6 Tips for Running Promotions Within Facebook%u2019s Guidelines [...]

  8. Josh Groth says:

    Great article! I’m honestly very surprised that a significant amount of marketing/business professionals have not taken the time to even read through the FB terms and conditions for contests and sweepstakes. Absolutely shocking.

    Also imperative to running any sort of competition or sweepstakes online is to have a lawyer draw up the terms and conditions for entry to cover your (and your client’s butt). Just because you are complying with Facebook’s terms and conditions does not by virtue make it a legal sweepstakes. There are still state, national, and international rules and regulations that must be complied with.

    Even more shocking are the Twitter sweepstakes. “Follow us, RT this message, and WIN.” This is actually incredibly illegal to do with the proper legal steps taken. Yet I’ve seen everything from small marketing firms to Fortune 500 companies use this as a marketing tactic.

    Is it an effective strategy? Absolutely. But you are also exposing yourself to a huge list of potential lawsuits.

    Marketing with contests and sweepstakes across any social media platform can be very effective, but make sure that you only do so with the proper legal approach.


    Social Media Specialist

  9. Tyler Pennock says:

    This info was really useful for me and my team. Thanks!

  10. 6 Tips for Facebook Promotions – www.InternetMarketingBestPractices.net | Nick Nicholls Thoughts says:

    [...] courtesy of Sara Inés Calderón [...]

  11. Michael A. Stelzner says:

    Thanks for this post. There is a lot of talk over at our magazine about this very issue.

    My only concern is that I just looked at the rules and at the bottom of the page is this statement:

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

    But here you state just the opposite in item #6.

    Have things changed since you wrote this??


  12. Eric Eldon says:

    Hi Michael,

    While you can’t *automatically* enter somebody into a contest when they become a fan of your page, you can *require* that they become a fan in order to enter.


  13. Merlin MacDonald says:

    Sara, in my case, having read your article and the guidelines, this is confusing. I make handcrafted jewelry. As a microbusiness, I was planning to do a free drawing of one of my products every month. Signup would be on my website, http://www.devijewels.com, with announcements on Facebook. But how will Facebook view such a drawing? Will they consider it a unapproved promotion, realize I’m not spending a big budget with them for ads, and take down my pages? How should this work, or do I simply contact FB for approval?

    People have responded very enthusiastically to past drawings and it would be perfect for the Facebook environment. There is no monetary exchange involved.

  14. Michael A. Stelzner says:

    Eric – It says “that users automatically,” not that admins automatically. I think you are reading the language incorrectly.

  15. Lynda Stenge says:

    This is a great simplified set of tips to follow, thanks for posting.

    I agree with Josh, it’s astounding that there are those who run promotions/sweeps/contests on Facebook and have not taken the time to even read Facebook’s guidelines!

    Hopefully this article will reach them…

    Blanche Agency

  16. Philipp says:

    “[Y]ou 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…”

    How could Burger King run the promotion drop your friends for a Whopper?


  17. Sally Williams says:

    Hi Michael,

    You can’t administer a promotion that users automatically enter just by becoming a fan – this means that you can’t run a promotion in which users automatically enter themselves just by becoming a fan. Users need to be able to view and accept full terms and conditions before they can enter promotions, via what Facebook call a ‘third party application’, which can be achieved by building a custom tab/application within the Fan Page that is built and host by a third party (ie. NOT Facebook), or by directing fans off-site (e.g., to the company’s own website) where they can view and accept full terms and conditions.

    So, while you can make it a condition of entry that users become fans, the fanning itself cannot constitute the entry.


  18. Dave Kerpen says:

    Excellent article, Sara. We @theKbuzz also recommend Wildfire (http://wildfireapp.com) who has an excellent workaround for smaller companies – hosting promos on microsites, connected to Facebook but not ON the Facebook platform, therefore not subject to prior written approval.

  19. How to promote on Facebook in 2010 and Avoid the $10k Ad Buy | Hilinsky Consulting Social Media Blog says:

    [...] (another great source for Facebook platform info) just published a great article titled ‘6 Tips for Running Promotions within Facebook’s Guidelines‘ which covers best practices for running promotions within Facebook’s new guidelines.  [...]

  20. Michael Stelzner says:

    Sally – Thanks for the clarification. – Mike

  21. Matthew Snodgrass says:

    Great tips. So many companies had been doing this the wrong way. They just don’t know.

  22. Jim Risner says:

    Nice writeup Sara. @votigo (http://votigo.com) is another 3rd party application provider of promotions for medium to large business. But we also have an approved work-around solution for small business where you can promote the contest or sweepstakes on your Page Tab, but the promotion itself lives on a microsite or Flash Widget that can live anywhere.

  23. This week’s most clicked | SmartBlog On Social Media says:

    [...] How to run a legitimate Facebook promotion [...]

  24. Brenton Gieser says:

    Great break down Sara!

    It’s a little unfortunate that a platform that was helping democratize the web has now taken away any lever small businesses could use on Facebook.

    With that being said, I do understand the reason for these provisions and I am sure many of the FB users that don’t even know of the guidelines thoroughly appreciate them.

  25. Malwina says:

    Can you please clarify this part:
    ‘The guidelines offer examples of what this means in specific terms. For example, you cannot require users to post a photo or status comment as a condition of entry, but you can use a third-party application to do this.’
    Does it mean you can build the application for the competition/ promotion that sends comments to user’s wall (users that would accept the aplication’s rules) – and Facebook allows it?

  26. Wanna Hold A Facebook Contest? | Verde PR’s Blog says:

    [...] 6 Tips for Running Promotions Within Facebook’s Guidelines (insidefacebook.com) [...]

  27. Facebook Apps says:

    It is always good to review what you’ve done and make sure you’ve got all the best tips! Thanks for that help! Very thorough.

  28. Social Media Digest: Feb. 20 through Feb. 26 | S'WORLD says:

    [...] 6 Tips For Running Promotions Within Facebook’s Guidelines – Facebook’s new promotions guidelines are rather complex, so InsideFacebook.com has done their best to simplify them down into a set of six guidelines that should give you a good idea for how best to run a promotion on the social network. [...]

  29. Facebook Promotion Tipps f. Blogger & Small Brands | stylishkidsinriot.com - lifestyle on the cutting edge says:

    [...] allem durch die Offline – Promotion und Google Ranking. Mitte 2009 habe ich begonnen mich mit Werbung auf Facebook zu beschäftigen und hier nun die Erfahrungen im [...]

  30. How to run a legitimate Facebook promotion « FCEdge Powerful Marketing Communications says:

    [...] How to run a legitimate Facebook promotion Facebook promotions and giveaways are increasingly popular, but many companies struggle to navigate the site’s complex promotional guidelines. Sara Inés Calderón sets out the six key rules for putting together an above-board Facebook promotion. Getting Facebook’s attention so they’ll approve your give-away can require spending thousands of dollars on Facebook advertising, she warns, so companies on a limited budget may want to consider using Facebook Connect to host the promotion on another site.  Inside Facebook [...]

  31. Facebook Contest Ideas to Grow Your Fan Pages » Buzzmedia Online Marketing says:

    [...] Technically, some of the contest ideas above violate Facebook’s Promotion Guidelines (I think). Facebook says that you can only administer promotions through an application, and that the promotion can only take place on a canvas page of a Facebook app and on an application box in a tab in a Page. Facebook also says that “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. You may, however, condition entry to the promotion upon becoming a fan of a Page”. Read more. [...]

  32. tatel says:

    With all this rules and the 10,000$ ad spending obligation I understand why so many small and not so small business are “ignoring” facebook rules.

    Either you spend 10.000$ and get a account representative in order to develop your contest or you made the application yourself.

    bad facebook, bad.

  33. Brian says:

    I want to run a photo contest w/o having to get approval from Facebook, as we are a small business and cannot afford to pay $10,000 in Facebook advertising. To join, I will only require the contestant to be a fan of our page. I will ask them to email us their photo. We will upload the photo ourselves to our fan page. Then the photo with the most “likes” wins. We will then notify the winners via email. Is this legal? Does this violate Facebook’s TOS? Thanks.

  34. Katie says:

    We want to start a promotion having people to tag themselves or their friends in a photo in our gallery. One random person out of the 60 people taking part will win a prize.

    Is this already one of the “illegal” rules, because people have to do something with their profile?

    What do you think?

  35. Heather williams says:

    I read your post. Its interesting and very nice to read. thanks.

  36. Lee says:

    I cannot play my games in facebook.It says that(The website is too busy to show the webpage)
    but i don’t no what it means???

  37. 5 Ways for B2B Companies to Engage on Facebook « Trevor Eade says:

    [...] and national promotion rules. See the full guidelines straight from Facebook here, or check out this post on the Inside Facebook [...]

  38. How to get your Facebook Fan Page banned or don’t get bad advice! « Sports Geek says:

    [...] 6 Tips for Running Promotions Within Facebook’s Guidelines [...]

  39. 5 Ways for B2B Companies to Engage on Facebook | Seriously Social says:

    [...] and national promotion rules. See the full guidelines straight from Facebook here, or check out this post on the Inside Facebook [...]

  40. Unique Cameo Necklaces says:

    Thank you for the info on Facebook contests. We are in the proocess of researching what it take s to have a contest on Facebook or Twitter to generate more traffic toour web site. this info was very helpful. Thanks again.

  41. Gewinnspiele und Wettbewerbe | Rechtliche Stolperfallen beim Facebookmarketing Teil 9 | Facebook-Fanpage-Blaupause says:

    [...] „6 Tips for Running Promotions Within Facebook’s Guidelines” bei Inside Facebook [...]

  42. Best Internet Marketing Posts of 2010 » Techipedia | Tamar Weinberg says:

    [...] 6 Tips for Running Promotions Within Facebook’s Guidelines (Inside Facebook): Given the risks of running contests on Facebook due to some unexplained terms of service, Inside Facebook clarifies what is within reason and what might not be allowed. [...]

  43. jay says:

    What if you want people to “like” your page and will choose a lucky winner among all your followers. But you’ll be posting the mechanics on your website with no mention of the sweepstakes within Facebook and announce the winner on your website as well. So no mention,advertising nor promotions at all will appear on the Facebook page. Will that be violating any Facebook promotion guidelines ?

  44. Henry says:

    Hi Do I need to use a third party app or can I have a competition tab with a html picture and advertise a site where they can go to for the competition?

  45. Josh Constine says:

    @Henry: Either is fine.

  46. JackONeill says:

    Where can one report an offending page?

    This competition page gave awards based on LIKES…claiming to be Malta Facebook Page Awards…


  47. Josh Constine says:

    @Jack: Under the profile picture of any Page or profile is a “Report” link

  48. gina says:

    So even if you use a 3rd party app like wildfire to create the promotion you still need facebook approval first? If so then what about using facebook connect and a sign up form on our website- how can we optimize that route to gain fans? Thanks for the info- no where on the guidelines page does it say you need written permission to do a contest- only on another rules page- you have to really look and read all fine print to find it.

  49. Josh Constine says:

    This has since been changed. Contests no longer require permission or the contest operator to have reached a minimum ad spend.

  50. Facebook Promotions – Guidelines? « PHP & CFM Yummy Mummy says:

    [...] http://www.insidefacebook.com/2010/02/23/6-tips-for-running-promotions-within-facebooks-guidelines/ [...]

  51. Pinterest Contests That Change Your Business Forever (Part Two) « Marketing On Pinterest says:

    [...] on their platform. Facebook has basically banned contests and promotions on their platform. Although the wise folks at Inside Facebook walk through 6 tips in this good article. Google+ also banned promotions and contests. Rule #1 on any social network – follow the [...]

  52. Facebook Contest Ideas to Grow Your Fan Pages - adventures of a blogjunkie says:

    [...] Technically, some of the contest ideas above violate Facebook’s Promotion Guidelines (I think). Facebook says that you can only administer promotions through an application, and that the promotion can only take place on a canvas page of a Facebook app and on an application box in a tab in a Page. Facebook also says that “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. You may, however, condition entry to the promotion upon becoming a fan of a Page”. Read more. [...]

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