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running a facebook promotionRun­ning a pro­mo­tion or com­pe­ti­tion on Face­book can be a great way to increase your fan base, get brand expo­sure and aware­ness or cre­ate engage­ment in your Face­book com­mu­nity. In May 2011 Face­book changed it’s pro­mo­tional guide­lines, which cre­ated a new play­ing field for how pro­mo­tions should be run. On top of this things can go wrong and make your pro­mo­tion or com­pe­ti­tion a nightmare.

I hope that the fol­low­ing advice can help you run a smooth and suc­cess­ful pro­mo­tion that ben­e­fits your com­pany, brand or page and leave you with less headaches.

What you need to know about Facebook’s pro­mo­tional guidelines.

Face­book Apps

You are not allowed to run a Face­book pro­mo­tion on your wall. It has become a require­ment that all Face­book pro­mo­tions are run on an app.

This should either be an iframe tab app (sits in a tab on your page) or a can­vas app (you need to link to this and it appears in the app direc­tory found on devel­op­ers page app search). This needs to be devel­oped for you — usu­ally you would go to a pre­ferred Face­book devel­oper to develop this for you (not a require­ment, but a good idea), but any­one with enough know how can do it.

The other impor­tant fac­tor is that this is stored on a secure server with the cor­rect dig­i­tal cer­tifi­cates to avoid the Face­book warn­ing that appears telling users that they are going to an unse­cure con­nec­tion and some browsers that give an untrusted site warning.

This is prob­a­bly in place to reduce “spam” on users walls as well as encour­age bet­ter run pro­mo­tions within Facebook.

Terms and Con­di­tions (T&C’s)

All pro­mo­tions should have T&C’s to estab­lish the rules by which the com­pe­ti­tion is gov­erned. Face­book has a require­ment for you to add the fol­low­ing to your T&C’s (or some­thing sim­i­lar decided by your legal team):

• “Your pro­mo­tion name” is in no way spon­sored, endorsed or admin­is­tered by, or asso­ci­ated with, Face­book.
• Face­book has no asso­ci­a­tion or juris­dic­tion over “Your pro­mo­tion name“
• Infor­ma­tion sub­mit­ted when enter­ing “your pro­mo­tion name” is dis­closed to and col­lected by “your company/organisation name” and not Facebook.

Always be clear that T&C’s apply and make sure they can be eas­ily found either on your Face­book page or on your website.

Basis of Promotion

You can not base your pro­mo­tion on peo­ple LIKING your page (or any other Face­book func­tion­al­ity). So pro­mo­tions like “LIKE our page and be entered into a draw auto­mat­i­cally” are against Facebook’s pro­mo­tional guide­lines and could result in your page being taken down. Face­book show very low tol­er­ance for break­ing their rules. Depend­ing on who you are they may issue a warn­ing to stop doing what you are doing first. Face­book don’t allow their func­tion­al­ity to be used as a way to be auto­mat­i­cally entered into a com­pe­ti­tion. You can, how­ever have them Like your page to reveal an entry form.

Other types of pro­mo­tions which are unac­cept­able are prizes based on com­ment­ing, lik­ing on the wall, check­ing into a place or any activ­ity on the wall.

Face­book are a bit flex­i­ble in what they call a pro­mo­tion and if you have a fan of the week with no mon­e­tary reward or mate­r­ial gain, they find that acceptable.

Pro­mo­tion mechanism

You can not use the Face­book like but­ton as a vot­ing mech­a­nism for your pro­mo­tion. You can use the LIKE but­ton if you design one that does not resem­ble Facebook’s one as long as it is not used as the basis of vot­ing. In other words your votes should not be Face­book Likes.

You can how­ever imple­ment your own vot­ing or nom­i­na­tion type com­pe­ti­tion out­side of Likes. (I have strong words of warn­ing later in this arti­cle related to this and how to do it properly)

You can not use any of Facebook’s name, trade­marks, trade names, copy­rights, or any other intel­lec­tual prop­erty out­side of their brand usage guidelines.

Noti­fy­ing the winner

You can not notify the win­ner on the wall or using any Face­book mes­sag­ing or chat mech­a­nisms. You will need to col­lect an email address to notify the win­ner by email (not Face­book email) before you announce them on your wall.

It is impor­tant to be famil­iar with Facebook’s pro­mo­tional guide­lines if you are going to run any pro­mo­tion, com­pe­ti­tion or sweep­stake on Facebook.

Other impor­tant things you need to know about run­ning a promotion


When you have an app devel­oped you will need to link from the app to a pri­vacy doc­u­ment. You can set this up in Face­book Notes or on your web­site and sup­ply the URL to your app devel­oper. This can be seen when peo­ple go to your app and that lit­tle box pops up ask­ing them to give per­mis­sion to access their basic data (and what­ever else was set) — you will see a link there to the pri­vacy document/note.

Col­lect­ing data

You are not allowed to use any of the data that is avail­able to you in the API, with­out get­ting per­mis­sion to use it or col­lect­ing it your­self. From a trans­parency per­spec­tive it is often best to col­lect it again when peo­ple enter your pro­mo­tion or competition.

You may need an email address, age and post code to val­i­date age, res­i­dency and be able to notify the winner.

If you would like to mar­ket spe­cial offers and notify them of addi­tional com­pe­ti­tions as best prac­tice you should ask for per­mis­sion (not just stip­u­late by enter­ing they give permission).

Voting/Nominating com­pe­ti­tions

Never run a com­pe­ti­tion purely on this basis. There are peo­ple out there who scour Face­book for these type of com­pe­ti­tions and enter and are part of vot­ing syn­di­cates, which work on vote swap­ping. These peo­ple end up with thou­sands of votes and end up win­ning. Plus you could end up with a huge amount of irrel­e­vant fans.

Even if you have some­thing in your T&C’s to dis­qual­ify this behav­iour it is extremely dif­fi­cult to prove. You can limit vot­ing to your own coun­try only, but it doesn’t stop it.

You should always limit a vote to one per Face­book pro­file, which is done when your appli­ca­tion is devel­oped. Peo­ple in these syn­di­cates often have mul­ti­ple fake pro­files, which they have made to look very real, with activ­ity, friends and all. This makes it incred­i­bly hard to prove they are fake. Face­book take fake accounts very seri­ously, but you have to report them and con­fi­dently iden­ti­fy­ing fake accounts is extremely dif­fi­cult for just a Face­book user. Logis­ti­cally if you have thou­sands of vot­ers it would be impos­si­ble to look at each pro­file to deter­mine if it is fake or not.

So how do you get around this? Add a judg­ing ele­ment. A win­ner is judged from maybe the top 5, 10, 20 – what­ever suits your pro­mo­tion. This will lead to a fairer com­pe­ti­tion. You do get very hon­est peo­ple who work really hard to get votes who lose all hope when they see some­one get­ting hun­dreds or thou­sands of votes and it can cause all sorts of unhap­pi­ness in your com­mu­nity when they believe some­one is cheating.

Com­pe­ti­tions can get ugly

Peo­ple are very com­pet­i­tive – espe­cially if it is around some­thing they are pas­sion­ate about. You may find that peo­ple slan­der and make untrue claims (out­side of your page) about other con­tes­tants to get sym­pa­thy to increase their votes. They may even attack each other on your wall. And when you do select a win­ner can be unhappy about it if they feel it is not a fair decision.

The best approach is to ensure that this behav­iour is a dis­qual­i­fi­able offence in your T&C’s and have a judg­ing panel. Also ensure that you have stated no dis­cus­sion will be entered into regard­ing the win­ner – though this may be dif­fi­cult if it is in the open and you openly ignore your fans – in this case get advise and per­haps address it.

Have you run a pro­mo­tion and had any of these expe­ri­ences or would like to share addi­tional advice with oth­ers? Please leave your thoughts in the comments.

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