This article was written on March 21, 2013. As of August 27, 2013, these Facebook contest rules have changed – for the better. Please follow this link to read more.
When it comes to your Facebook fan pages, I bet there’s a good chance you dove right in without reading the rules of the game. And that, my friends, is a dangerous way to play – if Facebook catches your page as a wrongdoer, your fan page (and all the hard work, time, and advertisement money you’ve put into it) can get shut down without so much as a warning email. Deleted. Poof. Sayonara. Goodbye to your hundreds or thousands of fans and say hello to starting from scratch all over again.
Luckily, I know a few of those rules thanks to my job as a social media editor. Here are a few tips to help you out when it comes to contests and cover images versus the Facebook terms and conditions.
Contests and Offers
Contests are obviously a huge deal for authors (and small businesses) as we use contests and giveaways as a marketing tool to promote ourselves and appreciate our fans. More often than not, pages I like and respect are breaking the Facebook rules by hosting contests through their status updates and encouraging fans to “Like” the update, counting it as a vote, and then choosing a name at random as their winner. How are they breaking these rules, you ask?
Here’s what Facebook says:
- You must not use Facebook features or functionality as a promotion’s registration or entry mechanism. For example, the act of liking a Page or checking in to a Place cannot automatically register or enter a promotion participant.
- You must not use Facebook features or functionality, such as the Like button, as a voting mechanism for a promotion.
- You must not notify winners through Facebook, such as through Facebook messages, chat, or posts on profiles (timelines) or Pages.
This means that contests must be administered through a third party page app. This means that we, as authors and small businesses, cannot use Facebook itself as a means to run contests. I use Woobox for my company, which is a third-party application that helps run my contests and keeps me organized – and keeps me well within the Facebook rules and guidelines. And make sure that wherever you’re running a contest (even on your blog), if you’re using Facebook in any way, to add this into your Rules of Entry section (hey it never hurts to cover all your bases): This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.
Note: you CAN ask people to be fans in order to be entered into a contest (meaning that your contest is only open to your current fans, a great way to interact and encourage your established community to talk you up. Woobox has the capability to install a “Fan Gate” which means one must like your page before seeing any of your content, be it a contest, discount, exclusive content, etc.)
If you’re using these methods as a way to run contests, your page won’t be around for long. Avoid these:
- “Like” our comment to win
- First 10 people who comment will win
- Tag yourself in this photo to enter
- Mention our page in your status
- Upload a photo to our wall to enter
- Comment on a status to enter
You must also notify your winner via email or phone. At least, you need to notify them before posting anything on Facebook. FB doesn’t technically say that we cannot announce our winners on our wall, so I don’t think you’re breaking the rules if you choose to throw confetti and tell fans what Susie Q won in yesterday’s contest. However, there’s a distinct difference between “Notify” and “Announce” and because of time stamps in email or otherwise, you may be asked to prove you contacted the winner before putting it on Facebook. Just make sure to notify your winners with an email or call before you announce it. Get it?
This also means you can’t just select a fan to give away something. If a fan is considered to be winning something, that means it’s a contest, which means you have to abide by the FB guidelines. So for those of you who pick a random fan for the hell of it to give them a book or whatever, you’re still rule-breaking.
And for those of you wondering if you can promote your contest on your blog through Facebook, the answer is yes. Just don’t encourage fans to do any liking or sharing through Facebook – make sure to send them to the link on your blog where they can win there – so for those book review bloggers out there using Rafflecopter on their blogs and promoting it on Facebook – you’re safe. Whew!
Cover photos are a great way to show off images to fans. However, there are several rules that apply here. Let’s state the obvious no-no: You must use images only you have copyright images too. Don’t plagiarize. Sounds simple, but you’d be surprised how many people break this rule. Facebook WILL eventually find them! Facebook recently removed their rule about no calls to action, URLs, and promotion of the brand. They say in their updated page:
“Use a unique image that represents your Page. This might be a photo of a popular menu item, album artwork or a picture of people using your product. Be creative and experiment with images your audience responds well to…You may not encourage people to upload your cover photo to their personal timelines.”
By Facebook guidelines, you cannot:
- Refer to Facebook as a way to promote- you can’t ask for Likes, Shares, or any other Facebook feature.
- Encourage people to use your cover images to their personal timelines (this is not to say we can’t encourage sharing our page with friends in a call to action on the cover photo, however!)
- Have a cover image with more than 20% text (keep it simple by using your logo in your profile picture, keep text to a minimum, and use photos that are of real people and things)
What other ways do you know of breaking the rules on Facebook? These are just a couple ways, but if you know more or have questions, I’m happy to hear them. When it comes to my Facebook fan pages and all the work I’ve put into them, regardless of how crazy I find their rules…The Dude Abides.