It’s a Violation To Run a Contest on Facebook

Posted in Content Marketing
by on June 4, 2010

Earlier this week the good and noble Chuck Gose posted a link on Twitter to an article about things that many businesses do that are in violation of Facebook’s policy. The big one that jumped out at me is that Facebook prohibits running any contest where the method for entering is to take some action on Facebook.

I can’t count the number of contests I’ve seen where you enter by leaving a comment on a business’s Facebook page. It turns out that’s verboten. Uploading a photo to Facebook? That’s a no-no, too. If you read the rules strictly, even telling people to enter a contest by becoming your Fan (or clicking the Like button to use the new Facebook vernacular) is grounds for having your account deactivated.

Are these rules enforced?

No. Not based on what I see happening on Facebook. There are so many active accounts that it would be a monumental task to try to police all the “illegal” contests that are running, but the rules are officially on the books. So Facebook could drop the hammer any time without notice.

The good news is you can still promote a contest on Facebook as long as the action of entering the contest doesn’t occur on Facebook. So we’re running a contest right now where you leave a comment on our blog and you get a chance to win a free copy of Delivering Happiness by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh. We had been considering allowing people to enter by leaving a comment on our Facebook wall, as well, but decided to comply with Facebook’s stated policy on contests.

So Facebook is useless for contests?

What we can do while still obeying the letter of Facebook’s policy is talk about the contest on our wall. We can invite visitors to click a link to our blog and leave comments over here. That let’s us still leverage our Facebook network and avoid the risk of offending the powers-that-be.

And of course our friends, clients, and business partners can talk about the contest on Facebook, too. ;)

12 Responses to “It’s a Violation To Run a Contest on Facebook”

  1. Becky
    7/28/10 11:53am

    Great article. I was researching doing a contest on my company’s FB page and just wanted to make sure it complied. It probably would go unnoticed by them, but I don’t want to take any chances. Thanks for the suggestion of putting comments on the blog instead. Good idea!

  2. Clay Mabbitt
    7/28/10 12:19pm

    Becky: Happy to help. Good luck on your contest!

  3. 9/11/10 03:40pm

    Your article is one of the several I have read today informing me about Facebook contests. I am the volunteer twitterer and facebook admin for a non-profit, do those rules apply to non-profits too? I was planning on running a Halloween Pet Photo contest on our facebook page but I guess not anymore!
    Thanks for the info.

  4. Clay Mabbitt
    9/12/10 07:40am

    Elisa: Facebook changes their rules frequently and without warning, but as of right now the rules are the same for non-profits.

  5. Cody
    10/7/10 07:06pm

    Do you think this applies to giveaways that are not contests? As an example, if I said everyone who posts a picture on our Facebook page gets 10% off, this would not be a contest because everyone who participates wins. Do you have a link to the official rules?

  6. Trisha Standen
    10/11/10 02:50pm

    Seems you can run a promotion/contest, you just have to have prior approval and do it the way they (FB) tells you to! Rules are here:

  7. Kate
    2/27/11 04:44am

    I wouldn’t be that confident about circumventing the rules and running the contest from your blog and only talking about it on your facebook page. A few days ago a friend of mine tried to login to her fb page only to discover that her account had been deactivated for some unspecified infringement of fb’s policies. She has no idea what she did that violated fb’s rules, but in any event her page was gone, permanently deleted (with all her “fans” and the photos etc they’d uploaded over the previous year). There was no mechanism to complain or request an explanation. Someone on fb had decided to delete her account, for whatever reason, and that was that. So while it might be technically within fb’s rules to run a contest from a blog and send people there from your fb page, there is nothing to stop fb deleting your account anyway. If they do, there will be nothing you can do about it. They really are quite high-handed (as is evident from the way they keep changing their rules without telling anyone).

  8. 7/5/11 07:23am

    This is very surprising, especially seeing how common contests are on facebook pages!

  9. P
    8/16/11 01:51pm

    So what if we ask our fans to take a screen shot of our FB page? they will submit their answers through a blog or email. How does this border the rules that exist now. In a way it asks them to go to FB but the contest is only spoken about on our page. By having them take a screen shot of their FB page.
    Thank you.

  10. Clay Mabbitt
    8/17/11 11:17am

    P: The reason behind the rules is that Facebook wants to avoid situations where people artificially inflate their stats on Facebook. They want people saying, “I have 30,000 fans on Facebook,” and for that to mean something.

    If page views are ever determined to be the most important metric in Facebook, I think they probably would object to a screenshot contest. As of today I’d be surprised if it raised any red flags, though, unless you jump from a few page views a month to a few thousand.

  11. Foodadventurer
    9/8/11 01:25pm

    To chime in…my understanding is that although you can’t run a contest directly on facebook, you can use an app to set up a contest and run that app through facebook…This is a great article that talks specifically about that…

  12. 1/8/13 06:14am

    Thank you for your valuable information! I was about to initialize a facebook contest for the fans of my company, with like, share, and so on, but now I’ll have to think twice. It seems that if you use an app for that, they’ll rather shut down the app instead of the page, which won’t be so much of a headache. The problem occurs when u organise a contest on your own page, without any app for your fans.

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