Running a Facebook contest: how to remain in compliance

by Lee Hopkins on January 13, 2012

in marketing,tools,training

Guest post by Jen April in partnership with Global Compliance.

Please note that whilst the FTC is a North American institution, its power over US-owned media such as Facebook is something we Australians need to figure into our submissions.

facebook logo

Running contests and promotions to increase your Facebook page’s “likes” is a popular method for boosting your social media stats – and a great way to engage with your customers. After all, everyone loves a chance to win. However, before you launch your first online promotion, be aware that there are many regulations governing contests enforced both by Facebook and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Things you need to know

1) The FTC wields the same authority in social media as in traditional advertising. This means your contest must adhere to the FTC’s standard terms and conditions. These include:

· Entry regulations

· Selections of winners and how they’ll be notified

· Restrictions on age

· How entries will be used by the company in the future

· Alternate means to entry

2) Facebook also has their own terms and conditions. You can see the guidelines by clicking on the following link:

Remember, if you violate Facebook’s rules, your organization may be banned from the popular social media network. For example, it’s against Facebook’s policy to notify winners through Facebook by posting on someone’s wall or sending a message. According to Facebook’s terms and conditions, “You must not notify winners through Facebook, such as through Facebook messages, chat, or posts on profiles (timelines) or Pages.” There are also many other actions that could get you banned from Facebook – so get informed or ask for professional legal advice before you launch your promotional campaign.

Now let’s look at how to increase your ability to run a successful contest that is in compliance with Facebook and government regulators.

Using 3rd party applications

One of the most important things you should know is that Facebook requires your contest to be run through a 3rd party application: “Promotions on Facebook must be administered within Apps on, either on a Canvas Page or an app on a Page Tab.”

This means you cannot run the contest on your wall by asking entrants to upload pictures or other materials. Facebook wants it to be very clear they’re not connected with your contest or giveaway.

Also, a 3rd party app will handle the FTC-approved legal verbiage such as, “This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. You understand that you are providing your information to (3rd party app name) and not to Facebook. The information you provide will be used for the purposes of conducting this promotion and as consented to by you.”

You can build your own app within Facebook using iframes or use an existing app like Wildfire or Fanappz. Here’s how it works: you’ll have a tab installed on your Facebook page for the contest. The contest tab will make it clear your business is running the promotion and not Facebook. You’ll get a URL like this one: On it, you’ll have the entry instructions and an “enter now” button. When entrants click “enter now,” they’ll be told they’re using an app and will need to click the “log in” button to continue.

Through this app, your entrants will upload their videos or pictures to enter your contest. This means that the contest is being hosted on a separate site, but from the user’s perspective, it all takes place via Facebook. They’ll simply have to allow a connection with an app in order to upload their materials.

Other information you need to know from Facebook’s Promotion Guidelines:

“Promotions on Facebook must include the following:
a. A complete release of Facebook by each entrant or participant.
b. Acknowledgment that the promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.
c. Disclosure that the participant is providing information to [disclose recipient(s) of information] and not to Facebook.”

Can “liking” be part of the entry process?

The short answer is “no”. You’re not allowed to use any of Facebook’s features or functions in your contest. Facebook’s guidelines state: “For example, the act of liking a Page or checking in to a Place cannot automatically register or enter a promotion participant.”

You can invite people to “like” your page within the copy of the contest of course, but “liking” alone can’t be the entry method for your contest. There needs to be another step such as uploading a photo, video or essay via your 3rd party app.

Promotion is acceptable

You can invite people to enter your contest from your FB Wall and offer the URL to your contest entry tab. Here’s an example of a business that promoted its contest on its Facebook Wall. Social Media Examiner’s “Small Biz Dream Contest” allowed participants to share photos of their small business dreams for 2012 with a short description. The contest encouraged the participants to get their friends and family to vote daily. The entries and voting all took place via the URL, which handled all the administrative details for the contest.

In summary

In spite of rules and regulations, contests are an engaging and fun way to increase your visibility on Facebook and gain new “likes” for your business. For example, Contiki Vacations sponsored a “Get on the Bus” promotion in which entrants created a “bus” with pictures and music. The promotion resulted in 8,000 new “likes” for the company – and a high level of interaction with potential customers.

The good news is that 3rd party apps can take care of much of the heavy lifting and keep you out of trouble; increased brand exposure can be well worth the effort of an online promotion.

Ensure compliance with all rules and regulations by consulting legal counsel where necessary. A little research and due diligence go a long way to running a successful contest that doesn’t violate the terms and conditions of Facebook—or worse, the law.

About the author

This article was written by Jen April in partnership with Global Compliance, a leading global provider of comprehensive, integrated corporate compliance solutions. Global Compliance serves small and large, public and private organizations by providing a full range of offerings necessary to achieve the highest degree of ethical behavior and corporate compliance. Our ethics and compliance services include Ethics Hotlines, Compliance and Ethics Training and Education including Preventing Sexual Harassment Training, Expert Advice from the Ethical Leadership Group – our business ethics consultants, Diversity Training, Performance and Benchmarking, and Third Party Risk for vendor and supplier due diligence

This is for informational purposes only and does not constitute the provision of legal advice. Review of this material is not a substitute for substantive legal advice from a qualified attorney. Please consult with an attorney to assure compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.

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