Facebook Contests: What Can You Do?

Like everything else on Facebook, the Promotions Guidelines continue to change and evolve with the network. From no contests, to no contests on the Timeline, to no contests that ask people to share or tag, this is one area in which Facebook is actually relaxing the rules over time.

Facebook Contests: What’s Allowed

As of this writing, you ARE allowed to run contests directly on your Business Page Timeline. These contests usually require a share, a comment, a Like or to tag a friend. They are wildly popular because they’re so easy to set up. All you need is a decent prize; something related to your business, please, and a way to choose the winner.

You may

  • Ask people to Like or comment on a status update or picture to enter. This usually looks like “Tell us your favourite day of the week to enter.” Getting a comment as entry is the best way of administering a truly fair contest as you will be able to see all the comments/entries. You will also be able to Like the winning entry/comment, and reply to that comment, which is the most reliable way on Facebook of alerting a winner that they’ve won.
  • Ask people to vote by clicking Like on a picture in an album on your Page. This only works for a voting competition and is susceptible to fake accounts over-liking one entry.
  • You can announce a winner on your Timeline and contact them via Facebook to let them know they’ve won. Of course, unless you’re friends with the winner (I hope not), your private message to them will likely not be noticed as it will go in their “Other” folder.

To choose the winner, you can use random.org to pick a random entry, or you can upload all the comments to an app like Shortstack, which will randomly pick a winner for you.

Facebook Promotions: What’s Not Allowed

Unfortunately, I still see a lot of small, and not-so-small, businesses doing things that are expressly forbidden in the Facebook Promotions Guidelines.

  • You cannot require entrants to Like your Business Page. Well, I guess you can, but you can’t prove it anymore, so it’s not really fair to require it. This was called “Like-Gating” and it’s simply no longer an option that Facebook allows. There is no way around it.
  • You cannot require entrants to do anything that creates spam, i.e. tag a friend, post/share to their own page. Many contests are still doing this, but once again, because of privacy settings, you simply cannot see everyone who shares the post, therefore it’s not truly a fair method of entering.

social media graphicDo these things work to boost your Page fans? Yes, of course they do. That does not mean you should do them. And I’m not telling you NOT to do them either. Be aware that if you choose to run your contests against the Facebook Promotions Guidelines you do endanger your Page and the fanbase you’ve built up. Once Facebook shuts down your Page for violating their rules, it may be impossible to get it back and you might have to start from scratch. It’s up to you if you want to take that chance when it’s not really necessary.

Facebook Promotions: Why’d They Take Away Like-Gating?

I’m no Facebook insider, but the scuttlebut around the marketing agency circles is that Facebook is trying to force Pages to produce better content and not depend on gimmicks to get copious amounts of fans who do nothing for the business. For example, if you’re a dentist that gives away tickets to concerts, ipads and bluetooth shower heads, why do you think you’re gaining so many fans? It’s probably not because of your fabulous dental hygienists, but more likely because people want to win great prizes. While the extra bump in fans *MAY* help your business (if the fans are all local), chances are most people aren’t going to start going to the dentist simply because you give away an ipad.

So, Facebook took away the main tool Pages used to run these contests, the little snippet of code that tells your contest app whether or not you’ve liked the Page. If you use one of these apps and that option is still there, it won’t work. All the reputable apps, like Shortstack, have removed the feature all together.

Facebook Promotions: How to Recruit New Fans

social media trainerSo, if you can no longer “force” people to Like your Page to enter a giveaway, how do you use contests to recruit new fans?

  • You can still invite contest entrants to Like your Page if they’re new to you.
  • You can still encourage sharing, you’re just not allowed to require it as entry to the contest. And giving “extra entries” for this type of activity is forbidden, too.
  • Alternatively, you could use an app like Shortstack to gather email addresses to boost your email marketing list, with entry being dependent on giving the email address.
  • Administer the contest on your website and invite your Facebook fans to click through to enter. This also has the benefit of working for your Twitter, Instagram, YouTube or other network fans as well.
  • You can manually invite all contest entrants who Liked the post to Like your page.

How to Manually Invite Contest Entrants to Like Your Page

There’s no question, this can take some time, especially if your contest is very popular. In this example from one of my contests for a social media management client, it took me at least 20 minutes to scroll through 1700+ entries and invite new fans to our Page. However, we got over 650 new fans from this action alone!

contest invite likes

To do this you click on the Likes/Comments/Shares numbers. This will open up the post in its own screen. Now you click on the number of “others” that Liked this post. Now you should see a pop-up window similar to below. Current fans will have a “Liked” button on the right. Non-Fans will have an “Invite” button. Those fans with nothing on the right have their privacy set tightly and there’s nothing you can do with them. Go ahead and click on all the “Invite” buttons. They’ll get a notification message that they’ve been invited to Like the Page.

Invite people to like your page


While this isn’t a perfect solution, it is the best option you have right now. Run a good contest and make sure you invite new fans to Like the Page. If they’re truly interested in your product or service, the Likes should come pretty easily. If they’re just there for the prize, you don’t want them to click Like anyway.

The other benefit of running a Timeline contest is that it creates huge “engagement” in the eyes of the Facebook algorithm. The more people that comment, Like and Share, the more of your fans the post will be shown to organically (without being paid). This engagement boost will have a lasting effect on your Page and help future posts as well.

And the best news is that you don’t need huge prizes to make this work. That contest with 1700+ entries? The prize was a $20 item. I’d say that’s a pretty good ROI, wouldn’t you?




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