The Facebook Rule Most Bloggers are Breaking

If you’re not doing it, you know other bloggers and friends who are. It amazes me how many people don’t understand or follow Facebook’s guidelines when it comes to running contests and promotions.

I see it every.single.day. From bloggers with 100 fans to brands with more than 1 million (although the majority of rule-breakers are definitely on the blogger side).

Now, before you get all uppity and think that I’m just being Debbie Downer and lecturing you, I really am looking out for your best interests. I don’t think it’s smart to mess around with the largest social network in the world — because if, Gaia forbid, you got caught, you could get kicked off of Facebook, along with any pages that you used to violate the terms (and any pages that you’re the sole admin for).

So, here are the rules. Here’s how you’re breaking them. And here’s how to do things by the book.

Step 1: Read the rules. From top to bottom. Twice — maybe even three times: http://www.facebook.com/promotions_guidelines.php.

Step 2. Pay special attention to the following sections:

  • Promotions on Facebook must be administered within Apps on Facebook.com, either on a Canvas Page or an app on a Page Tab.
  • 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 condition registration or entry upon the user taking any action using any Facebook features or functionality other than liking a Page, checking in to a Place, or connecting to your app.  For example, you must not condition registration or entry upon the user liking a Wall post, or commenting or uploading a photo on a Wall.
  • You must not notify winners through Facebook, such as through Facebook messages, chat, or posts on profiles or Pages.

Overriding ALL of this is that Facebook is extremely protective of its name, copyright, brand, logo, etc. So you can’t in any way make it seem as if Facebook has anything to do with your contest. Even using the word Facebook (like I’m doing here!) is tricky, unless you’ve approved or are using widgets and tools that its developers provide.

  • You post a contest or giveaway, requiring people to “like” your page or a certain status to be entered (and that’s ALL).
  • You say that when you get to a certain number of “likes,” you’ll select someone to win a prize.
  • You post a status updating, congratulating and notifying your winner on Facebook.
  • You post a link on Facebook to the contest without making it clear that Facebook in no way endorses or supports your contest or giveaway.
  • Your only methods of entering the contest or giveaway are on Facebook.

  •  Although it’s a hot debate about whether this is good practice or not, Facebook does allow you to “like-gate” your fan pages via custom tabs, so you can require someone to like your page in order to get to a contest or giveaway tab.
  • However, if you do that, you’ll still need to work with a third-party app to populate that tab with your contest.
    • I have used Wildfire Apps several times and really like the tools. They can be quite cost effective (I get nothing out of saying this) and easy to set up. Plus, they’re approved by Facebook and are very easy to integrate into your Facebook pages.
  • Do all of your contest details on your blog, so that you can provide clear and easy to find rules and guidelines (which are required, per Facebook’s contest guidelines). Market the contest if you want on Facebook, but don’t require any actions to enter the contest.
  • It’s still a gray area, but if you DO want to give people extra entries for liking a page or a status, you can do it — but you HAVE to make them return to your blog or other third-party app to actually make the new entry. So you may be able to get away with giving away one entry for a comment, a second entry for a Facebook like AND second blog comment, etc. I think it violates the spirit of Facebook’s rules, but I’ve seen different opinions on that.

Here’s the thing. Despite all of my caveats and tips here, I know that some of you are shaking your head (maybe even a fist!) at me, saying…But Katy, so many bloggers do this and they don’t get in trouble! Why can’t I do it? 

You can. The chances of Facebook contacting you and requiring you to take down your page are slim. The chances of you violating local or state laws with your contest are slim. The chances of anyone reporting you are slim. The chances that anyone other than me will know you’re breaking the rules are slim.

And yes, it’s much easier and less expensive to just keep doing what you’re doing.

But if it were MY Facebook page and MY reputation…well, I’d want to be more cautious.

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Comments

  1. says

    Interesting, I did not know this! One of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to giveaways is when people have to like, tweet, subscribe, etc.

    • says

      Julianne,

      That drives me nuts, too. I think when giveaways were few and far between, and only the top bloggers were doing them, it was acceptable. But now it’s overkill.

  2. says

    Thank you for this post! I might share this at work, in fact. I run a Facebook Page for them and I have tried to explain why we can’t do a FB contest and the legalese in their guidelines I guess is confusing, plus when you see other brands do it… But I wonder how long it will be before they are caught violating the rules. (and unless a brand invests 30K a year in FB advertising, then they’re not doing it officially)

    • says

      Alexa,

      I had to do a LOT of convincing at work, too — but after much pleading, we used Wildfire and loved it. I was a hero for helping get a lot of attention to a series of contests and major growth on our Facebook page.

      Keep me posted on what you do!

      BTW, the FB advertising limits got dropped as a requirement in the May 2011 edition of the rules, as did the age limits and restrictions on giving away alcohol, etc.

      • says

        Ooooh, thanks for letting me know! It seems like FB updates that policy every five months. I am going to look into Wildfire and hopefully I can get some money from our budget to try it. I really think it’s the next step we need to take!

  3. Rachelle says

    Holy cow! Almost every blog contest I have entered breaks every single one of these rules. You get an extra entry for liking a page. The winner will be announced on Facebook so you have to like the page to know whether or not you won. I never knew there were rules against it.

    • says

      Yup…like I said, it’s rare that Facebook will go after bloggers, but it’s certainly possible. I’d love to spread the word so everyone starts using best practices!

  4. says

    I don’t use a facebook fanpage or do contests on my blog (anymore) but I had NO idea of these guidelines. I see these rules being broken all the time and didn’t know they were rules at all. Thank you so much for sharing this information. I am sure it is going to come as a surprise to many!

  5. says

    Good thing on the few contests I’ve run, I don’t do entries for Facebook, tweets etc. I’ll also never win anything because I don’t enter contests where you have to Facebook/ twitter etc and leave a separate entry for all those things – too much work. And my numero uno pet peeve with blog contests – seeing the blog say the winner is Person X and that person should contact them. Yikes!

    • says

      Tanya,

      I think (hope!) you’ll start to see a lot of backlash against giveaways and contests that make you jump through a lot of hoops. I think it was acceptable when only a few bloggers had access to brands and prizes, but now it seems like everyone and their little sister has something to give away!

  6. says

    I didn’t know that at all. Thank you for the knowledge. I followed along with what I saw others doing instead of investigating myself and that was my error. I’ll be sure to pay better attention now.

  7. says

    Katy!
    What a great post. We try to make this tricky topic clear all the time too…sometimes it just seems like there are so many rules, and they can be super confusing! We’re so glad you’ve found your experience using Wildfire apps for your fan pages to be easy, intuitive, and compelling! What a great spokesperson to have!

    Let us know if you have any questions, just drop a line on Facebook! fb.me/wildfireinteractive

  8. says

    Well now I’m scared to hit the “like” button on the bottom of your post!

    I don’t have enough followers yet for giveaways. I’m a baby blogger, but I had no idea about all those rules. Thanks for the info.

    • says

      :) No worries. The only thing you get for liking the post is my appreciation. No contest attached…

      It’s smart to learn as a baby blogger so you don’t make these mistakes when you’re huge!

  9. says

    This is a great post, Katy. I really had no idea that there were so many rules (although I am not really surprised.) I agree with you, when you are dealing with your reputation and brand, it is better to play by the book.

  10. says

    I had no idea there were rules about that sort of thing. good thing noone reads my blog / is too small to host give aways! ;) haha!

  11. says

    I’m glad you posted this. I had no idea. I’m new at this and seeing other veteran bloggers do this naturally made me assume it’s kosher. Your blog is such a wealth of information. It should be mandatory reading for all bloggers! :-)

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