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Facebook Promotions: Know the Rules

There was only one rule

Running contests on Facebook is a major source of confusion amongst Facebook Page owners. Facebook terms are a little unclear and many Businesses have no clue at all about the rules they need to follow.

By breaking Facebook Terms, you run the risk of having Facebook shut down your Business Page.  Make sure you’re familiar with all the rules.

Done right, running promotions and contests on Facebook can be a great way to gain fans and increase visibility for your business.

Nearly 40% of Facebook users who become fans do so to receive discounts and promotions (

Here’s what you need to know about Facebook Promotions and Contests:


  • You MUST administer ALL contests, promotions, and sweepstakes on Facebook using a third-party application and never use the Facebook platform such as your Page wall, the Events app, Groups or any other Facebook functionality to run your promotion. Note that a third-party application also includes any applications you create yourself.
  • You MUST include a complete release of Facebook and acknowledgment that the promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.
  • You MUST have clear contest rules that are visible directly on your application Page. 


  • You CAN’T use Facebook’s like, share, comment button, use the photos/videos tab as a voting mechanism/registration for a promotion.
  • You CAN’T contact winners inside Facebook (via direct messaging, chat, posting on the winner’s wall or posting on your own Page wall).
  • You CAN’T choose a fan for a random draw since this means that you would use Facebook to collect entries unless you do it somehow through a third-party application.


  • You CAN upload photos or videos for a contest but it has to be done via a third-party application and not through the default Facebook photo/video tab on your Page.
  • You CAN have users like your Page, check into a Place, or connect to your app before entering your promotion as long as the promotion is administered through a third-party application and is not used as a voting mechanism or a registration for your promotion.
  • You CAN collect names and emails from the contestants. This is actually recommended especially for the purpose of contacting the winner(s). This doesn’t give you the right to add email addresses to your mailing list unless you specifically include it in your terms and allow for opting out.  
  • According to Social media Examiner: You CAN promote a contest on your Facebook page…”as long as there’s no requirement to do anything on Facebook; e.g., like your page, comment, upload content, etc. You can simply post a link on your page to the contest. And, to be fully safe, I would also include this disclosure, This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.”
  • Mari Smith said the same to me, “…provided you comply with the rule to use an app to run the contest, you CAN use all the Facebook features to promote the contest, whether ads, wall posts, adding milestones, pinning to the top etc”.

In addition to Facebook’s own terms, your promotion also needs to follow local laws. Read: Social Media Promotions and the Law: What You Need to Know.

Here are some interesting apps to help you run Facebook Promotions and Contests:

Note that these are my own interpretations of Facebook promotional terms. You should make yourself familiar with the Facebook official guidelines before running any promotions or contests on Facebook.

Have you ever seen any Facebook Page break the promotions rules?


Image: Gord McKenna via Compfight

Join The Conversation

  • Jan 24 Posted 3 years ago Crystal Agosto

    It is interesting to read this because I just entered a contest that had no rules listed.  The only thing was that you had to get the most votes.  I worked very hard and got over 3500 votes and they just announced their winner.  It was not me, the person that got the most.  It was a 3rd person that only got 177.  I dont know what I can do about that but I know that I did not enter this contest and work extremely hard to win, only to have it handed to someone else.  Any suggestions? 

    By the way, the page is How to Kiss on facebook.

  • Jun 6 Posted 3 years ago Sebastián Gómez

    Good post!! Another option is Trisocial ( ) they have an extensive suite of apps to customize the fanpages and to do contests and promotions. regards!

  • Mar 11 Posted 4 years ago Akanksha13


    First of all. Thank you for sharing the information.

    I have a few questions

    1) What if the number of followers are less in number? below 2000/5000? Then also all the rules apply?

    2) If I want to run a contest on Facebook then Can I use Rafflecopter widget? I run my own Blog page and I don't have a developer or anyone to develop an application on facebook page.

    3) If you agree to point #2 then can I then put like my facebook page, etc on the widget?

    4) According to the above info, I can hold a contest on my Blog and give out the link on the Facebook page?

    Thank you

  • Jan 16 Posted 4 years ago mariabrophy

    Wow, I had no idea that you couldn't just run promotions on Facebook!  From this point forward, I will follow these rules.

    But, now that I know this, what can I do to avoid being shut down for a contest I already ran?  Is there a way to correct it after the fact?

    I'm wondering if I should delete the entire thing and post an apology.  Or, should I add a correction to the stream and let the winners know that they need to hop over to my blog, which I will then re-run the contest?

    Not really sure what I should do at this point.  Please give me a suggestion on how to do it right. Thanks!


  • Dec 4 Posted 4 years ago

    Thanks for the great post. I just created my website and wanted to promote on facebook. Can you suggest me which app would be a good start for me?

  • Nov 16 Posted 4 years ago blakehadley

    Thanks for the clarification in this post. I have seen business use the tactic of "For every new like to our page (not post) we'll donate $1 to charity". I could see this as an effective way of gaining more likes, but would it be considered against Facebook guidelines? Technically the person LIking the page isn't entering a contest or sweepstakes. What do you think? You're response would be appreciated.

  • Aug 13 Posted 4 years ago Sally Molina At...

    Is there an effective way to REPORT all the pages doing illegal promotions? I need to know because IS NOT FAIR that my agency is doing things right and people are complaining (since you cannot publish winners in the wall they say nobody's winning) and the competition is doing it SO WRONG and is getting away with murder. Any suggestion?

  • Aug 13 Posted 4 years ago dcencarik

    Many brands do random "surprise & delight" giveaways on the Facebook walls where they inform the selected winner to DM their information to collect their prize. Assuming these are officially prohibited, but Facebook is too big a machine to police on such a granular level?


  • Genevieve Lachance's picture
    Jun 26 Posted 4 years ago Genevieve Lachance

    Trevor, unfortunately anyone can call themselves experts and we're seeing an influx of social media "experts" and "gurus" that feel that they can make easy money by taking advantage of people. Like anything, you should do your homework when hiring anyone. I understand that it can be at times confusing or hard to keep on top of all the Facebook changes but I have a feeling that people are not bothering simply because everyone is doing it or just don't seem to care. I would never advise anyone to break Facebook terms at the risk of losing your Page, it's ridiculous! 

  • Genevieve Lachance's picture
    Jun 26 Posted 4 years ago Genevieve Lachance

    By a third party app, I mean that it was not created by Facebook itself. When you use a Canvas page, you're creating your own app as I mentioned, "Note that a third-party application also includes any applications you create yourself."

  • Jun 25 Posted 4 years ago JosephM1234

    Trevor - I run Facebook contests from a national (very conservative) financial company. The reason that consultants will advise that companies run them through the wall and timeline photo for promotional purposes is because Facebook has a lackluster record of doing anything about it. Facebook, to my knowledge, has not sued anybody for posting promotional information into their header graphic, nor have they sued anybody for running contests on their wall. If they do start to take them down, they will need to start tkaing them all down - then what do they do? Do they only take down the posts? The header graphic? The contest? Or do they take down the page? Facebook is not going to take down the page because that's how they generate 85% of their revenue - through ads. If they force the advertisers (companies) off their site, they are killing the hand that feeds them. Many consultants advise to break the rules also because the companies that they are advising have little resources to actually follow the rules and build the app. Finally, if you look into the Developers pages on what information is required to be collected when you build an app, some companies do not feel like they need to collect that information (and risk the sense of protecting or bastardizing) on their users/followers.

    Of course most people are going to actually advise that you follow the rules. However, since little has been done or will be done in the future, then others will say do what you want and what you think is effective until they (Facebook) slaps your hand. To date, I haven't seen it happen. Press on.

  • Jun 25 Posted 4 years ago Trevor Paige

    Ok - but can be done about the gazillion pages that are not following the rules? Any ideas? There are sooo many so -called social media consultants that are still advising their clients to runn photo contests on the wall and use the timeline photo for promotional purposes.

  • May 24 Posted 5 years ago JosephM1234

    "You MUST administer ALL contests, promotions, and sweepstakes on Facebook using a third-party application and never use the Facebook platform such as your Page wall, the Events app, Groups or any other Facebook functionality to run your promotion. Note that a third-party application also includes any applications you create yourself."

    Actually, the TOS says "Promotions on Facebook must be administered within Apps on, either on a Canvas Page or a Page App."

    Thus, it doesn't really need to be a "third party app" as you state, just needs to be built within the App functionality offered through Facebook. You can actually in-house build Apps that will work as well.

    The one thing you have not included, which would interest the majority of your readers, is that if you build an App within Facebook, Facebook requires that your App collect information, such as identification, photo (profile), gender, location, name (first, middle, last), link to profile, username, and timezone. There are also secondary lists of information that can be collected (see developers site on Facebook) that is far more intrusive.

    Before people start collecting all of this data, you really should question if your customers/followers/users are comfortable with you knowing this information. Do you feel comfortable pulling that information from your followers? Etc.

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