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How to Run a Facebook Contest for Free

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By Hector E Cisneros

Facebook has recently changed their rules on running an online contest. Now is the time to take advantage of week's episode of Working the Web to Win so that your next Facebook Contest is a winner for you! these new rules that allow you to create a contest without having to purchase additional services or 3rd party apps. If you want to grow your Facebook fan base, this article is a must read. What most other articles neglect to tell you is that there are some real pitfalls you have to avoid to keep your account from being suspended. Breaking Facebook’s “somewhat hidden rules” can really shake you up. This article will cover what has changed and what to watch out for, as well as giving you the pros and cons of implementing your contest with and without apps.  Finally, we will provide some examples and links to other articles to get you started. So read this blog and tune in on this 

When did they Change!

Prior to August 27th, 2013 Facebook required that you use a third party application if you were going to run any kind of contest on their site. On top of that, you were required to get prior written  permission and also
facebook (Photo credit: sitmonkeysupreme)
 had to have a Facebook marketing rep assigned to help you create and manage any FB contest. Today they allow businesses to run contests directly on fan pages without purchasing a third party app. However, you have to cross your T’s and dot the I’s because if your wording doesn't follow their guidelines exactly, they will pull your contest ad and could possibly suspend your account.

We recently ran a contest for one of our clients using the exact wording listed on Facebook Promotion Guidelines page and had to revise it 4 days into the contest. The Promotional Guidelines pages were missing some of the details. It offered the basic rules, an example, some best practices and some frequently asked questions. What it doesn’t tell you is that the example they use is incomplete. The example leaves out the disclaimer Facebook wants you to include in your caption absolving them of any responsibility. It also leaves out that your contest rule details need to also be listed.

So Here are the Basic Rules!

  1. What is now considered a promotion on Facebook? Anything that requires an “entry/registration, elements of chance or provides a giveaway or prize.
    Facebook Notifications Management (Mark as Spam!)
    Facebook Notifications Management (Mark as Spam!) (Photo credit: @superamit)
  2. Facebook removed the requirement that promotions be administered with an application.
  3. You can now administer your contest by monitoring the Fan Page time line. However it cannot be your personal timeline!
  4. You can collect entries by a having users post on your page, comment on your page, like a post, comment on a post, have a user message your Fan page directly. 
  5. Accurate tagging of people in photos is required in a photo contest. It’s now OK to ask people to submit names for a new product in exchange for a chance to win a prize. However, it’s not OK to ask people to tag themselves in pictures of a new product in exchange for a chance to win a prize.

Facebook states that their motivation for this is to make it easier for businesses of any size to run contests on their site. Having said that, they have also made it easier for you to spend money promoting your contest with pay per click promotion tools. Under their best practices section, they list “Amplify your promotions – create Promoted Posts or ads for your Page post to broaden the reach of your promotion. I can’t disagree that promoting your post will produce greater reach.  I am sure that they are trying to get more revenue from the promotions where in the past the app companies were getting the lion’s share of the revenue.  Either way following Facebook’s Best Practices is a must. See these three links for details. Facebook NewsFacebook Advertising Guidelines and Facebook Page Terms. After all the confusion that was created by their original “Facebook’s Promotion Guidelines”, they updated their advertising guidelines on October 22nd, 2013. Now for the pros and cons of running your contest without an on page application.

Pro's & Con's of Social Revolution
Pro's & Con's of Social Revolution (Photo credit: PropagandaTimes)

Get the Pro’s and Con’s

  • PRO - It’s free. It doesn’t get any less expensive to run your contest that this. Your cost is your time and your prizes, period.
  • CON – You have to be a little creative to find a good picture, figure out how you want people to vote and come up with your contest objectives. This will take a little time and you may have to run several contests to figure out what works best for your company. Also if you break any of Facebook’s posting rules you can be suspended.
  • PRO – It's relatively easy to set up and run. You can find lots of examples where you can copy the verbiage from someone else’s contest and reword it so that it now fits your contest.
  • CON – If you make a mistake in your verbiage, Facebook will pull your contest post and send you a stern warning that you have violated their rules. It further states that any other violations can lead to suspension or removal of your account!
  • PRO – This type of contest can make it simple to manage a short duration contest (less than a couple of weeks). It also works well if you don’t have more than one hundred entries.
  • CON – You never know how many people will enter. If your contest takes off, it will be much harder to manage, (i.e… manually tally, likes, comments and post etc…).
  • PRO – You can use Facebook’s insights page to view your basic contest statistics.
  • CON - Fully understanding the statistical meaning of your contest will not be so easy, nor will you be able to measure specific statistics for demographics, psychographics and more.
  • PRO – You can ask participants to message you with their email address to insure they are entered.
  • CON – There is no automatic way to capture participants email or other information.
  • PRO – Your rules can be simple and listed either on the photo or as part of the caption.
  • CON – Make sure you provide rule details, (age limits, time frame, how to retrieve your prize etc…). If your rules are complicated or long, this kind of contest may not work for you.  If you don’t follow Facebook’s rules to the letter, they could pull your contest post, send you a stern warning and could suspend your site. 

I started researching this subject in the end of August when Facebook broke the news of the contest changes. I read dozens of articles on top of what Facebook had released. Facebook released a video with the head of their promotions policy department explaining the rules. Check out what she had to say about the new rules.

See What Facebook Policy Manager Has to Say.

 A couple of good articles that provide additional examples come from the Social media Examiner. The first I would like to mention is “New Facebook Contest and Promotion Rules: What You Need to Know”. The second article I believe is worth reading is “How to Run a Facebook Timeline Promotion: 6 Tips for Success”.

Application’s Live! Here are the reasons why  business still use Apps!

Does the introduction of on-page administered contest mean that contest app’s are done for? Absolutely not! There are many reasons why a company would still choose to use an on-page application.
  • A company would know that they are far less likely to be breaking any Facebook rules by using an approved application.
  • Facebook approved third party apps allow you to gather additional analytic information about your contest. This can include home many people clicked to view verses the actual number of people that click, posted or like your contest.
  • Facebook approved applications allow you to build more elaborate rules and usually include Facebook’s disclaimers build in. If your rules are elaborate, they will be harder to show on a timeline managed contest.
  • Facebook approved Apps are generally not confused as spam. They are perceived as contest period.
  • Facebook approved Apps generally allow you to maintain your company's brand.
  • Facebook approved Apps look more professional than just having a photo/comment contest.
  • Facebook approved Apps stay in the same place on the page. You're on page managed contest will most likely move down the time like making it harder for people to find it.
    SmallSteps Facebook Application
    SmallSteps Facebook Application (Photo credit: Darren Krape)
  • Facebook approved Apps also can hide the results of the contest as it plays out. This means competitors and participants can only see what you want them to see.
  • With some third party Facebook approved Apps, you can require that fans Like your page, allowing you to grow your Fan base. If growth is your goal, this is important.
  • Facebook approved Apps allow you to gather email address for those who enter. Non app contest requires you to ask the participants to message you directly. This usually has a lower compliance than an app.
  • Facebook approved Apps can provide for opt-in forms allowing you to gather more information about the people entering your contest.
  • Facebook approved Apps allow you more choices in how a participant interacts in the contest. Voting can be done via check boxes, uploaded videos, pictures, slideshows and more.
  • Facebook approved Apps allow you to incentivise sharing. You can not do this with on page administered contest.
  • With a Facebook approved third party application you have more control over the contest. This reduces the risk of cheating, or someone gaming your contest because you forgot to list a specific rule.
In this article, I have covered what the new Facebook Contest changes mean to business. Now even the smallest of businesses can run a Facebook contest without incurring a large expense. This article has provided not only the basic rules that are now in place. I have also provided detailed information that explains how to avoid some of the pitfalls that many people fell into when the changes were first launched. I have also included direct links to Facebook’s latest Rules/Guidelines along with a list of Pros’ and Cons’ of why a business would choose to do an “On Page Administered Contest” verse a “Facebook Approved Application Managed Contest”. 

If you found this article useful, please pass it on to your friends and co-workers. If you have a comment, please place it in the comment section below. Don't forget to check out the notes section for this article and the show.  

If you would like free copy of our book Internet Marketing Tips for the 21 Century click here and fill in the form on our home page. I hope you have enjoyed this article on How to Run A Facebook contest for Free.

That's my opinion; I look forward to hearing yours.

Hector Cisneros is a partner, COO and social media director for WSquared Media Group based in Jacksonville, FL. You can connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and YouTube. He is also the co-host of Blog Talk Radio’s “Working the Web to Win,” where he and Carl Weiss make Working the Web to Win simple for every business. Hector is a syndicated writer for EzineOnline and is an active Blogger, (including ghost writing) and he is a published author of two books, 60 Seconds to success (on sale at Amazon and B&N) and Internet Marketing for the 21st Century which you can get free by clicking on the link at He is an active Boy Scout Leader, enjoys family time, loves the outdoors, reading and the creative process of designing effective internet marketing solutions for his clients. 

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