Facebook contest, giveaways and promotions - by the rules

Facebook is an enormous network with lots of regulations for users, but one of the most important pieces of policy is Facebook’s promotions guidelines. It’s important that any page administrator operating any sort of promotion using Facebook knows and follows these guidelines. 


Because Facebook doesn’t want to assume liability for users who don’t comply. 

What does that mean?

When you don’t comply, if Facebook finds out about it, they will pull your Page down. There are pages that get away with doing promotions that go against Facebook’s guidelines, but it’s like playing Russian Roulette. Do you really want to risk losing all the work you’ve done to build your fan base and content on Facebook?

I’ve copied and pasted the guidelines here straight from Facebook’s site. I’ll go through each one and explain how it impacts page admins.

1. Promotions on Facebook must be administered within Apps on, either on a Canvas Page or an app on a Page Tab.

This means you should use a third-party app that has built-in contest management. Mari Smith included a handy list in this post on Social Media Examiner last year.

2. 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.

As I mentioned above, Facebook doesn’t want to be liable for your contest So, you need to make entrants aware that Facebook has no part in it and tell participents who is getting their data (that’s just good policy in general). If you’re using a third-party app - they build in these releases and disclosures for you. 

3. 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. 

No Facebook function can be used as a way to enter a contest. From liking a page, piece of content or leaving a comment or wall post - no direct Facebook mechanism can be used to enter a participant into a contest. Apps get permission from users to use their data. Page admins do not. Using a third-party app to collect information from a willing participant is preferable to using your fan list to pick winners.

This includes all those blog-based giveaways that tell you to go like a company’s page for an extra entry. Bloggers who do this risk having that company’s page taken down.

4. 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.

This one causes some confusion because of “like-gating” practices (that are now pretty much defunct with the rollout of Timeline and no more custom landing tabs). Like-gating was a tactic used on many pages to offer something to prospective fans in exchange for a “Like”. Many page admins offered free content or discounts as their “like-gate”. In some cases, clever page admins have created a “like-gate” whereby prospective fans can only get access to a contest after they like a page. This was an acceptable use because the actual “Like” isn’t a contest entry.

It states clearly in #3 that you can’t make a like or check-in an entry to a contest, so with custom landing tabs now gone, we may see this wording change or be eliminated eventually. Unless custom tabs still limit what users see based on whether they like your page. For now, it’s unclear what impact Timeline will have on this portion of the guidelines.

5. You must not use Facebook features or functionality, such as the Like button, as a voting mechanism for a promotion.

So, contests that require users to go like or comment on a piece of content contained on Facebook as a “vote” for that content in a promotion is not allowed outside of a third-party app.

6. You must not notify winners through Facebook, such as through Facebook messages, chat, or posts on profiles (timelines) or Pages.

The beauty of using a third-party app for your Facebook contests is that you can grow your email list (permission-based, of course) and collect other valuable data from contest entrants, within reason. And, since you have the email address, you can comply with Facebook’s rules about not using their infrastructure to make any notifications about the contest.

7. Ads may not imply a Facebook endorsement or partnership of any kind. Ads linking to Facebook branded content (including Pages, groups, events, or Connect sites) may make limited reference to “Facebook” in ad text for the purpose of (1) fulfilling your obligations under Section 2 and (2) clarifying the destination of the ad. All other ads and landing pages may not use our copyrights or trademarks (including Facebook, the Facebook and F Logos, FB, Face, Poke, Book, and Wall) or any confusingly similar marks, except as expressly permitted by our Brand Usage Guidelines or with our prior written permission.

See? Facebook really, really doesn’t want to be in any way connected to promotions hosted on the site. It needs to be crystal clear in the promotion copy that your company (or other entity) has and assumes sole responsibility and liability for the promotion. 

8. Definitions:

a. By “administration” we mean the operation of any element of the promotion, such as collecting entries, conducting a drawing, judging entries, or notifying winners.

b. By “communication” we mean promoting, advertising or referencing a promotion in any way on Facebook, e.g., in ads, on a Page, or in a Wall post.

c. By “contest” or “competition” we mean a promotion that includes a prize of monetary value and a winner determined on the basis of skill (i.e., through judging based on specific criteria).

d. By “sweepstakes” we mean a promotion that includes a prize of monetary value and a winner selected on the basis of chance.

When does legalese not have definitions?

The bottom line with these guidelines is that it’s not hard to have a legitimately run Facebook promotion that works with the rules. In fact, having done a contest on Facebook once upon a long time ago that didn’t comply, I’m betting that administering within a third-party app is far easier than doing so using Facebook’s interface. Because, let’s face it - Facebook is not designed for contests. As much as page admins love the EdgeRank benefits of contests, it’s not worth the headache of administering.

Did you know you could lose your Facebook Page if you run promotions outside of these guidelines?

How to monetize your online presence

This is my second post following my attendance to two social media conferences in Toronto in the last month.  For my views for brands see my previous post.

This post is going to talk about monetizing and working with brands from the individual’s point of view. There are many ways to get extra value out of the time and energy you put into your online presence and there are companies clamoring to figure out how to use you to spread their messages.  I don’t think it’s for everyone, but here are my thoughts on the options that are out there.


There was a time where people felt advertising on your blog was selling out.  Then it was ok and in fact desirable. Lately it seems like a lot of people are swinging back to the sell out point of view - that by advertising on your blog you are letting brands rule your content.

My feeling is that most people can advertise on their blog without selling out or compromising their values.

How? Approach advertisers that are a good fit for what you do. 

I would happily advertise for companies like Zemanta, Twitter, and Wordpress on this site. They make sense with my content.  I might also advertise local events, other online workshops and tools I feel would be of use to my audience.

If you are a healthy living/eating blog, maybe your advertisers are those who sell cookbooks you believe people should be using, or suppliers of healthy foods and products you have no qualms about endorsing to others.  If you are a blogger who talks about crafts, you could promote the companies that you use in your home.  If you are a blogger who has young kids and you love Fisher Price, what’s the harm in having an ad for them on your blog?

What wouldn’t I do? I wouldn’t have an ad on my blog for a high end restaurant on my kids’ blog, I wouldn’t have an ad on my personal blog for the Weed Man, and I wouldn’t promote anything I personally have issues with (I have lots of issues with Weed Man, don’t get me started! ;)).

I think that as long as you stay true to yourself and your own voice, you can find decide to try to find advertisers who fit in with who you are.

One of our great and longstanding advertisers at

Is advertising for everyone? Absolutely not.

Will advertisers set limits on what you do and don’t say?  I haven’t encountered it but I’m sure there are some who would have issues with swearing or certain topics.  Do you talk that way on your blog? If so, maybe advertising isn’t appropriate for you, or maybe you just haven’t found the right advertisers.

Is it easy to get advertisers? It depends on your blog and your target niche. Sometimes it’s as easy as giving a quick ask and sometimes advertisers even come to you.  If getting advertisers is something you want to pursue, @missfish has some great resources (including this post on rate cards) on her blog and I’d be happy to answer questions in the comments on my experiences with it.


There are many companies out there who will offer you products in return for a review on your blog.  Some will also offer you an extra item for giveaway.

If this is something that interests you then approach companies and let them know why you’d be a good fit.  Just remember that you need to claim any free product that you receive as income on your income taxes.  The flip side of this is that you are now running a business and can claim expenses like an office, your internet, and your technology.  (Angele over at Shoebox Be Gone is a great resource for that kind of info.)

Ford graciously loaned us a Ford Explorer for both She’s Connected and Blissdom

A lot of companies won’t even ask you to specifically write a review in return for product, but they of course hope that you will talk about them.  I have gotten some fabulous clothing from Mark’s this way (I really am a huge fan of their clothing now!) and both GM and Ford Canada have been awesome enough to loan me and my friends vehicles to get to social media conferences.


There are opportunities out there for one off sponsored posts.  Maybe it’s in exchange for product, maybe it’s in exchange for money, but it’s not a long term commitment to endorsing a company on your blog.

Sometimes these happen in conjunction with advertisers.  One one of my blogs anyone who commits to 3 or more months of advertising also gets an introductory post and a chance to host a giveaway on the blog.

The biggest key with these is that they are disclosed as sponsored posts, generally with a statement that the thoughts are still your own.


The way that I have made the most money from my experience blogging, on Twitter, etc is by capitalizing on the experience and knowledge I have gained.  I share that knowledge with people who want to be in the space by holding workshops, by coaching people and by going to events as a speaker.

There are many opportunities like that that you can create for yourself.  Pitch your writing to publications, offer your services to companies for their own blogs and web sites. Barter your writing services for their services (I know someone who bartered children’s classes for some writing and reviews for the business to use).


This is something I hope to do on this site in the coming year, provide online services and products people can buy.  Things like e-books, tutorial videos and online classes.


- More opportunities for bloggers/people in the social space to advise companies on what works and what doesn’t.

- More opportunities to create specialized content - videos, posts, etc that can go on the companies’ sites as well as other locations online (like Facebook, google plus, YouTube, etc)

- More opportunities from companies that involve more than some free product.  There are a lot of people who would be happy to have some free product but there are more people who would love a bit of extra income to help pay the bills.

What are your opinions on and experiences with monetizing?

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