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?

Brands working with social media influencers

In the last month I got to attend two fairly big conferences in Toronto geared at women online.  She’s Connected and Blissdom Canada.

I have a long list of post ideas that have come from both of those conferences. This first one is about the brands trying to work with women in the social space at these conferences and what I think works, what I’m left wondering, and where I would love to see brands ultimately end up when trying to build relationships. (there is a short recap at the end, because this blog post is way longer than I like my posts to be!)


Cheesy fun

People like to have fun.  If you can have them have fun and then share that fun with their network you just spread your brand.

What’s important to note here:

- Your brand needs to be well represented in the gimmick.  If you had me dress up in a funny costume, took my picture on a red carpet and I can’t remember what your brand is or what you sell - you missed the mark.

- People will do silly things, and spread those silly things, for the right incentive.

I doubt I would have taken this photo or tweeted it if I hadn’t had a chance to win grocery money. Also, I won :)

- If your fun is “fun enough” you won’t need the incentive - but that’s hard to predict.

This Fisher Price bouncy seat big enough for adults (multiple!) to climb into for photo opps was a huge success.  SO many people wanted to do it and we had a blast while posing in it!

I loved what Kellogg’s did with this cereal box posing.  You can certainly see the value in having something professionally done instead of us using our cell phones for photos and they emailed the photo to you IMMEDIATELY which meant we were sharing them right away.

This  booth was my favourite of both conferences. They were displaying people’s photos as you walked by and it made me want to do it.  I don’t even eat corn flakes and I went to this booth by myself so I could have a cereal box photo.

And then I went back to make it even more fun with friends!


I also walked away with an awesome vintage cereal box tshirt which is a lot of fun, and some samples.  You’re all thinking about corn flakes now, whether or not I said I liked them.  That’s a good push in my opinion.

Yummy and delicious

Kraft had a great suite decorated for Halloween with all kinds of holiday specific treats, a cupcake decorating station, and qr links to the recipes for the treats you were eating.  At the end they gave you a sampling of a few of the treats.

It was fun, unobtrusive and gave ideas for things you could do later on. I could see some people who like to blog about cooking with kids and activities for doing with kids making some of those treats and blogging about it.


Ford was a sponsor of She’s Connected and they had all kinds of information booths set up about their different features. I’m not sure I’ll ever own a Ford, but let me tell you - I know A LOT about some of the really cool technologies they have in their vehicles! My favourite is the Mykey technology which allows you to lock down things like speed and stereo volume for the teen you’re lending your car to! Me (and people like me) knowing this stuff about Ford and talking about it online in the right context could prove valuable to them in the long run.

Jane’s told me about their toaster chicken.  I admit that when I first found out toaster chicken existed (essentially a frozen chicken patty you heat in your toaster to eat) I was a bit…. alarmed.  They handed out an information sheet that compared toaster chicken to other convenience snacks.  I’m not going to pretend toaster chicken is healthy for you - but it’s not so bad compared to french fries and frozen pizza and I’m willing to admit my kids get those sometimes and they could potentially eat toaster chicken one day too.


- What do the brands who give out big bags of product but no guidance expect from those receiving it? Are you thinking we will blog about a loaf of bread or are you hoping that when we use the products we’ll tweet about them or are you hoping that we’ll eventually become brand loyal and blog about you? I don’t know what you’re trying to do.

- What a big company expects when they are at a conference as a big company representing multiple smaller companies.  If I talk about big huge company nobody knows being great - is that helpful?


- more companies working with bloggers in long term ways.  Make them your brand ambassadors.  Have them write content (and pay them) that you can use on your own web site, in your publications, etc.  I can almost guarantee that if people are writing this kind of content for you they will link to it from all of their channels, and then you’re getting the audience you want to your own site.  Makes more sense!

- create experiences that make sense.

I was invited to a Mark’s Over a year ago when Mark’s Work Wearhouse re-branded.  I was their audience (woman, 30+ years old) and they did my hair, my makeup, gave me an outfit (chosen by a stylist) and then took awesome photos of me.  They wanted more women like me to realize they could shop at Mark’s. Since then I not only have continued to shop at Mark’s, I used that photo for a long time on Twitter and Facebook, I bring my friends on shopping trips to Mark’s and I have been able to continue that relationship with Mark’s to help keep promoting their clothing to my demographic (have I mentioned how much I love my Inspiri jeans.  LOVE). They created a relationship with me that made sense and that I WANTED to continue.

If you want moms to talk about your food products, maybe invite them to a day where you teach them to meal plan, freezer cook for a month, describe how to make healthy meals for your kids that they will eat, and then send them home with food for a week that they can keep talking about. Don’t just give them a box of cookies and expect much in return.

I could go on for hours with ideas of what I think would work but instead I will recap (because this post is LONG)


If you want to target socially influential people at events here are my top tips:

- make it fun (but don’t expect follow up)

- make your message clear

- make sure people have the information to share your message

- don’t expect much in exchange for a bag of free stuff

- your chances of getting mentioned on Facebook and Twitter are for more likely than being blogged about.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

- build relationships

What do you think? Are you a brand working with people in the social space (I am avoiding saying bloggers for a reason, I don’t think that should be the target)? Are you working with brands? Share your thoughts on what works on this topic!


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Case Studies : Family Physiotherapy Centre (Orleans)

I first met Jason when my friend Vicky suddenly had her knee buckle out from under her last Fall.  A few tweets to figure out the urgency of having her injury treated and she had found a local physiotherapist to help her out (Jason, in case you hadn’t figured that out :))

Since then I’ve been to Jason to help me with my headaches (he solved it in two sessions when countless massages were just a bandaid to the tension headaches that had been plaguing me for months), and I can think of several others who have been to see him after meeting him online.

Jason is a great example of how twitter can help build a client base, but there’s more. Because of him, I have joined the Orleans Chamber of Commerce - an organization that has been helping tremendously with my business. I am now helping the Chamber get more active in social media and hopefully will get many of their members online as well.

All because Vicky hurt her knee and tweeted about it. Twitter is awesome. (and vicky’s knee is doing much better!)

Jason is the manager of the Orleans location of Family Physiotheraphy Centre and answered a few questions about how he’s been using social media.

About Jason’s business

Family Physiotherapy Centre is a dynamic forward thinking physiotherapy service provider that strives to help every client minimize their pain and maximize their mobility by delivering researched based Best Practice programs of care based on the complexity of every case that they treat. They’ve been providing outstanding professional service to patients in Eastern Ontario since 1999. They deliver their services in state of the art Wellness Centres which provides each client with an environment that promotes privacy and peace of mind.

The Orleans location is a 2200 sq.ft. Wellness Centre designed to offer clients a positive experience by providing them with an unmatched professional healthcare environment. Equipped with the most modern modalities and private treatment rooms coupled with professional staff that offer a variety of therapy options makes this Wellness Centre Orleans’s foremost multi-disciplinary rehabilitation centre. The centre opened in late fall 2010 and offers a variety of services such as physiotherapy, massage therapy, custom orthotics, senior’s fitness program and occupational therapy

How actively involved are you in social media to promote your business?

My business is not very active in social media, though I do have a Facebook page  and a business Twitter account for my clinic. However, I quickly realized that people want to make a connection with an actual person, not someone hidden behind a company name. I’ve had a personal Facebook page for years but never utilized it to it’s full potential. I created a personal profile on Twitter  early in the new year and not long after that I started making real connections that actually translated to increased business. Now I solely focus on my personal accounts, but I do make reference to the business accounts.


What has been the most successful tool in getting you more exposure or clients?

I would have to say that Twitter has been the most successful tool thus far. I’ve been able to connect with a number of business people that I would never have been able to with traditional business networking. This has also facilitated conversation when meeting someone in person who I have been following online with Twitter.

I’ve also been connected with people who were specifically looking for a physiotherapist or a health care professional that could help them with their pain or injuries. I’ve made a handful of clients not only for myself, but for other health professionals in my company or other therapists in my profession. The social media world seems to be very vast, but yet it’s a quite a tight-knit community, so positive experiences have led to a number of word of mouth referrals.

What would you tell other business owners about the value of using social media for their business?

It’s quite obvious that social media is another tool to help your business get exposure or clients. It doesn’t cost anything in terms of dollars or cents, but rather it’s the time you put into it. If you are willing to take the time to make connections and build relationships, people are more likely to think of you when they need something you sell or require a service you provide. Social media is new to a lot of people, but using social media can be helpful to learn new business strategies or discovering tools from people who may have more experience online.

What tip would you offer to others about social media?

Social media networking is exactly as the name indicates: social and networking. It’s a forum that allows us to network online, but it comes down to being social. It’s about making a connection with others, instead of trying hard sale tactics. Being too aggressive turns people away and that is no different then conventional networking events or opportunities. If you wouldn’t do it in face to face meeting, you shouldn’t do it online either.

Thank you Jason for taking the time to answer these questions. If you’re in Orleans and are having any chronic pains, or have an injury that needs taking care of - I highly recommend you go see him. They also do custom orthotics if that’s something you’re looking for.

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What is it and why should I care: check in apps

Image representing Foursquare as depicted in C... Image via CrunchBase

What is it?

Foursquare is a location-based social networking website based on software for mobile devices. This service is available to users with GPS-enabled mobile devices, such as smartphones. Users “check-in” at venues using a mobile website, text messaging or a device-specific application by running the application and selecting from a list of venues that the application locates nearby. Each check-in awards the user points and sometimes “badges”. ~Wikipedia

There are many check-in apps, foursquare is just one of the most well known ones.  Facebook is now being widely used, and there is another check-in app called Get Glue that is more entertainment based.

There is also a game component to foursquare. You friend people on foursquare much the way you do on Facebook, and they can then compete against you for badges, leaderboards, etc. by getting points for check-ins.

Why should you care?

The biggest thing I hear with regards to these check-in apps is that people don’t want others to know where they are; that it’s too personal.

I agree with that. I don’t think that people should be checking in everywhere and anywhere that they are. So - why should you check in?

1 - check in if you are really pleased with the service somewhere.  By checking in and commenting (or sharing through your other networks), you are telling others that you recommend the service. It’s a nice thing to do.

2 - some companies will give you a discount for checking in, some for every 5 or 10 checkins and some for being mayor (the person who has most often checked-in to a location becomes the mayor).  Maybe you wouldn’t be inclined to tell everyone you were having dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory… unless you got 15% off your bill for it.

Which brings us to the next point, how should businesses use check-in apps.

1- If you have a physical location, make sure that your location is entered into as many check-in apps as possible. If someone wants to check in, make it easy for them.

2 - Offer an incentive - if you offer a discount people will be more inclined to check in than if you don’t.  This is great and cheap publicity for your business. The options for the discount are limitless.

Here are some ideas:

- 15% at a restaurant for checking in

- a draw for $100 gift certificate from everyone who checks in to your establishment over the course of a month

- a free ticket to the next event drawn from everyone who checks in to this year’s event

- a free massage for every 10 check ins at a spa

- free coffee or dessert for the mayor
The more businesses offer incentives the more people will check in to places - it’s a two way street and I believe that this will take off more and more in the coming months and years.

Do you use a check-in app? Which one? Do you use it for your business?

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