Over the past few months and years, Facebook has changed a lot. Businesses have invested in building up their ‘fans’ which are now ‘likes’. Popular Facebook ‘polls’ are now ‘questions’ and the highly engaging Facebook competition which used to be free to run is now… well, technically illegal on Facebook alone.

With many companies investing heavily into this viral social media marketing channel, its important to keep up-to-date with these changes. It’s also important to understand these changes so that your ROI for your Facebook activity is accurate and in line with what this channel can actually deliver for your business.

So before you start planning your Facebook competitions make sure you observe the rules which have recently changed. Here is a link Facebook’s official guidelines…


Competitions are an excellent way of fostering new audiences on social media channels and indeed on your own website. They provide you with an exciting way to broadcast messages about your brand and products to a large number of potential new customers, so to help you get up to speed on what you need to know about Facebook competitions, we’ve put together a list of rules that you need to be aware of…


First Rule: You can not run competitions directly on Facebook  

That’s right – whereas you used to be able to run your competitions through Facebook directly and this would cost you nothing – this is now banned. You are not allowed to run competitions directly through Facebook.

So, how do you run competitions on Facebook? Well, you need to use a competitions application which you will need to pay for.

You could create your own application, which is integrated into your Facebook page using an iFrame (i.e. it must be hosted elsewhere), however this may prove to be quite costly and time consuming as you will need to use a good developer and a designer.

Alternatively, you could use a third party application that is incorporated into your Facebook page. This is a hassle free solution but can prove to be quite costly depending on the number of ‘likes’ you have.

To aid you in your search for the best application for your Facebook competitions, here are three popular solutions:


Second Rule: You can not use Facebook functions to enter competitions – or can you???

This is a tricky rule because the Facebook promotions guidelines actually contradict themselves. In their own words You must not use Facebook features or functionality as a promotion’s registration or entry mechanism.” 

 Our understanding of this is that you are not allowed to solely use any Facebook functions as an entry requirement to your competitions. Entry therefore can NOT be any of the following:

There is however a twist in this tale because in the next rule in the official Facebook guidelines it suggests that the only things that you CAN use as PART of a registration process for competitions is to:

1) ‘Like’ a page or

2) ‘Check-in’ to a place

3) Connect to your competitions application


So, our navigation of these murky waters leads us to believe that you can use ‘liking’ a page and ‘checking in’ to a place as one element of registration for competitions but all other Facebook functions or features are not allowed in the registration process.

Alternatively you can condition this registration on connecting to your 3rd party competitions application.

Confused??? So are we a little…


Third Rule: You can not contact your winners through Facebook

This one is a simple as it sounds. You cannot use Facebook messaging, Facebook chat or posts on walls or profile pages to notify the winners of their success in competitions.

This means that you must have some form of independent data collection upon entry in order to actually communicate with your winners.

If you build your own competitions application, make sure this allows for data collection of entrants details so that communication can be established with a winner in due course.


Final Rule: Terms of use – Your competitions have nothing to do with Facebook!

The legality of your competitions on Facebook must always be considered and run in accordance with their guidelines.

While giving you permission to run your competitions through their site via an application, Facebook calls for you to grant a release for them of any responsibilities or damages that could possibly occur as a consequence of your competitions.

It is also critical that you state that users are providing you with their personal data, and not Facebook. Therefore you are responsible for the security of this data and not Facebook.

A sample* disclaimer format is shown below but you should seek up-to-date information and independent legal advice before you set up your competitions, especially concerning data protection and privacy policies. It is also important that you keep track of any rule changes that Facebook put into action.

“This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. You understand that you are providing your information to (Company Name) and not to Facebook. This information will only be used to send subscribers updates from the (Company Name)”

 *this is just a sample and Digital Visitor are not held liable for this example. Please seek independent legal advice when creating the terms and conditions for your competitions.

Is there an alternative to Facebook competitions?

So far we have seen how you can run competitions ON-CHANNEL i.e. via social media channels such as Facebook but there is always an alternative.

As we have demonstrated, the rules and regulations set in place by social medial channels such as Facebook do create obstacles. Rather than having to avoid these obstacles, you can run your competitions ONSITE i.e. on your own website and use Facebook purely to communicate this. Plugins such as Facebook Connect allow you to do just this.

ONSITE competitions solutions are provided by a few companies including ourselves.  Read more about our social media solutions for your website…

These solutions can deliver competitions within your own website but utilise plug-ins such as Facebook Connect to still communicate your competitions throughout Facebook and on other social media channels.

This kind of solution could provide you with the best of both worlds as you drive traffic to your own website but still communicate your competitions through Facebook and beyond.

Furthermore, Onsite social media solution can also include surveys, questions, polls and more features which have been undergoing Facebook rule changes recently as well.

So, running your competitions from your own website can offer numerous advantages:

Lower cost

Investing in an onsite competitions application requires a one-off spend. Using a Facebook application requires expenditure on each and every competition and in some cases, more expense if the competition is more successful.

It’s easier to re-use the content

If you want rich media content such as photos and videos as part of your competition entry, its easier to re-use this content if you gather it on your own website.

If you use a third party competitions application on Facebook to gather this content, it is can be more difficult for you to access this social media content to repurpose in other marketing. It can also require more human resource to gather this content and the quality and resolution of the media can be significantly lower.


Using your onsite competitions application, new traffic is driven to your website and you can subsequently capture the email address of every entree. This ROI is potentially a lot easier to sell to your Board than Facebook ‘likes’ as it ensures the capture of useful and valuable data and shows increased traffic to what is probably your primary selling channel.

Brand awareness and loyalty

Your brand awareness is given a large boost by keeping a constant flow of traffic on your website.

These four points hold some important advantages; however one main drawback does emerge when using your own onsite competitions application rather than an on-channel competitions application.

People run competitions on Facebook, primarily because of the massive audience that they can interact with and the viral nature of a social networking site of this size and scope.  Any competitions you enter could appear on your friends walls, which could encourage them to enter, and so on as it spreads throughout your friend network and beyond. A good prize, well communicated can drive brand new audiences your way.

Using a Facebook competitions application  – this viral effect is a little easier to achieve than using your own onsite competition solution and Facebook Connect.

Why? Well simply because using an application on Facebook itself – you are already there – on Facebook! Therefore, your activities can be communicated through this channel immediately. Using a competitions solution on your own website, the entrant will need to connect to Facebook via Facebook Connect for this to be broadcast across Facebook that they have entered your competitions.

This is not a major drawback, but it is a drawback nonetheless as it adds one step to the broadcasting of your competitions across your entrants Facebook friend network.

To contradict this point – if the entrant is already logged into Facebook – they should not need to login in again with Facebook Connect, mitigating the risk mentioned above.

Conclusions and take homes


To find out more, call +44(0)1179 055 195 or email info@digitalvisitor.com