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Run a Free Contest on Facebook

01 Dec 2013 | Posted Under Internet
By Hector Cisneros & Carl Weiss

With the holiday season in full swing I thought we would give the members of Link to Expert an early Christmas present.  Check out the WebTV Episode for this blog at

If you want to grow your Facebook fan base, this blog is for you. Facebook recently changed its rules on running online contests. Unlike in the past, now you can create a contest without having to purchase additional services or 3rd party apps.  The downside is that there are some pitfalls you have to avoid to keep your account from being suspended. Breaking Facebook's hidden rules can stop you cold. This article will cover what has changed and what to watch out for, as well as providing you with the ins and outs of implementing your contest with and without apps.  If after all that you still want to know more about how to set up and run a free Facebook contest, tune in and turn on this week's episode of Working the Web to Win at 4 PM Eastern on Tuesday November 5.

Out with the Old and In with the New

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 were required to have a Facebook marketing rep assigned to help you create, run and manage any contest on the world's most popular social site. Today FB allows 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 does’t strictly adhere to their guidelines, they will pull your contest and could possibly suspend your account.

We recently ran a contest for one of our clients using the exact wording listed on the Facebook Promotion Guidelines page and had to revise it 4 days into the contest. The Promotional Guidelines pages were missing several poignant details. What it offers are 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.

Back to Basics
English: The Facebook Man. Facebook is celebra...

1.    What is now considered a promotion on Facebook? Anything that requires an “entry/registration, element  or provides a giveaway or prize.
2.    Facebook removed the requirement that promotions must be administered via 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 having a user post on your page, comment on your page, like a post, comment on a post, or 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 Post or ads for your Page post to broaden the reach of your promotion. I won’t disagree that promoting your post will produce greater reach but 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 News,  Facebook Advertising Guidelines andFacebook 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. 

Pro’s and Con’s
Me and my 542 bestest friends (on Facebook)
Me and my 542 bestest friends (on Facebook) (Photo credit: tychay)
PRO - It’s free. It doesn’t get any less expensive to run a contest that this. Your cost is yo
ur 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 Facebook’s posting rules you can be suspended.
PRO – It's relatively easy to setup 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 says, 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 may people will enter. If your contest takes off, it will be much harder to manage.
PRO – You can use Facebook’s insights page to view your basic contest statistics.
CON - Fully understanding what is represented by your contest's statistics 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 either too complicated or too 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/or 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 has released. Facebook releases a video with the head of their promotions department explaining the rules. Check out what she had to say about the new rules.

 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.

Are Applications Dead?

Does the introduction of on-page contest mean that contest apps are done for? Absolutely not! There are many reasons why a company would still use an on-page 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 built 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. 
      ·         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. Your own page managed contest will most likely move down the time like making it harder for people to find it.
      ·         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.

The bottom line is that there are many ways a businesses can administer 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.

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. 

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