Facebook Giveaways: How to Play by the Rules

Have you ever seen a brand post on Facebook that says, “Like this post and enter to win XYZ!”? Yeah, us too. It seems like they’re everywhere these days. Wouldn’t it be nice if giveaways on Facebook were that simple…

Unfortunately, they’re not quite that simple. Get ready, get set! Facebook’s promotion guidelines are about to become a whole lot clearer. The post described is actually against Facebook’s Promotion Guidelines. If the Facebook police discover you, they have the right to shut your page down. And that would be horrible.

We’re here to help you navigate through some of the most commonly misunderstood Facebook promotion guidelines to make sure your brand stays on Facebook’s good side. First, read up on all the legalspeak in the actual promotion guidelines here (Section E).

Now that you’ve read the guidelines and are thoroughly confused, let’s take a step back. There are two types of giveaways you can host on your Facebook page: sweepstakes and contests.

  • Sweepstakes: A giveaway involving a game of chance. In a sweepstake, a random winner is selected from all entrants regardless of the information they provided.
  • Contests: A giveaway involving a game of skill. In a contest, the winner is selected based on their entry. The winner could be selected by a panel of judges or a fan-based voting mechanism.

If you want to host a sweepstakes or a contest, make sure you follow Facebook’s rules. This breakdown of Facebook’s Promotion Guidelines should help you decode the rules and understand how to host a legal giveaway on your brand page.

  1. 3rd Party Applications: Your giveaway must be hosted through one of Facebook’s preferred and approved 3rd party applications. Popular providers include Wildfire, Woobox and OfferPop. These will offer Facebook-ready templates that are easy to install, or you can completely customize your own if you have access to developers. Giveaways live on Facebook tabs, not on your wall. A full list of Facebook-approved apps can be found here.
  1. Use of Facebook’s native functionality cannot automatically register an entrant: A like, comment or share on a page or post cannot be the only thing required to enter. Basically, this means no asking for likes on photos or posts that automatically enter the fan to win. Fans must apply within the 3rd party app that hosts the giveaway to enter. A page like can be included in what is required to enter, but cannot automatically enter the fan to win. This is the rule that is most commonly broken by brands on Facebook.
  1. Likes don’t equal votes: If your giveaway involves a voting mechanism, you cannot simply ask fans to like the entry they want to win. A voting element must be included within the 3rd party application for this to be legal.
  1. Don’t contact winners through Facebook: Initial outreach to let a fan know they’ve won the prize must not be conducted through Facebook. Always ask for email addresses in your giveaways so you can contact them through email rather than Facebook.

There you have it folks, your very own Facebook Promotion Guidelines cheat sheet. Now, you can avoid illegal contests and feel fantastic about yourself when you spot one and know that you are more Facebook-savvy than those guys.

Author: Jamie Kerr


Submit a Comment
  • Katrina

    June 13, 2012 8:06 pm

    This is really helpful! Do you know of resources for writing FB giveaway terms & conditions – especially if a giveaway is international?

    Thanks so much!

  • Anne Hornyak

    June 15, 2012 4:55 pm

    Hi Katrina, here is Jamie’s recommendation:

    Thanks for the comment. Each country (and sometimes even each region within each country) has its own laws regarding sweepstakes and giveaways. When it comes to terms and conditions, it’s always best to play it safe. We recommend contracting an agency that specializes in sweepstakes and contests in that country. There are a few out there that are international as well. Most of these agencies take on the liability if the worst were to happen and someone were to sue. By using an agency, you can be sure you’re complying with all laws in the area that your sweepstakes entrants reside and you are protected. Hope this helps!

  • Stacey

    February 5, 2013 11:35 pm

    Thanks for this great article. One quick question – we wish to offer a small giveaway to everyone who likes our page and subscribes to our newsletter (Mailchimp form on Facebook page). My feel is that this is legal, especially given that everyone who takes that action gets the coffee card, rather than it being a sweepstakes? Is this correct? Thanks

  • Anne Hornyak

    February 12, 2013 10:51 pm

    Hi Stacey,
    Thanks for your comment! You need to manage that giveaway with a 3rd-party app if people are entering (by signing up via Mailchimp form) on your page. It’s against Facebook’s Terms of Service to have a user take an action on your page in order to register for the prize.

  • John

    February 6, 2013 9:50 am

    This was very helpful, it really made things much clearer now. I was looking to run a promotion for our page for gift shop and bumped into this problem. Most of the tools are priced quite high, the average with customization is around $50-$60/month and it also depends on the count of fans, so long term I believe it is worth investing in your own app.

  • Sonya

    March 4, 2013 5:31 pm

    Thank you Jamie! Our eyes are now opened and are in the process of informing our members to conduct Facebook contests within the rules. It would be sad to see their pages shut down.

  • Colleen

    March 27, 2013 3:43 pm

    Thank you for such a clear explanation of using Facebook for giveaways. I had already read Facebook’s guidelines for pages but was kind of confused – now everything makes perfect sense!

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