Update (8/27/2013): There’s been an update to Facebook promotional guidelines <– read all about it!
If you run a giveaway, contest, sweepstakes, or any kind of promotion on Facebook, you know that the Facebook Promotion Guidelines can be scary. Very scary.
And if you break the rules, your Facebook page can be stripped from you faster than you can say furious. All that hard work that you put into engaging your fan base. Down the tubes. *sadface*
But nothing could be further from the truth.
I remember reading something to that effect on the web last year… *gulp*. But like you, we’ve read a lot of articles on Facebook promotion rules and regulations. There’s no shortage of blog posts and publications describing what you can and can’t do when it comes to running a promotion on Facebook. If there’s one common characteristic between all these articles, it’s that these guidelines aren’t as clear as they could be. Just check out the comments section on each post.
And you can add us to that list. We wrote a blog post about Facebook promotion guidelines 13 months ago.
Since then, we’ve watched over 250k giveaways and sweepstakes promotions run through Rafflecopter, a large majority of which have had some kind of interaction with Facebook. In addition, we’ve also introduced an official Facebook app, and been in touch with the folks at Facebook regarding promotions and the Rafflecopter platform. Needless to say, we’ve gotten to know the Facebook promotion guidelines pretty well over the past year.
This following post is meant to dissect each aspect of these guidelines to help you ensure that your next giveaway or contest on Facebook falls between the lines and ultimately take the scare out of your next promotion. So here we go: Facebook giveaway/contest rules and regulations explained.
Facebook Page Guidelines & Promotions Explained
When someone mentions Facebook promotion guidelines, nine times out of ten they’re referring the rules and regs that you’ll find outlined in Section E of the Page Features in the Facebook Page Terms document. Prior to March 2012, this document lived on its own page titled ‘Promotions Guidelines’.
If you have a Facebook page that you manage, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with this document in its entirety. We’re going to only concentrate on the ‘Promotions’ section, breaking it down below.
Before we jump into the seven rules / bullet points, take a look at the intro paragraph:
If you use Facebook to communicate about or administer a promotion (such as a contest or sweepstakes), you are responsible for the lawful operation of that promotion, including the official rules, offer terms and eligibility requirements (e.g., age and residency restrictions), and compliance with regulations governing the promotion and all prizes offered in connection with the promotion (e.g., registration and obtaining necessary regulatory approvals). Please note that compliance with these guidelines does not constitute the lawfulness of a promotion. Promotions are subject to many regulations and if you are not certain that your promotion complies with applicable law, please consult with an expert.
This paragraph is clear: it states that you’re the responsible party of the promotion you’re running. It’s up to you to make sure the promotion you’re running falls within the law.
Rule i. Promotions on Facebook must be administered within Apps on Facebook.com, either on a Canvas Page or a Page App.
If you run a promotion on Facebook, you must run it on a Canvas Page or a Page App. You cannot run the promotion on your timeline or profile page. For a page app or canvas page to be installed on your Facebook page, you’ll have to choose an app that’s right for your promotion. This can be a specific sweepstakes app, or a custom landing page in an iframe that you might have developed yourself.
Rule ii. Promotions on Facebook must include the following:
- A complete release of Facebook by each entrant or participant.
- Acknowledgment that the promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.
- Disclosure that the participant is providing information to [disclose recipient(s) of information] and not to Facebook.
Here, Facebook is asking you to include a complete release of Facebook by each entrant, acknowledgment that the promotion is in no way sponsored or affiliated with Facebook, and a disclosure statement that the participant is providing information to someone other than Facebook. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy – here’s a screenshot of how our Facebook app acknowledges this rule.
Rule iii. 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.
When discussing Facebook promotion guidelines, rule iii and rule iv (below) stir the most controversy. As the sweepstakes or contest admin, you’re allowed to tell an entrant that they must be a fan of your page before being eligible to enter the promotion or before receiving some kind of incentive into your promotion so long as liking the page does not automatically enter that user in the promotion. The physical act of clicking the ‘like’ button can’t be an entry. That wouldn’t be fair to those who already like your page.
On that note, if you hold a giveaway and you state “all fans of my page on Facebook are entered into this sweepstakes because I love all my fans!”, you won’t be within these guidelines. Which leads in nicely to rule iv.
Rule iv. 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.
Similar to rule iii, this rule states that Facebook features can’t be used as an entry. Clicking the ‘like’ button (the act of liking a page) or checking into a place cannot be the official way to enter the promotion.
Using Rafflecopter as an example, there is a ‘like’ button in the Rafflecopter entry form should you choose to award entries in your giveaway around being a fan of your page. However, clicking the ‘like’ button in our entry form doesn’t mean you’re automatically entered in the giveaway. It’s simply presenting a quick and easy way for entrants, who might not already be a fan of your page, to become one.
You still have to confirm that you’re a fan and hit the button that reads ‘I’m a Fan!’. Hitting the ‘I’m a Fan!’ button is the registration into the giveaway, not the physical act of clicking the ‘like’ button. According to rule iii, you’re not allowed to use any Facebook features or functionality other than ‘liking’ a page, checking in to a Place, or connecting to your app. So having a ‘like’ button in the form is ok, but making it the button that registers entrants for the promotion isn’t.
Rule v. You must not use Facebook features or functionality, such as the Like button, as a voting mechanism for a promotion.
Voting mechanisms are more often seen in contests when users vote for their favorite photo, their favorite video, or the best essay. Typically, the entry with the most votes would then win the promotion. This rule states that you’re not allowed to use Facebook features and functionality, such as the ‘like’ button, as a way to let entrants vote.
Rule vi. You must not notify winners through Facebook, such as through Facebook messages, chat, or posts on profiles (timelines) or Pages.
This rule is straightforward. If you hold a promotion, don’t contact the winner through Facebook. To abide by this rule, email the entrant to notify them. Or maybe tweet at them.
Rule vii. Definitions:
- By “administration” we mean the operation of any element of the promotion, such as collecting entries, conducting a drawing, judging entries, or notifying winners.
- 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.
These are definitions of what Facebook means when they say “administration” or “communication”. Not really rules, but part of the promotion guidelines.
The Facebook Platform & Your Promotions
Alright. You’ve gotten through the Facebook promotion guidelines. Done? Not quite yet. As developers of Rafflecopter, an app that uses and connects with the Facebook Platform, we’re asked to follow an additional set of rules that don’t normally come up when Facebook promotions are discussed.
Through the Facebook Platform, we’re given the tools that allow us to integrate Rafflecopter’s app with Facebook features and functionality. This includes the ability to log into the Rafflecopter widget via Facebook connect, the ability to launch a giveaway on your Facebook page using our official Facebook app, as well as the ability to place your page’s ‘like’ button in the app.
All developers and app creators that connect to the Facebook Platform are subject to the following three documents:
- Statement of Rights and Responsibilities (known as the Facebook terms)
- Principles (create engaging and trustworthy products with an all-around great user experience)
- Facebook’s Platform Policies (specific rules that you must abide by)
We’re going to focus on the third bullet: Facebook’s Platform Policy. In this document, there are policies in place that we must follow. To get a feel for what’s written in this document, here are two examples that aren’t necessarily relevant to Rafflecopter:
Policies I. 4. If you offer a service for a user that integrates user data into a physical product (such as a scrapbook or calendar), you must only create a physical product for that user’s personal and non-commercial use.
Policies I. 10. Mobile Web Apps that are running within the Facebook iOS app must not accept payments. In particular, these apps must not reference, use, or otherwise encourage the use of Facebook Payments or other non-iOS approved payment methods.
And here are two more examples that are relevant to what we do at Rafflecopter:
Policies I. 6. Your website must offer an explicit “Log Out” option that also logs the user out of Facebook.
Policies I. 13. The primary purpose of your Canvas or Page Tab app on Facebook must not be to simply redirect users out of the Facebook experience and onto an external site.
There’s a myriad of rules that we’re asked to follow similar to these four listed above. But there are three sections of the platform policy specifically mentioning rewarding users as well as promotion guidelines.
1) Facebook Platform Policies & Promotions Guidelines
In the depths of the platform policy, you can uncover a page called the “Platform Policies and Promotions Checklist” that discuss what you can and cannot do as an app developer when it comes to privacy, data and content, social channels, branding and functionality, and finally, Promotions Guidelines.
There are five items listed here in this checklist. These five items closely resemble the following rules in the Facebook Page Guidelines Promotions section: rule ii, rule iv, rule iii, rule v, and rule vi.
2) Facebook Promotions Guidelines: A Video
Did you know that also hidden in the depths of the platform policy is a video that Facebook released that describes Facebook promotions guidelines? Give it a watch if you haven’t already.
3) Facebook Platform Policies & Rewarding Users
Finally, there’s a page titled “Rewarding Users” that Facebook gives more specific examples on how you might be able to reward users where Facebook discusses referral based rewards, places, and the like button.
If there’s one important takeaway from the referral based rewards, it’s this: you can reward users for inviting a certain amount of folks to the promotion you’re running, which in turn, encourages sharing (whether that be by email, Facebook status update, tweet, etc). You can’t ask folks to directly “Share this promotion on Facebook” and award them an entry or a point for the physical act of sharing.
Finally, the page discusses the Like button. They state “We also allow for specific rewarding around the Like button, provided the incentive is open to all new and existing users who Like your Page.”
Rafflecopter / Facebook Introduction
On June 29th, a member of the Facebook Platform Policy Team emailed us. They asked several questions about our app, brought to our attention several concerns around the Rafflecopter widget, and asked us to provide a solution. Here were their two primary concerns:
Concern #1: ‘Like A Facebook Page’ Should Be Reworded
First, the team at Facebook thought that using the “Like A Facebook Page” entry option wasn’t clear to whether or not all new and existing fans were eligible for an entry. They also said the specific copy in the widget (‘Like Rafflecopter on Facebook’, for example) made it appear as if the physical act of clicking the ‘like’ button was the entry into the promotion, hence in violation of rule iv.
In hindsight, their perspective was correct. On occasion, this entry option would be interpreted by some entrants as ‘only folks who are aren’t yet a fan of the page are eligible for the entry’. While that certainly wasn’t our intention, with the help of Facebook, we changed this entry option to read the following:
Concern #2: ‘Like A Blog Post’ Should Be Removed
Second, Facebook asked us to completely remove the ‘Like A Blog Post’ entry option. Prior to July 19th, we gave folks the ability to have an entry option that would give folks a point for ‘liking’ the blog post where the widget was located. Starting on July 20th, no Rafflecopter giveaways are allowed to add a “like this blog post” entry option.
When you clicked this button, the page had the ability to be shared on the entrant’s timelines as well as the news feed. While we had originally thought this entry option was compliant, Facebook told us: Asking folks to ‘like a blog post’ in a promotion isn’t allowed. This entry option happened to be the least used in the Rafflecopter platform.
Conclusion: Rafflecopter Is Facebook Compliant
Facebook was very helpful in getting these issues ironed out. Their instructions were clear, they listened to our thoughts, and they provided good feedback. In the end, we’re happy to say we’ve gotten the green light: Rafflecopter is compliant with Facebook’s policies.
More exciting news: in the last two weeks, Facebook has updated their “Rewarding Users” page to include the following image:
We can only speculate if this image was added due to our conversation, but it’s great to see this example added. More and more apps are creating new ways to promote engagement through Facebook besides simply fan-gating content, whether that be a promotion, coupon, etc. *Bravo, Facebook!*
Facebook Giveaways: Some Closing Thoughts
Facebook Promotion Guidelines can be a scary thing. They shouldn’t be. As a company that allows you to run giveaways and sweepstakes on and off Facebook, it’s our highest priority to make sure all our users stay within the guidelines and are informed about the topic.
We monitor the heck out of Facebook promotions and their rules and regs so you don’t have to. That said, there’s always that chance that these guidelines will change tomorrow. If that’s the case, we’ll respond. To date, over 250k giveaways have been run through Rafflecopter. We haven’t had one instance of a Facebook page or giveaway shut down by Facebook. Here’s to another 250k more!
Have any additional comments or thoughts? Let us know in the comments below!