The Ultimate Guide To Running A Contest On Facebook


Stuart McKeown’s Picture

Stuart McKeown

Learn about Facebook's contest guidelines and see how Gleam makes it super easy to run compliant campaigns.

**This guide was last updated on 21st March 2016 and is considered accurate.

Over the years Facebook has changed and evolved as a platform in the ways it allows you to administer contests. There’s been a few considerable changes in recent years:

In this guide we’ll take you through all of the available options at your disposal when running a Facebook contest, the rules you need to abide by and what some of the most commonly used approaches are.

Facebook’s Promotion Guidelines


Understanding what’s allowed on Facebook is an important part of deciding how you run your promotion.

There’s two different guidelines that apply to promotion which depend on how you administer it. This can often cause confusion about what is and isn’t allowed in your contest.

Facebook Page Guidelines

Facebook Page Guidelines apply if you are running a promotion directly on your Facebook business page.

There’s a few key points that apply:

If you use Gleam we automatically add the Facebook release to your terms and conditions.

The main points you need to adhere to are in section 3. You must not ask users to do anything that involves their personal timelines or friend connections.

What you can ask your fans to do:

  • Like a Post
  • Like Your Page
  • Comment on a Post
  • Post to your Facebook Page
  • Check-in to your business

What you cannot ask your fans to do:

  • Share a Post on their own personal timeline
  • Share a Post or page to their friends
  • Tag friends in posts

Facebook Platform Policy

Facebook Platform Policy applies if you are using a 3rd party app to administer your promotion, these are the guidelines that developers must adhere to when building their Facebook app.

This particular policy often gets overlooked by marketers, so it’s important to understand that if you use any sort of 3rd party app, these policies apply to the developers that built that app. And they are much more restrictive than the general page policies.

Under the Encourage proper use section:

Only incentivize a person to log into your app, enter a promotion on your app’s Page, or check-in at a place. Don’t incentivize other actions.

This section means that app developers cannot build an app that incentivizes behaviours other than those listed.

This means that you are not allowed to:

  • Ask users to Like a Page
  • Incentivize the use of Social Plugins (i.e. Like or Share buttons)
  • Award incentives for sharing

Here’s an excerpt from Facebook’s announcement on these guidelines:

You must not incentivize people to use social plugins or to like a page. This includes offering rewards, or gating apps or app content based on whether or not a person has liked a Page. It remains acceptable to incentivize people to login to your app, checkin at a place or enter a promotion on your app’s Page. To ensure quality connections and help businesses reach the people who matter to them, Facebook wants its users to like your page because they want to connect and hear from the business, not because of artificial incentives.

Types Of Contests That You Can Run

Now that we have all the policy stuff out of the way you’re probably wondering what types of promotions you can actually run, and which ones might be best to engage your audience.

Page Timeline Contests

These types of contests are very common if you want to build something quickly to engage your community, all you need to do is create a compelling Facebook post asking users to enter.

You are free to ask users to do any of the approved actions above when running these contests.

Allowed – Asking Users to Like Your Post

Within your promotional post you can ask users to Like as a means of entry. More Likes means more potential exposure to the friends of users that enter.

Allowed – Asking Users to Comment on Your Post

You are also allowed to ask users to comment on your post, or combine the two together 😎 Quite often businesses will ask users to Like + comment to get the maximum effect.

Not Allowed – Asking Users to Share Your Post

Facebook quite clearly states that you are not allowed to ask users to Share your post, however many businesses are unaware (or not worried about the consequences) and do this anyway.

Not Allowed – Asking Users to Tag Friends In Posts

The same goes with tagging friends, this is also a no go area and something that is still widely used by many pages.

Other types of Page Timeline promotions that you might consider running include:

  • Post to Page to Win
  • xth Comment Wins
  • Caption This Photo

Contests On Facebook Tabs

Running a contest inside a Facebook Tab is usually the next step up from a Page contest. The advantage of these sorts of campaigns is that you can use a 3rd party app, and you don’t need to build landing pages for the client you can install the contest directly to their Facebook page.

There is however three large fundamental problems to consider when running contests inside Facebook tabs in 2016.

No More Like Gating

In November 2014 Facebook made changes to their Policies and API to disallow Like Gating. Since this was one of the most appealing features of Facebook Tabs the change decreases their usefulness significantly.

Tab Visibility

When Facebook changed their page layout in 2013 they killed the main effectiveness of running promotions inside Facebook Tabs & Apps.

Back then you could choose exactly which Tab all non-fans landed on when visiting your Facebook Page which meant you could funnel all news users through to your Like Gated Promotion. This allowed for a much more viral approach to running promotions on Facebook.

After those changes all users by default now land on the timeline view of any Facebook Page by default. Tabs are just a link in the sidebar now, which means users need to manually visit them to engage with promotions. This means that directly organic Facebook page traffic into promotion is very unreliable now.

Tabs Are Not Mobile Friendly

With over 50% of users entering Gleam contests on a mobile device, it’s extremely important that we take a mobile first perspective.

Facebook Tabs are not mobile friendly, this means that if you direct a mobile user to your tab they will see the following error:

This also adds to the visibility issue with Tabs not being visible at all in the sidebar on mobile devices.

The only way around this is to use a Smart Link to promote your campaigns which will send mobile users to an external mobile optimised landing page.

The Optimal Way To Run A Facebook Contest

If you’ve made it this far you can see that running a promotion on Facebook can be a complicated process, the main takeaway is that you can run it directly on your wall, inside a Facebook tab or via a 3rd party app on your own site.

But what’s the optimal way to run a contest now? The answer is that its a combination of all the methods above.

Run The Campaign On Your Own Site

Now that we know how much Facebook have nerfed Tabs (and your organic reach) there has to be some viable alternative right?

That alternative has been under your nose the entire time, and has often been overlooked by agencies who struggled to get the required access needed. Your website.

There’s a number of reasons why using your own website as the main point of enter for your contest:

  • You have complete control over the landing page design
  • You can funnel all your existing traffic into your contest however you like
  • Users are more likely to browse your website after entry (and purchase)
  • You can utilise your mailing lists to drive traffic to the contest without worrying about leakage
  • E-commerce stores have a huge range of things they can do

Consider one of our customers below Jane, they have a dedicated link to their Giveaway in the header of the site, and also banners that promote the landing page on the homepage.

Here at Gleam we make it incredibly easy to run a beautiful promotion on your own site, incentivize whatever you like – Facebook login, Tweets, Email signups or Purchases. This gives you more time to spend on the important stuff.

Have a play with our demo below:

Use Facebook As A Promotional Channel

Facebook has evolved more into a promotional channel, rather than somewhere to host your contests. It is our view that you should treat it as such, just as much as you’d treat Twitter or Instagram as a promotional channel.

This means that how you structure your communication inside your Facebook Posts is more important that ever. A good post can be seen by up to 50% of your audience, a bad post may only be seen by 1% (and require you to spend more money on Facebook Ads).

You can easily combine the Page contest idea with your own self hosted contests inside a promotional post to drive more activity. This particular post isn’t requiring Liking, commenting or sharing as an entry requirement but they are still telling their fans to do it 👻

You need to experiment with what works best for your audience to get as much engagement and reach on your post as possible.

About Gleam


Here at Gleam we’ve built a platform that takes the heavy lifting out of running a successful contest. Our widget looks great, has all the integrations you’ll need and even syncs with over 30+ email marketing providers.

Our platform is trusted by over 500k businesses around the world. We do the hard work so you can do what you do best, run amazing campaigns for your customers.

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