We’ve all seen brands on facebook make claims on their pages “first five people to comment will win a free bottle of wine” or “share this photo to win.’

Promotions on facebook are a great way of building engagement with fans and growing the number of people in your community.  However, for many page administrators it’s also a source of confusion. Many of the competitions and giveaways being run contravene the facebook promotional guidelines, and by breaking them, you’re running the risk that your promotion or even your page can be shut down.

Whilst it’s tempting to test the boundaries, I believe that the risks are not worth the consequences and there are some simple steps you can take to make sure you comply. Take the time to think through the promotion, make it more than just a post for a day and integrate it into your marketing strategy to achieve the best results.

The full link to the facebook guidelines gives you the rundown and you should revisit it often as facebook is known to change the rules.

I’ll attempt to give you the core things to think about when running a competition below:

1)    What’s considered a promotion?

If you’re going to pick a winner – then it’s considered a promotion. This means any contest, competition or sweepstakes offer

2)    Where can you run your promotion?

The guidelines state that competitions must be administered within apps  on facebook.com either on a canvas page or on a custom tab. This means you can POST about the promotion on the wall, but the competition must be hosted on a separate tab. You cannot run a give away by hosting on the wall and conditioning people to like or share a post to WIN.

3)    What about using facebook functionality to enter?

You must not use a “like” to enter as a voting mechanism for the promotion.  Some app’s on the pages can “like gate” the competition so that you need to be a fan of the page to enter (a good way of still building a community), but this is not about liking a post to be eligible to win.

4)    What does facebook require you to do before running the competition?

Facebook requires each entrant to release it from obligations and for the organization conducting the promotion to state that the promotion is not in any way sponsored, endorsed or administered by the social network. They must appear on the canvas pages or page tabs.

Facebook wants to reduce its liability and make sure it’s in no way connected with the promotion.

Many of the custom apps automatically post this on the bottom of the custom page “This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered or associated with Facebook. You understand that you are providing your information to XXXX and not to facebook. The information you provide will only be used for the XXX and will use the information provided in accordance with its privacy policy.”

5)    How can I select a winner?

You can’t randomly select a fan and award them a prize. As the guidelines note “the act of liking a page or checking into a place cannot automatically register or enter a promotion participant.”

You’ll need to specify how you’ll choose a winner in the terms and conditions of the promotion (that’s right you will need to write some terms and conditions so that people know what the rules are).

When a winner is selected, you must notify them via email, postal address, mobile number etc rather than just positing the winner’s details on the wall.

6)    What are some apps I can use to run promotions on my page within the guidelines?

New apps are being built all the time to help companies run promotions on facebook. Many developers will also build custom pages that you can host on too.  Think about what your competition is designed for and then take a look at some of the apps to work out which one best meets your objectives. Some of the apps you may want to consider are:

If you have other apps that you use and we should add to the list, post in the comments section below.

What else do I need to know:

Whilst there are guidelines for facebook, there’s also an obligation in many cases in Australia to obtain a permit to conduct the competition. Rules vary depending on the state that it’s being held in and the value of the prize, but you should contact your local office (NSW and ACT do require permits in many cases). Don’t forget if it’s a national promotion, you’ll need permits in each state.