Today all types of businesses, from large to small, are dipping their collective toes into the murky waters of Facebook contests. From celebrity endorsements to TV commercials to user-generated content, Facebook contests can inspire customer loyalty. Facebook contests have also been shown to increase a company’s fan base, help engage the company’s audience, and create a deeper connection between the consumer and the business.

Contests can be a quick and effective way to build an organization?s fan base. If the company is starting with a small number of fans, a simple enter-to-win sweepstakes can boost the number of fans exponentially. Collecting customer generated content such as photos or favorite quotes, is an easy way to have the customer contribute to the company’s marketing efforts by word of mouth.

Contests are also a non-intrusive way to collect market data. By asking a few simple questions as part of the entry to the contest, the business can obtain useful information without intruding into the entrant?s privacy.

While there are many perks to navigating contest waters, there are just as many compliance issues to be considered. Both FTC and Facebook regulations must be taken into account when creating a successful contest. Indeed, it is important to note that the FTC has the same level of authority in the world of social media as it does in traditional advertising.

FTC regulations are very specific when addressing the official rules of a contest. According to the FTC?s guidelines, the following must be outlined for potential contestants:

  • Statement that no purchase is necessary
  • Eligibility requirements age, residence
  • Deadlines and duration
  • Instructions
  • Entry procedures
  • Prize description(s)
  • General disclaimers
  • When and how winners will be selected
  • Method of distributing prizes not claimed
  • Liability release
  • Sponsor?s name and contract information
  • Statement that contest is void where prohibited by law

Facebook, as well, has a whole host of their own regulations that must be strictly followed. Failure to do so can result in a company being banned from Facebook. Not having access to Facebook is sure to limit an organization?s options when marketing online.


Notification of Winners ?

Facebook clearly lays out how and how not to notify contest winners. It is not an acceptable practice to notify winners using any of Facebook?s features. Facebook?s terms and conditions state, ?You must not notify winners through Facebook, such as through Facebook messages, chat, or posts on profiles (timelines) or Pages. All winners must be notified by phone, email, or regular postal services.


Using Third Party Applications ?

It is imperative that the company makes it clear that the contest is in no way associated or affiliated with Facebook. Organizations are required to run their contests through third party applications. Facebook regulations state, ?Promotions on Facebook must be administered within Apps on, either on a Canvas Page or an app on a Page Tab. Facebook goes on to say in section 4.1 Publicizing a Promotion on Facebook, ?You will not directly or indirectly indicate that Facebook is a sponsor or administrator of the promotion or mention Facebook in any way in the rules or materials relating to the promotion.

Third party applications will usually supply all needed legal verbiage essential for the FTC. This verbiage consists of the fine print which acknowledges that the company’s contest is in no way associated with Facebook. The language will typically include the following, ?This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. You understand that you are providing your information to (3rd party app name) and not to Facebook. The information you provide will be used for the purposes of conducting this promotion and as consented to by you.


Creating Your Own Application ?

If an organization does not wish to utilize a third party application to run their contest, Facebook does have the option that allows the company to build its own application for use on Facebook. By using programs like Fanappz, iframes, or Wildfire it is possible to create an application to run the company’s contest. A contest tab will be installed on the company’s Facebook page along with an ?enter now? button. On the contest tab it will be made clear that the company is running the contest separate from Facebook.

For the end user, it will be seamless. It will appear as if the entire contest is taking place on Facebook; however, in reality the user will have been redirected to a separate site.

Having customers “like” a contest page is allowed, but Facebook does not permit a “like” as the only way to enter into the company’s contest. As stated before, no Facebook features can be used as part of the actual promotion.


Promoting the Contest ?


The whole purpose of utilizing Facebook is to grow the company’s social media presence and build relationships with potential customers. When conducting a contest on Facebook, it is completely acceptable to use all of the standard options available to promote the contest. What is not allowable is to use Facebook?s standard features as entry methods into a contest. Examples of these functions include, posting on users walls, posting updates, and creating events. Keep in mind that none of these actions can be used as a form of entry into the contest. Facebook?s guidelines state: For example, the act of liking a Page or checking in to a Place cannot automatically register or enter a promotion participant.

Additional information organizations need to be aware of from Facebook?s Promotion Guidelines include:

  • 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.


Ensuring that both FTC and Facebook regulations are met is a key part of the contest planning process. Complying with both should create a smooth contest experience for the organization and the contestants involved. Equipped with the proper information, you can discover for yourself how a successful contest can help a business reach its marketing goals.


About the Author

This article was written by Abbott Shea in partnership with Global Compliance (GCS). GCS provides corporate ethics and compliance solutions, including an employee helpline, diversity training, and anti-discrimination training. Visit their website for more information on

This is for informational purposes only and does not constitute the provision of legal advice. Review of this material is not a substitute for substantive legal advice from a qualified attorney. Please consult with an attorney to assure compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.