27 May 2011

Facebook Contests – Are You Violating Terms of Service?

Facebook Terms of Service
Facebook’s Terms of Service have expanded and later simplified over the years just as their promotions guidelines have changed. As a brand that uses Facebook it’s essential to become aware of both and have someone on your staff stay up-to-date with the changes as they happen. I discuss this topic a bit more in my book, “Facebook for Business: A How-To Guide” (available in the Vertical Measures store).

Just this week I came across a few brands that were in full violation of the TOS and promotions guidelines. Seemed like an appropriate post to inform and instruct how to avoid these potentially costly violations. So without further adieu….Below is a list of several common violations to steer clear of. If I’ve missed any, feel free to add them in the comments below!

Like My Comment So I Can Win

Sure, it seems harmless: running a contest for a free hotel stay at an area resort. All a user has to do is post a comment to the hotel’s wall and invite their friends to “Like” their wall comment. Most “Like”s on your comment wins.

Problem: This will require friends to not only “Like” the hotel’s Page, but also “Like” their friend’s comment. Using the “Like” as a vehicle to enter a contest is not allowed. Violation of condition 3, 4, & 5 of Facebook Promotions Guidelines.

Like Our Page to Enter

Again, very harmless: a simple contest that requires users to “Like” their Page, and they’ll be automatically entered to win an iPad.

Problem: Using the “Like” as a vehicle to enter a contest is not allowed. Violation of condition 3, 4, & 5 of Facebook Promotions Guidelines.

Comment On Our Page to Enter

You’ve seen them before, contests that require users to comment on a brands wall to enter into a contest. Enter to win a free laptop just by commenting on our wall!

Problem: As a condition of entry or registration, Pages cannot require users to comment to enter. Violation of condition 4 of Facebook Promotions Guidelines.

Check into Our Facebook Place Page to Enter

With the growing popularity of Facebook Places check-in contests are starting to grow in popularity as well. Check in and you’re entered to win a free meal at our restaurant!

Problem: You cannot use Facebook features or functionalities as a promotion’s registration or entry mechanism.

Register Through Our App

Simply register to win by clicking our custom App for your chance at a free Facebook vacation! Click through the prompts and you’re done. (No mention of Facebook release).

Problem: Promotions on Facebook must include a complete release of Facebook by each person who enters, acknowledgement that the contest isn’t sponsored by Facebook, and disclosure that none of the information collected is not used by Facebook. In addition, mentioning Facebook’s name or trademarks is forbidden. Violation of condition 2 & 7 of Facebook Promotions Guidelines.


The solution to many of the above Facebook contest problems is to create a custom App that requires users to register directly within it, and has the required items under Section 2 of the Facebook Promotions Guidelines. Companies like WildfireApp.com and Involver.com provide solutions to these issues for somewhat minimal fees if you lack the ability to develop an app on your own.

What contest examples have you seen that violate Facebook TOS and Promotion Guidelines?


  • Matthew Coates May 27, 2011

    What about a contest whereby fans post pics to the page’s wall and a fan is drawn at random to win a prize?

  • Kaila Strong May 31, 2011

    Unfortunately, that does indeed violate. If the fans posted pictures in a custom made app then you’d be able to run this contest…but if you aren’t building a custom app where users can upload photos, I’d shy away from this tactic as it violates TOS.

  • Hanna Kuoppala Jun 14, 2011

    Hi Kaila,

    We see these violations every day in Finland. Facebook is like a jungle and marketers mainly do as they want. Do you have any experience on how to get rid of those who don’t know or don’t want to follow rules? Facebook doesn’t seem to have any decent reporting tool for that and it would be rather childish to bust every “illegal” promotion we see.

    It just makes me quite mad on the behalf of our customers who want to do things by the book.

  • John Wilkins Aug 16, 2011

    I want to jump in with Hanna. One of the issues with the Terms of Service and Promotions Guidelines has to be the fact that Facebook seems to pay little heed to its own governance, ie there seems to be no way to report pages that violate such and therefore no repercussions for “cheating.” We spend heavily in creating apps and tools for proper adherence, but if Facebook doesn’t penalize those that break the rules, then we’re spending for naught.

    Any ideas on how to effectively report such violations would be HUGE. You’d be our hero.

  • Ahmed Ali Marvi Oct 18, 2011

    How do we report a violation of Promotion Guidelines by a face book fan page to Facebook? I saw few pages which are seriously violating the guidelines, but could not find a link through which i can report to Facebook about the violation

  • Joy Feb 06, 2013

    What about when running a promotion through an app but the contestants use a voting website to gain votes to win a contest? I was told this might be against Facebook rules….