Facebook Promotions: 5 Things That Are Still Illegal

In July, I wrote an article called “5 Things You Probably Didn’t Know are ‘Illegal’ on Facebook.” Since it was published, just a couple of months ago, all 5 of the Facebook rules mentioned in the article are no longer relevant or have changed in some way — that’s how frequently Facebook makes updates.

Facebook’s most recent significant update was announced in August: According to their new promotion guidelines, Page admins are no longer required to use apps to host contests and promotions on Facebook. This update is a big deal, as businesses and brands are now officially allowed to host promotions on Timeline.

It’s exciting news, but there are still a handful of rules businesses must follow to ensure their Facebook promotion is “legal”, meaning that it’s being run in accordance with Facebook’s most current promotion guidelines.

Here are 5 Rules You Must Still Follow When Hosting a Promotion on Facebook:

Rule #1:Personal Timelines cannot be used to administer promotions, i.e., you can’t require a user to share something on their personal Timeline or a friend’s Timeline to enter.

Where you can find details: Facebook Page’s Terms, Section E 3

For promotions, Facebook now allows people to submit their entries by Liking and/or commenting on a post, but sharing as a form of entry is off limits. This means any verbiage such as, “share on your Timeline to enter” or “share on your friend’s Timeline to get additional entries” is forbidden.

To increase the visibility of your Facebook promotions, encouraging (rather than requiring) sharing is key. Facebook does not prohibit your business from asking users to share your promotion with their friends — those shares just can’t count for anything. The takeaway: Choose your words for your Timeline-promotion post wisely!

Rule #2: You cannot ask your followers to tag themselves in photos in exchange for a chance to win a prize.

Where you can find details: Facebook Pages Terms, Section D

This rule is self explanatory and has been around for awhile, but I see it broken all the time. According to Facebook’s most current promotion guidelines (updated on August 27, 2013): “You must not inaccurately tag content or encourage users to inaccurately tag content (e.g., don’t encourage people to tag themselves in photos if they aren’t in the photo).”

“Tag yourself to win” promotions are illegal for one simple reason: Facebook has an issue with content (primarily photos) being tagged incorrectly. Implementing this rule is a way for them to help cut down on spam and keep their users happy.

Rule #3: If you choose to pay to promote your Timeline contest, you cannot avoid the 20% text rule which states that ads and sponsored stories in the News Feed may not include images comprised of more than 20 % text.

Where you can find details: Facebook Advertising Guidelines, Section D

Since Facebook now allows promotions to be administered via a Timeline post, it’s likely lots of brands will want to pay to promote their posts so their promotion gets the most reach possible. Not all Timeline promotions posts include a photo, but those that do usually perform better. In fact, photos on Facebook generate 53 % more Likes than the average post (Hubspot).

Although Facebook dropped the 20 % text rule regarding the cover photo in July, the rule still remains for ads and sponsored stories that are featured in the News Feed.

If you decide to put some money behind a Timeline promotion post, keep the 20 % text rule in mind when choosing the featured photo for the status update. Otherwise, the ad will not be approved by Facebook.

Rule #4: You must specify terms and eligibility requirements.

Where you can find details: Facebook Page Terms, Section E 1 & 2

Facebook requires that you provide copy for your promotion acknowledging that it is no way sponsored, endorsed, administered by, or associated with Facebook. You must also include a complete description of your promotion’s official rules, along with terms and eligibility requirements.

If your business wants to host a promotion on the Timeline, this rule still applies. The downside, however, is when you include all the necessary copy, your Timeline promotion post can get pretty lengthy and could discourage people from taking the time to read your post. Fortunately, there’s a better alternative.

An app created using a third-party app company is the best option for hosting official contest rules and Facebook’s required disclaimer.

If you want your Timeline promotion post to be short, super easy to enter AND legal, create a promotion rules app and link to it in your post. If you do this, your next Timeline promotion post could look and be as simple as this:

“Like or comment on this post for your chance to win $100 in store credit! For more contest details and rules, click here to read: [link to your contest app].”

Rule #5: You must follow state and international regulations governing the promotion and all prizes offered.

Where you can find details: Facebook Pages Terms, Section E 4

According to Facebook’s promotion guidelines, if you host a contest or promotion you must run it in “compliance with applicable rules and regulations governing the promotion and all prizes offered.” All this means is that before you run a contest, you have to do some homework. Basically, you must research the rules for running a promotion in your country/state/city, as those rules override all other rules — including the rules mandated by Facebook.

For example, sweepstakes in Canada and lots of European countries require entrants to solve an easy mathematical puzzle (like what’s 2+2?) or answer a simple knowledge question. This rule is to help prevent online sweepstakes from being classified as a form of gambling.

The (unspoken) Rule: You cannot require entrants to “Like” your Facebook Page as a form of entry into your promotion

Where you can find details: This rule is not directly mentioned within Facebook’s promotion guidelines, but it is implied in section E 3 which states promotions must be administered on Pages or within apps on Facebook.

A contest in which a user is required to Like a Page as the only means of entering does not take place directly on the Timeline (nor on an app) and is not in accordance with Facebook’s rules. This rule makes a lot of sense, as it would be difficult to distinguish the users who have Liked your Facebook Page to be entered to win your promotion from the users who have Liked your Facebook Page to simply follow your brand. Also, without this rule, it would make really complicated to fairly choose a contest winner.

Remember: The only legal way users are able to submit their entries is through liking or commenting on a post, submitting entries directly to a Page via a Facebook post, or submitting private entries by sending a message to a Page — submitting entries via the Like (page) button is not allowed.

If your business wants to host a Facebook promotion to drive new Page Likes, your best option is to use a fan-gated app. This way only users who have “Liked” your Page will have access to your promotion and the opportunity to enter to win.

Keeping on top of Facebook’s ever-changing list of guidelines can be tough. To stay up to date on all the latest updates, here are a few resources my team at ShortStack and I frequent/reference most:


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