Facebook Promotion: What Makes It Legit?

Regardless of which specific social media platforms you’re using, one main goal for all social media efforts is: to grow your number of followers.

On Facebook, these followers are called Fans. Someone becomes a Fan of your Facebook Fan Page once they click the “Like” button.


There are several ways to encourage Facebook users to “Like” your fan page. You can invite your email contacts, for example. You can add your fan page URL to any place you have your other contact information. You can share your fan page URL on other social platforms. You can run a legitimate Facebook promotion to increase your “Likes”. And you should always be posting regular, relevant content to engage your existing fans to keep them happy.

But there are tactics some fan page admins use to grow their “Likes” that are in violation of Facebook’s Promotion Guidelines. One example would be the posting of status updates that ask users to perform some type of action in order to be entered to win something.

Examples of “Illegal” Facebook Promotions

Chances are you see Facebook contests that are in violation of its Promotion Guidelines on a daily basis. Some examples could be status updates that read:

“We’re approaching 500 fans! Whoever becomes fan #500 wins a free dinner for 2!”

“Answer this question to win our giveaway! First correct answer wins!”

“‘Like’ this update and upload a photo to our wall for your chance to win!”

Where’s the Grey Area?

In general, many fan page admins run these illegal fan-getting contests unaware that there are guidelines that exist that restrict and control how they are run. But there are also some fan page admins who argue their promotions are actually acceptable by pointing to the “other than” phrase in item iii in the Promotion Guidelines:

iii. You must not condition registration or entry upon the user taking any action using any Facebook features or functionality other than liking a Page, checking in to a Place, or connecting to your app. For example, you must not condition registration or entry upon the user liking a Wall post, or commenting or uploading a photo on a Wall.

Although item iv states:

iv. You must not use Facebook features or functionality as a promotion’s registration or entry mechanism. For example, the act of liking a Page or checking in to a Place cannot automatically register or enter a promotion participant.

So, How Can I Tell What’s OK?

First, after familiarizing yourself with Facebook’s Promotion Guidelines, I would encourage all fan page admins to read attorney Sara Hawkins’ explanation of the law, the definition of sweepstakes, contest and lottery, and of something called “consideration”.

Second, while I agree that item iii – on its own – can be interpreted to mean that actions such as asking for a “Like” or comment are actually OK, please take a look at items i and ii:

i.  Promotions on Facebook must be administered within Apps on Facebook.com, either on a Canvas Page or a Page App.

ii.  Promotions on Facebook must include the following:
a.  A complete release of Facebook by each entrant or participant.
b.  Acknowledgment that the promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.
c.  Disclosure that the participant is providing information to [disclose recipient(s) of information] and not to Facebook.

When you use a free 3rd party app like Shortstack for your (legitimate) Facebook contest, you are administering that promotion within its own app (or holding it “on its own tab“, which may be a more common way to refer to this). You also are easily able to include language that, for example, acknowledges Facebook is no way sponsoring or endorsing the promotion.

But by running a promotion on a status update, you aren’t meeting Facebook requirements i nor ii, regardless of how you interpret item iii. You also are putting yourself and your page in jeopardy of being shut down.

But everyone does it this way!

Yes, many do. However, Velvet Burger and Hell Pizza both were shut down by Facebook for violating its terms and guidelines.

It is possible to lose everything you’ve worked so hard to build, and in a blink of an eye. Although it can be so tempting to quickly grow your fan count through contests and promotions that violate Facebook’s guidelines, what you risking losing is worth so much more.

*While this post is specifically addressing commonly-seen contests and promotions run in a Facebook status update, some of you might be wondering about asking for Facebook fan page “Likes” as part of a blog giveaway. Please refer to Sara’s article for answers on that, specifically the “consideration” section.


  1. Ian Anderson Gray

    Excellent post, thanks. I think there are a lot of marketing departments out there that either don’t know the rules (and that goes for all social networks- Twitter, Facebook etc) or they just don’t want to know. Your last heading “But everyone does it this way!” says it all really- it’s very frustrating to see so many Facebook pages or Twitter accounts blatantly breaking or bending the rules and doing rather well out of it. But, as you say, it might spectacularly backfire with their account suspended. It’s not worth it as far as I am concerned!

    • admin

      It is so hard. Especially when you see fan pages with 1,000, 2,000 or 10,000 fans, and you know they didn’t earn then the *real* way.

  2. Brianna

    Thanks for sharing this. I’ve never hosted a contest on any of the pages I admin, so I had no idea there were such strict guidelines in place. However, I’m glad to see that there are such guidelines.

  3. Alex@LateEnough

    Two questions:
    1) Do you think the gray area applies to non-mandatory entries that include liking a Facebook page or sharing a post on Facebook? (when the page isn’t like-gated)
    2) Do you think this applies to FB groups as well as FB pages?

    • admin

      Also, I’ve never heard nor read anything about Groups. My own opinion is that Facebook is trying to make sure to cover its own butt in all this. So I would guess that it doesn’t want any type of contest, sweepstakes nor promotions run that doesn’t include disclosure language and release of its name/brand.

  4. Zeasth

    Does asking Fans to like and share a photo to win a great prize according to Facebook rules and guidelines?

    • Admin

      I’ve seen photo shares done as part of a contest using a 3rd party app in a separate tab, with rules, disclosure, etc. But simply posting a status update that says, “Upload a photo to enter” is not OK.



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