5 Most Common Mistakes when Running Facebook Contests

5 Most Common Mistakes when Running Facebook Contests

This is a guest post by Aaron Lee from Binkd.

Running a Facebook contest is beneficial in many ways. It’s a great way to help increase engagement, re-energize your audience, build your email database, grow your customer base, and help increase awareness around the product.

Facebook contests are very popular and I can quite easily find new contests popping up every day. But just about every other day I’ll find contests on Facebook that are either not following the promotion guidelines or simply not making the most out of their contests. Even some of my friends tend to make these mistakes when they are running a contest for their businesses.

The biggest mistake that most businesses make is not reading Facebook’s promotions guidelines. I believe not many business owners are aware that such guidelines even exist.

Here are some of the most common Facebook contest mistakes.

1. Using a Facebook feature as a contest

Probably the most common mistake is using the Facebook feature as part of the contest elements. Quite often will I find contest such as:

  • Click like to win
  • Share this photo and win
  • Comment to win

Although contests such as these are easy to organize, the rules say:

“You must not condition registration or entry upon the user liking a Wall post, or commenting or uploading a photo on a Wall.”

Going against this basically means that Facebook has the power to make your contest invalid or even to the extent of blocking your account – although it is entirely up to Facebook’s discretion.

The best way to go around this is to use a third party contest application and I will go into the details below.

2. Not using an application

Small businesses tend to ignore the fact that third-party applications are required to run a contest on Facebook.

Facebook Contests - Use a third-party app

The best way for business owners to organize a contest on Facebook is by using a third party application. This helps you to comply with the promotional guidelines which states that:

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

There are a few ways or going around it. If you have an in-house programmer, you can have them to code the contest. Alternatively if you don’t, you can simplify the job by using the services of other professionally-built third-party apps out there.

Some of the popular Contest Applications are:

3. Announcing winners on wall

Another mistake is announcing winners on the Facebook wall. This is a tough one as fans want to know who won the contest. Although I believe this should be changed, Facebook clearly states that users must not notify through any of Facebook’s communication platforms such as messages, chats or post on profiles or pages.

Despite having an application, many businesses still make the mistake of announcing the winners on the wall.

4. Giving away unrelated prizes

The best prizes are those that are relevant to your business. It’s common to see businesses giving highly sought-after products like an iPad away, but as enticing as the prize may sound, giving away an iPad (or any other unrelated products) might attract those who wants the iPad but will not associate themselves with your business in the future.

Binkd Facebook Contest

Business owners should give away some of their products as prizes. Why not? Prizes should be related or relevant to your business because then the winners will get to try your product. It helps to increase awareness and it is a chance for you to roll out that kick-ass promotional campaign to show-off your product.

More often than not, the winners themselves will share their achievements on other social networks such as Twitter and Instagram and that too will help spread the news about your product.

5. Not promoting enough

Don’t expect your contest to get popular without any promoting it.

Unless you already have an existing fanbase to participate in your contests, chances are your contest will not gain any momentum and will lack in engagement. If you are lacking that fanbase and are looking for more fans on your page, then you will definitely need to promote your contest and give it a little push to get the best out of it.

Facebook adverts are a great way to give that edge to your contest and to get more fans of your page. It does require a little more investment so if that is not what you prefer then try promoting your contest through your blog or any other networks that you already have. Blogs or your business website are two great platforms to promote your contest as it allows you to give more details as well as outlining the terms and conditions to your contest.

What are other mistakes do you think should be added into the list? Feel free to leave a comment below.

  • Tube In A Box

    This is very interesting to read, my company plans to run a contest during our slow months to keep and gain interaction with our fans.

  • Aaron, do you have a preference for any particular third party contest app, and why? Or have you already published a blog post comparing them? (hint, hint!)

  • Glad you found it useful. I’m curious, what do you consider “slow months”? Are you talking about business?

  • Hi Debra, I do! and I’m sending you more information about it now :DD

  • I’m glad you found this useful, do make sure you read the contest policies before running a contest. Let me know if you have any questions. Love to help.

  • Sari Plante

    Running a Facebook contest is beneficial in many ways. It’s a great
    way to help increase engagement, re-energize your audience, build your
    email database, grow your customer base, and help increase awareness
    around the product.


  • Steven

    Before I run a contest I think I need to get some followers!

  • Tough balance, because many brands, even the biggest ones, do a lot of these things and seem to get away with it. Break they rules and risk issues, or stay away and risk not keeping up (or spending more money to do the same)?

  • You do, you’ll need a small base first. Otherwise you can use Facebook ads to propel it 😀

  • Deandra Valerio

    Probably the most common mistake is using the Facebook feature as
    part of the contest elements. Quite often will I find contest such as:



    Even some of my friends tend to make these mistakes when they are running a contest for their businesses.


  • Facebook is coming down tougher on brands these days, however its easier for them to get back their pages compared to small businesses.

  • Can I organise a Contest via a blog, but promote it in Facebook? Can one of the terms of the contest be that participants first have to ‘like’ my page then submit entries via email? This way FB acts only as an advertising board for the contest (with a link to my blog with all the details).

    I’ve read the guidelines, but I’m really confused. Appreciate your kind advise 🙂

  • Corliss Teal

    Running a Facebook contest is beneficial in many ways. It’s a great
    way to help increase engagement, re-energize your audience, build your
    email database, grow your customer base, and help increase awareness
    around the product.


  • Hi Robin,

    Yes, you can organize a contest through a blog and use Facebook as a way to promote your contest, and you’re not breaking the rule by asking them to “like” your page first then submit entries

    Another way to do it via Facebook is
    1) Install a fan-gate page. That way people need to like your page first before participating
    2) After users have liked your page, they can see the content which is an email submission form 🙂

    Hope this helps.

  • 3 is misleading. You Can celebrate an mention the winner, and should, but that cannot be the channel that you as the page owner inform the winner of his/her lucky outcome. Contact the winner via mail. Describing the rule like this, you make it Sound like its forbidden to tell who won, when in fact its not

  • Kevin

    I’d like to run a poll. Is there one app that’s better than another for FB polling?

  • tomoko doll

    It’s a great way to help increase engagement, re-energize your audience,
    build your email database, grow your customer base, and help increase
    awareness around the product


  • Thanks so much! I was wondering about this…was thinking, “what’s the point of even running a contest if you can’t give a shout out to the winner?”

  • Elena Meadowcroft

    Thomas, I was going to point out the same thing. There is a difference between announcing and notifying. You can and should notify via email or phone and after the winner is confirmed, you can announce them anywhere you want (provided you included the publicity clause in the official rules). Notifying straight on Facebook is not just against the rules, but also risky: what if the winner doesn’t respond and you have to select a new one? That would be awkward…

  • I found Rafflecopter to be very simple to use. promoting via my blog, Planet Joy and Twitter!

  • KMiale

    Announcing winners on you page is acceptable. Notifying is a different thing. You can’t tell someone they won via Facebook. But you can call or e-mail them first. That’s notifying as required by FB TOS. You can announce the winner to all your fans on your page.

  • Steven, if you have 400 – 500 fans on your Page first then it is easier to get traction. If not then as the article suggests, you will probably need to invest in some ads.

  • Point 4 doesn’t always apply. A client of ours who makes cat food had several times more submissions for a photo contest where you could win Apple products, than on the contest where you could win cat related products (such as an expensive cat sofa or cat food).

  • So to be clear…. you can say “Congrats Mary Jones” but can’t say “Congrats Mary, contact us at xxxx for your prize”?

  • Elena Meadowcroft

    That sounds right, Alex. You also can’t notify them via a Facebook direct message or comment.

  • Ivonne Anzola

    I had the same question. Mari Smith gave this answer:

    Ivonne Anzola – my team and I administered this entire contest via one of the top Facebook contest apps, Strutta,
    so it was fully compliant with Facebook’s promotion guidelines. Then,
    winners were notified directly via email. Once the email notification
    has gone out, we can announce winners on the wall. As a top Facebook
    marketing expert, you can rest assured I have crossed every ‘t’ and
    dotted every ‘i’ in this contest; it’s fully compliant with all
    Facebook’s terms! In the 5+ years I’ve been active on Facebook, this is
    my first contest and I learned a TON about how much work goes on behind
    the scenes! 🙂


  • Elena Meadowcroft

    Simon, did your client get any leads or sales as a result of the Apple Products giveaway? As Aaron said and as you confirmed, giving away iPads does lead to more engagement and more entries, but participants are interested solely in the prize, which in this case has nothing to do with the business = they are not interested in your business. They might not even have pets (unless you set it as a requirement for entry).

  • Eeek, I have already been running a contest for the last couple of weeks without giving any thought to whether FB would allow it or not! Lucky it’s ending this week. Did definitely grow my fan base.

  • I have a question! What does Facebook mean by third party! If I am a developer and can create a contest app where, for example, I don’t know the user needs to upload a picture and then you have to vote within the app, is the management done by me or do I need to like get another party that manages my content? Is this making any sense?

  • Not sure if you found something that works for your poll yet. I’ve just started using polls from inside the Hootsuite Dashboard. You’ll have to go to their App Directory and add it. Works great if you use Hootsuite.

  • Mac

    Hi there. If we have a random drawing to give away a product after we reach 100 likes, I’m confused what exactly we can/can’t do . . . can we include a status announcing the giveaway on our page, but then simply alert the winner via another route other than FB? Thanks for clarifying. 🙂

  • Isabell N

    Hey Aaron, how else can you inform the winner of the contest?
    https://mymzone.com is launching a contest on FB (not using binkd, sorry) and we want to have all bases covered. Thanks!

  • Kelly G

    I have a question about winning a prize via Facebook. What can I do if I won a prize, responded to the notification e-mail, and have since heard nothing in response?

  • Thanks for the wonderful post! I do use Facebook to engage visitors to my site. I try to write great quality content to attract new visitors!!

  • Many people are not aware of the Basic rules that need to be followed while hosting a Contest on Facebook Fanpage. Below link has the Official Guidelines from Facebook https://www.facebook.com/page_guidelines.php

  • There are many rules to follow when you run a Facebook contest and it is always important to create complete and well defined terms and conditions. At our agency we run several contest and I think it’s important to have somebody who can advise about legal terms in the field we are working in.


  • grace ga;le

    Can i advertize a contest on twitter to like my page and win a book using my Fan page link

  • When i try to check on the Facebooks promotion guidelines, I got the error message saying “Page not found”. Can you fix that?

  • I would be interested in the comparison as well. Thanks!

  • Hi Aaron, I am new to FB for business and have a great opportunity to promote my page on radio coming up, and have 2 days to put something together! I have gotten some great advice from others, but wondering what you think the best avenue in terms of a contest app is. I’ve gotten advice that wishpond is great and easy to use/integrate. Do you agree? I’ve got everything set up in Hootsuite, so ideally I’d like it to be compatible within that but not a necessity. ALL of this is very new to me, thanks for your help!!

  • morgan

    As I understand it, you can announce a winner on your page after they have been notified by separate email. I’ve read this several times in interpretations of facebook rules. What is your take on this? Thanks!

  • Elizabeth

    Can you do a photo contest via Tumblr?

  • Thx for writing abt this stuff.

  • Jim Wroblewski

    Aaron, My daughter was involved in a Facebook contest where the organizer used a third party application to collect votes and provide vote totals for a 30 second video. At the end of the contest the organizer reported that they needed to validate the votes before announcing a winner.

    During the voting there were allegations of people buying votes as being dishonest and cheaters. The question was raised and the organizer reported twice that buying votes is not explicitly against the rules. After this announcement people came out of the woodwork condemning the top vote leaders with accusations that they must have bought votes.

    Four days later the organizer announced that there were several overseas votes Facebook users that appeared t be setup for the sole purpose of voting in contests. These users had no friends associated with them so they must be fake. Based on the volume of votes received from these type of users they needed to invalidate the entire contest. They then setup new rules where each contestant would be allowed one vote for someone else’s video. If you didn’t vote you were disqualified. If you had voted for your own video you would be disqualified. Each contestant was given 4 days to vote.

    This has allowed the organizer to save face with those doing the most complaining (the losing contestants, friends and family) as they are given a second chance to win. The leaders will probably not receive votes and they had their characters assassinated for the suspicion of buying votes (which was allowed under the contest rules) as being dishonest, deceitful and having bad character and integrity.

    1. Was the organizer in their rights to change the contest rule after it had been concluded?
    2. What recourse, if any, do the leaders have to recover monies they may have used to purchase votes with the expectation that they would have won the contest?
    3. Have you heard of organizers changing the rules after the contest was concluded and what was the eventual outcome? Was there any legal action taken?

  • jackreese

    That’s very clear and concise! You can also add mistake #6 – discouraging a participant from sharing their entry, such as in random giveaways where everybody understands that the more friends he/she brings to the promo, the less his/her chances of winning. The app developers get around this by forcing a user to grant “publish on my wall” permissions to the app, which is perceived by many users as spam.

    I like Top Tab App because that’s not how they do it, and the rest of their instructions is exactly as in you post.

  • Guest

    Could you please send me this information too? I am interested in running a contest soon!

  • Kevin Aerts

    Could you please send me this information too? I am interested in running a contest soon! Thanks

  • Marilyn Kay

    You can announce winners on your wall if you have first notified them by email or other means. Facebook does not want you to use the wall to notify winners.

  • Carolyn Ring

    Can you send me this information as well? I think it could be extremely helpful. Thank you!

  • Christine Maya

    We at http://www.Runwayrepublic.com are running a competition, would you recommend using instagram as platform to market and and showcase winners?

  • Drew

    Would love to see this article updated. Facebook’s rules have changed in regard to promotions. An app is no longer required to run a contest. The rules are here: https://www.facebook.com/page_guidelines.php

  • Any suggestions for managing contests directly in FB? Or should third-party apps be the way to go?

  • Melkiades

    This article should be updated as Facebook contest rules have changed.

  • Neeral Chudasama

    Hi Aaron, can i get some details too please

  • Elias

    me too

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