<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id={244756505703335}&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">
Back to blog

WARNING: These 3 Timeline Contests Break Facebook's Rules!

Posted 11 October, 2013
New call-to-action

Add your email and get this blog post sent to your inbox as a FREE ebook

For more information. Please complete this form.

WARNING_these_3_Timeline_Contests_Break_Facebooks_Rulestimeline-contest-break-facebook-rulesPage owners have always been infatuated with running contests on their Facebook pages.


Because fans love free crap!

And contests tend to draw in new fans & increase engagement on the page.

But over the last month, I've seen countless pages breaking Facebook's "rules" (ie. terms of service) and running contests that violate their guidelines.

It used to be that contests/promotions could only be run via 3rd party apps. But this rule has changed.

Now page owners can run contests right on their Timeline! -- ie. in the news feeds of fans & potential fans.

But even with the relaxed rules, there are still rules you MUST follow.

New call-to-action

3 Timeline Contests that Break Facebook's Rules

[Editor's Note: While this post was written in October 2013, the Facebook Guidelines it refers to are regularly updated.]

I've been keeping an eye on my news feed (as you'll recall, I've liked over 4000 pages and counting) in hopes of finding lots of good & bad examples of contests being run since the rule change.

Honestly speaking, I'm not seeing as many contests as I'd expected.

This is probably because most of the pages I've Liked are larger company pages -- and not small local pages.

In my opinion, contests on Facebook tend to work best with smaller, local pages -- and maybe also with personality type pages, like music bands.

In any case, here are 3 examples of Timeline contests that violate the new Facebook Promotion Guidelines.

1. Tag To Win

According to Facebook's Promotion guidelines :

In order to maintain the accuracy of Page content, our Pages Terms now prohibit Pages from tagging or encouraging people to tag themselves in content that they are not actually depicted in. So, for instance:

  • It’s OK to ask people to submit names of a new product in exchange for a chance to win a prize
  • It’s not OK to ask people tag themselves in pictures of a new product in exchange for a chance to win a prize

But time & time again I see pages (even after Facebook made the new guidelines) clearly instructing their fans to tag themselves in a photo to enter a contest.

An example of this is on the Nature's Bakery page:

natures bakery facebook tag contest

This is a clear violation of the Facebook Page Guidelines -- but as you can see, 108 people Liked the post & there are 126 comments.

So you can see why doing this kind of contest is tempting.

2. Share To Win

I see this one much more often than the "Tag to Win" contest.

Our friends at Nature's Bakery appear to be offenders on this type of contest as well:

share to win facebook contest

What do the Facebook Guidelines say?

Promotions may be administered on Pages or within apps on Facebook. Personal Timelines must not be used to administer promotions (ex: “share on your Timeline to enter” or “share on your friend's Timeline to get additional entries” is not permitted).

Translation: Page owners can encourage users to share the contest & come vote -- by Liking their comment on a contest -- but sharing cannot be a form of entering the contest.

Looks like 144 people helped Nature's Bakery violate the rules!

Just so you don't think I'm picking on Nature's Bakery, here's another offender (Lake Tahoe North) that collected 176 shares:

share photo to win facebook contest

3. Upload Cover Photo to Win

This is an old trick I've seen many page owners use over the years:

  1. Load a great cover photo promoting your product or event
  2. Encourage fans to upload it as their cover photo for a chance to win something

Is this against the Facebook Guidelines?

Let's see:

All covers are public. This means that anyone who visits your Page will be able to see your cover. Covers can't be deceptive, misleading, or infringe on anyone else's copyright. You may not encourage people to upload your cover to their personal timelines.

Yep, seems like it's against the guidelines to me!

Even if you aren't doing it as a contest, encouraging fans to load your cover as theirs for exposure is a no-no.

Here's an example from a band, Fresh Bakin, who recently asked fans to load their cover photo to win tickets:

cover photo facebook contest

There is no way of knowing how many fans actually uploaded the cover -- but it does appear 91 people Liked the image, which was part of the "rules" for their contest.

Legit Facebook Timeline Contests

Don't get me wrong here -- if you want to run a contest on your timeline, then go for it!

Just make sure you follow the Facebook Guidelines.


1. If you use Facebook to communicate or administer a promotion (ex: a contest or sweepstakes), you are responsible for the lawful operation of that promotion, including:
a. The official rules;
b. Offer terms and eligibility requirements (ex: age and residency restrictions); and
c. Compliance with applicable rules and regulations governing the promotion and all prizes offered (ex: registration and obtaining necessary regulatory approvals)
2. Promotions on Facebook must include the following:
a. A complete release of Facebook by each entrant or participant.
b. Acknowledgement that the promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.
3. Promotions may be administered on Pages or within apps on Facebook. Personal Timelines must not be used to administer promotions (ex: “share on your Timeline to enter” or “share on your friend's Timeline to get additional entries” is not permitted).
4. We will not assist you in the administration of your promotion, and you agree that if you use our service to administer your promotion, you do so at your own risk.

In other words, you can require fans to enter your Timeline contest by:

  • Liking a post
  • Commenting on a post
  • Liking & Commenting a post
  • Posting on the Page's timeline
  • Sending a Message
  • Having the comment with the most Likes

It's very tempting to run contests that involve sharing, tagging & uploading your cover photo -- but don't do it.

And obviously you can still use 3rd party apps to run your contest.

You'll need to weigh the options of whether you run a Facebook Timeline contest or use a 3rd party app -- that's your call. But make sure you follow the rules!

New call-to-action

Schedule better content.
Reach more people.
Get more followers.

Start Free Trial