website-design1Maybe Facebook finally decided to ditch the rules they failed to enforce? Maybe they just want to cut down the revenue of third party apps and make a push for their own promoted posts? Either way, there we have it: the freedom to run Facebook promotions (almost) however we want – something thousands of clueless (or ignorant) page admins have been doing anyway for years. But if you’ve been a law-abiding Facebook user, you can rejoice!

According to the recent amendment to the Facebook Page Terms and Promotion Guidelines, third-party applications are no longer necessary to administer promotions on Facebook. You can now freely use Facebook’s native features, such as like, comment, post and message to run your sweepstakes.

Facebook Promotion Guidelines Have Been Updated!

The following types of promotions are now perfectly OK to run:

–    Like and comment on this post to enter the sweepstakes

–    Send us a private message describing why you like our new product for a chance to win it

–    Post a photo of you holding your favorite product from our new collection on our page’s timeline to enter the promotion

–    Caption this photo and may the best caption win

–    The photo posted on our timeline that gains the most likes will win

(There is no official word on check-ins yet, so it’s not clear if you can ask people to check into your place on Facebook in order to be entered.)

To sum it up: liking, posting, messaging, and commenting on your page can be used to enter a promotion, notify the winner or as a voting mechanism. But what about sharing?

The situation with sharing is a bit unclear. It certainly shouldn’t be used as a primary method of entry: because of the privacy settings you won’t be able to see everyone who shared your post. But it appears that you are still allowed to offer your participants option to share to earn bonus entries.

The new Promotion Guidelines mention that such requests as “share on your Timeline to enter” or “share on your friend’s Timeline to get additional entries” are not permitted, because it involves using personal timelines for promotion administration – still a no-no.  According to Facebook’s Promotion Guidelines FAQ and Best Practices, Facebook wants to see authentic, high-quality content on users’ personal timelines, and shared posts advertising a contest don’t fit this definition.

However, there is no provision that prohibits users from sharing your promotion voluntarily – just to let their friends know, so draw your conclusions. As a page admin, you would naturally want to spread the word about your promotion and encouraging fans to share is a free and effective way to do it. Considering it’s impossible to track what motivated a person to share a post, and that Facebook was pretty lax about enforcing their rules in the past, I doubt they will go after you if you encourage your fans to share your promotion after they had entered.

But don’t get wild just yet: Facebook still wants you to follow a few rules.

Make sure your promotion includes:

  • The official rules that describe in detail the regulations governing your promotion.
  • A complete release of Facebook by each participant. (This is verbatim from the guidelines; please enlighten me if you know what this means)
  • Acknowledgment that the promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook.
  • Disclosure that the participant is providing information to the page owner and not to Facebook if any information is being collected.

So, are you going to ditch third-party apps now?

Using Facebook’s features to run your promotions is quite convenient and it’s FREE! However, I think apps might be a preferred platform for long-lasting, elaborate promotions, while Facebook’s timeline can be used for short, low-obligation sweepstakes with a small amount of prizes. The reasoning behind this is that even though Facebook’s features offer great potential for engagement, they don’t offer much customization options or analytics tools.

Here are just a few ways how running promotions on your Facebook page without the use of third party apps is limiting:

  • Finding room for all the disclaimers and official rules might get challenging – you would need to use notes or maybe even a separate tab.
  • There is no way to personalize the look of your entry page or add branding elements. You will be missing out on customizing your promotion and making it truly unique.
  • Collecting information from the participants and verifying their eligibility is going to be time consuming.* Profile privacy settings most likely won’t let you see the person’s age or location. The one way is to ask everyone to DM you their info, but you still have to manually enter it in a spreadsheet.
  • Notifying a winner is not as easy as it seems. If all you have is the person’s name and link to their Facebook profile, you can only hope they see your winner announcement in their newsfeed or notifications.
  • Things can get confusing when you repost your original promotion post – difficult to determine for your fans what to like and where to leave a comment.

*It appears that quite a few third-party app providers have already came up with solutions to help you collect entries from on-page promotions, such as like/comment to win. Check out these tools from Woobox, Socially Stacked and an upcoming one from Heyo.

So…. If you want to run a month-long sweepstakes with daily entries limited to your state of residence and people over 18, you are better off using an app. This way, you can easily collect information, check entrants’ eligibility and monitor your promotion. If you have ever administered sweepstakes with age, location or other restrictions, you would know that anywhere from 1% to 90% of the entries you receive are ineligible to win the prize and have to be discarded. Sorting through hundreds of entries is tedious even when they are already in front of you – collecting them manually from Facebook posts and messages is even worse.

When should I use Facebook Timeline Promotions, then?

  • When your promotion is short, i.e. will run for 1 day or no longer than 1 week
  • When you don’t care who enters: fans, non-fans, users from across the globe – anyone (just because it will be difficult to track)
  • When you don’t plan to collect emails or other personal information from the participants
  • When people are only required to enter once (although this can also be difficult to track)
  • When you are giving away a small number of inexpensive prizes (no iPads) – something people won’t cause uproar about if they think someone won unfairly.
  • When your goal is to increase engagement on your page, connect with your current fans and gain a few new ones.

Because these timeline promotions are so easy to administer and quick to set up, it might be tempting to run them often. However, don’t fall in this never-ending circle of prize giveaways or you’ll end up with a page full of reward-hungry fans not nterested in your business. With the help of promotions you can get people’s attention: they might have come for the prize, but make them stay for the value.