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New Facebook competition rules

By Expert commentator 08 Oct, 2013
Facebook Marketing

Should you run competitions on your Facebook Timeline?

On October 24th, Richard Jones, CEO of EngageSciences, will give a talk at Social Media Marketing 2013 (London) on ‘What's Really Behind Facebook's Competition Rule Changes?’ To explain the opportunity and to get you in the mood, I’m offering my own take on how and when you should make use of Timeline competitions and when you should steer well clear. The change was first alerted to Smart Insights readers in Rhian Simm's post on Facebook's new competition rules on 29th August 2013 - so it's a relatively new issue.

Facebook Rule changes

First of all, let’s be clear on what the Facebook rule changes actually are.

For the past two years it’s been against Facebook rules to run a competition directly on a Facebook Page and all Facebook competitions have needed to be managed through a third party app – such as those offered by Wildfire, Agorapulse and Engage Sciences.

This has changed. You can now run competitions on your Facebook Timeline that Facebook users can enter by writing a new a post, liking or commenting on a post, or sending a private message.

In many respects this is great news for Facebook marketing; running a competition can now be incredibly quick, easy and totally free. In others, it’s not so clear. Timelines have big limitations which mean that third party apps still have their place.

Why should you use a Timeline promotion?

There is no doubt that small businesses will enjoy not having to pay for a third party app to run contests on Facebook. Even if you use one of the most affordable third party apps, creating and designing your promotion is going to require a time commitment that’s often hard to justify.

Likewise, if you run regular promotions with low-value giveaways and prizes, simply posting to your Timeline will save you a great deal of time and effort

A great example of a company doing this is American restaurant chain Skyline Chilli in Mansfield, Ohio. You can also embed cards in your blog...


Timeline promotions also offer a good opportunity for big brands, particularly those with a large but dis-engaged audience, to boost the performance of their page.

Timeline competitions provide an opportunity to maximise engagement levels among existing fans, since it’s usually easier to like or share a post than it is to click into and engage with an app.

This engagement will improve the Page’s Edgerank – the calculation by which Facebook decides how many of your fans actually see your posts in their newsfeeds – which will mean that future posts get seen by more fans.

Why should you use a third party app?

Although contest entries can be collected through likes, comments and private messages, asking users to enter competitions using shares, invites and tags is still against the rules (even if a lot of Pages are continuing to ignore this – see below).

These are the most powerful viral drivers, so unless you’re spending money on advertising – e.g. promoted posts - the viral reach of your Timeline competition is going to be limited.

In other words, whilst a Timeline competition will help you reach your existing fans, it will not necessarily help to you attract new ones.


Perhaps the main appeal of using a third party app is for data capture. Timeline promotions do not allow you to collect contact information such as email addresses and phone numbers (as shown below)– and they don’t give users the option to share their existing Facebook data with your company or even ‘like-gate’ your promotion. Third party apps remain the only way to do any of this.


It’s quite possible that a large brand can receive tens of thousands of entries for a competition in which they offer a decent prize in exchange for a simple like or comment, but this creates a logistical headache when it comes to ‘fairly’ selecting a winner from so many entries.

You also need to be prepared to deal with cheaters and scammers. People often try to game the system by creating fake accounts or buying votes and the result is that your prize ends up going to a scammer and your genuine fans feel cheated. There are countless examples of this that you can read about online.

To counter this, most third party applications offer features designed to help you identify cheating behaviours and ban scammers.

There are also some very practical issues benefits of using third party apps. Most apps will have a special section where you can edit the terms and conditions of your competition.

Terms and Conditions of social media

Having clear T&C’s is a legal requirement when running a competition in most countries, but without the third party app, where are these terms and conditions going to sit?

You could place them on an external website and provide a link to them in your post, but that won’t do wonders for the post’s aesthetics. Rather unhelpfully, the example Facebook used in their own announcement of the rule changes (below) included no mention of T&C’s!


While I think most organisations are pleased to be able to use Timeline competitions and contests to boost engagement and maintain regular interaction with fans, there’s no doubt that Facebook apps remain a valuable tool.

Possibly the greatest benefit of apps is yet to be felt by most organisations. The next phase of social media marketing is going to focus on how companies sustain and deepen their relationships with fans and followers. This move towards social CRM is only possible when you’re able to identify and engage with fans on an individual basis – something that’s almost impossible to do on a Timeline.

Apps that enable you to rank, tag and engage with your top fans are going to become a must-have tool for social media teams.

If you’re really advanced, of course, you’re using them already.

You can join Luke Brynley-Jones at Social Media Marketing 2013, on the 23 & 24 October in London. The 2 day conference and workshop will cover in panels, talks and Q&As Facebook marketing, integrating social and digital, influencer marketing, B2B lead generation plus much more. Save 10% with code SMINSIGHTS. Book tickets here.

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