Stop Running Share-to-Win Contests

Stop Running Share-to-Win Contests on Facebook

We’ve all seen the posts: “Share, like, and comment on this post to win a prize!” What if I told you that share-to-win contests were against Facebook’s terms of service, unfair to your page’s fans, and could get your page shut down?

The appeal is understandable. By asking fans to share a post to enter a contest, you’re tapping into their network of friends and getting free advertising on their timelines. As more people share the post, it goes viral.

For many years commenting, liking, and sharing were all three “illegal” entries to Facebook contests. But we still see posts like the one below from local businesses, media outlets, and even large companies all the time. So many in fact that Facebook has revised its guidelines to allow comments and likes in contests. Sharing remains strictly forbidden though.

West Crust Share-to-Win Facebook Contest
A Facebook post from a local business administering an “illegal” share-to-win contest.
Terms of Service

Facebook’s page guidelines are pretty clear in stating what’s allowable regarding contests. Section III-E-3 about promotions specifically addresses asking fans to share content to their timelines.

Personal Timelines and friend connections 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”, and “tag your friends in this post to enter” are not permitted).

Facebook page admins should familiarize themselves with the guidelines. Though it may be rare, Facebook reserves the right to unpublish pages that repeatedly infringe on its terms.

Unfair to Fans

Other than being against the rules, share-to-win contests are also unfair to many who enter. Because some users’ privacy settings are so strict, their “entries” may never even be seen or have a chance of winning.

The post in the photo above shows 187 shares. But if you were to click through and view the shares, you’d only be able to see a fraction of them. This is true for page admins as well. They can’t see everyone who shares their posts, only those with loose enough privacy settings.

3 “Legal” Alternatives

Just because sharing is off the table doesn’t mean your Facebook page can’t benefit from running a contest. There are other options that don’t break Facebook’s rules and are fair to your fans.

  1. Comment-to-Win or Like-to-Win: Commenting and liking are still allowable ways to enter contests. You could require both. But I’ve had a lot of success with requiring only comments. Then at the close of the contest, you can reply directly to the winning comment letting them know they won. You don’t get the added exposure of a share, but commenting still increases the reach of your posts. (And it’s funny how many people will still comment, like, AND share because they’ve been conditioned to do so.)
  2. Via Application or Tab: Use a sweepstakes form to collect entries to a drawing. Online tools like Shortstack (my personal favorite), Woobox, and Pagemodo make it easy to build professional-looking tabs and landing pages that live on your Facebook page. Most are cheap or free. Using a form will also allow you to collect additional information for email marketing or other future promotional efforts.
  3. Post-to-Page: Have fans post directly to your page to enter your contest. Maybe do a photo contest where the photo with the most likes wins. The increased activity will also help boost your page’s engagement and reach.

Good luck on creating your next legal Facebook contest. Do me a small favor… Bookmark this blog post. Next time you see an illegal share-to-win contest on Facebook, post the link in the comments. 😉

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