social media how toAre you thinking of running a contest or promotion on Facebook? Have the rules imposed by Facebook confused you?

Look no further.  This article will provide an in-depth look at Facebook’s promotional rules.

The Tricky Rules

Running a contest on Facebook is a powerful way to generate buzz, increase engagement, boost your fan count and build your email list. But Facebook has rigorous rules governing what campaigns you can and cannot administer and promote on their platform.

For several years, the contest rules were fairly loose and Facebook users and page admins could pretty much administer whatever campaigns they wished within the confines of Facebook’s general terms (now called Statement of Rights and Responsibilities).

However, in 2009, Facebook severely tightened up their promotion guidelines, causing a great deal of confusion even two years later. To quote Susan Getgood on her post about Facebook contests:

Bottom line, Facebook doesn’t want any explicit involvement in ANY of your contests. It’s all about liability, and the Facebook promo guidelines are designed to distance the social network from whatever companies and bloggers do with their contests.

Every day, vast numbers of page admins—from small businesses to major brands—administer promotions that violate Facebook’s rules.  They are running the risk of having their pages disabled completely. I strongly recommend all Facebook page admins become very familiar with how to safely run contests within the rules.

This post will tell you what you need to know.

What does Facebook mean by a “promotion”?

To quote Facebook:

These Promotions Guidelines govern your communication about or administration of any sweepstakes, contest, competition or other similar offering (each, a “promotion”) on Facebook.

A “sweepstakes” is a promotion that includes a prize and a winner selected on the basis of chance.

A “contest” or “competition” is a promotion that includes a prize and a winner determined on the basis of skill (i.e., through judging based on specific criteria).

So, anytime you run a campaign on Facebook where you wish to select a winner, that would fall into the terms of Facebook’s Promotions Guidelines.

Facebook also says:

You will not administer a promotion through Facebook, except through an application on the Facebook Platform. Administration includes operation of any element of the promotion, such as collecting entries, conducting a drawing, judging entries, or notifying winners.

Simply said: You can’t use Facebook’s features for your promotions!

A promotion where you select winners is not to be confused with you simply promoting and marketing your business—that’s exactly the reason Facebook (fan) pages were designed!

What are Facebook’s contest rules in plain English?

On November 6, 2009, Facebook changed their Promotions Guidelines significantly. Prior to this date, it was pretty much a free-for-all. With the changed rules, Facebook basically went from one extreme to the other.

In order to administer any kind of contest, you had to (1) get written approval from Facebook at least seven days prior to running your campaign, (2) have an account rep at Facebook and meet the minimum ad spend of $10,000 per month and (3) use a third-party app on the Facebook platform.

Then, on November 29, 2010, Facebook loosened up a bit and changed rules.  So, the good news is:

  1. You no longer need written permission from Facebook in order to run a contest.
  2. You no longer need an account rep at Facebook, nor do you need to meet the minimum monthly ad spend.
  3. BUT you still must administer ALL contests on Facebook via a third-party app ON the Facebook platform.

That’s right! You MUST use an app to conduct a contest or risk having Facebook come down on you. Unless of course you’re a big time advertiser with Facebook.

What apps are best for running contests?

One of the most widely used apps is Wildfire app. Their interface is fairly easy to use and their fees are competitive.


Wildfire app

You can choose among 10 different types of promotions, including photo, video, quiz, trivia and more:

wildfireapp choices

Wildfire app promotion choices

wildfireapp choices

Wildfire app promotion choices

See Wildfire’s FAQ to decide among running a sweepstakes, contest or coupon/giveaway campaign.

A wide variety of third-party apps offer promotion services that meet Facebook’s rules. Check out any of the following:

  • UPDATE March 5, 2011: Two additional promotions app services to check out include Offerpop and PromoBoxx.
  • UPDATE March 14, 2011: Another promotions app to add to this list is Freepromos (currently 400k monthly active users!). Free for Pages with fewer than 5,000 fans. $100 for Pages with 5,000-50,000. White label also available.

See also this related post: Top 75 Apps for Enhancing Your Facebook Page. Plus, see Facebook’s list of preferred developers here.

Can I select a fan at random to give away a prize?

No. This constitutes a drawing where winners get selected. You’re effectively using Facebook to “collect entries.” Plus, you cannot contact winners inside Facebook at all—via email, chat or posting on their wall—nor can you post winners on your page wall.

What you can do, for example, is select a fan at random and feature him or her in your page photo. Or possibly feature chosen fan(s) on a custom tab (link). As long as you don’t have other fans vote or submit nominations, etc.


Toys R Us Featured Fan!

Toys ”R” Us currently runs a fun Featured Fan promotion. Keep in mind the submission and voting is, of course, part of an official sanctioned promotion being run on a third-party app.

Toys R Us Featured Photo Facebook Contest

Toys "R" Us Featured Photo Facebook contest. Note the link to terms and conditions.

Can I have my fans enter a contest by uploading photos?

Not if you ask fans to upload photos directly to Facebook. Photos, or any content, submitted for entry into a contest can only be done via a third-party app on the Facebook platform. The Facebook app doesn’t count.

From the Promotions Guidelines:

You cannot: Condition entry in the promotion upon a user providing content on Facebook, such as posting on a wall of a page, uploading a photo, or posting a status update.

You can: Use a third-party application to condition entry to the promotion upon a user providing content to the application. For example, you may administer a photo contest whereby a user uploads a photo to a third-party application to enter the contest.

I searched extensively for a Flickr Facebook app, for example, that might be a good workaround for running a contest, but came up blank.

If you do a Google search for “Facebook photo contest,” unfortunately, you’ll see there are scores of Facebook pages running photo contests that do not adhere to Facebook’s terms.

Here’s a fun example of a photo contest—that does comply with Facebook’s Promotions Guidelines—by the United States Potato Board:

Twice Baked, Twice As Smart Recipe Photo Contest

Twice Baked, Twice as Smart recipe photo contest

Can I give away a prize to anyone who likes my page?

You CAN restrict your promotion only to entrants who have first liked your page, as long as the promotion is administered through a third-party app on a separate canvas page (now a link, formerly a tab).

Plus, good news! You CAN provide a giveaway and even collect names and emails from fans and visitors to your page. I highly recommend you add a custom contact form to your page. Use the sign-up box code from your own email management system, or create your own form code using something like JotForm, reviewed here.

You can use a piece of “fan only” reveal code to give away a coupon code or special gift to everyone who likes your page. Check out Guy Kawasaki‘s Facebook page for his forthcoming book, Enchantment, where he gives away a free ebook just for liking his page.

Guy Kawasaki - Enchantment Facebook Page

Guy Kawasaki—Enchantment Facebook page

See the Facebook page of 1-800-Flowers for a discount code, only revealed to users who like their page.

How can I tell if a contest on Facebook adheres to the guidelines?

Promotions on Facebook need to have clearly set-out terms that are visible right on the canvas page. For example, here’s the Twice Baked, Twice as Smart photo contest rules:

Contest Rules for Twice Baked, Twice As Smart

Contest rules for Twice Baked, Twice as Smart

Can I promote a contest on my Facebook page that I run on my blog?

Yes. As long as there’s no requirement to do anything on Facebook; e.g., like your page, comment, upload content, etc. You can simply post a link on your page to the contest. And, to be fully safe, I would also include this disclosure, “This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.”

Is it worth the risk to run a contest without a third-party app?

No, the risks are far too great, in my opinion.  Yes, Facebook does not have the resources to monitor every single promotion on the platform. But, you never know when you might catch the attention of their legal department.

In addition to our other remedies, we may remove any materials relating to the promotion or disable your page, application or account if we determine in our sole discretion that you violate any of our policies.

Facebook is serious about taking action if they discover a violation. My friend, Jonathan Rivera, had an experience with his real estate referral Facebook page where there was an inadvertent use of a trademark. Despite Rivera’s becoming compliant, Facebook shut down the very popular page with tens of thousands of fans. Fortunately, the issue got resolved in a fairly timely manner and Jonathan got his page back intact… under a new name.

So, just take note that any violation of Facebook’s terms is obviously a risk. (Along with directly administering contests and promotions on your Facebook page, two other common violations are setting up more than one personal profile and/or setting up a personal profile in the name of a business.)

Hopefully the fog around contests on Facebook has lifted for you now! All you need to remember is anytime you wish to run any kind of promotion where you select a winner, you’ll have to use a third-party application on the Facebook platform. I’ll be writing a follow-up post covering the specifics of what makes a successful contest. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, what questions do you have about contests? Have you run any successful promotions yourself? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

UPDATE March 5, 2011: It may be that you can run a contest using Facebook‘s new iFrames feature and remain in compliance with the Promotions Guidelines. Essentially, you are creating your own app in order to use iFrames and you host the content on your own site. I’m waiting to hear back from Facebook with the definitive answer and will keep you posted. Also, please note that my use of the term “third party app” includes an app you create yourself if you have the know-how/resources to do so – you basically become the “third party” in this case.

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  • Essential stuff, and thanks for clarifying things in plain English. Brilliant!

  • This does clear things up a lot. I have to say that although I understand their reasoning, it makes it difficult and/or cost prohibitive for companies to run contests on FaceBook. I admit that in the past I have run several contests, that now have learned have violated FaceBooks terms. A new weekly “caption contest” where we will give a nominal prize will likely have to be eliminated due to cost prohibitions, its not feasible to spend $200+ a week for an app that will allow you to give away a $20 prize. The other aspect is that I feel you lose some of the fan engagement when running the contest on a 3rd party app. In the past we have got great mileage from enabling fans to vote for the winning photo or story or whatever. Since the fans get their friends to join the page and vote for their submission. I think some of the impact here is lost with a 3rd party app. Finally, it is frustrating to see our competitors run these contests weekly and receiving the all the mileage while running contests that are against FaceBooks’ guidelines. Ok done ranting!

  • Thanks Mari! Fantastic and concise overview of the sometimes-labyrinth rules that govern Facebook!

  • Thanks for all the great info, Mari! FB’s contest/promotions/sweepstakes/etc. rules are very confusing so it’s pretty easy for people to violate them and not even know it. I agree with Sam’s comment about the sole use of 3rd party apps negatively impacting fan engagement, especially since those apps have been changed from prominent tabs at the top to small links under the profile picture. It would be nice for FB to at least issue a warning first to page admins if the rules are being violated so they have a chance to correct it before being outright banned.

    A couple quick questions on the 3rd party apps – 1) are any of the ones you listed above free? (I’m also concerned about having to eliminate contest b/c it’s cost prohibitive), and 2) I just want to confirm that using FBML (while it lasts) is perfectly fine for running contests?

  • Facebook queen strikes again…and how. Wow. I never looked at FB in so much depth mostly cuz I havent done any contests and what not, but its good to have this breakdown.

    I have 3 clients talking to me about FB contests right now, and lets just say this info is sooooo timely for me 🙂 thnx

  • Thanks for this! I’ve been looking for a “plain-English” explanation for a while. I too have inadvertently violated the TOS, but am always trying to become more compliant. I shared this with my business friends too, because for those of us with very small businesses, the penalties are simply too high.

  • Excellent post…very clear and concise but an easy read! Knowing this information certainly has the power to save people alot of trouble, frustration and disappointment. Great work!

  • Thanks Mari, this will help with setting up our custom application. We will be allowing entries and voting via canvas tabs on our Facebook page.

    To notify winners, we will collect email addresses. Not only are we complying with Facebook’s rules but we’re also building a database of interested followers.

    If your reading this and want to help, we need 25 likes to get our custom URL. Simply visit and hit like!

  • Thank you for this Mari! I’ve been screaming about this to clients and friends alike who I’ve watched violate many of these rules (yeah, I wrote a blog post about it: I’m glad to see one of the players at the front of the pack focus on this as many people still don’t understand. Facebook’s language on this is quite cryptic, and you’ve explained it wonderfully. Thanks Mari and keep up the great work!

  • simply awesome explanation Mari and another good post here on the Examiner.

  • Terriebari

    I would also like ot know about the FBML tab (which I don’t think they are going to be getting rid of even with the new interface). FBML is an application, but isn’t it FBs own app? If we can use those tabs, that would work, but it sounds to me like they mean an app completely seperate from FB??

  • Terriebari

    Ah, I see that the apps are actually right within maybe the FBML tabs are an option?!

  • Eric

    Check out First2Click – it is a cost-effective “competition” server that only uses social platforms to publish a link to the contest page and so stays within guidelines (I believe) of relative social platforms.
    I would love to hear others interpretation of the FB promotion guidelines and how First2Click aligns.

  • Missjulie

    OK, so a few questions. The contest has to be “administered” outside of FB but rather than using a 3rd party app you could direct people to a landing page on your site and then for a photo contest, for example, you could ask them to email you the photos. Since the rules, details, etc are on the LP and you ask them to email you the entries you are “administering” the contest outside of FB, correct?

    But if you want to post the photos yourself (that you received via email) in your company’s FB photo album and make the contest where the photo w/ the most “likes” wins – is that allowed or is that considered a no-no as well?

    Also, you mentioned that you can’t randomly select a fan to give a prize to. Does that mean you can’t select them completely out of the blue, without them “entering” to win something at all? What about if you ask a question & then choose someone that replies to the post to win something? Is that OK since they put their name in the hat so- to-speak? I thought I had a good grasps of FB contests but it seems like it’s even more complicated than I realized! Thanks Mari!

  • Eric

    Hi Dino, I would love to have you check out First2Click for your consideration

  • Missjulie

    One more question…If you contact the winner via email to let them know they’ve won a contest, you can post their name after the fact as the winner, right? You just can’t notify the winner that way – but it’s OK to let everyone else know the winner after they’ve been contacted outside of FB, correct?

  • Ginny

    Another great tool to administer your Facebook promotion is Promoboxx ( It’s pricing is simple and it’s a complete turnkey solution — from Legal support to advertising management to design. The best part is that the people at Promoboxx rock.

  • Wim Temmerman

    Wonderfull! As to comment on the photo contest. I also searched intensively and came to the conclusion that only Wildfire and OfferPop are in the game for this. And to respond to Sam above: check out They really have acceptable pricing if you would aim for the SMB market. greetz-wim

  • I blogged about this here and linked up this article! I am so fortunate to follow Mari on Facebook where I get her daily insight!

  • Bdillon3

    I have yet to find a case where a page has been shutdown for running a promotion that violates their terms. So many pages do it all the time with no penalty. This makes it very tough. If there were some clearer examples of pages being shutdown then it would make more sense. What are the chances that your page will be the first one to be shutdown for running contests against the rules….

  • AngieVanDenzen

    What timing Mari! We just launched a simple Enter to Win on our Facebook page today at

    We wanted so badly to host our own app/contest within compliance to all of the Facebook regulations, and were finally confident enough to launch it this morning! And then your blog post came out.

    After a good read through, I’m satisfied that we are in good shape. Thanks so much for spelling it out in one place to refer to! You rock!

    Angie VanDenzen
    Social Media Coordinator at Circus Strategic Communications

  • I’ll echo Missjulie’s questions. The small business I work for has been contemplating running a small promotion on FB with the intent of gathering more subscribers to our newsletter.

    It seems as if promoting our even on FB would be okay: “Hey everybody– go to this page (link to landing page on our business web site) to enter.”

    We could then notify the winner via email and then congratulate the winner with a post on Facebook.

  • Hi Mari. What a massive piece of explaining on a subject that is so confusing. Thanks for making it plain English, much appreciated!

    I for one thought you could give a book away say to a random fan, but it seems not still if I understand it correctly. Third party apps only. Have you ever run a competition?

  • Mari,
    Thanks so much for this. I’ve had several discussions with others regarding these rules, and we’ve decided not to do any promos on Facebook without 3rd party apps because it is indeed to risky.

    I would love to see a follow-up article that compares all these 3rd party apps – cost/benefits for different “basic” campaigns.

    Thanks again for a great and informative article

  • CyPrice

    Don’t forget

  • CyPrice


    What app are you using?

  • CyPrice

    Absolutely love Offerpop!

  • Thanks for the great info!!!

  • I like your last 2 questions Missjulie, I’ve got the same ones as we do something similar to that with weekly contests on our page. Please let me know if you find out the answers!

  • AngieVanDenzen

    Hi Cy,

    When Facebook decided to allow iFrames on page tabs a few weeks ago, our web developers decided that it would be best to create the app in-house rather than outsourcing to an app-developer. This gives us much more control over the look, feel and data collected. We’re working on a few of these contests now, and have been able to include some fun games as well.

    This was the first contest app we have rolled out publicly, and used it on our own Facebook page to test the waters while Facebook works out some of the bugs for this new page layout & functionality.


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  • Colson

    Would this include encouraging Facebook comment posts and likes by providing a prize to a randomly selected participant? It seems that Facebook wants to encourage engagement without allowing any incentive to join the conversation.

  • AngieVanDenzen

    Speaking of crazy Facebook rules & regs….

    How about their guidelines to using screenshots?

    From a marketer / blogger’s standpoint, I was particularly irritated to discover this one, though I do understand why it’s in place.

    Angie VanDenzen
    Social Media Coordinator at Circus Strategic Communications

  • CyPrice

    Looks good and very well done! I love promos and all of the creative ideas that companies implement to engage users. I “Liked” your page to stay updated on your progress. Good Luck with the contest!

  • I find facebook promotions to be extremely powerful for increasing visibility. I recently ran a 7 day sweepstakes for a free 1 hour social media consultation, and we received about 100 entries and monthly active users increased by 80%, which has remained constant since the sweepstakes deployment. I definitely want to experiment with other promotions in the future.

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  • I swear, Mari, I was going to email you this week to ask if you had written a plain-English guide to FB contests…and here you have it! Thanks!

  • Is there any issue for companies who sponsor giveaways that are “administered” on a different company’s FB page? I’ve sponsored a couple of these that might have been questionable under the super-strict (insane) guidelines. I’m just going to stay away from hosting a giveaway of my own so I don’t get in trouble. It’s so annoying that FB enjoys making life difficult for people, especially for tiny businesses like mine.

  • Wow! I have never seen that before either. I’ve totally used them to explain Facebook. Hundreds of sites that make Facebook more understandable have used screen shots to show people how to use it. I imagine most of them have not received written permission. Like you, I understand why they’re covering their arses, but man, if they ever choose to crack down…

  • Tesler is another great place to see facebook apps. They’ve done great work for both the Oakland Raiders and Lions Gate Entertainment.

  • Be careful…

    I’m quite sure you’re passing along some bad info in this article, regarding what you describe as a REQUIREMENT to use a third-party app for promotions.

    See for my thoughts.

  • fantastic! I like how you sued the iframe idea to get around the 3rd party app thing.

    Did you have to register your own app to use the iframe though? Or do the facebook iframes work the same as FBML tabs? I’ve only really messed with FBML tabs to access files outside of facebook. This is my page:

    cheers all!

  • Very nice explanation there. Although, speaking french I am not sure if I understood well some part of this article. Like others, I am wondering if it works with the FBML static application. Also, I have seen a business page running a contest in Notes application, like to write an article about the Contest and have fans like the article to participate. Then they pick someone’s name to be the winner. I would think this way is not allowed. Can you confirm, please?

  • AngieVanDenzen

    Hey Vega, I like how you used the roll-over buttons on your FBML tab for sure!

    To answer your question,yes you’d need to register your app at When we had development questions, we often found answers at Like Mari, Tim at Hyperarts has a knack of describing things in an easy-to-follow way!

  • What if you run a “contest” to name something or pick a color or something? I have seen and participated in these before. Name our new sandwich for example. You are in effect collecting entrants, voting (the community votes) and picking a winner. But there is not really a “prize” per say.

  • Jeff – From Facebook’s guidelines…

    “These Promotions Guidelines, along with the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, the Ad Guidelines, the Platform Policies and all other applicable Facebook policies, govern your communication about or administration of any sweepstakes, contest, competition or other similar offering (each, a “promotion”) on Facebook. A “sweepstakes” is a promotion that includes a prize and a winner selected on the basis of chance. A “contest” or “competition” is a promotion that includes a prize and a winner determined on the basis of skill (i.e., through judging based on specific criteria).”

    If there’s no “prize” given to a “winner”, it’s not a promotion according to these guidelines. But in order to do the voting, you’re probably going to want to do it as an app anyhow.

  • The Notes app is Facebook content, and therefore not allowed. On top of that, using “Likes” to “vote” is also forbidden if there are winners and prizes involved.

  • Alright, thanks for the answer.
    Anyone know about the FBML application?

  • Thank you for clarifying that for us, Mari. It is annoying that we need to use an outside app. because Facebook is so slow to help with any other type of support issues. But I do agree it is not worth the risk going against their terms of service/

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  • TwoothFairy

    Wow, didn’t know this! Thanks for the great article and saving my butt!

  • Mariclare

    Wow Thank you for this blog – You’ve summarised it all in really clear English. And its timely for me as I have a client who has just been asking about a FB promotion.

  • Mariclare

    I’m just thinking about this – If a company does a giveaway of a special merchandise item to everyone who “Checks in” on Facebook – and literally everyone who checks in gets an item – Does that violate the rules? I’m guessing it does because it is using a FB feature…

  • GD

    So so so many (big) companies break these regulations, that I’ve been unsure of how tightly you have to adhere to them.

    But, I think my last company did actually get hit by Facebook for this. Our page was closed down for over a week at Christmas (the page was there, but no one could write anything on it) in the middle of a contest.

    I think it did adhere to all the conditions you mentioned here – there was an FBML tab with a form in which you had to enter your email address to enter the competition… BUT, Facebook also have rules on prizes that can be given away.

    From memory, items you are not allowed to give away are drugs, alcohol, illegal firearms or DAIRY PRODUCTS! And we were giving away a cake per day for a month

    We never had any explanation from Facebook, and the site eventually came back (from memory it was from a contact there and reminding them we were spending a lot on advertising).
    So it might not have been that, but I assumed that’s what it was.

  • Thanks for the thorough explanation Mari!! It definitely is not worth the risk. I have used the Wildfire App several times and it works beautifully. One tip I will pass on: I have noticed when you ask for user participation like entering a video or writing an essay you loose a lot of entrants. They start the contest and then opt out before submitting. Not that this is a bad thing but something to keep in mind when choosing the type of promotion you are going to run. Thanks again Mari for great info!

  • that was awesome and extremely clear. Thank you. I do just have ONE question b/c I think I may still be doing this wrong. You said FB does let us promote our BLOG giveaway provided we don’t “require” a FB like. I have typically give an OPTIONAL entry to like my FB page as an entry to the giveaway. Does the fact that it’s optional and not required still violate the FB rules? I would REALLY love to know this as I do NOT want to be in violation.

    Thank you!

  • Holly Lawson

    I have the same question Julie.
    I do the Facebook as an option only as well. Networked Blogs automatically posts my posts on the FB page. Am I in violation for posting the winner of my blog giveaways?

  • In facebook some application are automatic posting comments on my wall..advice me how i stop automatic comment/post on my wall.

  • Wim Temmerman

    Frank just to get this simple right: using Offerpop or Wildfire to run a Photo Contest is perfectly allowed, correct? When using this 3rd party apps, you can announce a winner right? Now the rules say as follows:
    “you cannot contact winners inside Facebook at all—via email, chat or posting on their wall—nor can you post winners on your page wall.” So actually this means for every contest you do, you need to get the participant’s external e-mail address otherwise you can not alert them when they have won.

  • Am I understanding correctly that “third party” is defined in relation to FB and not the organization administering the Page? For instance, if my business has a Page on FB, would my business be allowed to develop and own the application being used by the business’ Page to run the contest?

  • Looking over the guidelines, I agree with Frank Patrick. The term “third-party” is only used in the examples. The actual guidelines use the term “application on the Facebook Platform.” To me it is clear that the application could be developed by either the promotion holder or a third-party.

    One other line I notice in the guidelines states: “You may require that an entrant like a Page, check in to a Place, or connect to your Platform integration before providing their full entry information for a promotion.” That really opens the door to gain exactly what is required for marketing with the new Pages. A simple “Like” is all that is needed for gaining exposure for your brand across news feeds.

    I have a question which I believe has been mentioned previously in the comments. Wouldn’t it be fine to provide a link to a contest being conducted on an external website? It seems to me from reading over the guidelines that as long as the contest or promotion is not located on FB (except in an app) and not tied to FB, there should not be any restrictions in hyperlinking to it externally.

  • Laura D.

    Thank you SME and Mari for the great info always!!

    After reading this and then all the comments I just want to verify… are OK if you create an “App” (with the new iFrames on page) and have the contest info ON this APP link?
    And, am I limited as to what I can say on the wall when promoting?

  • Excellent article… it’d be good if you could make promoters more aware of the issues of voting competitions, especially cheating issues, buying votes, using photo images from Google to enter photo comps. So many go into their Facebook promotions blind it’s unreal and can often result in a major PR disaster aversion exercise.

  • That sounds right, Wim. You would capture the participant’s contact info through your promotion’s app.

  • Great post, thank you, and the comments below are very helpful also. Just to complivcate things further, the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority now applies their CAP code to promotions in non-paid for spaces such as Facebook pages. Legal, decent, honest and true – with special rules applying to children’s, alcohol and tobacco marketing. I don’t mean to spam, but it’s a bit complex for a comment – if you’d like to know more, I’ve blogged about it here:

  • Great summary of the policy guidelines; didn’t read every comment, but Canadian promotional guidelines vary a bit, as well. Stuzo is another Facebook preferred developer, but we (transparency) specialize in large-scale custom experiences, rather than plug-and-play solutions. Get at me on Twitter; happy to tell you more.

  • Thanks for explaining this in simple terms. We are just on the verge of launching our 1st facebook competition which now reading this looks as though it violates the TOS. Back to the drawing board! Would be great to get some examples of effective campaigns and competitions that don’t break these new rules. Looking forward to your follow up info!

  • Thanks Frank for clarifying

  • Mari, Very relevant topic and good post spelling out in easy to understand terms what is involved. Helps us navigate the social media jungle as well as help others along the way.

  • Questioner

    This is an excellent explanation. Thanks very much. What is facebook’s policy as regards selling through a fan page or f-commerce within the facebook page. Do they allow it? Anyone know? Thanks!

  • I’m glad to see this. It was strange to see a contest on a FB page and not know how they were drawing winners.

  • I’m glad to see this. It was strange to see a contest on a FB page and not know what process they went through to draw a winner.

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  • Thank you for this very comprehensive post, which I will share with all my clients. I particularly like your use of Boldface in the key phrases, because many disbelieve the guidelines and their negative potential.

  • By Jove, I think you’ve got it. 😉

  • Fran – I’d suggest you read the comments before sharing with your client. I’ve offered a correction of one issue at

  • thanks for the great writeup. This is very helpful! Now, if only I have the tech knowhow of creating my own app….any HOW-TO links for that?

  • MGDesigns

    I know of at least three (off the top of my head) in my industry that have been shut down for violating these rules in the last six months. There is no notice, and it can take months for Facebook to even reply as to WHY the page was removed. It is definitely not worth the risk.

  • Thank you so much Mari for this article. I’ve been planning for a long time to start some promotions in my facebook page and I knew there was more to it than just posting a contest.

  • Kristell

    Thank you for this article: it’s a very goog summary for all the pages admin. We still see so many pages (sometimes for very big business!) violating promotion FB rules. I mean, if you want to play a game, start by reading the Rules!
    In France, we had a case of violating FB rules by the Kiabi page (clothing for all the family), I don’t know if you heard about it: the page admin used to organize promotion on the page wall. And… Facebook just closed the page for Christmas!

  • Hi Mari, its great article and it has the valuable information about face book fans and so on. Thank you so much for given a great article on here.

  • Thanks for such a great article Mari – Facebook’s legal terms can be confusing for clients unfamiliar with running their own social media campaigns, and this is a great piece to show them! Filing this article away for future reference. Cheers!

    Melissa Cahoon
    Interactive Marketing Intern

  • Great article, Mari! Halfway down you mentioned, “Plus, you cannot contact winners inside Facebook at all—via email, chat or posting on their wall—nor can you post winners on your page wall.” Is that valid even for a promotion that’s completely unrelated to Facebook? We do a pre-booking contest every month at our hair salon. We give a $50 gift card to a raffle winner. You get a raffle entry by pre-booking your next appointment. We announce our winners on Facebook (and our website and call them, etc.). I can’t imagine THIS isn’t allowed, but it is based on your wording. So just wanted to clarify. Thanks!

  • Thank you Mari for wonderful clarifications on many genres of Facebook Promotions? Do you think that you will be doing any “These are things you CAN do to Promote Your Business on your Facebook Business Page Wall” anytime soon.. As far as best practices, promotions that redirect back to their own website etc..? I believe that this kind of post would be just as useful as the cant’s~ Thank you for being so Amazing~!

  • I hear your rant, big time, Sam. It’s sure tempting to just run a simple photo contest or giveaway and most likely you’ll be fine. But, for me, I’m a rule-follower (in areas where it’s important!) and I don’t wish to jeopardize my relationship with Facebook.

    The interesting thing now, though, is that with the iFrames app technically you could host a contest on your own site and possible be within Facebook’s guidelines… it’s kind of a gray area!

  • Labyrinth – excellent descriptive word, Linda!! 🙂

  • Hey Tracy – ya, excellent point on a warning if rules are being violated, now that would be nice!

    Re the apps – there are very few that I know of that are free. Most all have a cost, some less expensive than others. Some have free trials. I do know that Wildfire are very reasonable as compared to some that start at enterprise level.

    FBML is not okay to run contests because it’s a Facebook app, not third party. There’s a small possibility it may be okay to run a contest using the new iFrames app, because essentially it’s “your” app with content hosted on your own server. But, it’s still Facebook’s framework.

  • Thank you kindly, Dino!! Glad to know I was reading your mind on the right timing. hehee!!

  • Hi Eric – is First2Click your company? I checked it out just now. I can’t quite tell if it’s an app that can be added to Facebook Pages? And what are the costs? It wasn’t obvious to me. Unless it’s all done on a click/points system. Thanks!

  • Totally agree, Alyssa!! I got on the “wrong side” of Facebook one time a while back and learned my lesson. (I had a popular blog with the word “facebook” in the domain. I went back and forth a fair bit with Facebook’s legal dept and attorneys trying to get special permission similar to a few other blogs… and in the end they took down my Page until I gave them the domain. Needless to say, my Page was not down for very long. LOL!)

  • Thank you kindly, Gordon! Glad to know you got value. 🙂

  • > …we’re also building a database of interested followers.

    Awesome! Makes perfect sense. Keep up the great work. 🙂

  • Ha! Russell, I love the name of your site. And what a cute wee kid in your banner. 🙂

    Thanks for your kind words. And keep up the great work yourself.

  • FBML is Facebook’s own app, so it doesn’t qualify as a “third party app” on which to run a contest.

    Any apps/tabs created up to and including March 11 using FBML will be grandfathered in terms of ongoing support. From March 12 onwards, it’ll only be iFrames and that’s still Facebook’s own app – even though essentially we have to create our own app in order to install it on our Page and we host our own content. SO, it could be that hosting a promotion on iFrames is in the gray area as far as the guidelines go.

  • [oops, duplicate post!]

  • Hi Eric – is First2Click your company? I checked it out just now. I can’t quite tell if it’s an app that can be added to Facebook Pages? And what are the costs? It wasn’t obvious to me. Unless it’s all done on a click/points system. Thanks!

  • Would the following contest be okay…?
    Fans submit picture to contest by emailing their name and photo
    Entries are uploaded to a photo album
    Voting takes place by fans liking the photos
    Person in the photo with the most likes is emailed as winner

  • First point: Correct – if everything is hosted and administered on your own site, you’re fine. You can even mention the contest on your Facebook Page and post links to it, but that’s it.

    Second point: As soon as you involve Facebook and make the contest *contingent upon fans taking action on the Facebook platform* you’re in violation of the guidelines… unless you use a third party app. So, yes, it would be a no-no to base a photo contest on the most likes in an album.

    Third point: You can’t select a fan out the blue for a prize because essentially that is a drawing/sweepstakes where you’re choosing a winner. The definition of a promotion on Facebook is where a winner(s) is selected. (Versus giving something away to ALL fans). Same thing with asking a question and selecting a fan who replies – you’re still choosing a winner from your Facebook fans directly on your Page.

    Bottom line, there really are no creative workarounds if you really want to adhere to the Promotion Guidelines to the letter. Facebook want us to use a third party app to minimize all risk and liability for anything going wrong and some big lawsuit landing in their lap (that’s my educated guess, anyway!!). Essentially, Facebook are washing their hands off the risk by putting the onus on a third party company (ideally a Facebook Preferred Vendor so their is heightened trust between all parties).

    Hope this helps!!

  • akrato1

    Thank God you wrote this article!!!

    My conpany tries to explain this rules running a small campaign for the last 3 weeks because people who don’t know how facebook works, put in jeoparty big companies and firms in my country…

  • Oh sure thing, I don’t see any harm in that! You could run the entire contest outside of Facebook – on Twitter, your own blog, YouTube, etc. (oh, actually, I have not read the fine print on YouTube yet!) Then, by all means, you could make a big celebration of the winner on your fan Page so long as they’ve already been notified. There’s no rule that says Facebook users can’t have a big party on their Page to celebrate winners identified outside Facebook. 🙂

  • Thank you, Ginny! I like their pricing model per promotion. But, for most small business users, my guess is the $99.95 for 30 days for up to 5000 users would be the only choice in the budget. 🙂 To invest $1k in a contest, there would need to be some high chances of a good ROI!

  • Excellent – thank you kindly for the tips!

  • 🙂 thank you kindly! But you got my age wrong – I’m forty-forever!! hehee

  • I understand what you’re saying… but it just depends on your tolerance for risk. I know for me, in the position I’ve been fortunate to create, there’s just no way I’d do anything to jeopardize my relationship with Facebook.

    I do like to recommend to small businesses to “start the way you mean to go on.” So, let’s say this time next year you had 100,000 fans – would you take a risk in running a contest that didn’t comply with Facebook’s guidelines? If not, then it doesn’t make sense to run one now.

    Besides, to be really effective, Facebook contests are best run only when a Page has some traction – maybe a few thousand members. Many Page Admins make the mistake of administering a contest with only a few hundred fans and wonder why the contest didn’t do much for their Page. There are so many other creative ways to build your fan base – see this article for ideas:

  • Many thanks for sharing your experience of other Pages with us!

  • Awesome Angie!! Your contest looks fab – I’m curious which app you used? [Oh n/m – just read below and see it’s your own creation in iFrames. Nice!] The landing tab looks great.

    Also, I just saw something on your Page I’ve never, ever seen anywhere else. Even without liking your page, when I clicked the Info tab, a box popped up saying “Tell us more. Add your knowledge to this community.”


    Is there any chance your Page has been set up as a Community Page? I see the category is “Local Business.” This doesn’t make sense to me. So I clicked the Edit button and was able to write in your Info tab fields anything I wanted… and click the Save. Then I saw “Thank you for your suggestions.” But fortunately, my edits didn’t actually save.

    Can you do me a favor now, please? Check your notifications etc. and see if you got anything saying something along the lines of Mari Smith has a suggested edit for your Page? Thanks!

  • Aha – this is great to see a live example of a promotion using iFrames. Essentially, it is your own app and all content is hosted on your own server, so I do have a feeling this is an excellent workaround. I’ve had so many peeps ask me if this is in keeping with Facebook’s Promotion Guidelines and I was thinking it’s in the “gray area.” I like how you’ve put the required disclaimer at the foot.

  • I second Angie’s comment about the rollovers – nice touch!

  • Exactly! Just be careful of collecting any entrants directly on your Facebook Page.

    Btw, check out what Angie has done above with a contest landing page using iFrames.

  • Thanks, Linda!! Ya, a big confusing area for sure! 🙂

    You can’t give anything away on your Page to a random fan as that is, in essence, (1) using the Facebook Platform to “collect” entrants (anyone who likes your Page is a contestant), (2) using the Facebook Platform to choose an winner, and (3) using the Facebook Platform to notify the winner.

    A creative workaround that some are coming up with is to use the new iFrames. It’s basically your own app with content hosted on your own site. But, I’m waiting to hear back from Facebook on the definitive answer. See what Angie’s done above – looks good.

    I have a close relationship with Wildfire and have been planning a contest for about five months now… I’ll be rolling it out likely by early June. My next book is due out in August and I’ll be following in Guy Kawasaki’s footsteps with regards to using Facebook as a book promotion platform! 🙂 After that, I’ll need to write a follow up post on strategic tips!!

  • Thank you kindly, Carolina! Good point regards a comparison chart – I may well add that post to the hopper!

  • You rock, Cy. I’ll edit my post here and add in OfferPop. 🙂

  • Correct, no incentives allowed so long as you’re only giving something away to select fans. You’re certainly welcome to give something away to ALL fans such as some Page Admins do with the reveal code (fangated pages). See my buddy Guy Kawasaki’s page for example:

    There should be TONS of incentive for engagement without having to give away prizes, quite frankly. Just building the community, being a go-to source for your area of expertise, answering questions, providing valuable resources, etc. – all these are reasons for fans to keep coming back for more. Plus, you can include periodic special offers, coupons, etc.

  • I know, right?! To be 100% compliant, any time we write a blog post with screenshots of anything on Facebook, we’d need to get permissions first? Phew. 😉 I doubt this is such a vigilant area though; far less risky for Facebook than having users run contests where there could be liability issues.

  • Nice results, Nick!!! Btw, was this on the page with 130 fans? Or a different one? Reason I ask is I always thought contests are best saved for when you reach over 1000 fans otherwise there isn’t enough traction. I’d love to know. 🙂

  • Heheeeee – we are dialed in, Rich!! 🙂

  • So long as the different company is adhering to Facebook’s Promotions Guidelines and using a third party app. If they are violating any rules, I would be careful of sponsorship.

    I hear your frustrations. However, we have to do the best we can within the confines of what Facebook offers. I’m not sure if you’ve seen my post on 21 creative ways to build your fanbase? Contests is just one way, though I know it can be very effective.

  • Thanks, I’ll take a look!

  • Frank, we must be reading with different eyes. To quote Facebook on their Promotions Guidelines:

    “You will not administer a promotion through Facebook, except through an application on the Facebook Platform.”

    “The following requirements apply to any promotion you administer through an application on the Facebook Platform.

    1. You will only allow users to enter the promotion in the following locations:
    1. On the canvas page of the application.
    2. On the application box in a tab on a Facebook Page.”

    Note the use of the word “requirement.”

    Perhaps where you are splitting hairs is my use of “third party.” It’s important to know that if a user creates their OWN app, then THEY *are* the third party!!

    I am not saying you have to go and pay money to an “official” contest app. If you have the wherewithal and resources to build your own app, then you are an app developer and fall into the category of a third party app.

    What you cannot do is use any of Facebook’s features when administering/promoting/communicating about a promotion. So, you can’t use likes, comments, photos, videos, status updates, etc. Which means you have to use an app.

    I completed writing this post just prior to the Facebook Upgrades on Feb 10; it is not clear to me whether users may administer contests using their own app on Facebook’s iFrames app. I am waiting to hear back from Facebook for absolute confirmation on this gray area. In essence, iFrames becomes your own app and all content is hosted on your own server. Angie Van Denzen’s company, Circus Strategic Communications, appears to have done a great job of this.

    I like to think your intentions are honorable here. I took time to read your own post and all the comments. However, there’s really no need to say I’m passing on “bad info.” That’s not accurate.

  • FBML is Facebook’s own app so that wouldn’t comply. You may be able to build something yourself using the new iFrames. Seems to me it’s a bit of a gray area though.

  • I really don’t think this would be a violation at all. It’s the exact same as offering a special gift/code/coupon in exchange for users clicking the Like button and becoming a fan. Many Pages do this using the “fangate” code – that is, the gift doesn’t appear unless/until you click Like. It would be the same for checkins.

  • Oh my gosh!!!! You are absolutely right:

    “You will not communicate about or administer a promotion on Facebook if:
    5. The prize or any part of the prize includes alcohol, tobacco, dairy, firearms, or prescription drugs;”

    Wow, since when is dairy (including cakes) as lethal as firearms and drugs? Well, I suppose if you ate like ten huge cakes a day?? Lol.

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience here; it really helps others to see that Facebook do indeed take action.

  • Excellent point – best to make entry super easy with low barriers. And, ideally big incentives for opting in.

  • Optional liking is still using the Facebook Platform to (potentially) collect entrants. So that’d be a no-no.

  • Aha – but because you’re using Networked Blogs, then that’s a third party app so you’re good to go!

  • I wrote up a long response to Frank’s comment. Indeedy, by all means, create your own app! You then *become* the third party app developer. You just can’t use any of Facebook’s default features when running contests.

    Regards requiring a like/checkin – sure thing, you can do that prior to entry via the third party app.

    And yes, in my post above I did cover the answer to your question about providing a link to an external website. This is perfectly fine.

  • I personally believe that the new iFrames is a gray area regards contests. Because, you wouldn’t be able to make your own app if it weren’t for Facebook providing the iFrames framework. However, now that you have to create an app with iFrames and the content is hosted on your own website, then it would appear you are in compliance of the Promotions Guidelines because you then become the “third party app.” I’m waiting to hear back from Facebook for the definitive answer. If this is the case, then, any paid contest app provider out there may not be too excited about the change!

  • Oh wow, that sounds awful. The “dark side” of contests – not something I know too much about but certainly good fodder for a future follow up post!!

  • Wow, thanks for sharing, Tia. This is most interesting – what a helpful, comprehensive post you wrote!!

  • Absolutely – f-commerce is going to be a massive growth area in coming years. By all means, sell to your heart’s content on your Facebook Page! 🙂

    Check out this post with 75+ Facebook Apps, including shopping ones:
    Though, if you have your own ecommerce provider such as 1shoppingcart, Infusionsoft or even PayPal or Google Checkout – then just drop in a page from your own site into an iFrames tab.

  • Frank – I corrected your correction. We both get to be right.

  • Aha – another example of Facebook shutting down a Page. So many people believe it will never happen to them, but it’s just not worth the risk!

  • If the entire contest is administered and promoted outside of Facebook (other than using a third party app), then I don’t see any harm in celebrating your winners directly on your Page. 🙂

  • Well, bottom line, is you can do pretty much anything you wish to *promote* (market) your business on Facebook – that’s the whole purpose of a Facebook Page. It’s when you want to select a winner that all these rules kick in.

    I did my best to include contest workarounds in the article and there really aren’t any others. Except for this new gray area of creating your own app with iFrames. 😉

  • No, not at all. You’re using all Facebook’s features for the contest which is not allowed. Just because the Page Admin is uploading the photos to an album, you’re still using the Facebook Platform – without using a third party app – to administer the contest. Voting by Likes is using the Facebook Platform.

    Any photo contests like the one you describe have to be through a third party app. One possible workaround is if you create a contest on your own website, you may be able to then drop that page into an iFrames app. But, still, you wouldn’t be able to use the Facebook features such as photos and the like button.

  • Erin

    This is an extremely interesting post. I have never really known the ends and outs of Facebook behind the scenes, and after reading this I am not sure how much I really want to know. I never realized how strict and complicated Facebook policies are. I know that it is a great social media for companies and is growing more and more popular throughout the business world. This article definitely shows businesses that they have to read the fine print when it comes to utilizing this resource for campaigns and contests.

  • Thanks Mari. Keep up the great work and information that you provide.

  • This was the page for 130 fans. That’s actually very good advice about 1k fans though, since we were hoping for more entries. I will take that into consideration for future promotions. Thanks Mari!

  • You’re correct, Mari. I am doing what you consider “splitting hairs” on the meaning of “third party,” and I believe my comments reflected that. But “third party” has a real meaning – – and your article is clearly consistent with that definition.

    If you choose to define it differently than everyone else, I feel justified in my “bad info” comment.

  • Linda

    WoW–my mind is reeling — in a good way. So much valuable info in one site. Thank you so much!

  • Goddessence

    Ummm thanks for that, but I dont really know exactly what an “application on the facebook platform” is or means so I couldnt really understand a lot of what you said
    and I dont know what a “third party app on the facebook platform” is either – so while I appreciate your time and effort until I have a basic understanding of what this jargon actually means then it is all meaningless to me and confusing and frustrating, sorry

  • AngieVanDenzen

    Hi Mari, thanks for checking out our page! Generally speaking we’re pretty excited about all of the recent changes Facebook has been rolling out.

    Except with they do something CRAZY like let people edit my page’s Info! Woa is right!

    Apparently this is a new feature of Facebook Places, which allows visitors to a Place the ability to suggest revisions. We merged our page to our place, which is why you were invited to edit us. The funny thing is, we don’t get a notification. It’s up to Facebook to decide if your edits will be accepted, so I hope your suggestion was kind!

    Thanks for the heads-up on that! I did some searching and found an article on All Facebook about this from March 4th at

  • AngieVanDenzen

    Mari, I’m so glad you like it! We were careful to meet all of Facebook’s regulations and hope we didn’t miss any! You have my permission to screen-print it for examples if Facebook will also allow it! 😉

    As more developers realize the potential of using iFrames within Facebook, I’m so excited to see what fun integration lies around the corner! I’m curious to hear what you find out from Facebook about the grey area you’ve asked about. From everything I read I’m pretty confident we’re playing within the rules!

    Regarding app developers, I suspect you’ve done them a favour here. Businesses will be looking for help as they realize the risks they run holding contests on their wall.

  • Nico

    Hi Mary
    Great article, thanx. Can I run a contest on my own plateform and only have a hidden hint on my FB fanpage that gets my participants an extra chance to win? If the contest is 100% managed on my site with tight rules and regulations and with the winner being drawn from my contest tool, do I still need to use a FB app?

  • Tokensmth53

    The Monopoly board game is illegal to play in South Carolina. I don’t think anyone has been arrested for it yet.

    Honestly, this post seems a little to pushy to “buy a 3rd party app” as your solution.

  • Hi Mari, your post has been simply great. Amazingly usefull information. Hope to learn more from you!

  • Thanks for sharing this cool info!

    I had a chance to meet you in person when you delivered social media tips at a bootcamp in LA, last year. I’m happy to bump again in you and learn some more 🙂

  • It’s really unique way to Facebook promotion. I like this strategy of promote on Facebook.

  • Info

    thanks for this indepth write-up, Mari. not an easy world for some of us to navigate, and as someone who was about to launch what was supposed to be a simple win-a-free-session contest via photo-submissions and using the ‘Like’ buttons to vote, i realize now this is not an option — even though i still see others doing it.

    over the weekend i started to build a contest through Wildfire, however, i’m getting nowhere with the couple of questions i posed to them via their “questions” forum. no one’s home, i guess.

    i think my biggest concern is that using a third-party app, like Wildfire, doesn’t offer the same kinds of benefits that a “like” system would (if it were available). i’m not seeing anything in Wildfire that forces people to “like” the business page in order to actually vote within the contest … and that, really, was the whole point. i don’t suppose you have any suggestions in this regard, do you? or any familiarity with Wildfire?

    thanks again for your indepth coverage.

  • Info

    sorry, got another question that maybe others have as well …

    i’m still seeing lots of current contests around facebook … vote for your favorite photo contests … where people email the photos to the business owner, the business owner mounts the photos in a folder, and then people vote by “liking”. according to everything i read here, that’s against the new FB regulations.

    however, they’re adding disclaimers like:
    “This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. You are providing your information to such-and-such business and not to Facebook. The information you provide will only be used for correspondence regarding this promotion.”

    and …

    “you acknowledge that the promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook” etc. etc.

    i don’t suppose this covers it, huh?

  • Info

    i just heard back from Wildfire, and i was correct — nothing in their App requires facebook users to “like” your business page in order to ENTER or VOTE in a contest. to me, this seems very counterproductive to a contest, no?

    well, actually, Wildfire’s App CAN require the “like” function if you subscribe to their “White Label” application which costs $5,000 (or $15,000 for full service).

    it’s like i stepped into the Twilight Zone or something … what happened to having a little on-line fun for really small one-person companies!?

  • Guest

    Is Crowdrise violating Facebook Page Guidelines? ( They are offering contest and sweepstakes all over their facebook page to win prizes and grow fans. How is this allowed?

  • Maildigger

    Can I ask visitors to share my website on Facebook and offer them something in return?

  • Thank you for providing this! I’ve been looking all morning for something to increase my fans. I do believe that Wildfire has the best solution.

  • Terrence, have you tried Easypromos?

  • Great post!

    I think you forgot one of the best application to create and manage promotions for Facebook Pages: Easypromos.

    Easy to use, very complete, first promotion is free, and it enables you tu run sweepstakes and contests.
    Take a look at:

  • Info

    on a quick glance of Easypromotions features, they at least work towards building followers. Wildfire doesn’t! Wildfire does NOT require entrants OR voters of your contests to actually be fans …. unless you use their “white label” application which starts at a cost of $5000. it appears that Easypromotions entry level at least requires entrants to be “fans”.

    i wish i’d known of Easypromotions before launching my latest contest with Wildfire … because basically i’m giving away stuff for free ($250 value) + i now have to pay for Wildfire’s app + i had a ton of extra work … and i’m not even able to require entrants and voters to “Like” the business page. what a waste.

  • Carles,

    Does Easypromos have its own promotions to market or do I need to create one?

  • Liz

    What about “first 10 people to respond?”

  • Hi Mari,
    I have a another question re: FB contests that this thread touches on. If we run a weekly contest where we pick a winner and give them a prize, could we switch to posting this on our blog and using Twitterfeed or to automatically post the contest on FB since it’s a 3rd party app?
    Like everyone else I want to make sure we’re compliant and don’t anger the FB gods lol!
    Thanks as always for your help!

  • Hi Mari,
    I have a another question re: FB contests that this thread touches on. If we run a weekly contest where we pick a winner and give them a prize, could we switch to posting this on our blog and using Twitterfeed or to automatically post the contest on FB since it’s a 3rd party app?
    Like everyone else I want to make sure we’re compliant and don’t anger the FB gods lol!
    Thanks as always for your help!

  • Hi Tracy – good question. So how and where do people enter the contest? If you’re selecting winners from your fan page, even if you announce the winner on your blog, you’re still administering (by virtue of selecting a winner) the contest on Facebook and need to comply by the rules (third party app). Remember, though, you may be able to use your own app in iFrames.

  • Presumably you’re giving away some kind of prize/gift to those ten people. So, in essence, it is a contest/drawing of sorts. Probably a gray area for sure and Page admins run these kinds of drawings all the time.

  • Oh, thank you kindly, I’ll take a look! 🙂 Woa – 400k monthly active users! Looks like a great app, popular too! I just edited the post here to add Easypromos. Much appreciated! 🙂

  • Sorry to hear of your frustrations. So much of marketing on Facebook is trial and error. Focusing on solely building fans is not always the right use of resources. Facebook is just one piece of the “marketing pie” as I’m sure you know. If you haven’t already, take a look at this post with 21 creative ways to increase your fanbase most all of which don’t cost a penny:

  • Ooh, excellent question. Hm, I don’t think this would be in any danger of violating Facebook’s Promotions Guidelines. It seems to fall into the category of giving away a gift to anyone who likes your page which is fine. I’m not sure how you track who shares though? I guess by way of @ tag.

  • Thanks, Carles – I’ve added this app now to the main post. (I’m guessing it’s your app though?)

  • Why thank you kindly!!! Was that Guerrilla Business School?! 🙂

  • On the contrary, my friend – there’s an abundance of free solutions including trying out your own iFrame app as mentioned in the update at the foot of the post, since I wrote the post prior to Facebook’s switch to iFrames. It’s not that this post is pushy towards third party apps; it’s Facebook wanting to ensure there are no liability issues falling in their lap!!

  • Sounds like a creative workaround – I’m not sure what you mean by hidden hint. Does it require liking your page? If so, it’s in that gray area again.

  • Please see the large bulleted list of apps contained in this post – they are all applications that you can use!!!

  • Thanks, Erin – so true. Most Page owners are blissfully unaware that they might be violating any rules on Facebook. It’s just not worth the risk, imho, to not adhere to the guidelines fully. 🙂

  • It would be nice to try using iFrames but I’m not a tech person and don’t have the staff to build something. I’m going to look into the tools you listed in the article to see what would work best for us and our tiny budget. 🙂

    For our trivia contest we ask people to email their guesses to us then we pick the winner based on the emails we get. The winner is notified by email first and then announced on our FB page. My thought is that I could initiate the contest on our blog so it would get to FB through a third party app (Twitterfeed or, still collect guesses and notify the winner via email, and then announce the winner on our blog so it again gets to FB via the third party app. Does that sound kosher to you?

  • Hi Terrence,

    you have a single form where you can create the promotion. The process is very simple, just 3 steps:

    1.- Create the promotion
    2.- Upload an image for the promotion
    3.- Activate/publish promotion

    You can edit the properties of the promotion even the promotion is active and running. And, yes you can limit entrants to be fan of your page.

    The dashboard of Easypromos is inside Facebook. So you don’t have to go out Facebook to create and manage your promotions. Really easy to install and manage.


  • Thank you Mari, I am following this Blog, all posts are awesome and really useful!

  • Hey Mari, try to chenge the name from Freepromos to Easypromos, please 🙂 Thank you!

  • Hi Wim,

    don’t forget Easypromos, they are also in the game:

  • Alicia

    Hi Mary – This article was extremely helpful. Any confirmation that iFrames is a legitimate way to run a contest? Throughout all the comments, it’s suggested that it is still a “gray area” so I wanted to follow up. Thanks!

  • Alicia

    Ugh! I don’t like when people spell my name wrong. Apologies, Mari! Looking forward to hearing from you.

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  • Ok, so I’d like to make sure that I have this correct.I’m so confused.

    I can hold a giveaway on my blog and post a link to on facebook.

    I can upload a picture of the prize and tell people to go my site to enter.

    Can I create an ad and post is as a picture on facebook with a link?

    I can also congratulate the winner on facebook, but only after I have notified them via e-mail.

    This is all ok, as long as I don’t require any facebook actions for the contest. Or “officially” notify the winner on facebook.

    Would using ipages allow me more flexibility than the above?

  • G_bone

    Hi. Excelent article Mari! Question: what if I ask that consumers review the products on a non-facebook page to get a chance to win a gift. They have to paste the link onto the Facebook Wall and then I will pick the winner. Does this have to run on an app? Thank you.

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  • proneone

    great post. quick question. what does entering the contest mean? in other words, if membesr enter my contest via a third party app on my page by say providing their email, can i have them earn points by posting about the contest on my page and their own page or does this still constitute “entering” the contest?

  • So did I read the promotions guidelines wrong? When it says, “You can: Require entrants to like your Page, check in to your Place or connect to your Platform integration before they provide their full entry information, such as name and contact information,” I understood this to mean that I could run a contest on my blog and one of the entries could be liking my FB page, then commenting on my blog that they had done so. Because I know they can’t be automatically entered for liking it, but as long as they did something in addition, it was ok.

  • What about something I’ve seen: a FB page offers an item for sale with a litle picture on their wall. The first person to leave their paypal e-mail address on the post gets the item for the price indicated. Is this okay? It seems something in between a contest and a sell.

  • Sarah

    So much great information here! Thanks for posting this. I have a question that I don’t think I’ve seen covered in all the comments (but I’m new to FB marketing so I could have just missed it for not understanding all the lingo. If so, my apologies for the repetition).

    I’ve seen people do give-aways for the 100th “like”, for example. In this case, there wouldn’t be any “selection” of a “winner” per say and it doesn’t seem to be a matter of chance since the page clearly tracks how many likes there are and you can tell if you’ll be the 100th or the 99th or the 101st (presuming there isn’t some sort of crazy traffic to the page). Presumably, though, the business couldn’t contact the 100th fan outside of FB as they wouldn’t have any other contact information if it is just a matter of clicking the like button.

    So, does that mean such a give-away is OK or not? Thanks, in advance, for your guidance!

  • Kayla

    Great post! I’m still confused though LOL

    In this article you say that you can promote a blog post that contains a contest as long as it doesn’t require you do to anything on FB, however, the FB “rules” for contests, actually state that you CAN require a user to “like” a page on FB as part of entry into a contest – you cannot have them comment/etc etc, but a simple “like” requirement is acceptable. So why would you not be allowed to promote a contest that involves some FB requirement?

    Also how would this apply to auctions held on fb. Since there is a sale of an item there is no “selected” winner persay (the selected winner would obviously be the highest paying bidder) so is that acceptable under regular terms? Since you are allowed to sell things over fb.

    For those concerned they cannot announce winners via facebook it’s relatively easy to circumvent though. Simply post for “winners name” to email you, or contact you with their email address. The world isn’t dumb, they will know that’s the winner! I don’t think there is anything against other users issuing congratulations via facebook.

  • lots of info here. thanks. and wow. i’m totally turned off by facebook.

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  • Icecreammaven

    I just tried using Easypromo, and though it was easy, I didn’t see the promo show up on my facebook page–maybe it’s just that I thought it would show up instantly? Is there a waiting period?

  • akgalley

    I didn’t even know these rules existed! This is a good article and I have shared it with several of the business that I love. Than you Mari!

    As a new page owner selling my handmade product through FB I’m trying to get people involved in my business and sharing and liking my page. I am now trying to think of ways that would not violate any of the above rules. Can you let me know if the following idea would be ok?

    I was thinking about playing a game with my likers and at the end of that game the people who participated would get an exclusive invite to an online sale or special event??? Eg: I post a part of a picture of a new product and people guess what the product is by posting a comment under the photo. Once someone has guessed correctly the game ends and all of the people who posted a guess get an event invite to a sale that will be held in the next few days, eg: 30% off everything sale that might only be held for 2 hours???? As far as I can see this ‘game’ would not violate any competition rules as there is no winner and participants are just playing to get an event invite….. Any suggestions on if this would be ok or not?

    Also was thinking, most people have give-a-ways when they reach a certain number of likers to encourage people to share and like their page. Could you have a sale instead, and if so are you able to promote it? Eg: Once I reach 100 likers I will be having a 20% off everything sale.

    And now a question about selling & giving away items online; if you post a picture of an item and say that the first to comment on the photo gets the item free or at a discount is that in violation of the rules? I’m thinking it might be because there is a ‘winner’. But then again are you just selling something?

    Why can’t FB just let us do whatever we want to do and they just have a no liability clause for themselves!!??

  • Akgalley

    A grey area I would like cleared up too.

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  • I have a question. Can I post photos in an album as a possible selection of prizes. I ask that anyone who is interested in winning a prize to email me however I do not need any comments or any acknowledgement on Facebook at all. Winners will be drawn purely off Facebook and contacted via email. However there would be promotion on Facebook directing them to a prize album.

  • Keba089

    how to report a group who has been doing promotion giving RAK ?

  • If you have less than 500 fans, you can run a free promo using
    Also, any news on the use of using your own iFrame application to run a competition?

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  • Missjulie

    Thanks Mari! It’s a shame FB makes it so complicated and that most 3rd party vendors make it price-prohibitive to run contests/giveaways on a regular basis. We’ve tried Wildfire and didn’t care for them. Trying to see if we like any of the others you suggested any better. Thanks for the help!

  • Got an email today for an event created on FB offering a 20% off coupon in return for a FB Like AND Twitter Follow. Nothing special on their FB Page. Not sure which dimensions on Events or Promotions this might violate but it was creative. Was curious on your take.

    For a coupon, is it your read that an app tab on their FB page like is required or just convenient?

    Having spent some time in retailing, IMHO 20% is not a big incentive for a store.

  • Just got this event – which is just to get my attention – even though the purpose is to deliver information. Events can obviously used to spam which is one reason Facebook lets you block events from certain people:!/help/?faq=18945 I see promotions on Facebook’s Terms page but not Events – just commented on this on your great new article on Events.

  • Kenneth

    Great post, thanks

  • anthonyruso

    May want to add some of the following to your update:

    BTW … i have nothing to do with any of these.

  • NOt sure if this is gray area since it involves FB plug ins on wordpress. Fans can enter to win a book on our website . We ask that they comment and use the like button which now publishes the whole story to their FB wall and spreads it. None of the entries or notifications actually are taking place on Facebook though. Genius or trouble brewing?

  • Krysty Petrucci

    hmm. So if i create a contest, through iFrames, and install a comment box & ask people to comment to win.. it’s safe? Just as long this is done through my tab created on iFrames?? Or am I totally reading this the wrong way?

  • I didn’t know there were such restrictive rules…What can you do if you already engaged in so call ‘illegal’ promotion activitity…is there anyway to fix it or do you just hope you don’t get in trouble?

  • Melanie

    Is it possible to share the pages that were shut down or give more information (like a case study)? I don’t want to add salt to the wounds, but I see so many local businesses disregarding the guidelines and it would be great to have something to show them to encourage them to adhere to the rules.

  • I’m still a bit confused. What I want to know is if I host a giveaway on my blog, can I give extra entries for liking me on facebook. They would like me on facebook and then tell me that they did and leave their facebook username on the form on my blog.

    Also you said we can’t award a prize to a random fan, but what about if they are a fan but enter on my blog and I pick a winner from my facebook fans that entered the giveaway on my blog. That’s fine right?

  • Maildigger

    In the promotion guidelines I read the following:

    You will not communicate about or administer a promotion on Facebook if:
    The promotion, if a sweepstakes, is open to individuals residing in Belgium

    Is it ok if a sweepstake is altered to a contest? By example by letting people answer a question? In this case winning isn’t determined by the factor luck and it isn’t a sweepstake anymore.

    It would look like:

    Win a price X … answer following questions:
    What’s the capital of the country x?
    How many people will answer this question correctly?

    I know for sure it’s ok for local law if it’s done this way but I would like to know if explicit permission from Facebook is needed regarding this matter.

  • Pavel Langweil

    If you want to run a photo contest on Facebook using 3rd party app, we’ve just released You can have fully branded facebook photo contest, comments under photos, viral features, admin panel to approve photos etc. without having to pay daily fees or fitting in any kinds of limits like number of fans. The contest is yours and you can reuse it for 1000 contests in a row if you’d like. It’s basically simplified wildfire premium solution, but under 200 bucks it’s having some stuff like mandatory liking your fan page(fan page integration) that they don’t even offer in the premium 🙂 We are adding features all the time to match the rest of their feats (looking for feedback too!).

  • Melissa

    Any updates on the use of iFrames to run your own competition? Thanks for this great post!

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  • Jakew

    Can I say ” Go to our website and post a pic of you doing what ever and win a prize”

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  • Mandy Rondon

    Hi Mari, thank you so much for clearing this up for me…I would Like to get your feedback on something I’ve been doing on Facebook with a couple of pages I administer…is there any way I can contact you directly, email or via phone?
    Please let me know and thank you
    Mandy Rondón

  • Kathryn

    I see this same discrepancy. Facebook itself says that “liking” a page can be used as a giveaway entry requirement as long as the sweepstakes itself is held off-site. Clearly that does involve Facebook. Also, I have many businesses ask that posting on their wall be included “as a bonus entry,” the rationale being that since the giveaway entrant is free to perform the bonus entry or not as they see fit, there is no violation of the terms to offer an extra entry for this action. Thoughts?

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  • Jim

    What if I want to give away a dinner for the comment with the most likes?

  • Jim

    What if I want to give away a dinner for the comment with the most likes?

  • Lqualheim

    This is a great article, thanks for sharing all of this important information. I recently heard that Facebook is no longer requiring third-party applications to administer contests. It seems far-fetched, do you know if there is any truth to it?

  • Lqualheim

    This is a great article, thanks for sharing all of this important information. I recently heard that Facebook is no longer requiring third-party applications to administer contests. It seems far-fetched, do you know if there is any truth to it?

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  • Looks like the promotion guidelines were updated today:

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  • Kay Green

    We and others have been using FB photo album tab to post prize photos, then using google docs for the entries. The only action is to like the sponsor. Have the written FB disclaimer. Emailing the winner. How do we know if google docs is considered a 3rd party app on the FB platform tab (photo album)

  •  I own a small start up company and found your blog very informative, I see promo as a nice way to engage fans on facebook ,what is your suggested amount for gift, If I decided to place a promo for give away?

  • Illona

    i admit, i’m not the sharpest tool in the shed when it comes to legalese, but did these new guidelines become even MORE restrictive?

    Mari?  can you enlighten us with some a more lay-person’s explanation?  thanks.

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  • So, am I reading this correctly? If our resort asks guests to email us their best photo and once monthly we announce the winners of our photo contests on our site along with the photos that should NOT be in violation since we didn’t hold the promotion on FB?

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  • This is very helpful! Thk you for posting this!  We are in the process of putting together some contests, etc. and didn’t really understand the FB rules.  This helps a lot.  Hopefully using iFrames provides a better solution and complies with the “third party app”.  When you find out please share…quickly!  🙂

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  • I´m kind of confuse with the new rules. Have a couple of questions if anyone can help me. I was about to lounch a contest not in my fan page, but in my web site and I was about to invite to diferent groups and other fan pages of users to “win a prize etc etc. Enter this site to know how”. Of course that this comments on other groupes, users and fan pages i was gonna do it with the user of my companie.

    Is this breaking the rules? I mean, how can I REALLY promote a contest outside my usual fans? How can I attract people of other “places” in facebook without using a campaign?

    Thanx 4 reading and hope someone can help me

  • What if I’m not really wanting to do a contest, but let’s say if offer a free service or product if a fan gets 5 of their friends to “like” my page. Would that be considered against the rules??

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  • Mari

    Thank you so much for this post!
    I have one question, I want to have a competition on my company’s fan page and want to develop the application by myself, is this against the rules? Thank you so much and keep up the good work 🙂

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  • Thanks for putting this together. It was really helpful to know the latest rules/regulations and have all those app resources at my finger times. I used the easypromo app you mentioned.

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  • Ascamp71

    Great article. I do have one correction, though. It is NOT against the rules to run a contest on your blog requiring the entrant like a facebook page

     From FB Rules and Promotions guidelines
     4. You must not condition registration or entry upon the user taking any action using any Facebook features or functionality other than liking a Page, checking in to a Place, or connecting to your app.  For example, you must not condition registration or entry upon the user liking a Wall post, or commenting or uploading a photo on a Wall.

  • Ascamp71, without an app you will have no way of knowing if an entrant liked your page as you can’t do a search of your Facebook fans

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  • Janina Lear

    OK. I think my head is about to explode after reading 220 comments but feel a little clearer on everything. It just all seems to hard. Can someone get an extra entry if they like us on FB and come back and tell us on the blog?

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  • ThreeFifteen

    Hi Mari – this has been wow, super helpful. Brief question: If everyone wins the contest, is that okay? So in other words, if I say ‘post a link about this site and let us know you did and you get a bracelet’ – so there is no drawing, everyone who participates wins. Still violates? I guess technically that’s not a contest, it’s an opportunity to promote or play along in exchange for a zero value promotional gift. Thanks! Patrick

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  • Website is OK, facebook page is not.

  • I think that’s up to you. As long as you’re not administering the contest on FB, they don’t care. And since you CAN require that an entrant “Like” your page first, I see no reason why this wouldn’t be allowed.

  • Bob Jones

    I want to run a Virtual Betting contest, where users pick the winners of sports games occuring during the weekend.  The Predictions/Selections will occur on my website, but I want people to purchase their entries using Facebook Credits.  I also want to give the ten top Winners prizes of cash and gift certificates.
    Can I do this on facebook, and promote it on my Facebook Page?

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  • Thomas

    Dear Mari,

    I loved your post but I do have one additional question.
    When launching a contest online/on your 3rd party facebook app. these contests often target people from several countries. When launching the contest, which rules of competition apply – the home country’s rules, or the rules of each individual country?

    Thank you in advance


  • A long post! But a great post for Facebook newbies like me to start.

  • Hi there — I feel pretty thick-headed over here, but have been through this entire thread twice and can’t seem to figure out if I can do the following:

    I am planning to run a contest on my website.  People will submit stories to be voted on.  Again, EVERY submission will be on a page of my website  Then I wanted to head over to my Facebook biz page and post each submission there with a link back to my website for them to read the stories.  Then they would vote for their fave on my FB fan page by “liking” the story they like best.

    Can I do this?  Or do I need to use a 3rd party app for this?

    Thank you sooooo much for your time in helping me find the answer to this question.  🙂

  • Adam

    The rules of the contest are determined by the country the promoter is based in. However when dealing with other countries you MAY also need to abide by their laws.

    It is complex situation but make sure you comply with the home country’s rules as a must. It gets even tricker when Quebec has different contest laws than the rest of Canada.

  • Adam

    You need a 3rd party app. You can not use Facebook’s like button as a voting mechanism.

  • You can also use the Sweepstakes app ( to run FREE promotions which are 100% Facebook compliant!

  • Tim

    Great article! I design and manage numerous social media pages for small businesses and was completely unaware of these “rules” which as of now are going to halt many of my clients planned camapigns. These rules seem unneccesarily harsh and inefficeint for small businesses to market using facebook.

    This article was very informative and will be shared with many! One question I had is if we offer a promotion on our page, for example Wall Post: 30% off all deliveries today 7/21/11 using code FB525 is that against the rules since it is offered to all?

    Thank you

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  • Were running a contest on next month, which will be judged by votes for each artist, which would be placed by hitting the Facebook ‘like’ button. These like buttons will be on our website, not on our Facebook page. Is this legit? Will this violate TOS?

  • This is a hell lot of information for brands who were just running contests for the love of getting like and increase in number of fans. great that u have a given a list of 3rd party apps need to have a look. Facebook by the way does monitor and recently closed pages of PizzaHut India and others too.thanks

  •  Thanks, Eric.  🙂

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  • danyashea


    Very helpful and clear post…thank you! Quick clarifying question – if you run a promo that involves selecting a winner but offers no prize (hey…we can all dream) OR if you run a promo that requires entrants submitting info, but doesn’t select a winner nor does it offer a prize (think polls/votes for various new products), do you still have to run the promo via a third-party app in each of these scenarios?

    Thanks for your time!

  • Marco

    The new guidelines are only for U.S fanpages?

  • They apply to all fanpages on Facebook

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  • Blogger

    Thanks for the clarifications.  I’ve never run a promotion on FB and likely never will – I am just too afraid!  All of my giveaways are run on my blog-azine, but I did have a question for you.  Can any of the entries (mandatory and/or extra/optional bonus entries) have the entrant “like” your page or a sponsor’s page AND leave a comment on one of FB wall posts, for instance?

  • Blogger

    Thanks for the clarifications.  I’ve never run a promotion on FB and likely never will – I am just too afraid!  All of my giveaways are run on my blog-azine, but I did have a question for you.  Can any of the entries (mandatory and/or extra/optional bonus entries) have the entrant “like” your page or a sponsor’s page AND leave a comment on one of FB wall posts, for instance?

  • Only liking the page, checking into a place or connecting to an app can be done in relation to someone entering a competition. However you still need a 3rd party app to handle the entries to the competition. Those 3 actions I just listed can be used as part but not the entire entry process.

    Any other actions on Facebook in relation to a contest are strictly prohibited. You can’t even notify winners through Facebook.

  • Only liking the page, checking into a place or connecting to an app can be done in relation to someone entering a competition. However you still need a 3rd party app to handle the entries to the competition. Those 3 actions I just listed can be used as part but not the entire entry process.

    Any other actions on Facebook in relation to a contest are strictly prohibited. You can’t even notify winners through Facebook.     

  • Only liking the page, checking into a place or connecting to an app can be done in relation to someone entering a competition. However you still need a 3rd party app to handle the entries to the competition. Those 3 actions I just listed can be used as part but not the entire entry process.

    Any other actions on Facebook in relation to a contest are strictly prohibited. You can’t even notify winners through Facebook.     

  • Hi guys, we’re running a number of contents/competitions for our clients using iFrames but i’m STILL unclear as to whether we’re running the risk of getting shutdown with Facebook. We host everything within the iFrame and have permissions in place to capture names/emails of entrants but it just seems such a grey (that’s how you spell it in the UK 😉 ) area…

  • Hi Ross. You can condition entry to your Facebook contest on liking the page, checking in or connecting with your iframe app (which would include gathering data from the Facebook user).

    To enter the contest they must enter in their details into your system (which is via the iframe). You can then not message or contact any winner via Facebook only via the details they entered in your iframe when entering. It’s also a good idea to have a clause at the end such as:

    This promotion is not endorsed, sponsored, administered or associated with Facebook and all details entered are sent to the promoter, not Facebook.

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  • Fire Eater Coffee Camp

    I’m confused and having a hard time clarifying this on FB’s terms pages…. Our photo contest is run only on our website, and we aren’t using FB for any contests so that’s all cool. We are a store front and using FB only as a club/identity promotion of our brand.

    However, we want to drive fans by offering a “word of the day” or other incentive to come to the store – for example, if we are in your feed, you’ll get a “word of the day” and if you mention that word to our clerk on that day you’ll get 10% off your order – a way to drive business and also track who is reading/using our posts. I don’t see any reason why this isn’t okay on the FB terms pages but in case I’m missing something… I thought I’d ask some experts. Does our “word/phrase of the day” discount violate any FB terms I haven’t looked at yet? (so many… so many werds…)

    Thanks for your help and I’m really getting a lot out of this site. Great stuff!! If everything goes well and we expand I’ll definitely use your resources to amp up our brand on networks.  Thanks for all the great resources!!

  • Your scenario made me think twice 🙂 But what you are doing is ok. Because even if you require them to like your page to get these updates (which is fine) you aren’t performing any action on Facebook only reading posts.

    So unless they determine reading a post an action on Facebook then you should be ok.

  • CoffeeandPies

    Great article! Just starting to promote my first Facebook contest. I hope we get a lot of participants.

    Barrett Moving and Storage Photo Contest for an iPad and iPod Touch:

  • I’m a bit confused.  So you can have people like your page if you offer each person a coupon/gift/whatever, but you can’t have people like your page if you’re doing a contest where there is just one prize to the person chosen?  Do I have it right?

  • WOW. I have Facebook screenshots all over my website.. and even on my facebook business page. That’s just ridiculous. Do I have to request permission for every screenshot? 
    Vyki Alleman
    Rockit Multimedia

  • What app did you use? Does it have an option to target users by interest, or occupation? I want to run a similar contest but I’m afraid I’d get entries from unemployed individuals or people that didn’t have any say so over their employers social media and marketing efforts. 
    -Vyki Alleman
    Rockit Multimedia

  • GD, do you mind if I use (quote) this comment for a blog post I’m writing about Facebook’s Rules and the consequences that happen when you break them? 

    -Vyki AllemanRockit Multimedia

  • I’m planning on writing a blog post/article on the risks of running contests on a page’s wall, and having a profile instead of a page to raise awareness about this subject. I’d like some stories from real businesses that have suffered consequences as a result of violating these rules. If anyone has had any experience with this, please contact me via my website contact page or just reply to this comment and I’ll contact you.
    Mari, I hope you don’t mind me asking for this here, I will of course link this post in the article. 

    Vyki AllemanRockit Multimedia

  • So just to clarify I can’t run just a simple photo contest where people email me their photos, I upload them to by fan page, and fans like photos to win a contest(of a free photo session done by me?)  I would have to get a third party app to help with voting?  I just want to do this kosher.  I don’t need facebook shutting me down.  Worse comes to worse I don’t do a contest, I’m fine with that, I’m just trying to up my following.  

    Thanks for the info if anyone can help me! :P)

  • jazz_onik

    just a quick question 🙂

    if I create my own fb app, then – can I do the contest inside, without paying FB?

  • Rebecca Miller

    Are there are safe and free third party applications I can use to run a promotion through Facebook?  Wildfire has great potential but for a very small or newly started business, I’m not sure it’s worth the money.

  • There is allows you to run a contest for free for 21 days and you can run as many 21 day contests as you want.

  • You must use a 3rd party app for the voting since you can’t use any Facebook feature as a voting mechanism.

  • Yes you can. Make sure that you don’t use any Facebook features for voting and have text located there detailing that your contest is not endorsed or sponsored or in anyway associated with Facebook. Check that your app complies by looking over the promotion guidelines:

  • Rebecca Miller

    Awesome.  It looks like what I need.  Thanks for the help!

  • Rebecca Miller

    So…if you HAVE run a Facebook contest that it turns out was in violation of the rules…and once you realized it, you deleted everything you could relating to the contest…are you likely to have any problems?  I didn’t realize the issue since EVERYBODY does it!

  • I think you would be fine as long as it is never mentioned again.

    Facebook only apply these strict guidelines to promotions because they are a heavily regulated industry and they don’t want any legal liability from users.

    So it is very unlikely but they still would have the right to if they really wanted to.

  • ProfessionalMojo

    Thanks so much for this article. Just this morning we received an email from a marketing agency that was asking folks to post on the wall, like the posts, etc. in order to enter to win. Not enough people know about or understand these rules. Maybe they even don’t care since they see companies AND agencies clearly violating them all the time. I wouldn’t want to take the risk nor put our clients at risk. Will be blogging about this shortly because the more we all educate the folks, the better! 

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  • Dean Taylor202

    Can i engage with any third party app for crating a contest. Is it have to be an app that design for contest or one thatwas design for something else and i use it for a contest?

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  • Jo V

    Hi Mari, again INCREDIBLE information here.  I was about to run a photo contest via FB and I had no idea about any of these rules prior to reading your post.  I’ll admit I’m feeling a little overwhelmed after reading everything and discovering all these apps, etc.  Here’s my question: if I upload a ton of photos from a live event and encourage visitors to tag themselves in the picture (which would basically require them to be fans), is that allowed? The incentive to tag themselves is to get a chance to win a prize at random (haven’t thought out the details of the prize yet). Is this legal or do I still need to go through a 3rd party app? 

  • Mart55

    I want to host a contest but just read an article were the author says that only an “approved” third party app qualifies and goes on to say that means you have to pay to use an app like Wildfire. He also says if you are not willing to pay then you cannot host a contest on Facebook.

    The info here seems to say otherwise. But I am unsure, did you ever find out if an iFrame app is an approved third part app?

  • Unfortunately you can’t allow tagging to enter a contest, you need to go through a 3rd party app.

  • I am unsure what they mean by “approved” 3rd party apps. They can approve an app to go into their app directory.

    However you can create a contest via any 3rd party app. There are no rules against this. The app does need to make sure it is compliant with Facebook promotion guidelines. Other than that you can use what ever you want.Most if not all apps require some form of fee.

  • Mary

    Great article. It really helps clear up some of the confusion.  Nice work.

  • Concepta

    Great information in the article, questions and comments.  I’m still confused about picking the winner, though.  My understanding from Mari’s post is that it’s not permitted to randomly pick a winner.  However, Wildfireapp facilitates users to “run a sweepstakes when you wish to give away prizes based on a random draw.  Via our app, you can……randomly draw winners.”  Could someone clarify this please?

    Also, I’d like to include existing fans of my FB page in the draw for the prize.  Can I send them a message through FB telling them about the sweepstakes?  If not, how can I include them in the draw for the prize?

    Many thanks.

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  • One of the most useful article I have read in a while – Fantasic

  • Lauragram

    Have you taken a look at SocialAppsHQ Photo Contests app –

    Just for $29.99 per month – unlimited fans/entries

  • guest

    Hi.  My question is this.  What if you take part in a contest that is later found to be against FB rules. Particularly, you upload a picture and ask people to ‘LIKE” it, per the rules of the contest.  There is a weekly winner of x amount. At month end, the most likes gets you 5x.  If they have to take the contest down becuase of fb violations before month end, what happens with the promotion?  Any idea?

  • guest

    Hi.  My question is this.  What if you take part in a contest that is later found to be against FB rules. Particularly, you upload a picture and ask people to ‘LIKE” it, per the rules of the contest.  There is a weekly winner of x amount. At month end, the most likes gets you 5x.  If they have to take the contest down becuase of fb violations before month end, what happens with the promotion?  Any idea?

  • Biomech

    Just a quick one as I’m finding something a bit of a grey area. I would like to select 5 photos from my work each month and have my fans vote (via ‘LIKE’) on which they would like to be “Photo of the Month”. There is no monetary value and no condition of entry as I would be choosing the entries. Would this be against the rules?

  • Biomech

    Just a quick one as I’m finding something a bit of a grey area. I would like to select 5 photos from my work each month and have my fans vote (via ‘LIKE’) on which they would like to be “Photo of the Month”. There is no monetary value and no condition of entry as I would be choosing the entries. Would this be against the rules?

  • kac

    HELP. I am running a promotion using the QUESTION section. Is this ok?

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  • This is great information. How many fans should I have before I can run a contest or giveaway?

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  • mmmmm83

    I’d like to know where I can find regulations/guidelines on reflecting user activities (on third-party-apps) on their walls.  For example, if a fan enters a content through a third-party-app, could I set the app so that this action is posted on the user’s wall? 

  • Ekaterina Ponkratova

    Hi everyone! Does anyone know a third-party company that provides with a photo tagged contest? Basically, I want people to tag themselves on the image uploaded at the FP, leave the comment why they want to receive a gift and get their friends to ‘thumb up’ their comments. 


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  • Lacchiano85


    So what if I used Google Docs to create a form for people answer questions, enter information, etc. and simply posted the contest/promotion information and link on my wall.  Would that be considered using a 3rd party app or not even apply because my fans on Facebook are not being asked to do anything on Facebook itseld?

  • Mari – did you ever hear if pages can run contests using iFrames? Thank you!

  • Colin McConnell

    So… What if i posted a status update like…  “I am give one of my fans a gift card to starbucks as a thank you for being a fan.  If you are interested in please like or comment on the post of the day so I know you are interested.”    I am assuming that will not work… but thought I would try.  

  • Marsha

    Is there any way to prevent hoards of professional sweepstakers from entering your sweepstakes? 

  • Colincostello

    Use the Giveaway App to make sure you’re following Facebook’s contest guidelines

  • Social Media promotion gives you the power to take an active role in managing your
    brand by creating interactive profiles (micro websites) with your product/service

  • Farodriguez81

    Can I use a facebook “ad” which i pay them for, to promote a “sweepstakes” were I use a “third party app” as the entry form?

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  • Jknapp

    Good informative article. I would like to run a contest in conjunction with sweepstakes: i.e. I have a third party app where readers are asked a question and of those who answer correctly, I am planning on randomly choosing the winner. This would occur monthly and then I would have a larger sweepstake where each time one answers a question correctly, their name goes into a random drawing for a quarterly prize. i.e. if they answer five questions correctly during the sweepstakes period, there name will be in there five times….thank you for any direction.

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  • Christina

    Mari, thank you for this wonderful article. We have a sweepstake we’d like to administer and the goal is to collect fans. What is the best way to be compliant with this? We’re using Wildfire.

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  • Olga Cadavid

    Hi Mari.  I am planning a photo contest for the fans in our page. We do have a 3rd party application, linked to our website, from where we ran our contests. My question is:  Is it OK to ask the fans to fill out the electronic entering form and load their pictures there and from there copy and post in our wall the different pictures? Thanks. Olga

  • Auravictoria Boada

    How can i contact tne Facebook Legal Department?

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  • Amanda MTH

    This makes a lot of sense. Thank you. I am just wondering, what are the rules around giveaways? For example if we were to just give someone something for posting on our page and effectively they are not winning anything, are we covered? Your help would be very much appreciated!

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  • Sam

    Hi there, great article. 

    If we were to give something away by requesting fan email us with the answer to a question posted on our page’s wall, would this be within the rules? Is this essentially the same as promoting a contest being run on an external website/blog?Effectively, we are not asking fans to do anything within Facebook to enter. Likewise, we are not collecting entries, conducting a drawing, judging entries, or notifying winners within Facebook. 

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  • Relatively new to third party apps: Does count as a third party app that Facebook allows you to run promotions through? I’m running a giveaway promotion on a page of 2,500 fans. 

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  • Marinapintobarbosa

    HI, did you get the answer to your doubt? I have the same…

  • Well it’s always tricky with FB

  • Renée Warren

    Another great application is

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  • Thank you for this very informative article….. Wonderful that you offer such clear, concise and easily applicable advice.
    Much appreciated.
    Laura Hamilton
    Artistic Director
    Vocal Alchemy

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  • ts

    Nice article here

  • sandy621

    I am wondering about auction pages. I have noticed that one is being run on a business facebook page where fans bid on a limited number of products by leaving their paypal email as a comment. Is this in violation of FB rules? It is only one evening a week for 45 minutes. It works very well, but don’t want to risk starting one if it could be shut down.

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  • Sara G

    Hi Mari- I hope you still read this post!
    I was wondering if it is still considered a contest on Facebook if one asks its fans to post their favourite photograph on their respective Facebook pages with a specific caption and ask their friends to “like” the fan group and vote for them. Having the most votes is neither a sweepstakes nor a skill that is to be judged. Does this still count as a promotion? 

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  • Thank you Mari for going through such an in-depth explanation of Facebook promotion do’s and dont’s.  I sometimes feel like i need a law degree just to undertand the rules of the game, which is unfortunate.  You’d think Facebook legal team would want to write the guidelines as simply as possible so people can actually follow it, or perhaps that’s the marketing team’s responsibility.  At any rate, you’re insights are invaluable.  Cheers.  -makeitmindful : )

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  • J.L.


    Thanks for the really good advice. Just wondering: You wrote: Plus, you cannot contact winners inside Facebook at all—via email, chat or posting on their wall—nor can you post winners on your page wall”.

    So the question is: After someone won my contest, how am I supposes to contact him in order to send him his prize? Isn’t Email “outside” Facebook? I saw your example for ToysrUs but I think that their solution isn’t right for most pages.


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  • Communication

    OK. I have another scenario I’d like to run by you. We are having an awards program where people are nominated for various categories of awards (X of the year, Y of the year and so on) and then we’d like to have the public vote on the nominees to determine the winners of the awards. Is this considered a “contest” or promotion in Facebook where we would have to follow the third party app guidelines?

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  • Neha

    Hi there,

    Im a little confused, can I run a contest thru instagram as my third party app? would that still be okay? 

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  • Comprehensive article. I was aware of a lot of things outlined in the article, but it definately helped clarify some of the finer details.

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  • Utnalove

    ” I’m waiting to hear back from Facebook with the definitive answer and will keep you posted.” 

    Do you have any news?

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  • Justin

    Hi Mari. Thanks for the great post!

    My question is this…if I go through the steps and set up an app for running contests, what can I do on my wall in terms of driving people to my app. Can I promote my contests on my page’s wall and point users to the  app on my page? 

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  • Do you know if I can run a contest on my blog and promote on my FB page? Is this ok?

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  • How about using Facebook ads to promote a contest? Two scenarios: 1) An ad to enter to win a prize by “Attending” a Facebook event. 2) An ad on Facebook to visit our website to sign up for an event and enter to win a prize.

  • Ashtonboni

    Thanks Mari for the great info!
    Just to clarify, I can post on my fan page, ‘Giving away $$ on our blog. Clink above for details. DISCLAIMER: In no way..” I don’t need an app to do this?

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  •  Yes, I do agree. I got very attention to detail information about all things related to promotions. I think promotional items also a good way to promote the branding itself.

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  • Moonstf

    If we post on our page saying to email us pictures and then we post the pictures to our timeline to show them off is that ok?  We do a random drawing from the people that emailed us pictures.  Once a winner is chosen we email the winner then announce it on fb.  

  • Hello, I run a sweepstakes via my own website to build my customer base and I promote it on FB with the link and instructions; however, I use a third party component on my website to choose the winner. The person has to register with our site first and then press the raffle subscription button. Is this in compliance or not? The sweepstakes is promoted to everyone, even people who first enter our site. I will make my rules a lot clearer to release any social networks from liability.

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  • Courtney Atkinson

    My brother entered a competiton “Facebook Award Promotion incorporation with powerball company” through facebook a couple of months ago (he thinks) and has been told that he has won it the prize being 100,000.00 dollars and seems to good to be true. how are we able to find out if this is a scam or not? 

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  • Brian Christopher

    Thanks for the post…can I run a promotion from my website where people have to ‘like’ my website and tag my page? Then I’d announce the winner either by posting their pic on facebook page or on my website

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  • Malisasathao86

    So I am doing a giveaway just friends only. That means only my friend on my facebook list can enter. I am buying my own items at the store and giving it away not sponcing any company. I wwill be videoing how I choose the winner and announceing thw winner on facebook. Can I do my giveaway?

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  • Bibe


    Was reading through this and find it very useful, because of how complicated Facebook guidelines, do’s and don’ts can be! Thank You. just one question though, this article was written in 2011, so, are the rules pretty much the same or have they changed a bit? If they are the same, am thinking of sharing this link with my colleagues. Please let me know.

  • Hi @e4d654247e4a5d1ca70348da8f12c681:disqus — yes, the rules are exactly the same! Anytime you’re doing a promotion where you’re selecting one or more winners, you have to use an app. Even an iFrame app with your own content is fine, so long as you have the necessary disclaimers.

  • It would be great if this article was updated to reflect 2013 changes to FB and the apps. Thanks!

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  • a

    Agh! This post topped the SERPs for the query I had, but now I see it hasn’t been updated in 20 years! 🙁

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  • Kim

    I I am a “page” and I want to give my customers $10 to use at our facility for uploading a picture taken in our facility, and I have asked them to tag us, share with friends and a post a comment. Is that considered a promotion considering I am not selecting a winner?

  • Frank

    Very informative and very comprehensive post, not to mention a great read! After much research though, I still have not managed solve the following issue. I want to create a promotion in which one needs to ‘Like’ our fb page AND enter an email address in order to be entered into a sweepstakes to win a monetary prize.

    However, is it OK if, after they have liked AND entered their email address, I ask them to share a meme to “double their chances of winning”. Sharing the meme would not automatically enter them into the sweepstakes, but once they share it, they have two entries into the sweepstakes instead of one. Does that comply to FB’s policy?

  • KS

    Hi Mari Smith,

    I wanted to ask, what if I ran the contest on my website instead, and for the public to join the contest on my website, they’d first have to go and like my Facebook page.

    My idea is this, I’ll post the contest on my website and ask them to do 3 simple steps in order to enter the contest :

    1) Like my Facebook page
    2) Share the contest link on their Facebook page
    3) Email me their name and contact no.

    Will I be in violation of Facebook’s terms? Since I’m not directly running the contest on Facebook.

    Thanks. =)

  • MissC

    We’ve been using Wildfire ‘basic campaign option’ for our last 2 promotions and it’s been really easy, straightforward and affordable.
    However Wildfire is discontinuing this option as of the end of the week and will now request $5,000 as a minimum to run a Facebook promotion. Would you have any good alternatives to suggest?

  • Jasmine

    Would it be allowed to ask the fans to do something in a post, that has nothing to do with Facebook (for example, make a reservation at a specific restaurant)? Or do I also need to run this promotion over a third party App? Thanks for the help!

  • Jasmine

    (and then picking 5 at random that made a reservation, who would get a prize)

  • Claire

    Thanks so much for a very helpful article.

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  • Ashley

    Is there any app that allows customers to enter a unique code to see if they won?

  • Anne

    Thank you! This is SO useful and well-explained!

  • Shannon

    Do these rules still apply? This article comes up in a google search, but I’m finding more recent information that suggests that this is not up to date…

  • CEO

    Can I send to any person in FB message ( once ) which would promote some kind of product?
    E.G 50-100 random people a day
    Thank You for spending time reading my post in advance

  • paula harris

    I was informed this morning at 7:27am,that I was on the winning list. An given a confirmation code. And its tax free if I go to a western union and send them $350.00,by 10:am. Its a certificate the has FACEBOOK WORLD LOTTERY 2015 WINNING LIST on it. Then it proceeds to give six names,mine being one. At the very bottom there’s a signature of the person that says underneath it, Online Co Ordinator. My question is, is this real and am I being conned? I don’t have this amount of money to just throw away. Can someone please help me? The winning amount would make me really do it,if I can know for sure its real. Thank you very much

  • Paula Harris

    I need to know if my name to the Facebook winnings of 2015 are real. And should I send my money in in order to receive it? I’m suppose to send it through western union no later then 10: tomorrow morning. Help me please to know if I’m a winner or just being fooled?

  • Alaura Jane

    I understand the rules for facebook competitions but was wondering, do these rules apply for ‘offers’. I wanted to know if it is ok for me to offer a discount for people who ‘share’ a post. No competition, just a simple ‘Share this post and you will get a % code in your inbox’

    Secondly, I was wondering is it allowed to ask people to Like Your Page as apart of a competition. I want to make sure people who enter have also liked my page aswell as the post but I cannot find clear rules on it. Just no sharing/tagging. It says nothing about asking people to like your page.

    Direct from facebook: Personal profiles can’t be used to collect entries. For example, asking people to share a post on their profiles to enter your promotion isn’t permitted (ex: “Share on your profile to enter” or “Share on your friend’s profile to get more entries”).

    I have tried facebook help forums and nobody replied – I hope you can help!

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