Facebook competitions: how to make them successful and legally compliant

Only a few users would pass up a chance to take part in a Facebook competition. Why are they so popular? It’s because they’re fun and users can get rewarded for taking part. They attract more attention than classic advertising and enable potential customers to interact with the company in a playful way. However, you have to weigh up whether the time and budget costs are worthwhile. It is important to set concrete goals and not to lose sight of them. It’s also necessary to avoid legal pitfalls.

Are contests on Facebook worthwhile?

Win yourself a prize, get in touch with your favorite company, or express your own opinion: A Facebook competition provides a way of getting customers to interact with the company. It activates passive fans and reaches other users who then become fans or even customers.

One thing is certain: these contests increase your organic reach. In this case, unlike paid coverage, you don’t have to spend money on advertisements. However, this should not be the main goal, since organic reach rarely leads to sustainable success. The organic reach achieved with a competition is only effective short term. If you don’t act appropriately to keep newly-acquired fans, the range curve will drop sharply within a short time. Some experts even believe that this has a negative effect on the Facebook algorithm. If a single post stands out due to an unusually high level of user interaction in relation to other posts, this will seem unnatural to the algorithm and could lead to the respective page being devaluated. On the other hand, if you proceed strategically, you will achieve more and improve your presence on a long-term basis.

Do you run a retail store and are responsible for its marketing and associated blog posts? You will go about it a different way, depending on what applies to you and what you’re aiming for. Different goals for organizing a Facebook competition could include getting to know regular customers better, introducing a product and arousing buying interest, or attracting more readers. Once a goal has been defined, you can work out other formalities more quickly such as the prize, the competition format and its analysis, and target group-specific addressing. Here is what you can achieve with a Facebook competition:

  • Attract attention and gain new fans
  • Activate the community and improve interaction
  • Keep regular customers and gain new ones
  • Generate leads (e.g. contact data)
  • Introduce products and increase buying interest
  • Strengthen branding
  • Initiate user-generated content
  • Conduct market research
  • Receive feedback

It goes without saying that these goals interlock and lead to extra aims being fulfilled. For example, using your online store’s Facebook fan page helps you attract more prospective customers, but at the same time also increases the potential turnover through purchases. If you use a Facebook competition to conduct market research, you will know what your customers want and you will be able to orientate your product range more effectively. Lead generation, in turn, extends the possibilities for contacting potential buyers.

Timeline or app competition?

There are two basic forms of Facebook competitions. You can either start one on the timeline of your fan page or use an app programmed specifically for Facebook contests. Both have advantages and disadvantages. The main advantage of an app is its wide range of applications. The competition isn’t made up of individual posts, but is integrated into an individually-designed user interface. The high amount of time and money required can be disadvantageous.

Timeline competition: functionality, advantages, and disadvantages

A timeline competition is directly integrated into your Facebook profile page. The organizers publish a post that calls for people to participate as well as specifying the terms and conditions. Users have the usual basic Facebook functions at their disposal: They can either like the post or comment on it. Participants answer a quiz question by commenting under the post. Users who have become aware of the company thanks to the competition, can get a link to their main page so that all the posts on it will appear in the user’s feed from now on. This can help the fan community grow.

To ensure that the article remains in sight, it is advisable to pin it to the timeline so that it stays at the top during the competition. The draw or announcement will also take place in the timeline. Since it is not possible to send a message to private accounts from a public account, the winner will be notified in the timeline. After revealing the name, the winner will be asked to get in touch by private message and to leave their contact details to receive the prize. This means that interaction possibilities are quite limited.

Timeline competitions are easy to implement. Facebook posts are written quickly, and all Facebook users know the well-known functions of the social media platform so it’s easy for them to take part. It doesn’t cost the organizer any extra and doesn’t take much time to prepare, which is one of the advantages. A disadvantage, on the other hand, are the limited design possibilities. An animated advent calendar or a colorfully designed quiz, for example, isn’t possible. This is because the timeline’s design can’t be individualized, unlike in an app or on your own website.

Not every business objective can be fulfilled with a timeline competition. Since it’s difficult to collect user data this way, they aren’t suitable for lead generation and only suitable for market research to a limited extent. What users think about the product range, for example, can only be asked within the framework of a survey or vote. Evaluating numerous comments can also be rather cumbersome. In addition, there are a number of legal rules that need to be adhered to. This makes it difficult to conduct a legally compliant competition. For example, you’re not allowed to share the competition, which prevents it from going viral. A timeline competition on Facebook is therefore more suited to increasing the reach, encouraging fans to interact more, and gaining new ones.

More complex, but more flexible: app competitions

An app competition that runs on Facebook? This does exist and has numerous advantages. However, this is not a Facebook app! The app must either be programmed by you or bought as a finished application from a service provider. The app makes the most of the popular social media platform’s potential. As a rule, the apps are usually connected to the social media channel via Facebook’s API (application programming interface), but not to a Facebook profile page. The app can be used elsewhere, not just on the smartphone. It is possible and also useful to have the app integrated into your own website, microsite, and landing page at the same time.

If you don’t have any programming skills or no app developers on hand to help, it doesn’t mean you have to give up hope of organizing an app competition. There are more and more agencies and software developers who take over the programming for their customers. They either develop new apps completely depending on the customer’s requirements or they provide app templates. With the latter, functions and design can usually be easily adapted to your own ideas using a modular system.


You don’t have to program an app competition yourself. There are companies that offer customizable apps for a fee.

Whether a multi-part quiz or interactive voting: The app enables the entire range of game formats to be used. Appealing designs can be implemented and target group specific alignment is made a lot easier. Since an app is more expensive and time-consuming, the effort is particularly worthwhile when it comes to extensive advertising campaigns.

With an app, the functions are more versatile, which opens up further possibilities. Since it can potentially offer more multimedia content and interactivity, the game theme is more pronounced. This increases the number of participants as well as the success rate. An individual design is also more appealing and corresponds to a company’s corporate identity. Some processes such as the scoring, notifying the winner, monitoring the success, and offering prizes can be automated. Other channels such as Twitter or Instagram can also be integrated to increase the reach.

More valuable customer data is collected as part of a Facebook competition. Features for collecting personal data can be integrated in various places. Participants can subscribe to newsletters or fill in contact forms and questionnaires. If you have set yourself the goal of generating leads and conducting market research, you can do this much more easily with an app. The prerequisite for this is that the legal requirements for data protection are adhered to.

Best practice and successful formats for contests on Facebook

When it comes to Facebook competitions, there are different forms of action that allow users to participate. Different formats are available depending on the intention and target group. What they all have in common, however, is that they encourage Facebook users to become active in some way, and that a draw takes place after a certain deadline. If you want to collect user-generated content, a creative competition is a better idea than a quiz. Here are some examples of formats that are suitable for competitions:

  • Quiz questions
  • Surveys
  • Betting games
  • Photo competitions
  • Personality tests
  • Advents calendars
  • Comments
  • Voting
  • Likes

Not all competitions require a lot of effort and for a new website to be set up. An example of a successful Facebook competition was that of the company, Pura Vida Bracelets, which sells handmade bracelets online by artists from all over the world. It asked Facebook users to comment on the bracelets depicted in their posts. If the user indicated which piece of jewelry they liked best, they would qualify to participate in the competition. Within a few hours, the fan page had more than a thousand comments. This meant that the company could find out which products from its range were especially popular, without having to spend a lot of money on market research.

Dos & don’ts of a Facebook competition: rules and laws

There are clear rules when it comes to competitions on Facebook and if they aren’t followed, it could lead to a devaluation or even account deletion in the worst case. You have to consider data protection as well, so it’s best to familiarize yourself with the rules.

Comply with Facebook guidelines

Is it allowed or not? Take a look at the Facebook guidelines to be on the safe side. You can find them under Facebook Pages terms. The guidelines are sometimes updated so it’s a good idea to check them each time you plan a new competition. There are quite a few restrictions, but don’t let this deter you from publishing your own contest. The reason for all these clauses is that Facebook wants to protect itself against liability for any illegal or unlawful contests.

The platform requires a disclaimer to be included in every competition. This disclaimer should contain the following points:

  1. Facebook is exempt from any claims connected to the competition
  2. It must be stated that the competition is in no way sponsored, endorsed, or associated with Facebook

This means additional text has to be added to the post, but adhering to these terms and adding the disclaimer is the only way if you want to make sure you’re protected against all eventualities.

The requirements also depend on the type of Facebook competition. Generally speaking, it is more complicated to make a timeline competition legally secure. After all, it takes place directly on the social media platform and not as part of an external app. Here is an overview of the rules for timeline competitions:

Allowed Prohibited
Users are allowed to comment on posts Asking users to share the post
Users are allowed to post a photo on the fan page Requesting users to tag themselves or friends in photos or comments
Users are allowed to like posts Asking users to publish content on their profiles or on other fan pages, or to upload images
Users are allowed to like the fan page and automatically participate in the competition Requesting users to change their status or register somewhere
Users are allowed to send private messages Notifying the winner by posting on their profile
The user must give their consent prior to the winner and the winning entry being announced Asking users to spread hashtags

This means that it is ok to invite users to participate in Facebook competitions via likes, comments, or by posting photos. For example, the most beautiful photo or the comment with the most likes wins. This all takes place on the company’s profile, of course. It’s forbidden to write things such as 'Post about us on your profile!' or 'Write a post telling your friends to take part!'. In addition, sharing posts can’t be one of the conditions for participation.

The legal situation for apps is even more complicated. A number of things must be taken into account during development. Among other things, the Facebook platform guidelines apply as well as the community standards and advertising guidelines. These prohibit you from changing the basic Facebook functions. However, the app is less strict when it comes to other areas e.g. the share function and implementing other forms of interaction that can be used to collect data. However, it is necessary to give users the option to delete their data if they want to. The easiest way to go about it, is to buy a pre-developed app version that has already been tested for legal compliance.

Mandated by law: conditions of participation

When it comes to Facebook competitions, it is important to consider other things besides the platform’s terms. Be on the safe side and clearly explain the rules of the competition. This not only serves for the purpose of transparency, but is also required by law. Conditions of participation must be clearly formulated and clearly visible

For a legally-compliant competition, the entry requirements should include the following information as a minimum:

  • Information about the competition’s organizer 
  • Participation requirements and eligible persons
  • Timescale: duration, deadline, and draw date
  • Information on the prize
  • Information on how the winner is determined
  • Information on how the winner will be notified

This additional information can also be useful:

  • What will happen if the winner doesn’t get in touch
  • The right to modify or terminate the contest
  • Stopping abuse
  • The participants’ disclosure rights

In addition, the phrase 'the organizers’ decision is final' should not be forgotten. This means that the prize can’t be claimed in court.

In addition to the terms and conditions, we also recommend that you adapt the privacy policy to the Facebook competition. This applies in particular if you provide a contact form or a newsletter via an app function. The declaration provides information on how personal data is collected and processed.

Facebook disclaimer, terms and conditions, and privacy policy: these three could result in quite a bit of text. It makes little sense to post the complete set of rules at once. In the case of a timeline competition, these can be published in an extra post or placed in Facebook Notes. This is more legally secure that placing the text on your own website or landing page.


Legal requirements take up a lot of space in a timeline contest. Alternatively, these can be stored in Facebook Notes. It is important to refer to them explicitly and make them accessible via a link.

What are the pitfalls?

Sometimes Facebook needs to cancel the competition, for example, because a provocative comment triggered a discussion that quickly got out of hand. This is a horror scenario that rarely occurs, but cannot be completely ruled out. Therefore, it’s important to know the possible risks. This way, it will be easier to decide whether this form of marketing is worthwhile for you and what you can do in case this does happen.

Facebook competitions are not safe from manipulation. Sometimes likes are bought to increase the chances of winning, but this is difficult to prove. Therefore, competitions where the entry with the most likes wins, might not be the best option. Other possible violations of the conditions are also hard to spot. It is therefore advisable to focus on deterring those planning to do just this by adding a further clause to the terms for participating: 'Misuse and violation of the conditions of participation will result in disqualification. The prize will be subsequently withdrawn'.

You can also protect yourself from fake accounts: Sometimes it helps to explicitly restrict participation to 'persons with unlimited legal capacity'. It is annoying when the winner doesn’t get in touch, but you can prevent this from happening by then having a second draw, or giving the prize to the second most popular comment. Not awarding the prize would damage the company’s image, and by having a second draw and ending the competition, this means that the winner can’t suddenly claim the prize months later. Another possible problem is 'competition tourists'. These users take part in numerous competitions for the sole purpose of winning the prize, but at the same time, they contribute very little to the business objectives. You should therefore make the campaign as concrete as possible and target a clearly defined group.

Trolls are always a risk on social media. You can report 'hate posts' and comments that cross the line to Facebook’s support service. The service then decides whether the post violates the guidelines and deletes it if necessary. A good way to deal with trolls is to counterattack them factually.


Whatever the incident is, solve it! If you do nothing, your company will lose credibility, annoy the other participants, and could end up damaging your corporate identity.

A worst case scenario is when Facebook terminates the competition or even deletes the account due to violations. Regular checks are made to see whether companies are being compliant or not, especially when Facebook algorithms detect unusually high activity. To make sure you don’t get any warnings or lawsuits filed against you, make sure you strictly adhere to the guidelines and sort out any legal uncertainties.

Step-by-step guide to a successful competition

Implement a competition effectively and achieve your business goals: How this can be done is best illustrated by a fictitious example.

Define goals

Whether you’re a small or medium-sized company or a blogger, everyone has different aims when it comes to Facebook competitions. For example, a yoga school isn’t hoping for a large range that spans several towns, but is more likely on the lookout for new students for the school.

Addressing the target group correctly

To reach potential new customers, the yoga school should know its exact target group. The campaign will only be successful if it is aimed at local residents who want to do something good for their general well-being and are open to trying out yoga. Depending on the courses offered, it might make sense to narrow down the target group even more precisely. If the weekend courses are not fully booked, for example, it would make sense to specifically target working people and advertise an optimal work-life balance.

Different aspects have to be taken into account when adjusting to your target group: The type of prizes, terms and conditions, as well as the wording and style. Is a friendly approach better than a formal one? Think about how to hit the right note. Ideally, communication via Facebook is always on an equal footing. In addition, the image material should fit the target group.

What’s the prize?

The prize should be appropriate. For example, the yoga school could offer membership for a month, discount for a beginner’s course, or a 10-entry card. This makes the target group happy and creates an incentive for them to try out the courses. However, existing customers might already enjoy the courses they’re taking and want to visit the school more frequently. This way, a trial subscription can quickly turn into an annual membership. In contrast to giving yoga accessories as prizes, this excludes participants who aren’t interested in attending a course or those who aren’t even located in the same area. Those interested in the courses will find out about the schedules on Facebook due to the competition, even if they don’t win any of the prizes.

The prize doesn’t have to be huge. To increase the number of potential new customers, it makes sense to give away several smaller prizes instead, such as coupons or trial memberships. However, the value of the prize also depends on how much effort the participant has to put in. No-one will take part in a time consuming, multipart creativity contest for a few dollars’ discount, but they might for a free annual membership.

How much budget should be invested?

A Facebook competition needs to pay off. It is therefore important to draw up an approximate cost-benefit calculation. In addition to the prize, the working hours and cost of campaign activities also play a role. The ROI (return on investment) serves as a benchmark for a profitable advertising campaign. This indicator expresses the percentage ratio between the money invested and the profit generated. Check how profitable the competition was afterwards so that you can better estimate the necessary budget next time.

Here’s an example: The yoga school could give away 5 monthly memberships worth $50. If it’s a timeline competition that doesn’t require much preparation, the labor costs may total $80. A multi-day Facebook ad placement advertising the competition may cost $140. This means that the yoga company has spent $470 on the campaign. If at least three of the participants decide to buy a $600 annual membership within 2 months, the school will have made a profit of $1,330. On the other hand, it is more difficult to measure the reach achieved, since the effect sometimes occurs much later.

Setting up a winning format

Once you’ve determined the intention, target group, price, and budget, you just need to select a suitable format and additional general terms and conditions.

Whether it’s a photo competition or a quiz, the effort and level of difficulty should be fair. In the case of the yoga school, it would be too easy to let users participate by simply liking the page. A quiz on different styles of yoga appeals to just the right audience. Beginners should be able to answer the questions too. Hatha, Ashtanga, or Vinyasa yoga? It’s a good idea to refer to the yoga styles that your school offers.

In addition to the conditions of participation, you should include the above-mentioned information on duration, prize, etc. The duration depends on the conditions of participation. A simple quiz should not last more than two weeks. At the same time, advertisements should be placed on Facebook to enable accurate targeting. In general, accompanying advertising measures are helpful and increase the number of participants.

The pros and cons of competitions at a glance

The following table is intended to help you determine whether a Facebook competition is worthwhile for you or whether another marketing campaign would be more suitable. The advantages and disadvantages of the two types of contest are also compared. How relevant a point is, depends on the marketing goal.

Timeline competition






✔ Low costs

✘ Limited functions

✔ Many features for interacting, contacting, and collecting data

✘ Costs for app development or app service

✔ Little effort (posting required)

✘ Difficult to measure performance

✔ Integration of automated success control

✘ More effort for installation and technical adjustments

✘ Not suitable for collecting user data

✔ High-quality data can be obtained

✘ More complicated privacy policies

✔ Basic functions already known

✘ Limited design

✔ Individual design for better branding

✔ Participants don’t need to leave the timeline

✘ High risk of misuse

✔ Large viral effect

✘ Reach is achieved outside the fan page

✔ Better integration of conditions of participation, disclaimer, and privacy policy

✔ Multi-channel marketing by integrating other social media channels

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