Facebook has released new competition guidelines that now allow brands to run competitions directly on their Page instead of through third party apps. This means that brands can post a status update and invite people to like or comment on it to enter, but there are limitations on how successful these competitions can be.  Our Facebook developers have put together some tips on what you should know about the new guidelines before running your next Facebook competition, and why competition apps may still be the right option.

Facebook competition guidelines

1. Using Facebook functionality
In the past, Facebook prohibited businesses from using its basic functionality (liking, sharing, commenting, and uploading) as a way to enter or vote in a competition. While many businesses were conducting competitions in posts anyway, it wasn’t until last week that Facebook officially approved them. That being said, there are still restrictions: People cannot enter a competition by sharing content or tagging themselves in a photo they aren’t in. Sharing also cannot be used as a way to get additional entries into the competition.
The benefits of running a competition through a status update are obvious: You save on the time and cost of developing a Facebook competition app.  The engagement with your post will also push your content onto more people’s Newsfeeds, potentially getting you more fans in the process.

But it’s not all positive; using a status-based competition severely limits how the competition functions, and is less likely to get further engagement from fans. Apps, on the other hand, can include more bells and whistles, which means your competition is memorable and could keep fans coming back to your Page.

2. Data capture
In addition to generating buzz around a Facebook Page, competitions are a great way to collect contact details for your future marketing efforts. While people are willing to provide their email addresses and phone numbers in an app, they are much less likely to provide that information within a public Facebook comment.  They also won’t have the opportunity to sign up to your newsletter. Adding to your marketing database is an invaluable benefit of running a competition, and is a major consideration when deciding whether or not to use an app.

Facebook competition apps can also include a Likegate, which means only people who like your page can enter the competition. By posting a competition through a status update, you miss out on getting those new likes because people will be able to enter without liking your page. That means users will be less likely to engage with your page again, and you’ll lose out on developing a long-term relationship with them

3. Managing a competition
Running a status-based competition is not as easy as it sounds. Your fans will want to feel that they had as much of an opportunity to enter as everyone else, so if your competition runs for more than a day you’ll need to write multiple status updates with the hopes of reaching as many followers as possible. Collating all the entries from multiple status updates can get complicated, especially since people will be able to enter after the competition has closed, and can enter more than once by liking or commenting on multiple updates. One of the benefits of competition apps is that they are easy to manage. Brands are typically given a spreadsheet of entries and simply choose a winner. There’s no work to compile all the entries or to cross-reference them to make sure everyone has only entered once.

Holding a status-based competition also means that everyone can see exactly what has happened with entries, so if they aren’t happy with the way the competition was run, they will complain…loudly.  If you do plan on managing a competition within a Facebook post, you’ll need to be prepared for possible negative feedback from anyone who thinks the competition was unfair.

4. Campaign oriented
Often competitions are related to a larger marketing campaign, and apps can be designed to reflect that campaign’s look and feel.  Apps can include much more information about the campaign than a status update can, and will also provide users with relevant external links, voucher codes and videos in an organised way.

Additionally, competition apps will have their own URL, which means brands can promote the competition on other marketing material and across other social networks.

5. The fine print
A company must still provide users with the competition’s official rules and Terms & Conditions, and release Facebook from any responsibility. That’s an awful lot of information to include in a status update. If you do decide to use status-based competitions, we recommend including a link to a page on your website with all this information.  Without providing these details to your fans, you are in breach of Facebook’s guidelines and risk penalties to your Page.

Why the change?
We give Facebook credit for acknowledging that brands have been holding competitions through status updates for a long time. Part of the incentive to changing the guidelines was probably because so many brands were breaking the rules and Facebook didn’t want to actually penalise them all. More importantly, though, we think this has to do with Facebook advertising. With companies now able to hold a competition within a status update, they’ll be more likely to want to promote that post using a Facebook ad. Smart thinking, Facebook.

We’d recommend only small businesses that are running a single-day competition try using status-based competitions.  Otherwise the competition could get too complicated and end up a disaster. Luckily for the rest of you we’re here to help you create a competition app that suits your needs.

What are your thoughts on the new Facebook competition guidelines? Let us know in the comments below.

For more information on our apps, including Facebook competitions, please contact one of our Facebook developers today.