How New Facebook Contest Rules Could Damage Your Page

Facebook’s New Contest Rules – How Taking Advantage of Them Could Hurt Your Page

This week, Facebook relaxed their contest rules. Page owners are now allowed to encourage people to ask for likes and comments on their updates as contest entries.  Non-techie page admins everywhere rejoiced, or didn’t notice – lots were running illegal contests, anyway! Oh, and not to pick on the little guys – even well-known brands have been seen getting away with this. So, isn’t it great that running contest is now really simple on Facebook? Um, maybe not.

How New Facebook Contest Rules Could Damage Your PageIs this a Trap?

Last week, Facebook announced a small change to the EdgeRank Algorithm. That’s geek-speak for the formula they use to decide how likely it is that your fans will see your content.

They are looking to reward pages that post high quality content (hooray!). Since then, blog posts claiming “Facebook to punish pages that ask for ‘likes and shares’ and those that just post memes” have been popping up all over. Social media professionals rejoiced – finally, no more gaming the system with cheap tricks, disingenuous begging and gratuitous cat photos (though honestly, we thought we might miss some of the cat photos…).

Isn’t this Exactly How Facebook Defines “Gaming News Feed Distribution?”

One of the questions Facebook asked some users about a page’s quality was, “Is the content genuinely interesting to you or is it trying to game News Feed distribution? (e.g., asking for people to like the content)” Presumably this figures in to the new way of ranking and displaying content. Otherwise, why mention it?

Could it be that Facebook is trying to preemptively determine what users will label “poor quality content” by hiding or unliking a page?  After all, Facebook already decreases page reach for those pages receiving too much negative user feedback. Facebook Pro Jon Loomer theorizes that “it appears that Pages were “gaming the system” with memes and calls for comments, likes and shares.” Perhaps Facebook is as tired of those manipulative posts (“like if you hate cancer!“) as we are.

So, why would a page owner want to start asking for likes and comments, or to do so more often in order to run a contest?

Couldn’t On-Page Facebook Contests Hurt Your Page?

If Facebook determined that asking for likes and comments was annoying to users (and let’s face it, it is), wouldn’t it be like asking for negative feedback for a page owner to continue to ask for likes and comments – even in exchange for a prize? Or, is Facebook thinking that the potential reward will outweigh the aggravation, meaning that people WILL like or comment and WON’T hide these updates?

Even if we do like or comment on a few of these, won’t we get really tired of them when everyone and their uncle is giving away a $5 giftcard to McDonald’s every 5 minutes? Negative feedback = less reach = less engagement.  It’s a vicious cycle that starts with unhappy fans and ends with your page in obscurity.

First Consider – Why Are You Running a Contest on Facebook?

Is it to get more likes? You can’t require people to like your page in order to comment or like an update to enter. For that, you’ll need a “like-gated” Facebook app. If your aim is to get more likes, stick with apps to run your contests.

Want more engagement? This might be the only argument for an on-page contest. Presumably, the increased number of likes and comments will raise your “people talking about this” number and increase your reach. That is, only if people aren’t annoyed by your update enough to hide it or unlike your page. Keep a close eye on your Insights for negative feedback and adjust your strategy accordingly.

Looking to generate leads? Use a 3rd-party app to collect fan information such as name and email address. Only then can you keep in touch directly after the contest ends.

What About the Rules that Still Exist?

Yesterday, we talked about the Facebook contest rules that are still in force, and even one that was just added. One significant rule remaining is the need to include terms, rules and disclaimers. Do these need to be right in the update itself (messy), or is it acceptable to just link to an app or webpage with those rules? That’s about as clear as mud right now.

We’ll Be Sticking with Apps, Thank You

No, we are not paid by ShortStack, or any other 3rd-party Facebook app provider. Attractive, functional, branded apps are extremely easy to set up. They allow for the collection of email addresses, allow you to require people to like your page to enter and are a good place to display your terms.

Want to use apps, but don’t want to create them yourself? Need ideas for creative and effective Facebook promotions? We can help with that! Give us a call at 800.305.9420 x1.

About the Author Alisa Meredith (311 Posts)

As co-owner and chief inbound marketing consultant at Scalable Social Media, Alisa Meredith spends a lot of time keeping up with online marketing trends for the benefit of our customers. Computers have been a passion of hers since her first T1-99, so inbound and social media marketing is a natural fit.


  1. Well put, Alisa. You took all the thoughts and concerns that were swirling around in my head and made sense of them. Deep down, I still felt that 3rd party apps were the best way to go!

    Thanks, as always, for putting it all into perspective!

  2. Alisa Meredith

    Well, thank you, Michelle! Nice to see you here 🙂

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