How to Inexpensively Run a Facebook-legal Sweepstakes on Your Fan Page

Did you know running a sweepstakes on your Facebook Fan page can get you kicked off Facebook? It’s true. Check out the guidelines:

These Promotion Guidelines, along with the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, the Ad Guidelines, the Platform Policies and all other applicable Facebook policies, govern your communicationabout or administration of any contest, competition, sweepstakes or other similar offering (each, a “promotion”) using Facebook.

Promotions on Facebook must be administered within Apps on, either on a Canvas Page or an app on a Page Tab.

Here’s a great article from Social Media Examiner explaining the rules: Facebook Promotions: What You Need to Know.

Basically, Facebook won’t let you run sweepstakes except within a Facebook app.

So your first step is choosing the right app provider. There are many, many options out there, varying in price and features.  Here are a few:

Here are some I looked into:

Context Optional

  • Does video, photo and essay contests, plus a lot more
  • Coupon
  • Catalog
  • Gifts
  • Vote
  • Full list:
  • Create unlimited applications – can create it within the platform – need a designer to manipulate it
  • Monthly fee
  • Even more expensive than Wildfire

Most of the options offer a lot of functionality and cost a lot of money. If you’re an agency, or you’re really doing big things on Facebook, I’m sure they’re great. But if you’re dipping your toes in the water, and really just need to get your sweepstakes street legal, you need NorthSocial.

Plans range from $20 – $150 a month for all their apps, which includes a sweepstakes app. If you pay the $150, you can install every app on up to five Fan pages.

Here’s how their sweepstakes app works:

You need to create three custom images for the sweepstakes:

  • An image telling people to fan your page to enter (if you choose to fan-gate, or require entrants to like your page to enter)
  • An image with instructions on how to enter on it
  • An image that says thank-you for entering

Fans enter by filling out a form provided by NorthSocial. You’ll have to decide which fields to require.

Something to note: sweepstakes and contests are not the same. Here’s how Facebook defines them:

c. By “contest” or “competition” we mean a promotion that includes a prize of monetary value and a winner determined on the basis of skill (i.e., through judging based on specific criteria).
d. By “sweepstakes” we mean a promotion that includes a prize of monetary value and a winner selected on the basis of chance.

NorthSocial does sweepstakes, not contests. If you need to run a contest, you’ll need a more sophisticated app. NorthSocial is working on a contest app, but doesn’t have one yet.

So here’s a rundown of the good and bad of using NorthSocial for your sweepstakes:

The good: The app makes you legal for cheap. It’s got the mandatory text from Facebook absolving them of liability built in, so you don’t have to worry about it. Also, the share button makes it easy for sweepstakes entrants to share the sweepstakes with their friends. Optional Fan-gating is nice. The apps are easy to install and easy to use. Their customer service is good.

The bad: There is no space for text on the app; I find this clunky. Also, the images you have to create must be 520 x 650 pixels, so no landscape orientation for you. Realize that you’re on your own with this. If you need someone to sit down with you and tell you what your Facebook page needs, this isn’t the app for you.

Overall, NorthSocial is probably the best option for brands that want to easily, legally run a sweepstakes on Facebook.

Here’s another list of the best social media tools for small businesses.

Does anyone have any other options that I’m missing? Is there anything cheaper out there that does the same thing? Let me know in the comments.

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