Facebook announced the latest in its never-ending series of updates last night, with some significant changes to competition and promotion rules.  

While these announcements are ten-a-penny, this latest tweak  could have a fundamental effect on the way many pages are run. 

Previously Facebook has had some stringent rules in place that governed promotions and competitions, and the mechanics behind them. For example, page owners were unable to run competitions requiring a ‘Like’ or ‘Share’ to enter. Yesterday however the Facebook blog announced

We’ve removed the requirement that promotions on Facebook only be administered through apps

Now, promotions may be administered on Page Timelines and in apps on Facebook. For example, businesses can now:

  • Collect entries by having users post on the Page or comment/like a Page post
  • Collect entries by having users message the Page
  • Utilize likes as a voting mechanism

The good: competitions are easier to organise


These changes will make running competitions much quicker and easier to organise. there’s plenty of research to show that users often ‘Like’ pages in the vague hope that they’ll get a few freebies, so it could be a good way initially connect with users, provide easier rewards and grow a fan-base. 

The bad: competitions are easier to organise!

This ease of use also means users could soon be facing a barrage of competitions, as smaller pages in particular continue to focus purely on “Likes” as a measure of success.  

While for brands struggling for content, there’s the temptation to add competitions to the ‘fill in the blank/name a colour beginning with R’ style posts collection (see the marvellous condescending corporate brand page for more examples) which ultimately undermine the user experience (such as it is…).

There’s also evidence that consistently running competitions and giving away prizes devalues the same fanbase that you’ve put so much work into building.  

Finally, it’s also worth considering the effect this may have on the Facebook app economy.  Many tech providers come equipped with competition apps, so while it's great for page managers not to have to rely on third-party services, this could lead to a related downturn in their fortunes. 

The Ugly: Facebook revenue and the devalued fan

Since its IPO, Facebook has been in a scramble to identify revenue sources, so it’s not a great leap of the imagination to see this as another method of focusing brands on collecting ‘Likes ‘and fans, which of course, Facebook can charge you to reach, and cross-sell to via ads.  

While this makes day-to-day account handling significantly easier, its long-term results may not be so useful. 

If you’re a page manager (or involved in FB apps) it would be great to hear your opinion on this.

Matt Owen

Published 28 August, 2013 by Matt Owen

Matt Owen is a marketing consultant based in London. He was previously Head of Social at Econsultancy and currently runs Atomise Marketing. Opinions expressed are author's own.

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Comments (11)

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I have the same concerns with you. I feel like this contradicts their whole 20% text rule that was meant to make ads feel less invasive in News Feeds.

Sadly some of the bigger brands out there are still focused on like numbers without thinking (or local-level flexibility) about who is on the page and if they contribute to their ROI at all. This may help them hit this year's target, but at the expense of really understanding their social consumer.

almost 5 years ago



Obv. this - combined with the info about the new "edgerank" update Friday Aug 23rd - is another way of increasing Facebook revenues, which is quite understandable. You very rarely see a lot of happy employees/investors when they are being paid with hot air.

I don't see the big issue here. Facebook wants advertisers/companies to pay to reach FBs user pool, so we will probably see that it will be harder and harder to be visible in the stream with posts from pages - unless you pay to promote the post.

And the devalued fan? Number of likes has never really been that important - it is important to convert your likes/fans

almost 5 years ago


Danny Whatmough, Associate social media and digital director at Ketchum

I think it is totally clear to see this as part of Facebook's move away from apps and towards Timeline and Newsfeed. This ties in with its latest paid options which are Newsfeed based.

I welcome this move but think you make a valid point about the concern of 'competition overload'. The challenge is to not to be lazy but use competitions in a way that really adds value and embraces creativity. Then this is a great way to tap into Edgerank and maximise engagement/ROI metrics.

almost 5 years ago


Erica Ayotte

Of course there will be the temptation for brands to abuse this, but like all things that are disruptive or gimmicky to the point of annoyance, there will be diminishing returns once folks tire of their overuse.

Brands that focus on only transactional relationships won't see much value beyond the immediate transaction. Brands that selectively utilize contests to build genuine affinity will get much more value out of tactics like these.

almost 5 years ago


Steve Wright

IANAL and everything, but this seems like a total disaster.

Not sure it's even possible to pick a winner from a list of post likers without breaing the CAP Code.

almost 5 years ago



I'm pleased that certain competitions will be easier to administer. If we want to do a quick competition as part of a longer social campaign, as we do sometimes with Twitter RT comps, then this will be a quick way to run this - although picking a winner will be more manual. With Twitter RT comps I set the account to ensure I get an email every time someone RTs us and put all the names in an excel spreadsheet then pick one at random. Slightly arduous and FB likes/comments will probably be a similar cut and paste job. But for a competition that only needs to run for a day or two I think it's great.

It won't stop us using third-party apps to administer competitions as well though. We have two long competition-led campaigns coming up in the next few months. I've been investigating a lot of third-parties for these and I don't think this change will make any difference to those plans - obviously there are annoyances with tabs, particularly them not showing on mobile, but for longer-running campaigns and competitions that call for more engagement (eg voting for a favourite) I don't think 'like' comps can compete, plus of course we'd like to capture email addresses.

I know some will abuse the 'like' competition and overdo it - some do already - but I don't think in the long-run this change will replace creative competitions that are centred around engagement and not just building likes. Maybe I'm wrong and overly optimistic though!

almost 5 years ago


charles ubaghs

It's an interesting and potentially welcome move but as someone who works in commercial broadcasting, which is heavily regulated when it comes to competitions and promotions, we'd still avoid running a competition directly on our pages. Age checks and contacting winners would be problematic and if I remember my ASA guidelines correctly, you'd still need to either make your T&Cs clear in the post, or ensure they're available via a one click link.

almost 5 years ago

Kris Littlewood

Kris Littlewood, Digital Marketing Assistant at English Lakes

So all those brands who have been breaking the rules for years have got away with it?

almost 5 years ago


Rick Noel

Great post and insights Matt with some welcome information to many online marketers using Facebook to promote their product/service/brand/event/etc.

For pages setup specifically for one time or even recurring events, competition overload and its potential to devalue an existing fanbase is not as relevant in my opionion as business pages that have a longer life.

It is amazing how many people have been running these kinds competitions in the past, now they can continue to run while being aligned with Facebook TOS.

As you point out, the end game for Facebook is clearly revenue and this move will help page owners broaden reach by increasing fanbase while providing Facebook bigger audiences (fans, friends of fans) to offer broader distribution options generating more revenue advertising options like the "Boost Post" options.

Thanks for sharing.

almost 5 years ago


Fade Adenile

I do not think this is much of a big deal. A lot of FB Pages were able to get away with managing a contests via the Timeline in the past anyway and I have never heard of anyone being penalized for doing this. In fact, a lot of people did not even know it was not legal to do it in that approach. Marketers in social media who like getting leads will persist employing third party apps, unless the client requires a fast engagement increase. Running contests will replace strategies to get 'likes' and memes.

almost 5 years ago


brett sidaway

HOORAY! As a regular creater of FB comps for our clients, anything that makes things simpler or easier is good news for us and our client- but, of course, it will perhaps stem the slump in FB popularity amongst consumers.

And yes, Chris - most brands were breaking the rules, which may be one reason for the change.

almost 5 years ago

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