Some of the most common actions by businesses running contests on Facebook and Instagram are actually violating their terms of service. And while it seems like everyone who is running a “like, comment and share this post to enter” is getting away with it, doesn’t mean that it’s right, or any good for your social media presence.

Like, Share & Comment? Um… nope.

First up, against my own advice at time, and seemingly against the flow of seemingly thousands of businesses doing it regularly, you’re not actually allowed to force people to like, shake, follow or comment on posts on Facebook or Instagram in order to qualify for entry in any competition or giveaway. The Facebook terms of service are actually very clear about this. And while Brenda at Company X or Gerald at Business Y have been getting away with it doesn’t mean that they should be getting away with it. In fact, they are probably only a report or two away from having their post removed or their page suspended. Pleading ignorance isn’t going to help you here; it’s not Facebook’s responsibility to ensure you understand their rules – it’s your responsibility to read and understand them yourself.

Just ask first

Second up, if you plan to use any photos, videos or content produced by your entrants on Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn, you have to ask their permission first. You can do this at the point of entry – preferably on a web landing page – or you can ask them one by one as they submit them. If you have a Conditions of Entry page or list (and you should have one) also make sure that you have made it clear that by entering, you could use their material for promotional or marketing purposes in future. And while we’re talking legalities, you need to be clear that your contest has nothing to do with Facebook, Instagram or their other apps, and that neither endorse or support it. If you’re not making this clear, then you too, could be one reporting away from your page being suspended.

Good practices makes perfect

These are the two major rules that get broken and that also lead to accounts being banned and pages being suspended. So now you know it, you have no excuse. But there is more to running competitions than rules. There’s also best practice. One of the best practices of all is to write up a bunch of clear as glass competition rules. You don’t have to put them all in your post though. You can have them on a landing page or websiteor even in a comment below your post. Also, jumping through hoops is for dog shows, not Facebook competitions. Just yesterday I saw a post for a group of local businesses in Darwin that required you to go and like the pages and Instagram accounts of some 20 different businesses, share the post with multiple friends and then comment with something inane on the post just to enter the competition. While it was all in aid of giving local businesses some exposure, which I love, making someone jump through 30 hoops to enter is actually quite ridiculous and breaks at least 3 terms of service with Facebook and another couple on Instagram. And the danger goes way beyond the original post – it extends to every page of every business participating in the promotion. Every one of them could have their pages suspended.

You’re safe. They’re safe. We’re all safe.

As you can see, there’s a few things to consider before you create a contest or competition. The rules are there to protect users on Facebook from being ripped off or having their privacy violated by businesses who intentionally or accidentally breach privacy laws. But the rules also protect you in case of legal problems. If you follow the rules, you won’t get burned and your followers will be happy.