Saturday, 25 March 2017

Why 'Share to Win' Facebook Competitions Are Wrong

Competitions are a great way to raise awareness of a new product or event. Not only do they get the word out, but they offer your customers or followers something back, a reason to keep engaging with you.


Facebook is a great place to do competitions because every time someone engages with it (by reacting, commenting, or sharing), it is spread to all of their friends. So if you have a good enough prize, you can reach lots of new people.

However, 'Share to Win' competitions are not the right thing to do. If you're running a competition, don't use 'share to win'. And if you spot a competition which is 'share to win', don't enter. Here's why.


1. It's against Facebook Policy

Now, I know people will say that rules are meant to be broken, and all they do is unfairly control us. But it's not the case. Rules are there to help you flourish in the best way possible.

For example, rules of the road will help keep people safe, and keep traffic moving. Or rules on a recipe will make sure you food tastes good and doesn't make you ill. Break them and you get car crashes, traffic jams, disgusting food, and salmonella.

So pay attention when you read Facebook's policy statement:

“Promotions may be administered on Pages or within apps on Facebook. Personal Timelines and friend connections must not be used to administer promotions (e.g. "share on your Timeline to enter" or "share on your friend's Timeline to get additional entries" and "tag your friends in this post to enter" are not permitted).” (emphasis added, ref. facebook.com III. E. 3. 28/3/17)

Every time a Page runs a competition where you must 'share to win', you and they are violating Facebook policy. And it happens all the time:
The reasons why? I'll get to them now.

2. Winners Can't Be Fairly Picked

The reason winners can't be fairly picked is because of privacy. Privacy is an important issue in social media, and many people rightly have their settings set to keep their profile private, at least to their accepted 'friends'.

So when someone enters a competition by sharing on their private timeline, the Page that runs the competition can't see it - it's a private act and hidden from public view. Therefore, everytime a 'share to win' competition is entered by someone with privacy settings on their profile, they have no chance of being picked. This goes for 'tag your friend' competitions too.

If you're running a competition, 'share to win' means you cannot claim to be fair when you pick your winner from people who have shared the post.

If you're entering a 'sahre to win' competition, you must change your settings to public, rather than private, to have a chance of being picked. Talk about being controlled...

3. There Might Not Even Be a Prize

It's not true of every 'share to win' competition, but if a Page is breaking one Facebook rule, which other rules have they decided to ignore too?

So check out any Pages with these kind of competitions to see if you trust it. Have they been active for a long time? Do they have a verified tick? Do they have their own website that matches their Page?

If these answers are no, then beware: there may be no prize at all and they might even be after your data to reach you with more sinister motives (spam, phishing).

How to run a Facebook competition?

The best way, in my opinion, to run a Facebook competition is to ask a question relevant to the competition to enter. Answers are added in the comments which enables a winner to be fairly picked (use a random number generator to choose who), and still helps the post reach lots of new people.

A recent example is one I ran for Visit Lincoln to win vouchers for a Street Food Festival.


Of course comments don't reach as far as a 'share' does, but if your competition is good enough, people will want to share it with their friends anyway. And that is a much stronger, and legal, way of reaching new people who will be interested in your brand, rather than shares only to get something for free.

So your options are:
  • 'Share to win', which is against Facebook policy, is unfair to the entrants who want privacy, and engages with people who only want something for free;
  • 'Answer to win', which is in line with Facebook policy, is fair to entrants (private or not), engages with people to discuss a topic relevant to the competition, and could inspire organic sharing due to a quality competition.