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UPDATED MAY 2023
We can all admit that it’s pretty confusing trying to work out what’s allowed and what’s not when it comes to running competitions on social media. Even finding the official competition rules of each platform is a struggle in itself. So I thought I’d clear up the confusion around Facebook contest rules, Instagram giveaway rules, Twitter competition rules, as well as the rules for running competitions on Pinterest, YouTube, LinkedIn and TikTok.
A little disclaimer before we begin – the rules for each platform are correct at the time of publishing and are regularly checked and updated with any changes, however you should always check the rules for yourself directly with the platform you’re planning to use (links for each platform below).
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Facebook competition rules.
Facebook’s rules for running competitions are my favourite – they’re precise, clear and most importantly, they’re short and sweet…
What do Facebook’s contest rules actually mean?
Facebook is one of the most popular platforms on which to run – and promote – competitions… so let’s break down Facebook’s competition rules, rule by rule so you feel confident understanding what they mean and how they impact your competition.
If you use your Page, group or event to announce or administer a promotion (a contest, giveaway or sweepstakes) you must ensure that your promotion complies with applicable legal and regulatory requirements (e.g. providing entrants a copy of the promotion’s official rules, disclosing offer terms and eligibility requirements, and registering your promotion with the relevant authorities).
- Essentially this rule means check your legal obligations at a local, state/territory and federal level as they apply to your competition.
- This includes – but is not necessarily limited to – ensuring your competition has ‘official rules’ (or terms and conditions) and that you apply for any relevant permits, licences and authorities to run your competition.
- The easiest and most thorough way to “ensure that your promotion complies with applicable legal and regulatory requirements” is to check with a local law firm who have experience with legal requirements for competitions, contests, giveaways, sweepstakes or trade promotions.
You must also require participants to (a) fully release and hold Meta harmless from liability, and (b) acknowledge that the promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed, administered by or associated with Meta.
- This is Meta’s (Facebook’s parent company) way of covering their butt legally.
- In a nutshell it means Meta and/or Facebook can’t and won’t be held responsible if your competition goes sideways.
- The easiest way to comply with this rule is to include a liability release and acknowledgement in your terms and conditions.
Your promotion must not require or incentivise participants to share, repost, tag others or in any other way publicise your promotion.
- Do not ask people to share or tag as part of your competition.
- This means do not ask people to share and/or tag to enter or to get extra entries.
- You’ll find a comprehensive post about tag and share competitions on Facebook here.
Note that Meta will not assist you in administering a promotion. Should you use our services to administer your promotion, you do so at your own risk.
- Basically, you’re on your own if you run a competition on Facebook, Meta won’t help you in any way shape or form.
- You run competitions on the Facebook platform at your own risk.
Instagram competition rules.
Instagram’s competition rules are very similar to Facebook’s rules, which is unsurprising given that both Facebook and Instagram are owned by the same parent company, Meta.
There are a couple of major differences between the two though, which we’ll dive into here.
What do Instagram’s contest rules actually mean?
As one of the most popular platforms to run competitions on, it’s important to understand Instagram’s contest rules, so here’s a rule-by-rule breakdown…
1. If you use Instagram to communicate or administer a promotion (example: a contest or sweepstakes), you are responsible for the lawful operation of that promotion, including:
- The official rules;
- Offer terms and eligibility requirements (example: age and residency restrictions); and
- Compliance with applicable rules and regulations governing the promotion and all prizes offered (example: registration and obtaining necessary regulatory approvals)
- Just like with Facebook, Instagram’s rules start by putting the responsibility on you to ensure you run a lawful competition – this means at a local, state/territory and federal level.
- Ensure your competition has a set of official rules (otherwise known as terms and conditions) and make sure you apply for any necessary permits, licences and authorities to run your competition.
- Again, the easiest and most thorough way to ensure your promotion or competition runs lawfully on Instagram is to engage a local lawyer familiar with competitions, contests, giveaways, sweepstakes or trade promotions.
2. You must not inaccurately tag content or encourage users to inaccurately tag content (example: don’t encourage people to tag themselves in photos if they aren’t in the photo).
- Do not tag – or encourage entrants to tag – themselves in photos if they aren’t in the photo.
- Unlike Facebook, Instagram does not expressly prohibit tagging and sharing as part of a competition.
- There’s an in-depth blog dedicated to tagging competitions on Instagram which you should definitely check out if you plan to run a tag competition on Instagram.
3. Promotions on Instagram must include the following:
- A complete release of Instagram by each entrant or participant.
- Acknowledgement that the promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Instagram.
- Just like we saw with Facebook above, Instagram also requires a liability release and acknowledgement to cover their butts legally.
- Again, the easiest way to comply with this rule is to include a liability release and acknowledgement in your competition terms and conditions.
4. We will not assist you in the administration of your promotion and cannot advise you on whether consent is required for use of user content or on how to obtain any necessary consent.
- Instagram is again distancing themselves from any involvement with your competition, however this time they specifically mention ‘user content’…
- ‘User content’ (also called user-generated content) is content created by your entrants as part of their entry. Here, Instagram are saying that they cannot say whether you need consent to use the content or how to get that consent.
- If you are keen to use your entrants’ content, you will need to consult with a local law firm to confirm the rules and regulations around this and potentially seek consent from your entrants to reuse their content.
5. You agree that if you use our service to administer your promotion, you do so at your own risk.
- A similar warning here from Instagram about running competitions on the platform at your own risk.
Twitter competition rules.
Though Twitter isn’t a super popular platform to run competitions on here in Australia, Twitter’s contest rules contain a few pearls of wisdom that apply to *all* competitions, not just competitions run on their platform, so it’s worth taking a look…
What do Twitter’s contest rules mean?
I won’t go into an in-depth breakdown rule-by-rule as I did with Facebook and Instagram, instead I just want to touch on a few key points and give you a nice, neat little summary.
- Do not encourage people to create multiple accounts to get multiple entries and be sure to include a rule stating that “anyone found to use multiple accounts to enter will be ineligible”. Not only does it make for a spammy content on the platform, but you’re still only getting one potential customer out of it, so your competition doesn’t benefit from the creation of multiple accounts.
- Discourage people from posting the same tweet repeatedly – it’s recommended to include “clear contest rules stating that multiple entries in a single day will not be accepted”. Just like with the rule above, duplicate tweets make for poor content, so avoid contests like ‘whoever retweets this the most wins’.
- The first piece of good advice from Twitter: ask people to mention you in their update so you can see all the entries. This way, all of your mentions will appear in your notifications and make compiling an entry list and picking your winner so much easier.
- Twitter’s second piece of good advice: encourage the use of topics relevant to the contest. By topics, Twitter of course mean hashtags. They suggest using #contest or #yourcompanyname as the topic, however, if your entrants are mentioning you with @yourcompany name (as mentioned above) you could use #yourcompetitionname instead.
- Follow the Twitter rules is the penultimate rule and encourages you to familiarise yourself with their rules to ensure your entrants keep ‘in good standing’ with Twitter (their words, not mine!)
- Finally, just like Facebook and Instagram, Twitter encourage you to comply with applicable laws and regulations – such as having terms and conditions and applying for licences.
Pinterest competition rules.
Pinterest is another platform that is less likely to be used for competitions – at least here in Australia – but I do want to include it here with the aim of being comprehensive.
I apologise in advance for the horrendous font colour Pinterest has chosen for their website text…
What do Pinterest’s contest rules mean?
Pinterest’s competition rules are pretty self-explanatory, so let’s do a very quick summary.
- Don’t require people to save a specific image. Give people the ability to choose Pins based on their tastes and preferences, even if it’s from a selection or a given website. I would guess the reason for this is so that Pinterest doesn’t end up with 25,000 of the same image on their platform if people are saving and pinning one single image to enter! Offer a range of images and perhaps ask people to pin their favourite or save an image to a moodboard for example.
- Don’t allow more than one entry per person. This is an interesting rule – this means that you will need to ensure that even if people *do* enter more than once, you only include one entry per person in your list of entries in order to comply with this rule. You will also want to state this rule in your terms and conditions.
- Don’t suggest that Pinterest sponsors or endorses you or the promotion. As we have seen with other platforms, you may wish to include an acknowledgement of this in your official rules or terms and conditions.
- Do review our brand guidelines for general rules about using the Pinterest brand. This is so that you use their branding (e.g. name and logo) correctly when promoting your competition.
- Lastly, be sure to follow all relevant laws and regulations. Just like other platforms, when running a competition on Pinterest you will need to make sure you comply with local, state/territory and federal laws including applying for any relevant licences, permits or authorities to run your competition.
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YouTube’s competition rules.
Whilst you may not be allowed to *advertise* your competition on YouTube (as we’ll see), you are allowed to create content or accept entries on YouTube. Now, YouTube’s rules are long and kinda dry, so let’s break them down so you understand how to use YouTube to run competitions.
What do YouTube’s contest rules mean?
YouTube’s rules are divided into two different sections, ‘General Restrictions and Requirements’, and ‘Your Official Contest Rules’. So essentially *YouTube’s* rules for running competitions on their platform and what *your* rules (or terms and conditions) should include in order to be compliant with running a competition on the YouTube platform.
- YouTube’s general rules start out with three rules stating that firstly, you’re solely responsible for your contest, secondly your contest on YouTube must comply with all relevant federal, state, and local laws, rules, and regulations, including U.S. sanctions and finally that your contest cannot infringe upon or encourage the infringement of any third-party rights or the participation in any unlawful activity. Essentially these first three rules are YouTube covering their butts legally and saying you need to cover your butt legally as well, by not asking people to do things that are against the law and making sure that your competition complies with those laws as well.
- Interestingly, the next rule for running competitions on YouTube states you cannot ask the viewer to give all rights for or transfer the ownership of their entry to you. YouTube specifically states that you can’t ask entrants to hand over their rights, which means you may need to enter into a separate agreement with those entrants if you do want to use their videos or their content for your marketing.
- The next rule again to me is very interesting… it states “Your contest must be free of charge to enter (don’t forget to check your local lottery laws!)”, which in my opinion is really two rules – firstly that you can’t charge for entry, a subject I’ve discussed at length in this post: Can I charge an entry fee for my competition in Australia? (spoiler alert: the answer is no, you can’t charge for entry) and to make sure you comply with local, state/territory and federal competition laws.
- Next, YouTube says that you can’t “manipulate metrics”, for example make it look like a video has had more views than it has, or channel has more followers than it actually has. The kind of competition context I can see this becoming relevant to is if you ask your entrants to upload a video to YouTube and then the video with the most votes wins. This may encourage entrants to manipulate the metrics in order to win.
- To round out section one of YouTube’s rules… You cannot associate or affiliate YouTube with your contest without YouTube’s prior written consent. This rule prohibits, among other examples, expressly stating or doing anything that suggests that YouTube is involved with or has endorsed your contest in any way. So this is pretty similar to all of the other platforms we’ve looked at so far and is easy to comply with by adding a term to your T&Cs to address this.
- The second part of YouTube’s competition rules for running competitions on their platform essentially cover all of the things you need to have in your rules (or terms and conditions) in order to be compliant. This includes having a set of official rules which includes links to the YouTube community guidelines and indicate entries that don’t comply will be disqualified, state all disclosures required by all applicable federal, state and local laws, rules and regulations, including US sanctions and are wholly compliant and consistent with the YouTube terms of service. In other words, have a set of T&Cs and obey local, state/territory and federal laws as well as YouTube terms of service.
- The next rule states your contest must be conducted and all prizes awarded as outlined in your official rules. This is just good practice, if you say you’re going to run a competition, do it – and make sure you actually award your prizes!
- The final three rules for running competitions on YouTube essentially cover YouTube’s butt (just like the other platforms do) – you’re responsible for your rules and all aspects of your contest administration, Your rules must clearly state that YouTube is not a sponsor of your contest and require viewers to release YouTube from any liability related to your contest. Again, this is something that we’ve seen with other platforms, and it’s easiest to include in your T&Cs.
- And finally, you must include a legally compliant privacy notice in your official rules. This notice explains how you’ll use any personal data you collect for the contest and adhere to that use. Now, this is another good general practice rule and again the best place to do this is in your terms and conditions.
TikTok’s competition rules.
TikTok, the relative new kid on the block here, doesn’t yet have a specific policy for competitions, contests, giveaways and sweepstakes on their platform, despite their hefty Community Guidelines.
The only reference I was able to find to contests *at all* was in their section on Mental and Behavioral Health in reference to Disordered Eating and Body Image which was to say that…
What do TikTok’s contest rules mean?
The above rule isn’t a specific rule on competitions on the TikTok platform, more a guideline around sensitive content, which means we don’t really have a definitive stance on whether competitions are permitted on the platform.
I would assume that therefore competitions *should* be fine to run on TikTok, but be sure to abide by every one of their Community Guidelines as well as follow all of the rules and/or best practice the other platforms state in their rules – and remember proceed at your own risk with TikTok competitions, being that there is no specific permission to run them on the platform in their guidelines.
When it comes to running competitions – or contests – on social media platforms, each and every platform has a different set of rules on what is and isn’t allowed, as well as what is and isn’t required. That means if you decide to go ahead with your social media competition, you’re going to want to make sure you’ve got your legals in place, which includes a set of terms and conditions which cover eligibility requirements, apply for any permits, licences and authorities and abide by state/territory rules and regulations. You’ll also want to include a liability release for the platform in question and also acknowledge that they are not involved in any way in your competition. Finally, just make sure that you abide by any terms or guidelines or policies or rules for actually using the platform in general.
If you’ve checked the rules for your chosen platform and you’re ready to run your competition, you can join us for the next round of the Competition Mastercourse or enquire about Competition Concierge services.