How to Run a Facebook Sweepstakes

There are serious legal issues regarding how to run a sweepstakes. If you make a mis-step, you could easily be running a LOTTERY which would be illegal. Here are some issues to watch out for when running your Facebook sweepstakes.

First, I want to caveat that I am not a lawyer. There could easily be issues I haven't learned about yet. If you have a substantial Facebook presence that you would not want to have vanish, it might be best to talk with a lawyer before you begin. Facebook shuts down accounts on a whim, it seems sometimes, and you would not want an infraction to cause your entire Facebook page to disappear in a puff of smoke. Be warned - it does happen.

So, first. I'm assuming you are based in the United States. I do not know the laws for non-US countries. You would want to check with your own country's contacts to see what your rules are.

For the US, you should start by knowing what *Facebook* requires for sweepstakes. Facebook has an entire page on their rules - Facebook Contest Rules. You absolutely must follow these. They say explicitly: "Due to legalities, Facebook doesn’t want to be associated with contests in any way, so they don’t allow promotions to be hosted on Facebook. Promotions must be hosted on a 3rd party application.". They also say: "In addition, Facebook doesn’t allow promotions to be administered on their platform. 'Administration' includes '...collecting entries, conducting a drawing, judging entries, or notifying winners.'"

So let's make this clear again. You should NOT judge entries or contact winners via your Facebook feed. You can't have them comment to enter. You can't have them auto-enter by liking the page. Everything has to be done through a third party app.

That's just Facebook's rules. Now on to the United States rules.

In order to be a legal sweepstakes in the United States you CANNOT REQUIRE ANY MONEY TO PLAY. Not only that, but you can't require any CONSIDERATION to play which is more vague. It means they can't do anything strenuous or "worth money". They can't have to tweet to their friends. They can't have to fill out lots of forums. It has to be easy. So be cautious there.

Apparently a *simple* form that they can access once they like your page is fine.

Also you MUST link to a full, detailed set of rules from the sweepstakes or, better yet, list the rules on the same page. These rules must include:

The words "no purchase necessary to win"
A start and end date
The sponsor's complete name and address
Any age / other limits
Retail value of prize
How winners will know they won (remember you CANNOT contact them via Facebook)
Where the winner's list will be
The words "Void where prohibited"

That's just the basics of what you need. You might need more in certain circumstances. But rest assured if you do NOT have at least all of the above, you could be in trouble.

You *cannot* choose a random fan to give a prize to. That would violate their rules. You would be using Facebook to collect the names to choose from. They will not allow that.

So far I have tested WildFireApp - an app that costs money. Here is my review -
Facebook Sweepstakes with WildFire App

I'm also in the process of testing out RaffleCopter - a free app.
Facebook Sweepstakes with RaffleCopter App

I *highly* recommend getting a copy of Navigating Social Media Legal Risks - this book is written by a lawyer and covers all these sorts of situations in detail.

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