Why you should never do "Share to Win" competitions

Over the last year or so I've noticed a proliferation of "share to win" competitions on Facebook. 

Everything Geraldton has run a number of "like to win" comps in the past, and they're a nice way for our audience to win a prize. 

BUT, it may interest you to know that it's actually against Facebook's terms to make "sharing" or tagging a friend a condition of entry.

Business owners beware: if you post something with "Share this post to win" on your Facebook page, you actually risk Facebook shutting your entire page down. 

Here's the link. (Section E 3)

Why is this a problem?

Apart from the fact that very few people want to be constantly spammed with "share to win" posts in their newsfeed, there's a technical reason why you cannot make sharing to win a condition of entry on a Facebook page:

A page owner has no way of knowing who shared a post, unless the sharer has their privacy settings set to public.

Recently a competition appeared in my Facebook news feed. I clicked and had a look, and the post had over 490 shares. But when I clicked on the "shares" link, I am only shown 83 names. So although 490 people think they've entered a competition, really only 83 people have a chance of winning.

Most Facebook users have their privacy settings set to "friends". So when they share a post from a page, the page administrators cannot see their name. When they click the link to see who shared a post, Facebook only shows them the names of people who shared it publicly. 

When you enter a competition that asks you to "share", the page admin then checks the names of who shared the post, and picks a winner. The problem is, your name probably isn't even on the list, even though you shared it with all your friends. 

Unless you went and deliberately changed your privacy settings to "Public" (which most people do NOT want to do) your name isn't in the draw to win anything, despite you sharing the post. 

If people are following the terms of entry, but they're technically not in the running to win because the business cannot see the names of who shared the post, then not only has that business broken Facebook's terms, but there could be legal or ethical implications. It's like obtaining a raffle ticket but your entry never goes in the barrel, it goes in the bin. 

Running a competition in Western Australia is covered under the GAMING AND WAGERING COMMISSION ACT 1987, Section 104. 

Section 3 states: the permit holder shall ensure that every ticket or chance sold or subscription received is included in the drawing of a standard lottery; ... 

Section 11 states: "Records relating to the lottery shall be maintained for a period of twelve months and shall be made available to an authorised officer of the Gaming and Wagering Commission or a Police Officer upon request."

So not only does anyone who has been told they're in the draw HAVE TO BE ACTUALLY IN THE DRAW, but you have to be able to show the Police that this is the case, for the next 12 months. 

"Share to win" competitions on Facebook conflict with this section of the Act, because the method of entry is not consistently measurable by the business owner. 

But I didn't know!

Neither did we until a few years ago. But once it was explained it made a lot of sense. We still get a lot of businesses asking Everything Geraldton to run Facebook comps with "sharing" as a condition of entry, and while we acknowledge it's tempting because of the amazing reach those posts get, we don't think it's ethical, and it's a clear breach of Facebook's terms.

We will still run "Like to enter" competitions on Facebook, which are quite popular with many of our followers.

What should I do?

If you run a page, our advice is to make sure you never make "sharing" a condition of entry for a competition. "Like to win" is still ok. Or "visit our website and fill in this form", or whatever you can accurately measure. If whoever manages the social media for your business isn't aware of Facebook's terms, and the laws around Trade Promotions in WA, they could be getting your company into hot water. 

If you're just a Facebook user who sees these "share to win" competitions all the time, it's up to you if you want to spam your friends. But you'll need to change your privacy settings to public to even have a chance of winning, which means ANYONE, even people not logged into Facebook, can see your posts. 

But I've seen lots of organisations do this?

So have we. We've seen government agencies do it, large media companies, social media professionals, and lots more.

We haven't named or singled out any company in Geraldton doing this, because it's likely they simply didn't know how Facebook's sharing mechanism worked. Social media is still very new and confusing to a lot of us. 

In addition to the confusion, few of us read the terms and conditions when we sign up for anything, even a Facebook page. 

But we hope that once people understand how sharing and privacy settings work on Facebook, they'll realise "share" is not a suitable way to gather entrants for a competition. "Liking" on Facebook is perfect, though. 

Footnote: It may be argued that by "liking" the post as well, people have entered the competition, even if their "share" isn't visible to the page admin. The two arguments against this logic are that 1. it's still a breach of the ACT, and 2. people who "like and share" from a shared post on their friend's page will have their share appear on the original page's list, but NOT their LIKE. In a nutshell: Many people's names will only appear in the list of those who "shared" the post, not those who "liked" it. 

Footnote: Another new type of competition is the "Post on your page with this hashtag". While the rules around these are also ambiguous, it's worth noting that, again, unless the person posts with their privacy settings set to Public, their post will never be able to be seen by anyone other than their friends, and they won't be in the draw for anything.