Do’s & Don’ts for Social Media Promotions

Long ago if you wanted to make sure your promotions didn’t fall foul of the law you simply had to turn to ISP (Institute of Sales Promotion), check the CAP code and ASA guidelines. Of course, these days it’s not ISP it’s IPM (Institute of Promotional Marketing)and often times it’s not an on-pack promo or ad, but a social media promotion.

Marketing never stands still, and social media has opened up some great opportunities for brands to turn on low-cost high-impact promotions quickly and easily. With 4.48 billion people on social media it’s where your customers are and where brands need to be. TikTok, the newest channel on the block has reached 1 billion active users a month and despite perceptions that it’s for teenagers, there are a lot of Gen X / Millennials and even older users on there!

With the average person having 8.4 social media accounts, social media is a key tool for any brand worth its salt. But as with anything there are pitfalls that brands can stumble into unknowingly if they don’t work with an experienced agency (yes, I’m talking about jellybean). Let’s face it, as the saying goes – ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’ and sadly ignorance is no defense when the ASA comes a-knocking, and the tabloids pick it up to fill a quiet news day!

Handing your social media over to the office intern may seem like a cost effective way to get your brand on social, but unless they are well-versed with promotional law and the different regulations for each social media channel, not to mention the kind of tactics trolls employed with the Walkers campaign with Gary Lineker, you could find yourself in hot water!

So here are some simple dos and don’ts when it comes to running promotions on social media…


  • Be clear as to the competition mechanic i.e. what people have to do to enter and when it closes.
  • Moderate any User Generated Content (UGC) you choose to re-post and make it clear in the T&Cs that you reserve the right to use all competition entry content.
  • Write full terms and conditions which can be accessed from wherever the competition is posted (usually via a URL link).
  • Include in your T&C’s: how to participate, dates, any restrictions on participation (age/location), how the winners will be chosen, number of entries allowed, number of prizes allowed, grounds for disqualification e.g. computer generated entries, how and when the winners will be notified, where the list of winners can be found, that you reserve the right to use any UGC for future brand publicity and the promoter’s details.
  • Make it clear in the T&C’s that you will need to have a public account and or have your setting set to ‘allow message requests from everyone’ (Twitter) to be entered.
  • Include a link to T&C’s in your Instagram bio or linktree in your bio.
  • Include short T&C’s in posts with any age, location, or profession restrictions & closing date.
  • Use the right tools to extract data to ensure all those who entered have a fair chance of winning.
  • Ideally make the closing date/time one where the data can be extracted immediately to avoid including any entrants who entered passed your closing time.
  • Choose a unique #hashtag that can be used to track entries (check nobody else is using it!).
  • Make sure your hashtag can’t be misread – see some hilarious examples here
  • Encourage comments as a method of entry on Facebook, as these are date stamped making it easy to track which fall within the promotional window.
  • Use retweet, like, quote-tweet and post a photo with @ & # to enter on Twitter.
  • Use like, comment, tag a friend/friends or post to grid with # and @ to enter on Instagram.
  • Be aware of TikTok’s minimum age which is 13 and to thereby avoid any unsuitable content.
  • Check that your brand’s category isn’t banned from TikTok – see point 3 & 4 here.
  • Be careful extracting data from TikTok as currently there are no extraction tools.
  • Insure the promotion if required, or set the T&C’s to avoid any issues that might arise from going viral.
  • Verify winners’ entries before notifying them to avoid choosing entries that may not be eligible.
  • Notify the winners via DM before publicly announcing their win, otherwise you will be breaking GDPR rules.
  • Be aware of not mentioning big events which you aren’t an official sponsor of e.g. World Cup, Wimbledon etc., only reference things vaguely e.g. summer of sport etc.
  • Fulfil prizes within a reasonable timeframe max 28 days.
  • Report on more than just the basics. As well as number of entries include reach, engagement, increase in followers, etc. to analyse impact of giveaway on your channel.
  • Always be fair to consumers – that is what all the regs are for!


  • Underestimate the risk of something going viral. If you want to limit the prizes make it so all entries go into a prize draw (not a prize for every entry).
  • Ask people to tag friends in Facebook competitions (it’s not allowed) instead re-frame the call to action to ‘tell us who…’ e.g. ‘tell us who you’d like to join you for this party of a lifetime’ (they will likely tag people but you haven’t asked them to directly).
  • Get caught out by vote buying and bots – make sure you verify winners thoroughly looking out for suspicious numbers of votes/entries, stolen photo library images, copyright infringement etc.
  • Be naive about double meanings and how people can twist an innocent line or hashtag. e.g. Penguin Books #YourMum campaign (eek!)
  • Rely on likes on Facebook as an entry mechanic – as it is difficult to extract the data.
  • Use sharing on Facebook as an entry mechanic (it is not allowed).
  • Use ‘Most Retweets Wins’ mechanic on Twitter (again, not allowed).
  • Make IGTV / Reels / Stories your entry mechanic if you are expecting a large number of entries as it is very difficult to extract data from these.
  • Infringe copyright regarding images and music and look out for entries that do this.

And of course, the biggest ‘do’, is do work with an agency that knows their stuff! To find out more about how we might be able to help you with your social media, get in touch here.

Stats Sourced from Promo Veritas