Can I Reward Participants for Sharing My Contest or Giveaway on Social Media?

Learn about the limitations and legalities of rewarding participants for sharing your contest or giveaway on social media platforms.

By Jessica Miller-McNatt ・5 min read
Best Practices
Campaign & Contest Ideas
ShortStack Tips & Tricks
Social Media

Can I reward participants for sharing my contest or giveaway on social media?It's a question we get on the daily. And I'm sorry to report, but for the most part, social media Share buttons are useless.Data shows that less than one percent of website visitors will click a Share button from a mobile device and even less than one percent do so from a desktop.If that news weren’t tough enough to swallow, you can also assume that the nature of your marketing campaign can affect its “share-ability.” For example, in an online giveaway, sharing can lower the odds of winning, so why would anyone do it? On the other hand, running a voting contest may have the opposite effect. If someone’s looking to raise votes, sharing the contest is the easiest way to do that. No matter the content, if you -- the brand/contest host -- are looking to get the most engagement with your social media contest, giveaway, quiz, or survey, you want participants to share it.

For the most part, social media Share buttons are useless.

Incentivizing the act of sharing seems like a natural remedy to getting your contest or giveaway in front of new faces. But the legalities as to whether or not you’re able to reward users for sharing are not so black and white. Rules vary from one social media platform to the next.In this post, I’ll lay it all out for you so you know exactly what’s “legal” on each of the platforms, so you can avoid any risks of suffering the rule-breaking consequences.


On Facebook, the answer to “Can I reward participants for sharing my contest” is black and white. And the answer is - no. No you cannot.In its quest to foster organic, meaningful interactions within its community, sharing or tagging content is something Facebook users are encouraged to do of their own volition, i.e., not because they've been bribed.In Facebook’s Page Groups and Events Policies, rule number three, under “Administration of a Promotion” states:Personal Timelines and friend connections must not be used to administer promotions (ex: “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).As you can see, Facebook prohibits rewarding participants for sharing your contest or giveaway on their own Timeline, on a friend’s Timeline, or even by tagging someone.Here at ShortStack, we’ve heard an increasing number of woeful tales in which Facebook profiles have been deactivated for the most minor infractions. In a contest or giveaway, even listing “share this contest” as an optional step has provoked Facebook to disable accounts.It’s just not worth the risk.

Do this instead:

ShortStack offers a safe, Facebook-compliant, work-around to incentivize sharing in your contest or giveaway. It also works in Twitter or anywhere the contest is shared. It’s called the Refer-a-Friend feature, and allows you to offer extra votes, or chances to win, to those who are able to get more people to enter your campaign. Here’s how it works:

  1. A participant submits your contest or giveaway’s entry form.
  2. Upon submission, a popup appears that explains the Refer-a-Friend bonus (you can customize this text), along with a Share button.
  3. The participant clicks Share to see the usual Facebook (or Twitter, etc.) Share dialog, then shares to his or her Timeline.
  4. A unique link is included with the share. When one of the referrer’s friends sees the post in his or her News Feed, clicks on the link to visit the campaign, and submits an entry, the referring user receives bonus points (you determine the number of points, and you can also set a cap to the number they can earn).

To summarize, Refer-a-Friend is compliant because, although the user must share the campaign to earn the reward, the extra votes/entries are not awarded for sharing. They’re awarded for referrals.

ShortStack's Refer-a-Friend Template

Build a Refer-a-Friend contest with this template View and Create Your Own


Facebook’s intense “people first” crackdown has made Twitter seem like the wild, wild west of social media. It definitely has the most generous rules when it comes to sharing. Contests and giveaways on Twitter may offer prizes for Tweeting a particular update, for following a particular account, or for posting updates with a specific hashtag. Twitter’s Promotion Guidelines even advise you to, “ask people to mention you in their update so you can see all the entries.”In a nutshell, Twitter doesn’t have specific restrictions for rewarding contest participants for sharing, so reward away! Just make sure you’re not encouraging spam (i.e. retweeting the same thing over and over) and the use of duplicate accounts. Read through the other promotion rules to make sure you’re in compliance.If I just inspired you to kick off a contest or giveaway on Twitter, here’s a great resource to help you get started.

ShortStack's Giveaway + Twitter Follow template


Instagram is its own animal. Instagram’s sharing capabilities are different from both Facebook and Twitter, so things are done a bit differently when it comes to running a contest or giveaway on the platform.To run a simple giveaway on Instagram, businesses will typically say “tag a friend in the comments to enter.” Instagram’s rules seem to allow this because the tag is in the comment. However, asking or encouraging participants to inaccurately tag a photo is a no-no. (See this post for examples of brands and bloggers who are doing it right.)The policy states: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).A “comment or tag to enter” giveaway is a great way to attract new people to your brand, but it’s very limiting. This type of promotion only works when running a giveaway. If you’re looking to run any other type of interactive contest - such as a photo contest, a quiz, or a giveaway in which you allow the user to pick their own prize - using contest software and linking to a stand-alone landing page from your Instagram profile is the best way to go.Another drawback of the “comment and tag to enter” giveaway is the limited data you’re able to collect. What will your business do with the list Instagram handles displayed in your post’s comments? By linking to a landing page with an actual entry form, you can collect valuable data (like, an email address for starters) that can be used for follow-up marketing.--The reason I suggest linking back to the contest from your Instagram bio is because Instagram also comes with the caveat of only allowing you to use one link in the bio section of your Instagram profile (unless you pay for ads). Creating Instagram posts that say, “Enter our contest, click the link in our bio” is a common practice businesses use to get around this one-link functionality.

ShortStack's Giveaway + Instgram Follow templateWhen running a contest or giveaway to promote on social media, it’s best not to limit your exposure to one platform. Using a contest building platform like Shortstack gives you unrivaled versatility in function and design, allows you to collect more than a profile name or handle, and also lets you to reward participants for referrals (not shares!).

Create your first contest now

Get Started Today. It’s free and we don’t need your credit card.

About the author

By Jessica Miller-McNatt ・5 min read

Jessica Miller-McNatt has been with ShortStack for over a decade and has served in every role from Marketing Team Lead to Customer Success. Her journey in martech continues to fuel her fascination for what drives growth. Jessica's favorite weekends are spent in the North Georgia mountains, chasing waterfalls and exploring with her family.

Get marketing tips straight to your inbox

Thank you!
Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
We’ll email you 1-3 times per week—and never share your info.