Innkeepers, Thinking of running a social media contest?


Thinking of running a social media contest? Before you do make sure you check out contest guidelines, and make sure that what you want to do is legal in your state.

Each social media platform has different rules and regulations regarding contests and it’s very important to make sure that you follow them as well. Most of the platforms reserve the right to remove content that’s not following regulations, plus it’s very important to make sure you find out what rules and regulations you may have to follow by Federal law as it’s different state by state.

Some states may fine you. or you may face criminal charges if they find you are not following the laws.

The Three Types of Online Promotions:

Sweepstakes—Sweepstakes are prize giveaways where the winners are chosen predominately by chance. A sweepstakes prize can include anything from a coffee mug to an all‐expense‐paid trip to the Maine Coast.

Contests—Contests are promotions in which prizes are awarded primarily on the basis of skill or merit (for example, the best essay on an B&B stay or the winner of a weekend getaway). Entrants in a contest must be evaluated under objective, predetermined criteria by one or more judges who are qualified to apply such criteria.

Lotteries—Lotteries are random drawings for prizes wherein participants have to pay to play. A lottery has three elements: prize, chance, and consideration. Unlike sweepstakes and contests, lotteries are highly regulated and (with the exception of state‐run lotteries and authorized raffles) illegal. Further, each state has its own definition regarding what constitutes consideration. Usually, it is money, but it generally also includes anything of value given in exchange for the opportunity to enter and win, including the entrant’s expenditure of considerable time or effort.

As an example: Connecticut’s Sweepstakes laws are quite different from the State of Florida’s.

Connecticuts: Under state law, no person may advertise a sweepstakes if there are any conditions or restrictions placed on the person who wins the sweepstakes. The winner shall not be required to buy anything or pay a fee of any type. However, the winner may be required to complete publicity or liability releases or eligibility affidavits and assume liability for city, federal, state, or local taxes, and pay federal, state or local license or registration fees or other similar costs. A person advertising a sweepstakes in Connecticut shall disclose in immediate proximity to and in at least the same size and type face as the descriptions of each prize in the advertisements, the verifiable retail value of such prizes, the element of chance involved, the odds of winning such prize, and whether the receipt of the prize is restricted or qualified in any way.

Vermont: Notwithstanding the provisions of this chapter, a person may organize, execute, or participate in a contest or game of chance, including a sweepstakes, provided that persons who enter the contest or game of chance are not required to venture money or other valuable things. The cost of mailing an entry shall not be considered a venture of money or other valuable things. This section shall not be construed to prohibit a person from organizing, executing, or participating in a contest that is not a contest of chance. (Added 1989, No. 7; amended 2013, No. 9, § 2, eff. April 26, 2013.) Both of these states have short and sweet legislature, but compare them to Florida’s (which I won’t reprint here as it’s too long, but take a look at for comparison’s sake.

Florida: (search for sweepstakes) You may have heard that of one of the inns that was running a “Write an Essay to Win the Inn” in the Northeast was investigated and while it since was cleared of any wrong doing, it made a huge impact in the news, and still comes up high on the first page of search for the inn (and will for many many years to come). While this is not social media, it is something to aware of if B&Bs want to run contests on the radio, TV and in print, be aware of the rules and regulations of your state.

We would also suggest checking out the FTC’s (Federal Trade Commission) commonly asked questions because it does address such concerns as disclosures and endorsements.

Social Media Platform Contest Guidelines:

Recommended Facebook Contest Apps: (Some are free, some are paid)

Contest Ideas You Can Run on Your B&B’s Facebook Business Page, & on some of the other social media platforms.

Like to Win: Like the B&B page to be entered to win

Comment to Enter: While this has a downside, i.e. it’s not getting the commenter to like the page, comments are seen by friends and have a greater reach.

Like the B&B page and comment to enter is the best combination.

Trivia! Answer Correctly to Win

Photo Comment and/or submission contest NOTE: per the Facebook promotion guidelines, it does say that the Facebook release and rules/ terms must be included or linked to in the contest post. At bottom of this first example is a sample rules and disclaimer text. Example: It’s GIVEAWAY time! Click “LIKE” for your chance to win one of our Inn’s gift certificates (or recipe book). Example: Winners will be randomly selected at 4 p.m. CST this Friday and their names will be posted on our Facebook Page! Example: Rules/Disclaimer: This promotion is open to those 18 and above in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and Australia. Void where prohibited. By “Liking” you enter and agree that this promotion is in no way associated with, administered by, or endorsed by Facebook; and acknowledge a complete release of Facebook by your participation.

Comment to Win: Example: Comment below and complete with “Jane Doe’s B&B has the best breakfast “…………………..” to enter. 1 winner will be randomly selected at 4 p.m. CST this Friday from all comments as winner of a Free Romance Package at our B&B. We’ll post the winner on our Facebook Page! Trivia: Answer correctly to win! What is the name of our newest B&B addition? (hint we featured them on this month’s blog post) –this does double duty as it gets them to go to your B&Bs website, provide the link but not the direct link, and than find your blog. Simply comment below for your chance to win a $25 off certificate for use towards a weekend getaway! 1 Winner will be picked from correct entries and announced at 1 p.m. PST on Monday! Answer correctly to win! How many signature recipes do we have online?

–again double duty, forces them to go to your B&B website and search. Comment below with your answer! 2 Winners will be picked from correct entries and announced at 1 p.m. PST on Monday!

Photo Contests: Example: Enter our Timeline Photo Contest! Enter a photo in the comment area below that shows us your favorite meal for breakfast. Deadline to enter is this Friday at 11:59 p.m. EST! Our team of 3 judges will review all photos and announce a winner next Monday at 9 a.m. EST. Winner receives a $50 Gift Certificate for our B&B. Post a comment with a Photo of you at our B&B for a chance to win a 30% off a future stay!


See you in St. Charles! I’ll be speaking at the PAII conference at the end of next month. If you have never attended a PAII (Professional Association of Innkeepers International) conference, make this your first one! And a whole day devoted to aspiring innkeepers! Check out more information at


About Chef Forfeng

Innkeeping Tip and Tricks: Please check out some marketing ideas for Inns and B&Bs, Blogging ideas, Facebook Tips and Social Media Tutorials
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