Practical Guide To Facebook’s Promotion Changes

Now 100% Permissible!

Facebook made significant changes to their Facebook Pages Terms a few weeks ago that dramatically impact the kinds of promotions allowed on the platform. I briefly discussed these changes in The Great Facebook Legalization post, and although Facebook provided a blog post about the changes and a nice two-page downloadable guide to the changes, I know many people who were still confused.  I may or may not have been one of them.  But last week I had the privilege of chairing the Digital Advertising Compliance: Sweepstakes, Social Media and Promotions conference in New York City.  One of our speakers was an attorney from the Facebook policy team that did a great job explaining the changes.  I thought it would be worth describing those changes in a bit more detail based on the materials she presented.

To keep things simple, I’ll use the term promotions for both contests and sweepstakes.  If you don’t know the difference between the two then you need to consult with your marketing attorney.  Truth be told, any time you’re running a promotion it’s a good idea to consult with your marketing attorney or any reference materials a marketing attorney may have provided to you.

What Hasn’t Changed

First, it’s important to note some big things haven’t changed.  Chief among them–anything technical.  The new rules do not implement any technological changes, it is simply Facebook’s policies that are allowing these activities to take place.  Brands may have done some of these activities before (such as “Click Like to win!” sweepstakes) and if Facebook found out the promotion was shut down.  Now, Facebook won’t shut them down.  So it’s important to realize this is just a change in rules.  And rules can always change, so you should always see what the current rules are whenever you plan a promotion on Facebook or any other platform.

Going along with the notion that nothing technical has changed, another big element to keep in mind is that Pages run by brands still cannot send private messages to individuals.  So even though we are now entering a time when a promotion could be run on Facebook without an app and just on the page, there is no new functionality to notify a winner.  If that matters to you (and it should) then you’ll need to consider how to notify the winner when you can’t message them (like if you want to verify qualifications prior to announcing them the winner).

The Big Changes

Prior to these policy changes the only way to run a promotion was to use an application.  Unless you had the resources to write the code and provide some snazzy images yourself that likely meant you needed a third party to develop your app.  Now that restriction has been limited and the following items may be used in administering a promotion:

  1. Like to enter.  Post a status update or photo on your page and your fans can simply click the Like button to be entered into a drawing for a chance to win.  It will still fall to you to gather all the entries and randomly select one to win, but the mechanic itself is now permitted.
  2. Comment to enter.  Similar to clicking Like, you can also have fans provide a comment (funny caption, short statement, answer to a question, favorite Jesse Pinkman quote, etc.) as a way of entering a promotion.
  3. Post on page to enter.  You can also have your fans enter a promotion by posting to the brand’s page.  You would probably want to include some way of differentiating between promotion entries and regular postings to your page, possibly including a specific #hashtag for your promotion, but that’s up to you.
  4. Message a page to enter.  This one is a bit strange, since most brands tend to run promotions to generate public interest.  But in the event you’d like to run a secret promotion where the entries are unknown to anyone but the brand, then you are free to have fans message the page as a way of entering the promotion.
  5. Use Like as a voting mechanism.  You can allow fans to click Like on status updates or photos as a way of voting within a promotion.  How you present all the options and how you consider those votes (see Best Practices below) is up to you.

Still Not Allowed

Although those five items are now permitted by Facebook, there are still some activities that are not allowed in terms of promotions on Facebook.

  1. No entry via status updates with a #hashtag.  While you can have fans enter a promotion by posting something to the brand’s Page with a #hashtag, you cannot have a promotion where a fan enters by making a post on their own Timeline that includes the #hashtag.  Part of this restriction is technical–it would require you to explain that the update be public or else the brand can’t see it when it’s time to collect entries–and part of this restriction is to keep Timelines from looking like spam.  But if you want fans to enter by posting something, it has to be posted to the brand’s Page, not their Timeline.
  2. No entry via tagging people in a photo if they aren’t in the photo.  You cannot run a promotion, for example, that has a picture of a product and encourages fans to tag themselves and others on the photo for a chance to win it.  Tagging is reserved for photos that actually have the people in the photo.

Best Practices

These changes may take some time to be sucessfully integrated into your own marketing efforts so I suggest some best practices as you start to use them.  These are all in addition to the Best Practices suggested by Facebook in that downloadable guide I linked above.

  1. Think about notifying the winners.  As we mentioned before, brand Pages have no new way of communicating directly with promotion winners.  This was less of a problem when you ran a promotion through an app that could link to a privacy policy and collect an email address to notify winners.  Now many brands will be tempted to run a promotion entirely on Facebook but not think through how they will notify a winner.  This can be especially tricky if you have a potential winner but need to verify the entrant meets certain qualifications (over 18, can travel for the grand prize, etc.).  
  2. Don’t use Like as the only way to pick a winner.  Feel free to use voting (Like or otherwise) as one factor in picking a winner but not the only one.  It always ends poorly.  Always.  People will accuse others of cheating, of trading votes, of making up user accounts and so on.  Using the Like button is very convenient, but it also has the added downside of a fan deciding to Unlike later on which can distort results.
  3. Talk to an attorney.  The good news is that running promotions on Facebook is now easier.  The bad news is that running promotions on Facebook is now easier.  If you don’t know the legal risks you’re running up against then you need to talk to an attorney.  If you’re planning on running a contest for a $5,000 grand prize and self-administer, you need to talk to an attorney (and then a third party administrator).  If you’re planning on giving away a single prize of substantial value, you need to talk to an attorney (and if you’re asking “What’s substantial value?” then go talk to the attorney).  If you’re thinking you can run a global sweepstakes you really need to talk to an attorney.  Promotions carry legal risk even (especially!) when they’re simple to run.  This is not to say you’ll need to go through a lengthy legal review every time you want to run a promotion but you should know your limits and when others need to be looped in.  And you want to know the only way you can discover those limits?  That’s right, talk to an attorney!


Filed under Commercial Activity, Consumer Protection, Facebook, Laws, Social Content, Social Gaming, Social Marketing, Social Platforms, Terms and Conditions

2 responses to “Practical Guide To Facebook’s Promotion Changes

  1. Pingback: RIP Pin It To Win It: A Practical Guide To Pinterest’s Contest Requirements | SoMeLaw Thoughts

  2. Pingback: Top 10 Social Media Legal Concerns For 2014 (Plus A Bonus!) | SoMeLaw Thoughts

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