Facebook’s new contest rules and FTC guidelines – has social media marketing adapted?

by Susan Getgood on January 5, 2010 · 27 comments

in Blogger relations,Blogging,Facebook

Warning – long post

Are social media marketers implementing the new Facebook contest rules and meeting their obligations under FTC guidelines? Survey sez: maybe not, or at least, not yet.

Background

Social media marketing. A bit like the wild west of our imaginations — a little bit glamorous, a little bit dangerous, and as practiced by some, perhaps just a little bit dirty.

At the end of 2009,  however, the Sheriff came to town. Or at least a few parts of it. Facebook’s new rules for contests and sweepstakes were announced in November and updated in December. The revised FTC guidelines for endorsements and testimonials went into effect on December 1.

The landscape is bound to change. In fact, strictly speaking, it should have already. Marketers had plenty of warning about the proposed changes to the FTC guidelines, and their responsibilities under them.

The Facebook changes were more of a surprise but they seem fairly straightforward (and a revenue boon to third-party app developers) although there was a great deal of confusion about whether you could require someone to be a fan to enter a contest. The answer BTW is yes, although you cannot have the action of becoming a fan equal an automatic entry in the contest or sweepstakes. There must be an explicit entry form, and there are very specific rules governing how you can administer the contest on Facebook.

I wondered.

Were marketers informing bloggers of the obligation to disclose when they offered free stuff? The evidence, including that in my own inbox, indicated: not so much. Every so often, I would hear of efforts like Procter & Gamble’s for its Vocalpoint program. They sent an email informing community members of the FTC requirements and telling them how P&G would support them. Not surprising perhaps, given that P&G’s programs and products were cited in more than one news story about the guidelines, but still smart and commendable.

By and large though, it seemed the offers were still coming without any information about the FTC requirements.

On the Facebook front, on Christmas, an email from Lands’ End promoted a contest that one could enter simply by becoming a fan on Facebook. Oops.

Now, I adore Lands’ End, and think their marketing is top notch. If a big brand could make such an error, what about the smaller ones on Facebook? Not to mention all the bloggers who had been running contests to build their fan bases.

It seemed to me that perhaps marketers hadn’t got the message yet. So I decided to do a survey.

Disclaimer: In no way does this survey purport to be scientific or definitive. I just wanted to get a better idea of what was going on in these two areas, and figured a survey would give me access to far more data points that conversations and Twitter chat. It was promoted to my Twitter and Facebook friends and here on the blog, and to Blog with Integrity’s fans, followers and email subscribers. Friends and colleagues kindly retweeted and emailed the link as well. The survey was published on December 27th and closed this morning, January 4th.

Survey Says

Here are the raw results with a little bit of analysis.  Later, I am going to do some cross-tabs and other fancy stuff that SurveyMonkey lets you do when you have to buy a paid account because your responses exceed the 100 you can get with the free account. But not today.

  • Started the survey: 243
  • Completed the survey: 198 (81.5%)

One to 10 pitches per week was reported by more than half the respondents. The answers to the next two questions were equally compelling. Seventy-percent (70.2%) reported that the number of pitches they receive on average every week had stayed the same since December 1 when the FTC guidelines went into effect, and 63.7% reported that pitches since December 1 contained offers for free products, review products or other compensation.

Seems like business as usual. Time for the money question: Thinking about the pitches you’ve received since December 1 2009 that offered free products or other compensation, *generally speaking* how many have contained guidance or information about a blogger’s obligation to disclose his/her relationship with the company?

It’s cut off in the chart but that orange bar in position one represents nearly 50% reporting that NONE of the pitches contained any information about the obligation to disclose. One of the comments in “other” states that this information did come after the blogger had accepted the offer. Fair enough, but in my opinion, that isn’t soon enough. If we are offering free products or other compensation, we need to state the terms of the deal clearly and up front.

Moving on to Facebook. I asked how often the respondent used Facebook and if they had recently entered any contests.

There are a few interesting things here:

  • Most respondents would be classed as fairly or very active users of Facebook.
  • The majority of respondents hadn’t recently entered any contests. Is this because fewer contests are now held “on the wall,” they are being held somewhere else (Twitter?), the holidays or some other reason? Questions for a future survey.
  • 37.1 % entered by becoming a fan of the page, which is a violation of the new rules.
  • Clearly some companies are beginning to implement the new rules, or at least holding their contests appropriately by accident,  with 40 respondents indicating that they entered a contest in a way sanctioned by the new rules.

Demographics



Does this survey prove anything? Yes and no.

No, because it didn’t use a rigorous model. I’d like a more even representation of the blogosphere than “folks who know Susan, Blog with Integrity or Susan’s colleagues,” and I wish I had done a better job on the list of primary topics for the primary blog. If I do another survey, I’ll dig into what people replied for ‘Other’ to make sure I cover more categories.

On the other hand, nearly 200 responses isn’t too shabby. Bottom line, I think these results are a good place to start our exploration of how well — or not — companies are implementing these new rules.

Because like it or not, once the law shows up in town, you gotta live by the rules.

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{ 2 trackbacks }

Latest Lands’ End Contest on Facebook DOES comply with new rules | Marketing Roadmaps
January 6, 2010 at 4:10 pm
The scoop on Facebook contests | Marketing Roadmaps
June 9, 2010 at 10:39 pm

{ 25 comments }

1 kelvin8048 (kelvin lee) January 5, 2010 at 1:55 am

Twitter Comment


Facebook’s new contest rules and FTC guidelines – has social media marketing adapted? [link to post]

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2 WCatDD January 5, 2010 at 11:42 am

Hi Susan,

Great post! It’s very informative and interesting to see how people are (or aren’t) adapting to the new rules.

The Facebook rule seems a little confusing to me. When you say, “…whether you could require someone to be a fan to enter a contest. The answer BTW is yes, although you cannot have the action of becoming a fan equal an automatic entry in the contest or sweepstakes” does that suggest that (for instance, for blog giveaways) you can have people become a fan, and as long as they have to manually do something to earn the entry, you can still promote the giveaway through FB? I hope that question makes sense.

I’ve read the FB promo guidelines and they say “You may, however, condition entry to the promotion upon becoming a fan of a Page”, which suggests that as long as it isn’t automatic (ie, after fanning, they need to fill out a form), blogs can still use fanning as way to earn extra entries. I’ve seen some blogs stop allowing earning extra entries through becoming FB fans and other blogs continue to allow it. Just wanted to get your opinion/clarification!

Thanks!
.-= WCatDD´s last blog ..The Fastest Pancakes in Town – Batter Blaster Review =-.

3 Susan Getgood January 5, 2010 at 12:27 pm

You can require that someone be a fan before they can enter a Facebook contest. You cannot set it up so that becoming a fan is the way they enter. They have to enter either on Facebook through an application, as prescribed in the rules, or completely off Facebook, i.e. not using Facebook interface in any way.

The only way you can effectively condition entry in the contest on being or becoming a fan is to use a Facebook app that checks to make sure the person is a fan, and allows them to become one if not, and then accepts the entry. That is going to be beyond the reach of most individual bloggers. My recommendation to individual bloggers — promote your contests to your fans and friends on Facebook, but run them completely on your blog or website. Don’t use the forbidden tactic of “become a Facebook fan” to be entered. It is a violation of the Terms of Service and Facebook could shut down your page.

4 kandi January 6, 2010 at 5:45 pm

So if I have a group and I hold a monthly contest open only to those in my group means I am ok or not? I don’t promote to anyone that is not currently in my group but my group does say in the description that was hold monthly contests.

5 Susan Getgood January 6, 2010 at 6:06 pm

Kandi, as I understand the rules, you can’t hold a contest on Facebook that uses standard Facebook functionality as the method of *entering* the contest. Posting to a wall, uploading a photo to the Facebook photo app etc. All contest administration on Facebook has got to be done through a Facebook application under very specific rules. You also can’t use Facebook to notify the winners.

I don’t recall a specific example about Groups, but I think the answer is you cannot use Facebook Group functionality either –ie posting to the group as means of entry or winner notification. If however you hold the contest OFF Facebook, like on a blog or even Twitter, and simply use your Group to promote the contest, for example by sending a message that the contest is open over on yxz.com/contest, you should be fine.

6 Anne-Marie @ Mom Central Blogger University January 29, 2010 at 12:14 am

Susan, thanks for clarifying the point about being able to publicize a giveaway on your blog or website on Facebook. The language that Facebook put out in November was very confusing to me, so I’ve been cautioning people to keep announcements of giveaways on your Facebook fan page low key – or just not do it. Now I stand corrected.
.-= Anne-Marie @ Mom Central Blogger University´s last blog ..Spring cleaning your Twitter account with UnTweeps =-.

7 zenaweist (Zena Weist) February 21, 2010 at 11:16 pm

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@lqualls4444 found fb contest answer at [link to post] from the wise and witty @sgetgood

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8 evansmediagroup (Evans Media Group) February 21, 2010 at 11:32 pm

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RT @markvanbaale: Reading about FB contest rules via a link provided by @zenaweist that is from @sgetgood: [link to post]

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9 lqualls4444 (Lisa Qualls) February 22, 2010 at 1:34 am

Twitter Comment


thanks to both @zenaweist & @sgetgood for the link to current FB contest rules [link to post]

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10 markvanbaale (Mark Van Baale) February 22, 2010 at 1:35 am

Twitter Comment


Reading about FB contest rules via a link provided by @zenaweist that is from @sgetgood: [link to post]

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11 eCelebrating (Michelle) June 9, 2010 at 12:24 pm

Twitter Comment


RT @Mom101: PR people: If you create contest requiring someone to “like” a fan page, for entry it violates FB TOS [link to post]

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12 ryles (Ryley@That'sMyFamily) June 9, 2010 at 12:42 pm

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RT @Mom101: Note to PR: If you create a contest requiring someone to “like” a fan page for entry it violates FB TOS [link to post]

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13 rgrosskett (Rich Grosskettler) June 9, 2010 at 12:43 pm

Twitter Comment


rt @Mom101 Note to PR people: If you create a contest req. someone to “like” a fan page, for entry it violates FB TOS [link to post]

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14 Christy June 9, 2010 at 12:45 pm

OK so I had no idea about the new Facebook rules and had a giveaway on my page last week! I won’t be doing that again!! Thanks for the much needed info :)
.-= Christy´s last blog ..Readyville Mill =-.

15 lreneedesigns (Lisa Peter) June 9, 2010 at 1:01 pm

Twitter Comment


RT @ohiodh: RT @Mom101: If you create a contest requiring someone to “like” a fan page, for entry it violates FB TOS [link to post]

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16 AvaLea (Lesley) June 9, 2010 at 1:02 pm

Twitter Comment


RT @Mom101 Note to PR people: If you create a contest requiring one to “like” a fan page, for entry it violates FB TOS [link to post]

Posted using Chat Catcher

17 puddlescollect (Kristie Patel) June 9, 2010 at 1:03 pm

Twitter Comment


RT @Mom101:Note to PR people:If you create a contest requiring someone to like a fan page,for entry it violates FB TOS [link to post]

Posted using Chat Catcher

18 ohiodh (Danielle Hunter) June 9, 2010 at 1:04 pm

Twitter Comment


RT @Mom101: If you create a contest requiring someone to “like” a fan page, for entry it violates FB TOS [link to post]

Posted using Chat Catcher

19 weddingsites (Brenda) June 9, 2010 at 1:10 pm

Twitter Comment


@eCelebrating @Mom101 not sure this is true, you can have someone “like” a FB page for extra entry, it just can’t be an automatic entry

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20 katemonroe (Kate Monroe) June 9, 2010 at 1:11 pm

Twitter Comment


@eCelebrating it’s allowed if being a fan is a qualifier though. It just can’t be the means of entry.

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21 curiouslt (curiouslt) June 9, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Twitter Comment


RT @unxperiencedmom: RT @Mom101: PR people: If you create contest requiring “like” a fan page, 4 entry, violates FB TOS [link to post]

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22 DiMedia (DiMedia Marketing) June 9, 2010 at 2:03 pm

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RT @Mom101: Note: If you create a contest requiring someone to “like” a fan page, for entry it violates FB TOS [link to post]

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23 katemonroe (Kate Monroe) June 9, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Twitter Comment


@weddingsites yep. That’s what I’ve read too and interpreted from the rules. It can be a qualifier, but not THE entry.

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24 weddingsites (Brenda) June 9, 2010 at 3:08 pm

Twitter Comment


@katemonroe so happy to know that I’m not the only one who interpreted it this way, I’m doing additional entry if they like sponsors FB page

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25 kristinebrite (Kristine McCormick) June 9, 2010 at 5:02 pm

Twitter Comment


RT @musingsfromme: RT @Mom101: PR ppl: If you create contest requiring someone to “like” a fan page, it violates FB TOS [link to post]

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