Facebook revised its guidelines for contests and sweepstakes this week, removing the requirement that such promotions must be administered through a Facebook app.
Brands can now use their Facebook Pages directly for sweeps and contest entries, including core Facebook functionality like posting to the brand’s page, commenting or liking a post.
However, it is still a violation of the Terms of Service to require users to take actions on their own personal Timelines as entries.
Quite simply, Brand X can ask users like a post on its Brand X Page as an entry but it cannot ask users to share the post on their own personal Timelines as an entry.
Facebook also updated its TOS for Pages to make it explicitly prohibited to tag people in content they are not depicted in, or to encourage people to tag themselves as a sweepstakes entry. This seems a little weird and random but the folks over at Hubspot got this explanation from Facebook:
“It’s OK to ask people to submit names of a new product in exchange for a chance to win a prize. It’s not OK to ask people to tag themselves in pictures of a new product in exchange for a chance to win a prize.” – Source Hubspot
Important: I interpret this restriction to apply to brands and Pages, the use of this tagging in promotional content, and most specifically contest and sweeps entries. I do not believe this specifically applies to the common practice of tagging non-present people in photos on your personal Timeline. For example, tagging a picture of your niece with your sister’s name so other friends have a clue whose child this is. However, I am NOT a lawyer. Personally, I advise doing it sparingly and generally limited to the example I gave. That’s a nice privacy protection for the kids, and common sense would indicate Facebook would allow this. I am far less fond of tagging people in images merely to make them aware of the photo.
Why did they make the changes?
Facebook says it is to offer more flexible solutions to marketers. I don’t doubt it. Brands were using other platforms (Twitter, Instagram in particular) for their quick turnaround promotions.
Given the sheer volume of non-compliant stuff I continued to see on Facebook under the old rules — usually but not always from smaller companies, I imagine the cost of enforcement also was well beyond the benefit. Rather than apply the rules inconsistently or try to stem the tide, Facebook decided to go with the flow.
Now it just has to go after promotions that violate the prohibition on using the personal Timeline. Bound to be a smaller task.
What does this mean for Brands?
Brands now have more options for contests and sweeps, particularly to execute things quickly when necessary. Facebook apps are still better for brand awareness and customer acquisition, as you can design a more engaging experience and capture email addresses for future promotions. They are also more expensive and take time to develop.
Activating a promotion on your brand Page is quick and easy, but you are also limited to the functionality of Facebook.
If you have a Facebook Page for your blog, you can now do promotions on Facebook, but read the Promotion Guidelines carefully. Facebook has other requirements for contests and sweeps, and you should always make sure that any promotion you administer complies with the law.