6 Tips for Running Promotions Within Facebook’s Guidelines

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By Sara Inés Calderón Comment

Promotions are an increasingly popular way for marketers to reach Facebook’s 400 million monthly active users. After all, if you see an item in your news feed about a friend getting a free burger, or entering to win an Xbox, you’re quite likely to check out how you can get the same thing.

But promotions are legally regulated through the United States and the rest of the world, prompted by countless fake giveaways, confusing prize terms, etc. For this reason, Facebook takes a number of precautions to protect users and itself from bad characters.

The company has been developing a set of official promotional guidelines beyond the general terms of service that all users, developers and advertisers also must agree to. The document has seen significant revisions over the past year or so, to try to explain what is or isn’t okay for the thousands of marketers that have recently become active on Facebook. The guidelines govern the publicizing and administering of any sweepstakes, contests, competitions or other promotions on Facebook and may change at any time without notification.

Facebook also makes clear that it can disable the Page and/or account of anyone who violates its terms of service and guidelines.

Because the rules are complex, we thought it’d be helpful to compile a list of tips for Facebook promotions, based on the guidelines last updated on December 22, 2009. Some recommendations are pretty common-sense while others are quite nuanced, and are the result of conversations we’ve had with Facebook and marketers over the past months and years.

Note that the guidelines are updated often; a more detailed explanation is available within Inside Facebook’s Marketing Bible. Also, to be clear, the promotions you see screenshots of in this article are all considered appropriate by Facebook.

1. Read All the Promotions Guidelines

This sounds obvious but Facebook has continued to expand the document, so make sure you are up-to-date with all changes. The guidelines currently include information on what Facebook’s definition of a promotion is (including “sweepstakes,” “contests” and “competitions”), as well as general terms that apply, aspects of promotions that are specifically prohibited, specific ways campaigns need to be administered and publicized, and Facebook’s legal protection and rights. And, as part of a big update last fall, it added a list of specific types of actions that promotions can or can’t include.

Between the terms and the examples provided, the guidelines should give most marketers a pretty good idea about how appropriate their promotion is for Facebook.

2. Clear the Promotion With Facebook First

Anyone who wants to run a promotion on Facebook first needs to get approval from an account representative at the company. In order to access a representative, though, one first needs to spend around $10,000 in Facebook advertising.

A main reason, according to Facebook, is that it needs to manually approve all promotions to ensure that each one is legal. If you’re with a small business or other organization with a limited advertising budget, a Facebook promotion is probably not for you. In this case, however, we suggest you experiment with a small amount of Facebook advertising targeted at the sorts of users you hope to reach. If those efforts are successful, more ad spending — and a promotion — may very well be worth the expense.

Obviously, anyone who seeks approval for a promotion from Facebook should first follow step 1.  If, however, you’re promoting a contest that involves Facebook (via Facebook Connect) that takes place “completely” elsewhere, on your own web site for example, you don’t need prior written approval. But you still have to stick to Facebook’s basic terms regarding Connect.

3. Don’t Call Facebook Your ‘Partner’

Facebook’s promotions guidelines state repeatedly that you can’t say that you’re partnering with Facebook, to quote, “You will not directly or indirectly indicate that Facebook is a sponsor or administrator of the promotion or mention Facebook in any way in the rules or materials relating to the promotion.”

We’re highlighting this guideline in particular because we still see some companies make this mistake. For example, you can’t say “We’re launching with Facebook today” in a press release if all you’re doing is launching a Facebook Page. Instead, you should say something like “we’re launching on Facebook today.”

As part of this guideline, you should also make sure to not use Facebook’s “name, trademarks, trade names, copyrights or any other…intellectual property” unless the company has given you prior consent.

4. Understand Local Rules, and How They Affect Your Facebook Promotion

Due to decades if not centuries or millenia of shady promotions around the world, a host of country and state-specific laws create certain restrictions on Facebook.

For anyone looking to run a promotion outside the US, note that all “sweepstakes” — or a promotion where prizes or winners are based on chance — are not allowed in Belgium, Norway, Sweden, or India. Make sure Facebook users from those countries will not be able to participate.

A number of other rules are based out of US state and national law, and influence what Facebook does not allow anywhere. Prohibited promotions include those that market to people under 18, to countries embargoed by the U.S. or require the “purchase of a product, completion of lengthy task or other such considerations.”

Any prize that promotes “gambling, tobacco, firearms, prescription drugs, or gasoline ” is not allowed on Facebook. The prize itself cannot include “alcohol, tobacco, dairy, firearms, or prescription drugs” — so its okay to promote alcohol as long as you don’t award it or break any related laws. The surprise in this latter category is that you may not administer a promotion on Facebook if any dairy products are part of the prize — this is due to some US state laws, and Facebook has previously said that it is working on allowing dairy-based prizes.

5. Heed Facebook’s Formatting Requirements

Facebook has a very specific way in which promotions may interact with their platform, again, a good idea to read these before designing your contest.

You can only administer a promotion through an application on the Facebook Platform and you can only have users enter the promotion in specific locations on your Page. Either the canvas Page of an app or an application box in a tab on your Page may be used for entry into your promotion on Facebook.

Also, Facebook has some very specific language you need to include in your promotion that essentially notes that it is in no way sponsoring your promotion. It reads as follows: “This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. You understand that you are providing your information to [recipient(s) of information] and not to Facebook. The information you provide will only be used for [disclose any way that you plan to use the user’s information].”

And, you have to designate someone as the primary contact person for communication associated with the promotion.

6. Don’t Require Facebook Actions

You basically cannot require users to do anything on Facebook as a condition of a promotion other than becoming a fan of your Page.

There are a lot of “don’ts” in this category. The exact language: “[Y]ou will not condition entry to the promotion upon taking any action on Facebook, for example, updating a status, posting on a profile or Page, or uploading a photo.  You may, however, condition entry to the promotion upon becoming a fan of a Page.”

The guidelines offer examples of what this means in specific terms. For example, you cannot require users to post a photo or status comment as a condition of entry, but you can use a third-party application to do this.

You can’t automatically enter users who become a fan of your Page, but you can allow new fans to access a third-party app to do so. You can’t notify promotion winners via Facebook with messages or profile posts, but you can get their email or use an app.

Most especially you can’t require people to sign up for a Facebook account before entering a promotion.

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