6 Tips for Running Promotions Within Facebook’s Guidelines

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.