Policy Watch: Facebook Page Owners Can Require Users To Become Fans in Order to Enter Contests

There has been considerable confusion about the ways that Facebook Page owners can — or can’t — offer promotions inside Facebook. The company significantly updated its promotions guidelines in early November. Among many other changes, it prohibited owners from running any contests or promotions that required users to perform any action outside application canvas pages or tabs in order to enter – apparently prohibiting page owners from requiring users to become fans to enter.

As the marketers who read this site know very well, this is a big issue, because promotions have proven to be a great way for companies to get more fans on Facebook. Owners can then use Pages to engage these fans about new products and other announcements.

But Facebook made more changes to its promotions guidelines on December 22, adding the following line, in bold:

4.2 In the rules of the promotion, or otherwise, you 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.

Requiring people to become fans to enter a promotion “has always been allowed, but we wanted to make it explicit as we often got questions about it,” according to a Facebook spokesperson. “So it’s not a new policy, but is new language in the policy.” The company’s latest guidelines also offer some examples at the end of the document about specific ways Page owners can or can’t condition entry.

You cannot: Condition entry in the promotion upon a user providing content on Facebook, such as making a post on a profile or Page, status comment or photo upload.

You can: Use a third party application to condition entry to the promotion upon a user providing content. For example, you may administer a photo contest whereby a user uploads a photo through a third-party application to enter the contest.

You cannot: Administer a promotion that users automatically enter by becoming a fan of your Page.

You can: Only allow fans of your Page to access the tab that contains the third-party application for the promotion.

So, for example, the Subway campaign that launched last week was following the guidelines in requiring users to become fans in order to participate in a promotion — winning coupons for free sandwiches.