Want To Run A Promotion For Your Company? Facebook Must Approve It First

Talk about a big change. In an update posted to the Facebook Marketing page last Thursday, Facebook announced changes to their guidelines for sweepstakes and promotions (found here). The changes mark a major shift from Facebook’s previous policies under which companies could launch campaigns easily without any form of permission. All of the changes are highlighted below.

Changes To The Area Where Promotions May Be Displayed

Facebook has updated their promotions guidelines to limit all promotions to two places: application canvas pages and the application box in a tab on Facebook Pages. In other words applications must occur outside of the Facebook stream. While it may not be the end of the world for marketers, it places more restrictions on those companies which help brands build their Facebook presence.

Facebook wants to make sure that the user experience is free from spam. These updates to the Facebook promotions guidelines also make it clear that Facebook wants to ensure brands don’t take advantage of user profiles for their own benefit. Facebook also wants stricter control how companies use the Facebook name. Here are the two areas where Facebook highlights how their name will be used in promotions:

3.3 You will include the following language in a clear and conspicuous manner adjacent to any promotion entry field: “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].”

3.4 You will not mention “Facebook” in the promotion’s rules except in the following ways: (i) “You can enter the Promotion through the [application name] application on the Facebook Platform. You can also find the application on the [tab name] tab on the [Page name] Page on Facebook.”; (ii) to fulfill your obligations under Section 3.7.

What Can’t Be Done?

Of most significance is information about what Facebook is no longer allowing. While Facebook has not publicly stated their rationale behind this new decision, we believe there are two primary reasons behind this crackdown: Facebook wants to limit their liability and they want more control over marketing campaigns on their site. This includes control over all pay per fan campaigns.

Promotions on Facebook cannot use any of the following any longer:

  • Photo contests which require profile photo manipulation
  • Status update contests which require posting status updates for entry
  • Contest entries once a user has become a fan

The main goal is to avoid companies from manipulating users in an insincere way. While it’s interesting to have a profile photo contest, users’ friends may not understand why a user modified their profile photo, only that they have. The result is unsolicited brand placement. While it’s not the most aggressive model we’ve seen, it is still a somewhat questionable practice which is why Facebook is modifying these terms.

Facebook Must Approve Campaigns

The most significant change is that all promotions require Facebook approval. This is a substantial change to say the least. With hundreds of thousands of businesses likely to promote on Facebook, this will require a substantial amount of overhead on Facebook’s end. Here is what the updated guidelines state:

You may not administer any promotion through Facebook, except that you may administer a promotion through the Facebook Platform with our prior written approval. Such written approval may be obtained only through an account representative at Facebook. If you are already working with an account representative, please contact that representative to begin the approval process. If you do not work with an account representative, you can use this contact form to inquire about working with an account representative.

The result is that you must work with qualified Facebook promotional partners who have access to account representatives or attempt to get a representative yourself. Also requiring that promotions take place within applications requires more resources from a company to be dedicated toward any given promotion. Rather than taking advantage of existing channels (like the stream), companies must use the tools available to create promotions or develop their own on the Facebook Platform.

Alternatively, companies can create the promotion off of the Facebook Platform on their own site where Facebook can’t place any restrictions (aside from how the Facebook name is used).

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