If you’re not doing it, you know other bloggers and friends who are. It amazes me how many people don’t understand or follow Facebook’s guidelines when it comes to running contests and promotions.
I see it every.single.day. From bloggers with 100 fans to brands with more than 1 million (although the majority of rule-breakers are definitely on the blogger side).
Now, before you get all uppity and think that I’m just being Debbie Downer and lecturing you, I really am looking out for your best interests. I don’t think it’s smart to mess around with the largest social network in the world — because if, Gaia forbid, you got caught, you could get kicked off of Facebook, along with any pages that you used to violate the terms (and any pages that you’re the sole admin for).
So, here are the rules. Here’s how you’re breaking them. And here’s how to do things by the book.
Step 1: Read the rules. From top to bottom. Twice — maybe even three times: http://www.facebook.com/promotions_guidelines.php.
Step 2. Pay special attention to the following sections:
- Promotions on Facebook must be administered within Apps on Facebook.com, either on a Canvas Page or an app on a Page Tab.
- You must not use Facebook features or functionality as a promotion’s registration or entry mechanism. For example, the act of liking a Page or checking in to a Place cannot automatically register or enter a promotion participant.
- You must not condition registration or entry upon the user taking any action using any Facebook features or functionality other than liking a Page, checking in to a Place, or connecting to your app. For example, you must not condition registration or entry upon the user liking a Wall post, or commenting or uploading a photo on a Wall.
- You must not notify winners through Facebook, such as through Facebook messages, chat, or posts on profiles or Pages.
Overriding ALL of this is that Facebook is extremely protective of its name, copyright, brand, logo, etc. So you can’t in any way make it seem as if Facebook has anything to do with your contest. Even using the word Facebook (like I’m doing here!) is tricky, unless you’ve approved or are using widgets and tools that its developers provide.
- You post a contest or giveaway, requiring people to “like” your page or a certain status to be entered (and that’s ALL).
- You say that when you get to a certain number of “likes,” you’ll select someone to win a prize.
- You post a status updating, congratulating and notifying your winner on Facebook.
- You post a link on Facebook to the contest without making it clear that Facebook in no way endorses or supports your contest or giveaway.
- Your only methods of entering the contest or giveaway are on Facebook.
- Although it’s a hot debate about whether this is good practice or not, Facebook does allow you to “like-gate” your fan pages via custom tabs, so you can require someone to like your page in order to get to a contest or giveaway tab.
- However, if you do that, you’ll still need to work with a third-party app to populate that tab with your contest.
- I have used Wildfire Apps several times and really like the tools. They can be quite cost effective (I get nothing out of saying this) and easy to set up. Plus, they’re approved by Facebook and are very easy to integrate into your Facebook pages.
- Do all of your contest details on your blog, so that you can provide clear and easy to find rules and guidelines (which are required, per Facebook’s contest guidelines). Market the contest if you want on Facebook, but don’t require any actions to enter the contest.
- It’s still a gray area, but if you DO want to give people extra entries for liking a page or a status, you can do it — but you HAVE to make them return to your blog or other third-party app to actually make the new entry. So you may be able to get away with giving away one entry for a comment, a second entry for a Facebook like AND second blog comment, etc. I think it violates the spirit of Facebook’s rules, but I’ve seen different opinions on that.
Here’s the thing. Despite all of my caveats and tips here, I know that some of you are shaking your head (maybe even a fist!) at me, saying…But Katy, so many bloggers do this and they don’t get in trouble! Why can’t I do it?
You can. The chances of Facebook contacting you and requiring you to take down your page are slim. The chances of you violating local or state laws with your contest are slim. The chances of anyone reporting you are slim. The chances that anyone other than me will know you’re breaking the rules are slim.
And yes, it’s much easier and less expensive to just keep doing what you’re doing.
But if it were MY Facebook page and MY reputation…well, I’d want to be more cautious.