This morning I learned via AllFacebook.com that Facebook has updated its rules for how businesses can promote contests on Facebook. The new rules are here.
If your business is promoting or planning to promote any kind of contest on Facebook, where contest entrants are selected for a reward either by random chance or because of merit, then this will probably change the way you promote your contest on Facebook. Particularly if you don’t want to have your business’s Facebook page deleted, causing you to lose all accumulated fans.
Although most of the rules seem geared towards companies that are using dedicated Facebook “applications” (specially created interactive offer pages) to manage their contents, and are spending enough money on their promotion that they will be assigned an account manager at Facebook, the rules apply to all types of contests promoted on Facebook. Even small ones.
Here are the three pieces of advice I gave to one small business client that wanted to promote its contest on Facebook without building a relatively expensive Facebook application just for this purpose.
1. Don’t mention the word “Facebook” anywhere when promoting the contest on Facebook. So we’re just saying: here’s our contest, contact us to enter it.
2. Offer an alternative way to sign up for the contest. My client has a physical place of business where most of its interaction with its Facebook fans is happening already. So customers can actually write out an entry and hand a piece of paper to someone working there. (I know, it’s old school, but a surprising number of people still know handwriting and paper is still widely available.) We’re also providing the company’s email address in the Facebook posts that promote the contest as an alternative “online” method of entering.
3. Don’t require people to do anything on Facebook as part of the contest. In other words, people have to be able to enter whether or not they are fans on Facebook and whether or not they post anything about themselves, your company, or the contest on Facebook. (This is easy to remeber if you are already following rule 1, above.)
Another approach: if there’s no reward, there’s no contest, and these rules don’t apply. Or if your deal is set up such that there are no winners and losers, in other words, everybody who signs up gets the reward, then its not a contest. As far as I know you can still promote non-contests on your Facebook page which ask people to become fans, post something to Facebook, etc. in exchange for a reward. In the case of my client, if we wanted to make it a non-contest we could have eliminated the gift certificates going to the winners, or given everyone who entered something just for entering.
Finally, even if you use a dedicated Facebook application to run your contest, have received permission from your Facebook Account Manager, and otherwise follow all of the rules, please be aware that you are prohibited from rewarding the winners with a “prize or any part of the prize [that] includes alcohol, tobacco, dairy, firearms, or prescription drugs.”
Dairy? You betcha, that’s the rule. That leaves out most Starbucks products as prizes, for starters. OK, I’m taking this as a sign that these rules aren’t fully baked yet–watch this space for further updates (your cue to subscribe to this blog via email, RSS, or Twitter).