"Like" it, "poke" it, but don't post
your latest sweepstakes on Facebook without some serious thought.
Your contest could be violating the site's promotions
It's unclear how closely Facebook is monitoring illegal
sweepstakes, although the company has come down hard on a few
mostly foreign companies. Still, the threat of enforcement looms
for any business that tries improperly to boost its brand among
Facebook is now flooded with ads and promotions, in part because
companies smartly realize the collective spending power of the 800
million users who log on to the site every month. The social
networking giant hasn't just changed our culture; it's
changed the way we market products.
And sponsoring a sweepstake or contest on Facebook is one of the
simplest ways to generate leads and create buzz about a product or
In one example, beauty brand Clairol boosted its Facebook fans
by nearly 1,000 percent when it launched a giveaway campaign for a new hair
color product. Pepsi jumped on the social media band wagon in 2010
with the Pepsi Refresh project, which offered grants to
local charities. Users could vote through Facebook and
"share" their charity picks with friends to generate more
Sponsoring these types of promotions can increase a
company's Facebook "Likes," boost their
"Fan" base, and expand their customer database with
opt-in email addresses.
But every promotion of this type falls under the Facebook Promotion Guidelines, which apply to
any "contest, competition, sweepstakes, or other similar
offering using Facebook."
Originally, the guidelines required sponsors to obtain
Facebook's prior written approval to conduct a promotion on
site, plus a commitment to a minimum media spend to support the
promotion. The company eliminated those requirements in a December 2010 overhaul. However, the new
guidelines are clear that the promotion must be administered using
the Facebook platform, which means that the promotion also must
comply with Facebook's platform policies.
The guidelines contain eight items, including definitions of
what constitutes a sweepstakes and a contest. (A promotion that
includes a prize of monetary value and a winner determined based on
skill is a contest; and if the winner is selected on the basis of
chance, it is a sweepstakes.) The guidelines also include very
specific requirements for any ads and other materials that use
Facebook logos or trademarks without permission.
In addition, the guidelines require that the promotion include a
complete release of Facebook by each entrant or participant and an
acknowledgment that the promotion is no way sponsored, endorsed,
administered by or associated with Facebook. That's why you see
that language on virtually every sweepstakes or contest that is
conducted on Facebook.
It's a little uncertain what consequences befall businesses
that violate these rules. Facebook apparently hasn't flexed its
enforcement muscle much against improper sweepstakes and contests
in the U.S.
But it has cracked down on some foreign companies. Last year Facebook deactivated the official India pages
of designer French Connection UK and chocolatier Cadbury's for
Also, if your Facebook promotion violates the rules, there's
nothing stopping a competitor from reporting you to Facebook,
leaving you vulnerable to enforcement.
If you are considering sponsoring a Facebook sweepstakes or
contest, you need to make sure that you are complying with the
Promotion Guidelines, all other applicable Facebook policies, and
of course, state and federal regulations.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
Specific Questions relating to this article should be addressed directly to the author.
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