The Pros and Cons of Facebook’s New Promotion Guidelines

Peter Roesler, President - Web Marketing Pros

By Peter Roesler

President, Web Marketing Pros

facebookBecause it’s the largest and one of the oldest social media networks, whenever marketers decide to run a contest or promotion through social media, they include the Facebook platform. However, Facebook has very specific rules about how the platform can be used. Facebook recently modified its promotion guidelines, and while it is no less specific, it does allow for promotion techniques that were forbidden in the past. This post will address a few of the more important changes and discuss something marketers should keep in mind when using these techniques.

The changes are rather drastic. In the past, business owners had to pay for a third-party app to administer a contest on Facebook and contests couldn’t be directly run on business’s timeline. Facebook has removed these requirements, so it’s now cheaper and easier to run a contest. This means that marketers can use Facebook functions like likes, comments, or messages as a voting measure. Another significant, but less heralded, change is that business owners can now announce their winners through their Facebook.

These changes are most beneficial for small businesses that want to run promotions without having to pay for a third-party app.  As a Facebook spokesperson explained, “This capability makes it even easier for smaller businesses to help build awareness for a new product, promote the opening of a new location, sell inventory, or advance other business objectives. Say, for instance, a local pizza parlor wants to give away free pizza for a month to the 100th person to like their post. Now the business can do this right on their Page (and increase awareness of the post via Promoted Posts) without needing to work with a third-party to build an app.”

The only restrictions are that the business must release Facebook in the contest rules, and acknowledge that Facebook isn’t sponsoring, endorsing, administering, or associating with contest. Also, marketers can’t use sharing as a voting measure. Tagging is allowed, but Facebook warns against encouraging people to tag themselves in photos they are not in.

The changes to Facebook promotion guidelines may seem like a blessing at first, but it may be a case where all that glitters isn’t gold. While it may be cheaper to not use a third-party app to run the contest, marketers need to think about how they plan to manage the entry process on their own. Running a contest can be a daunting task and third-party apps offer an advanced system that can manage the information. To illustrate, if all a person needs to do enter the contest is like a post and the post gets 1,000 likes, turning that list of likes into 1,000 contest entries from which a random drawing will occur is a massive undertaking. Similarly, since people can edit their comments, a contest based on post comments can be challenging to keep up with as people can essentially change their entry at any time.

Another thing to consider is that getting someone to like a single post has little long-term value. There is the initial benefit to brand awareness from when the person liked the post, but since they aren’t required to become fans of the page, there’s no chance for them to see other messages and content from the organization running the contest. Additionally,. these new techniques can’t be used with fan gating. While Facebook allows users to hide content from non-fans on their app pages (such as making it so users can’t see a contest entry forms until they become fans), anything that is on a business’s Facebook timeline can be seen by anyone. So there is no way to restrict the recently allowed kinds of promotions to just the fans of an organization. Worse still, since people can like posts that appear in their status feeds, an organization can end up with people entering their contest without ever visiting their Facebook page even once.

What many people don’t seem to realize is that the reason Facebook had restrictive rules in the past is that it prevented businesses from running contests poorly. Business owners need to be wary about the potential negative feedback that can come from a poorly run contest. As Preetham Venkky of KRDS Asia said, “It’s not uncommon for contestants to talk negatively about a brand if a contest is not conducted in a justifiably fair manner. Sore losers can lead to negative publicity as opposed to the positive feedback you as a business were expecting. Also, Facebook’s renewed policy clearly states that businesses must communicate the terms and conditions of participation and release Facebook of any liabilities.

Facebook has always remained attentive to the concerns of its users and these new rules reflect their desire to make the platform more useful to small businesses. Now is the time to be social media marketers to be experimental with contest designs. Be sure to set aside clear, measurable objectives and then see which of the newly allowed techniques works best. Remember that Facebook rules are always in flux, and there is a chance they may decide the new relaxed rules are a little too relaxed. If you ever have any questions about what you can and can’t do on your page, just check the Facebook Pages Terms. In the meantime, check this blog for a future post with so contest designs that utilize the new guidelines.

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