This summer I put together a Facebook contest for a client. Up until last week, the social media’s site rules were explicitly clear: absolutely no promotion-related content could be administered within Facebook itself. If you wanted to make a promotion, you had to build it on a third-party app developer and host it as a tab on your page. Users could not enter by commenting on a post; likes could not count as votes. While my contest was a fantastic learning experience, the actual process—researching what Facebook would and wouldn’t expect, vetting third-party developers, trying to design and program the tab itself—was complicated and sometimes frustrating.
Facebook has now revamped its contest guidelines. The biggest change has been the removal of the third-party administration requirement; while it’s one alteration, it has massive ramifications for how businesses conduct themselves and interact with their fans. A comment, post, or like can now function as an entry or a vote; while third-party apps can still be used for larger campaigns, it can make the process of a quick giveaway or draw much simpler—as easy as just posting an update and asking for comments. This is obviously a big plus for page owners; fans are more likely to enter a giveaway where all they have to do is comment or like. It also becomes a great deal cheaper to host a promotion; while contests can be real business-builders, the app developers often charge a subscription fee for use of their service and may only offer a bare-bones free option, if any.
So the changes are a good thing for small businesses and pages looking to increase their traffic by doing giveaways and contests. Facebook still encourages the use of apps for larger and more personalized experiences; they also forbid pages from asking users to take part in promotions by liking or posting something to their own personal Timeline. And if I’d only done this client contest a few months later, I would have very possibly been able to pull it off quicker than I did (though I would have missed the opportunity to become truly acquainted with Photoshop).
That said, there are some legal ramifications for this change that will be interesting to follow as the new rules go into practice. For one, entry management may become a great deal more difficult; while the apps are very good at keeping track of exactly who enters the contest and what they must do, it could easily become a hassle to ensure each entry was legitimate when you’re just asking people to like a post. Furthermore, it can run up against official location rules; if the giveaway is tailored to the sweepstakes rules for The United States and the winner is in Britain, their legal claim to the prize—and the legality of their participation in the first place—may not be simple.
With apps, page owners must make clear exactly what counts as an entry and how the winners will be chosen. The US has very strict rules which dictate that all entries into a sweepstakes or draw must have an equal chance of winning. But if users can enter through a variety of actions, it can be difficult to track them; it also removes Facebook’s careful denial of liability, which had been so prominent in the earlier rules.
I’m interested to see how these rule changes will work out in the long run. While it’ll make things much easier for a lot of businesses, I can see many ways where things can go wrong, and the results remain to be seen. Until then, you can enter that draw for free wings without worry. Go forth and like to your heart’s content