You’ve heard the news about Facebook’s new rules for promotions on the site, but you may be under the assumption that the new rules forbid ANY contests even being mentioned on Facebook. Or you may think that marketers working on behalf of big-name companies who love running Facebook promotions in order to tap into the social networking site’s enormous user base (300 million and counting), will exit the site in droves in the wake of such restrictions.
Not necessarily. The truth behind all the hype and confusion in the wake of the release of the new guidelines lies somewhere between an outright ban and the free-for-all that Facebook understandably wants to avoid.
So herewith, a quick-and-dirty summary of what you can and can’t do per the new Facebook Promotions Guidelines:
- You may not administer any contest, sweepstakes or giveaway on Facebook without prior written approval from Facebook itself via one of their account representatives. To request approval, you’ll need to click here to start the application process.
- If you do administer a contest on Facebook, you may do so only through a third-party application on the Facebook Platform, NOT on the news feed. Companies will thus have to develop their own tools to reach potential contestants/participants rather than using the free tools already available on Facebook.
- On that same vein, contests must not require any action on the part of participants that involves the use of Facebook’s free tools as a condition of entry. So, for example, a contest can no longer require that a would-be participant Become a Fan, post an status update or upload a photo in order to be eligible for the prize, as many companies have done in the past.
- Companies and marketers are free to run contests off Facebook, of course, and can even mention them on their Facebook page. However, they must include legal wording (helpfully offered by Facebook in the Promotion Guidelines page) that clearly indicates that Facebook is not associated with the contest in any way, either as a sponsor, administrator or endorser. Violation of these guidelines will result in removal of your materials by Facebook, even if the contest is held outside of the site.
- Companies and marketers must not use Facebook to communicate with contest winners, either through messages, chat, or profile posts. They can collect email or snail mail information through the third party app used, however.
So is there even a point to holding a contest as an incentive to draw fans? Of course! Contests are a great stepping stone to finding new fans and supporters. Go ahead and run a contest, but do it through the Facebook Platform using a third-party app. Promote it heavily on the app canvas page, or in an app box in a tab on the your main Facebook page, not on your live Facebook stream.
Some ways you can incentivize would-be fans to visit your site:
- Hold a contest off-site (your own Web site, blog or even Twitter account). Make sure your Facebook badge is prominent on your site, but to avoid FB’s lawyers, don’t mention Facebook in your promotional materials.
- Run a Twitter contest. So far, Twitter has not restricted contests on its site.
The restrictions do sound onerous, but, if you see it from Facebook’s point of view, rather reasonable. The company simply wants to provide a more pleasurable experience for their users, who represent, after all, the reason for Facebook’s existence. An angry mob of Facebook users fed up with the increasing amount of spam cluttering their news feed is not an audience that is amenable to corporate marketing.
In fact, the guidelines only underscore the central point of social media marketing: cultivating and nurturing relationships with your customers, both present and future. It’s not about selling to them but engaging with them and creating a community around your company. Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook are fantastic tools to build and reach out to that community, but you shouldn’t rely solely on them for your company’s success. Have a great product or service, then create your own, preferably interactive site to which you can drive traffic from your Facebook efforts. After all, the pot of gold isn’t the number of fans you have on Facebook, but rather who ultimately buys your product or use your service.