May 13, 2011

Blog Law: Facebook Promotion Guidelines Updated

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Facebook Promotion Guidelines

This week, on May 11, 2011, Facebook made some sweeping changes to their promotional guidelines. The Facebook promotion guidelines are much shorter, but still pack a punch. As such, I wanted to highlight the changes.  To see the prior iteration of the guideline, check out my Blog Law post about the prior Facebook promotion guidelines.

Things That Remain the Same

1. You Must Use A Third-Party Application. The rule is now plain and simple that promotions on Facebook must be administered within Apps on Facebook.com, either on a Canvas Page or an app on a Page Tab.

2. You must not suggest Facebook is connected with your promotion

3. You must not ask people to interact on your Facebook page to vote or qualify

  • You must not use Facebook features or functionality as a promotion’s registration or entry mechanism. (New Term #3) For example, the act of liking a Page or checking in to a Place cannot automatically register or enter a promotion participant. This means you can’t say that when you reach XX ‘Likes’ you’ll give 5 people something cool
  • You must not condition registration or entry upon the user taking any action using any Facebook features or functionality other than liking a Page, checking in to a Place, or connecting to your app.  (New Term #4) For example, you must not condition registration or entry upon the user liking a Wall post, or commenting or uploading a photo on a Wall.
  • You must not use Facebook features or functionality, such as the Like button, as a voting mechanism for a promotion. (New Term #5)

What this means for blogger & brand promotions?: If clicking ‘Like’ is an entry – and it would need to be an alternative means of entry due to Giveaway Laws – then the entrant must then take an additional step to tell you they clicked ‘Like’. If using a 3rd party app within Facebook, this step is taken care of through the subsequent entry process. If not using a 3rd party app on Facebook then the entrant must go back to your blog or website and somehow tell you they did this. Simply clicking ‘Like’ as a means of entry into a promotion would be a violation of the Promotion Guidelines.

4. You must not use Facebook for notifying winners. This means no posting to walls, private messages, chat or anything that uses Facebook to communicate with the winner.

5. You must not use Facebook’s intellectual property, except to comply with the rules. This means you can say the word Facebook when you disclaim it is no involved with your promotion but you can’t use their trademark, trade name, copyright or other intellectual property to promote any aspect of your promotion.

6. You still have to comply with all Federal, State and Local laws regarding contests, giveaways, promotions, sweepstakes and the like.

Things That Changed

1. No longer will Facebook prohibit any goods or services from being offered in a promotion. In the past, they excluded things like dairy, alcohol, tobacco, etc. This mean that you’re likely to see more promotions for things you may not be used to seeing. In addition, it means you’re pretty much free to offer whatever you want as your prize as long as it’s not prohibited by law.

2. No longer are Facebook promotions limited to people age 18 and over. While you may make that limitation, Facebook is essentially opening all promotions to anyone who can legitimately sign up for a Facebook account. This mean, children age 13 – 17 are now potentially able to enter promotions. Of course, if you are going to open a promotion to anyone under the age of 18, I highly suggest learning about the specific laws regarding promotions to minors.

3. Facebook no longer has exclusions based on location. Essentially, you can now offer promotions worldwide if you’re willing to comply with whatever law govern such promotions. Just make sure your giveaway is legal!

4. The new Facebook promotion guidelines will allow for sweepstakes promotions as well as contests in which the winner is determined on the basis of skill. This is a slight departure from the prior rules which had several restrictions. Now, it’s basically up to you to comply with any laws.

5. All promotions MUST include the following:

a. A complete release of Facebook by each entrant or participant.
b. Acknowledgment that the promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. (Note: this term isn’t actually new)
c. Disclosure that the participant is providing information to [disclose recipient(s) of information] and not to Facebook.

 

Overall, I think these promotion guidelines are much better and easier to comply with. Rather than taking it upon themselves to police promotions, it appears that Facebook is shifting liability and responsibility to the promoter. That doesn’t mean Facebook will all of a sudden slack off in monitoring compliance. Failure to comply with these new guidelines will result in your account being suspended, just as it had before.

For other articles about the legal implications of being online, check out my series on blog law and online rights.

Disclosure: While I am a lawyer, I am not offering legal advice. Posts on legal matters are intended to provide legal information and do not create an attorney/client relationship. This post is part of my Blog Law Series.

Sara

{ 34 comments }

Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship May 15, 2011 at 9:29 pm

Any idea if using a separate form on another page, then promoting the contest via Facebook, is legal? It gets around paying to use a FB app, and nothing really “happens” on FB other than the announcement of the promotion. I am thinking it’s within the rules, but I’d love other opinions. Thanks!

Sara May 15, 2011 at 9:53 pm

Hello Katie,

The new rules specifically state “… administered within Apps on Facebook.com, either on a Canvas Page or an app on a Page Tab.” Using that language, it appears that Facebook has made it clear the promotion has to be administered within Apps rather than via some other type of form. My thought is that Facebook is closing what became a loophole in the prior guidelines.

Hope this helps,
Sara

BH May 16, 2011 at 1:39 pm

I see a lot of giveaway with” optional” entries being” like” a fb page, etc…since those entries are optional is that ok?

Sara May 16, 2011 at 6:05 pm

BH,

Thanks for your question. Optional entries requiring some type of consideration may be acceptable as long as there is a way to enter not requiring consideration. Those optional entries must comply with any other rules or guidelines (such as Facebook or Twitter).

The problem becomes more complex when these optional entries offer multiple entries (ex., Follow on Twitter and receive 3 entries). By providing this consideration, it may increase the chance of winning as compared to the ‘free’ entry and that may not be permitted under sweepstakes laws.

Sara

BG May 16, 2011 at 9:33 pm

Hi Sarah, I just noticed your response to a earlier post and was wondering why you believe increasing someones odds by taking another action such as sharing, posting or inviting is not permitted. I didn’t find this anywhere in the rules and I know that quite a few of the bigger sweepstakes providers have offers such as this currently running. I don’t see this as conditioning entry, only increasing odds of winning once entered by taking additional steps. At the very least, I think this is a grey area, unless you can point me in the direction of other rules. Just curious what your take is on this. Thanks!

erik May 17, 2011 at 11:49 am

Theoretically, would something like this be with in the rules:

Contest is started in a blog (blogs). To be entered to win, a blog reader must:
1. reply to the conversation in the blog, and
2. Go to a specific Facebook page and ‘like’ it.

In addition on the blog, there would be something that says “Respond here and then ‘like’ X’s website on Facebook to win something?

?

Sara May 18, 2011 at 9:14 am

Erik,

Regardless of where the promotion originates, making a social media like or follow or friend (or whatever name is given) may be deemed to be consideration under Sweepstakes or Contest laws.

In addition, Facebook promotion guidelines expressly prohibit the use of their intellectual property (Term 7 of their new guidelines) as proposed in the hypothetical above.

Sara

Lauren May 21, 2011 at 7:14 pm

Hi. I’ve been reading the guidelines over and over again along with researching trying to determine if “referral contests” are still legal. A referral contest being: the person who gets the MOST people to LIKE a fan page WINS a prize. (The reason for doing so: to gain more fans and publicity).

Is this still legal?
Thank you!!!

Sara May 21, 2011 at 11:07 pm

Lauren,

Thank you for visiting and leaving your comment. Can getting likes be the basis of a win?

The new Facebook guidelines clearly state:

#5 – You must not use Facebook features or functionality, such as the Like button, as a voting mechanism for a promotion.

By using “Likes”, which is a functionality of Facebook, your proposed promotion would seem to violate the Facebook Promotion Guidelines. Violating Facebook terms of service is not illegal, because they’re not the government and can’t make laws. However, they can take down your page for such violations.

As for the contest meeting all legal guidelines, there aren’t enough facts.

Sara

Lauren May 22, 2011 at 2:19 pm

Thank you for your response! Yes, the person who was able to bring in the most ‘likes’ from their friends would be the winner.
This is the most basic way I can give an example:

Fan page ‘Xyz’ announces that the person who brings in the most people to ‘Like’ their page will win a prize.
Xyz tells participants that they must have the Likers’ comment on Xyz’s wall stating who sent them.
This is how Xyz can keep track to determine the winner.
Susy wants to win, so she asks her friends to go Like fan page Xyz and tell Xyz know Susy sent them by posting on their wall.
Susy’s friends are doing it as a favor so Susy can win.

It seems to violate almost every rules. But is their an exception when it is favor for Susy?

I just wanted to use the simple example to give more facts.
Thanks for your help, Sara, I truly appreciate it (I’m trying to help others understand the rules as well)

– Lauren

Sara May 22, 2011 at 11:09 pm

Lauren,

You are correct that your scenario does violate many of the current Facebook Promotion Guidelines. As such, undertaking a promotion such as the one you outlined poses the potential risk for multiple people/bloggers to have their Facebook pages/profiles taken down.

It doesn’t matter that anyone is doing it as a favor. The fact is, using Facebook in the type of promotion you outlined violates their terms of use and is not permitted.

Organizations, blogs, businesses and other types of ‘pages’ often suggest to their followers that they may also wish to ‘like’ someone else. When they do this, they are simply engaging those that follow/like them. It is not for any type of promotion.

I have shared my friends’ Facebook pages with the people who ‘like’ me and have suggested they like my friend too. But I’m not doing it as any type of promotion. I’m doing it to share the content my friends provide because I think some may find it useful.

What you have proposed is a promotion and therefore must comply with all guidelines set by Facebook regarding such. Unfortunately, Facebook does not offer any exception.

Thank you, again, for your question. It is something others may be concerned about as well.

Kindly,
Sara

Lauren May 23, 2011 at 8:29 am

Thank you very much. After reading the new rules over and over it had my head spinning. Many people were asking if it violated rules. This was an extremely popular method that fan pages used, the second being photo contests which are now no longer allowed. So now onto figuring out how to promote via iframes!

Sara May 23, 2011 at 9:00 am

Lauren,

Photo contests are still permitted. However, like all promotions, they must be done within Apps on a Canvas page or a Page tab.

Using your own iFrame may not be acceptable. However, I’m not well versed in exactly how iFrames are hosted within Facebook other than when using an application, so I can’t speak completely to that issue.

Sara

Chris October 3, 2011 at 1:24 pm

Hi Sara,

I’ve been following your conversation with Lauren because I have the same situation. If you say that “photo contests are still permitted” would this scenario work?:

1. My company goes and physically promotes to contestants. We have our own registration forms, guidelines, rules etc…(nothing associated with facebook)
2. Contestants email our company pictures of them using our product
3. We upload those pictures onto our fanpage and openly allow people to “like” the photos.
4. “Photos” with the most “likes” win.
5. Winners will be notified via email and not through FB.

Thanks for your help,

Chris

Stacy @ Delighting in the Days May 30, 2011 at 6:22 pm

I was thinking of changing my blog name and giving an incentive for liking my new FB page once I set it up. But I’m see that is out of the question now.

It seems hard to do any type of give away on facebook. Could you give an example of a giveaway done correctly. What would people actually do to enter?

Sara May 31, 2011 at 9:21 pm

Hello Stacy,

You are correct that asking for likes would violate the current Facebook promotion guidelines. In addition, it could potentially affect the legality of your promotion under federal and state giveaway/contest laws.

You can not do any type of giveaway ON Facebook, the rules are very clear about that. You would need to use a 3rd party app as required by the new guidelines. By using an app in a tab you can limit who can see it to those who like your page.

Compliance with giveaway laws would also be needed if you were to do a sweepstakes or contest.

Kindly,
Sara

Brittany Baughman June 8, 2011 at 7:41 pm

Thank you so much for posting this, I really needed to have someone remind me about this so I can make a note for future promotions on FB!

Chasing Joy June 11, 2011 at 3:17 pm

Thank you for all of this info. I have never done any type of sweepstakes or promotion on my blog but may in the future. This is very useful info. Found you on #commenthour.

Alecia @ Savings and Stewardship June 13, 2011 at 9:04 am

Thanks, yet again Sara, for a terrific post!! You make the law so fun and easy :). I appreciate you taking the time to help the rest of us grasp what took you years of schooling to understand!!

Sara June 13, 2011 at 8:43 pm

Alecia,

Thank you for your nice comment. I do try to make all this legal stuff a little more fun that normal. Always my pleasure to help where I can.

Sara

Aris June 21, 2011 at 1:12 am

Hi!
I have a question… I run a small business, and gain some amount of fans liking my FB page, they leave comments and suggestion on my wall. I read about the FB Promotion Guideline and understand I can’t do any promotion on my wall in order to ask people to ‘Like’ my page and ‘Win’ something in order to increase my FB fans. I honoured the rules. But hence, I have a strong competitor that is running a weekly giveaway on their wall, by saying: (1) Like our page (2) Leave a comment (3) Ask your friend to like your comment (4) Most ‘Like” comment will win this XXX product from us!
They are gaining 30,000+ fans since, and still climbing high every week. We have report the page frequently for almost a year, but we don’t see any effects.
What should we do (or is there any better ways), we don’t wish to be ended up doing such a ‘dirty trick’ just to keep us in the competition, with someone that is not playing fair… sad….

Jen {Tiny Oranges} October 21, 2011 at 11:25 am

Thanks for the awesome article, I reference it all of the time.

Can you clarify one thing for me – can you make a registrant “like” a Facebook page as a mandatory entry for a sweepstakes? Or can it only be an “optional additional entry?”

Sara October 27, 2011 at 1:02 pm

Jen, FB promotion guidelines are vey clear that the mere act of liking a page is a violation of the promotion guidelines. For promotions using 3rd party apps that are ‘like gated’, an entrant would need to ‘like’ the page first and then proceed to the entry registration. It’s a 2-step process when the promotion is run using a 3rd party app through the Facebook page.

If you are not using a 3rd party app and instead hosting the promotion on your blog, with regard to Facebook promotion guidelines the act of clicking ‘like’ as a means of entry is prohibited. Again, a 2-step process would be required – the ‘like’ and then returning back to your blog to somehow designate that they ‘like’ the requisite Facebook page.

That being said, Facebook promotion guidelines only apply to the management of Facebook and do not contemplate laws relating to sweepstakes/contests/lotteries/raffles. Those are separate laws that should be complied with as well.

Giveaway laws are further discussed here:

Katie October 27, 2011 at 12:44 pm

This is a great post, thanks very much for making it.

I was wondering if it was permissible to promote your promotion via Facebook message – for example, would it be all right to announce the promotion for the first time by using a Facebook message?

Thanks very much!

Sara October 27, 2011 at 1:11 pm

Katie,

Facebook message is a feature or functionality of the platform and, per rule #4 of the current Promotion Guidelines, would be a violation of these terms of service.

If you are asking about sharing your blog post as a status update, that’s different. If you normally share your blog posts to your Facebook community through status updated then this is no different. However requiring people to comment, like or do something with regard to that status update as a form of entry would be a violation of the now current (5/2011) promotion guidelines.

Katie October 27, 2011 at 2:59 pm

Thanks Sara! Since I would be using the facebook message as an announcement, and not requiring that anyone message back, or like my Page to participate – would that not be all right? I see it as sharing news that a promotion is live, and providing instructions on how to participate (visit the promotion tab, register to participate).

Does that make sense?

Steve November 1, 2011 at 5:42 pm

Great article. Found a lot of good info in the article and comments. I have a question?

– If I’m hosting a sweepstake on my blog an additional/not required way to enter would be to share (not like) the sweepstakes on FB. I feel like this would be legit after reading your post and their rules but I’m not sure?

Any help would be great, thanks!

Sara November 3, 2011 at 11:44 am

Steve, yes sharing the post on Facebook would be a permitted optional entry. However, the entrant must then return to YOUR blog post and indicate somehow – whether through a comment or an embedded app – that they did share. Sharing, alone, would not likely be sufficient.

Lisa February 8, 2012 at 1:09 pm

Sara,
I purchased a product called CarMD and recieved an email from them regarding a give-away. In order to enter, you must have a facebook account. I don’t have a facebook account and don’t want one. Don’t they have to offer an alternative method of entry? Thanks.

Sara February 8, 2012 at 1:22 pm

Lisa,

It looks like CarMD is using a 3rd party app for their promotion so from a FB perspective they’er fine. As for Sweepstakes laws, it’s possible that having to join FB as the sole means of entry could be a violation of Sweepstakes laws. Unfortunately, it is unclear at this time if a ‘non-facebook’ means of entry would be required. Many sweepstakes are run solely via Facebook apps. Because the digital landscape has advanced much faster that the legal framework for sweepstakes there is no absolute requirement for an alternative entry at this time.

Anne March 20, 2012 at 6:27 am

Sara,

Very insightful and informative article! My only question is about Rafflecopter, which is widely used by blogs all across the Internet.

Am I correct in understanding that it’s permissible to have a “Facebook like” entry on your Rafflecopter as long as:

1. It’s not a mandatory entry
2. The blog posts the usual disclaimers that release Facebook
3. The optional Facebook like entry is only worth 1 point, or is the same point value or less than the mandatory entry

It seems to me that since Rafflecopter is a third-party app and in and of itself constitutes an “entry form” that it does not violate FB guidelines. The two-step process you mention several times seems to be satisfied by virtue of the Rafflecopter itself, in which entrants click “like” and then hit the “enter” button which is in essence confirming their entry.

Thanks for commenting!

Sara March 20, 2012 at 9:22 am

Anne,

Yes, Rafflecopter is a 3rd party app and in that respect is compliant with Facebook Promotion Guidelines. All disclaimers should be on the mechanism by with Facebook is being accessed.

With regard to federal and state laws regarding Sweepstakes/Contests those are separate from Facebook. Facebook doesn’t care how many points a like is for a promotion. That’s an aspect of Sweepstakes law that has not been litigated and, as such, is up for debate.

Optional entries MUST be given the same weight as mandatory entries so as not to violate the LAWS that a purchase (consideration) will not improve your chances of winning. Many bloggers run in to problems with is issue, as well as others, but this one is becoming more and more prevalent.

Missy January 8, 2013 at 1:21 pm

Wow, I’m had no idea planning an online give-away was this complicated but thank you so much for all the information. I live in FL and our company wants to give away a prize worth under 600.00. We were going to have an on-line company randomly select the names we provided by the “likes” on facebook. So now I’m back to the drawing board. Do you know of any sites that are doing an online promotional give-away correctly? I’m out of ideas and it would be so helpful to see some examples. I’m wondering if it’s even worth it. Maybe it’s easier to do a raffle at our event and give away the prize at the event…any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Sara January 11, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Missy, running a promotion that involves Facebook will require the use of a 3rd party app. Most apps that are used for FB promotions have a mechanism for random selection, but you’d have to check that feature out to make sure it’s something that would work for your promotion.

Most of the larger companies (major brands) do online promotions within the boundaries of both the law and social platform guidelines because they have large legal teams working on it. Take a look at those promotions to get an idea of how they do it.

Best wishes,
Sara

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