Running promotions on Facebook is often an integral part of a social media campaign. They can be a great way to obtain new fans and increase engagement levels but it’s also very easy to contravene either Facebook’s own rules regarding promotions or those in the territory in which you are running it. This post will highlight some things social media managers need to consider and be aware of when putting their next promotion together, to ensure that you a) don’t break the law and that b) Facebook don’t unpublish your Page!
Things to always do
Regardless of where or what kind of promotion you’re running, there are some things that you always need to ensure you do.
- Run your promotion either via an app, or directly on your Page
- If running your promotion on your Page, you can use the following methods to collect entries:
- Like or comment on your Page (e.g. “Like this post to enter”)
- Post on your Page
- Send your Page a message
- You can’t use fan’s own Timelines to collect entries
- This means that asking fans to “Share on your timeline/a friend’s page to timeline” is a no-go
- When contacting your winners, you can do so either by email, private message, or via your Page
- You must comply with the requirements found in Facebook’s Pages Terms – where section E, talks about promotion
More detail on that last to-do. Here’s a screenshot of what Facebook require, regardless of location, when running a promotion:
What does this actually mean? Let’s take it bit by bit.
Point 1: Facebook are absolving themselves of any responsibility when it comes to your promotion. You and only you are in charge. You need to make sure that you have a set of rules/T&Cs available for fans to read (you can either have these within your app somewhere, or link to them on your website), that makes it clear who can enter; based on age, location, etc and you also need to have made sure that your promotion doesn’t contravene any laws or regulations in the country you’re running it in. Believe it or not, it can be very easy to accidentally break the law where promotions are concerned so I’ll be flagging up some vital information later.
Point 2: This is where you and your entrants absolve Facebook of any responsibility. This is very easy to do as you can add it to your entry form, if you’re using an app, or your T&Cs. Something along these lines should do the trick, although it’d be best to check with your own legal counsel to make sure this works for them:
This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. You are providing your information to ________ and not to Facebook. The information you provide will only be used for ________ (Insert your company name/what-you-plan-to-do-with-the-information as appropriate.)
Point 3: We’ve talked about this already – you can use either an app or your Page to run a promotion, but we can’t use Personal Timelines to do so – so no asking people to “Share to enter”. I see Pages asking for this all the time – unfortunately it’s the kind of thing that could see Facebook unpublish your page, which we really don’t want! Plus, depending on individual users’ privacy settings, you may not be able to see everyone who shared your post – meaning that you’d actually be discounting potential entrants. Just don’t do it!
Point 4: Facebook won’t help you run your promotion and if you get into trouble with the law, you’re on your own.
Now that we’ve covered off exactly what Facebook require us to do, it’s time to go through a few pointers to ensure we’re not breaking any laws wherever we’re running our promotions. Unfortunately it’s a lot easier to do than you might think, but the good news is that you can easily avoid some of the most common pitfalls.
What kind of promotion?
The first thing we need to establish is exactly what kind of promotion we are running. Different types of promotions have different names in different territories and inevitably have a different set of laws/regulations attached to them. Most of the promotions we run on Facebook tend to be in either the UK or the US, although there are exceptions to this. Here are the most common monikers for promotion types:
- UK Prize Draw – the winner will be selected wholly by chance. The entire selection process is random. A user can like, comment, answer a simple question etc and all of the results go into a box where the winner is randomly selected – by somebody not related to the campaign. These tend to be the most common type of promotion seen on Facebook. A prize draw must be free to enter.
- UK Prize Competition – this is defined as a competition where success depends wholly (or in part) on the exercise of skill, judgment or knowledge of the entrant. All entries are then judged by a panel, including someone independent who is not related to the campaign and is judged subjectively. E.g. we if we asked users to design a hood for a pushchair with the winning design being produced, we would use this process to find the “best” entry and award the prize accordingly. A prize competition must be free to enter.
- UK Lottery – if a promotion is not free to enter and users have to pay, it falls under the remit of the Gambling Act and is deemed to be a lottery. My view? Lotteries are scary things and I stay well away. Plus given the reasons for which we’re generally running Facebook promotions, asking users to pay to enter goes against what we’re trying to achieve in terms of reach and brand engagement.
- US Sweepstake – very similar to a UK Prize Draw and will be the kind of promotion you see most frequently. You can give away anything – prizes we’ve given range from stroller toys worth a few dollars to $500 worth of goods. There are additional things to remember when running a US Sweepstake and we’ll come on to those in the Notes By Country section.
- US Contest – similar to the UK Prize Competition. You choose the winner based on subjective criteria that means they submitted the best “something”.
- US Lottery – If a Sweepstake or Contest requires a fee to enter, it’s actually a lottery. They’re very highly regulated in the US and the advice I’ve been given is “avoid these like the plague”.
Notes by country
Some countries have some additional regulations that we need to adhere to above and beyond what we’ve discussed. Most European countries are similar to the UK, but you should always check to be sure. Here’s a few common territories that have some unusual requirements.
- Australia – you can run competitions and prize draws but you need a permit (the fee varies based on prize value) if you’re giving away prizes at random or if your draw involves a mix of skill and chance. Note that some of the specifics can also vary by “state”, e.g. Queensland vs Tasmania, for example
- Canada – generally Canada is very similar to the US, but Quebec can be a tricky province. In Quebec they have a separate regulatory body and different rules. As these can be tricky to follow, it’s common for promotions to exclude Quebec residents (who have to pay tax on the value of any prize) if Canada is included. The added challenge of working in both English and French doesn’t help
- Hong Kong – prize draws are generally considered to be a form of lottery – this means you’d need prior approval to run the draw and also obtain a licence
- Italy – when selecting winners, this needs to be done in the presence of an Italian Notary Public or an Office of the Chamber of Commerce. If picking winners electronically, an expert needs to certify that the results generated by whatever method you’ve used cannot be altered
- Spain – it’s best practice to use a Notary Public to file your T&Cs
- UAE: Dubai – for prize draws you need to obtain a permit from the Department of Economic Development (DED) and the draw needs to be conducted in the presence of a DED representative – even if it takes place outside the UAE. You also need to make sure you have T&Cs available in Arabic. There’s more details to consider, but those are the key items
The US is so complex it gets its own subheading. In the US, you have to comply with both federal and state law. State law can vary significantly and what is legal in California, may not be in Ohio. I would strongly recommend getting proper legal advice if you’re thinking of running a promotion in the US as it’s too easy to be non-compliant. Here are some key points to look out for:
- In some states (e.g. New York, Florida, Rhode Island) if your total prize value is over a certain limit you need to pay a bond. This is often the total value of all of the prizes you are awarding and is based on the total prize pot, rather than individual prize value. For example the trigger is $5,000 in New York and Florida and if we wanted to include New York in our Sweepstakes where we are giving away 11 strollers worth $500 each, we’d need to pay the bond as the total prize value exceeds the trigger amount
- If a prize is worth $600 or more, the winner is liable for tax. You’d need to collect their social security number along with other details such as address etc. We try and keep individual prize values below $500 to negate this
- Consideration – we know that a user paying to enter a promotion (monetary consideration) automatically makes it a lottery but the element of non-monetary consideration can also turn your promotion into a lottery if you’re not careful. Non-monetary consideration is classed as something that either requires substantial time or effort, or activities that drive users to a retailer’s website with the potential to increase business
- Asking users to navigate from Facebook to your website to find the answer to a question could count as consideration (potential to increase business)
- Asking users to Like your page to enter, while fine under Facebook’s rules could also be classed as consideration (you’re asking for time/effort in exchange for an entry)
- Make sure you consider all 50 states when planning your promotion – if required you could exclude entrants from states that are a bit trickier to handle although this could lead to disappointment. Don’t be afraid to adjust your prize and/or entry mechanisms to make sure you stay compliant.
What does a good promotion look like?
Here’s a couple of good examples of a UK Prize Draw run by Argos and ASDA. They feature clear instructions, the entry mechanism is clear and compliant and there’s a link to T&Cs.
Less clear cut is this post, where you need to click through to an app to enter, but implies that you also need to like AND share the post. The Share aspect could be considered a breach of Facebook’s Terms.
So there we have it. Some tips and things to look out for next time you run a promotion on Facebook. Of course this isn’t legal advice and may only be current for the next week!
If you decide that you’d like to use an app to run your promotions, you can use third-party tools to create the apps for you. Tools like Shortstack and Woobox offer lots of functionality to run almost any kind of promotion you could wish, while being relatively inexpensive.
I’d strongly recommend that if you do have a team you can turn to, work with them to understand the requirements in the territories you’re in and get their help to create templates. In my role, we use a short briefing form where I specify some key elements and the team return completed T&Cs to me. It’s win-win for everyone as I’m more likely to get Legal involved if they can turn my request around quickly and it’s quicker and easier for them if we’ve worked together to establish what we generally need – although special or more detailed promotions will take more time.
If you don’t have an internal legal team and you want to make sure you’re compliant, see if you can find a solicitor to work with on an ad-hoc basis to help you create templates around the sorts of promotions you run most often – where you can tweak the elements that change. This should stand you in good stead in a large number of cases. Make sure to be extra careful in territories like the US, where it’s all too easy to end up accidentally running a lottery or contravening state law.
Here’s a handy little summary list of things you should try and do every time you run a promotion – at least until the next time Facebook change their Pages terms!
- Create a set of T&Cs
- Include the necessary Facebook disclaimers
- Ensure entry mechanisms comply with Facebook and local law (Remember, no sharing to enter!)
- Be clear on the type of promotion you’re running (Steer clear of a lottery!)
- Check the law in the countries (and in some cases, states) that you’re running your promotion in
- Make sure your promotion is compliant with said law – don’t be afraid to amend your promotion if needed
- Run your promotion!
- Don’t forget to select your winners and comply with any local regulations in doing so (if any)
- Revel in your increased Facebook engagement!