Facebook Competition Rules 2013

Facebook updated the Facebook Page Terms on 29 August 2013, allowing businesses to conduct competitions on Facebook via their Facebook Page Timeline or via a 3rd party app.  Businesses cannot administer competitions on personal Timelines.
Facebook Competition Rules 2013Pages can collect entries by:

  • Users (fans and non-fans) posting on their Page timeline
  • Users commenting or liking a Page post
  • Users messaging the Page

In addition to this, votes can be collected via likes, whether they be new fans or post likes.
This is BIG news and not surprisingly, this announcement has come as great news to those businesses that were already running contests on their Pages that didn’t comply with the 3rd party app requirement.  However, it may not be that big a deal for your business.
Here’s why…

Facebook Competition Rules 2013: The Good

Time and money

Facebook has made it easier for businesses of all sizes to create and administer competitions on Facebook. It takes time to set up a Facebook Competition using a 3rd party app and time is money! For some third party apps, you will also need to pay hosting fees. In addition to this, if you aren’t confident to develop the 3rd party competition app yourself then you would need to pay someone to either develop it for you or teach you how to do it. More time and more money! It is now possible to setup a competition on your Page timeline in no time at all with no additional costs.

Engagement

By having the entry and voting mechanism occur within your Facebook Page rather than within a 3rd party app, then that engagement is going to influence your Edgerank. This has the potential knock on effect of greater reach for your competition posts, as well as subsequent posts now that Last Actor also influences Edgerank.

Messages

Pages cannot private message users unless they first initiate a conversation by private messaging the Page. Once a user engages in dialogue with a Page via private message (e.g. to enter a competition or provide contact details to receive their prize), it then becomes possible for Pages to message them directly via Facebook from that point forward.

Tagging

The new Page Terms include prohibiting Page administrators from tagging or encouraging people to tag themselves in content that they are not actually depicted in. Assuming Pages follow this rule, this will make it better when using Facebook features such as Graph Search as you won’t get random competition images popping up because you tagged yourself (or a friend) in it as an entry mechanism for a competition. It will also stop those annoying newsfeed stories of friends being tagged in images that they clearly aren’t in. Hopefully!

Facebook Competition Rules 2013: The Bad

Like Gating

One of the benefits of conducting Facebook competitions via a 3rd party app is that you can like-gate (fan gate) the app so that people must Like your Page in order to enter the competition. Both fans and non-fans can enter competitions on a Timeline, so conducting competitions without a 3rd party app will not be an effective method of increasing Page likes and then having the opportunity for ongoing engagement with competition entrants via their newsfeed after the competition has completed.

Lead Generation

A great forced benefit of conducting Facebook competitions via a 3rd party app under the previous rules was that you had to collect, as part of the entry mechanism, another way of contacting entrants external to Facebook (e.g. email address).  This was so you could advise the winners via that method of communication. An email address provides you with the opportunity to market to entrants via that medium long after the competition has been conducted. This benefit is lost when conducting competitions via a Page timeline.

Viral Sharing Leverage

A good 3rd party competition app provides a mechanism for organic viral sharing that prompts entrants to share details of their entry to their Timeline and invite friends.  You can even add the incentive of extra entries for each of their friends that enters via their unique entry URL. Whilst entrants can still invite friends to enter via the Timeline, the chances of them doing so are likely to be reduced if there is no strong call-to-action, no simple guided process and no incentive!

Privacy

Competitions run through apps can collect data in a secure, structured way that may be more appealing to entrants than posting their entry publicly on a Page timeline. Running competitions on your Page timeline may therefore prevent the privacy concerned from entering, particularly if they don’t want to publicly acknowledge that they are interested in winning the prize you have on offer, even if it is their most secret desire.

Facebook Competition Rules 2013: The Downright Ugly

Compliance

You need to include your official rules when conducting a competition on Facebook. That includes offer terms and eligibility requirements (e.g. age and residency restrictions), as well as compliance with applicable rules and regulations governing the competition and all prizes offered. You also need to include a complete release of Facebook by each entrant or participant, acknowledging that the promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by or associated with Facebook.
Where are you meant to put this information? Compliant terms and conditions can sometimes be quite long. Will that result in a long status update as part of the competition or the need for a web page to be developed that houses the terms and conditions, with a link to them. You won’t want to include them in an image alongside the competition announcement post as it will likely need to be in 6 font and non-compliant with the 20% maximum text rule should you wish to pay to promote the competition. Regardless of which of these options you choose, there is no mandatory box to tick that says that you agree with the terms and conditions prior to entering, so I would question how the competition would be compliant with “laws governing competitions” if conducting a competition via a Page timeline.

Mechanism For Contacting Winner

Part of the reasoning behind using a 3rd party app for Facebook competitions was to privately collect entrants contact details, as Facebook privacy prevents Pages from contacting users via private message unless the user first private messages the Page. Pages will need to @ tag the winner and then ask them to private message the Page to get details of how to claim their prize. I wonder how long it will be before we hear our first case of someone cloning a winner’s Facebook Page and then running off with the prize? Or alternatively, dodgy people contacting users who have entered competitions, claiming to be the administrator of the Page that conducted the competition and asking for their personal details so they can send them their prize? Believe it or not, there are people out there that will stoop to these levels.

Labor Intensive

Many of the automated benefits of using 3rd party apps will need to be done manually if conducting Facebook competitions via a Page Timeline. For example, if you attempt to gain email addresses by asking people to message them to you, then you will need to manually copy each of them into a spreadsheet and upload them to your email marketing system (without a double opt-in).  You will also need to manually pick a winner.
To take some of the “ugly” out of this process, many 3rd party app providers are now releasing free tools to assist with this process.  Shortstack and Woobox were two quick off the mark with this. Does anyone else see the irony in this?
Here’s a short video on how you can do this using Shortstack:

Complaints

If you are using Likes on photos entrants have uploaded to your Page as a voting mechanism for a competition and the competition closes at 12 noon, how are you going to prevent people from continuing to enter after that time? What if you tally the results at 12.10pm and they produce a different winner to what one of the entrants tallied when they checked at 12pm? I can see some angry fans on the horizon.

Unprofessional

Some people have suggested that Facebook decided to remove the 3rd party app requirement as many businesses weren’t complying with it anyway and Facebook weren’t prepared to allocate the resources to enforce this requirement.  This decision is not consistent with Facebook’s desire to create a better user experience on Facebook.  Removing the 3rd party app requirement won’t make those dodgy, uninteresting and SPAM like promotions any better. If anything, it has the potential to open the flood gates, with more of these unprofessional competitions flooding our newsfeed. What will that mean for your overall Facebook user experience?
Poorly structured and administrated competitions look unprofessional and reflect poorly on your business.

Facebook Competitions Best Practice

Whilst the 3rd party app is no longer a requirement to conduct a competition on Facebook, conducting competitions on Facebook via a 3rd party app still remains the option of choice for best practice, professionalism and compliance.
Engagement via a Competition on your Facebook Page timeline may create the short-term benefit of a boost in your Edgerank, but I would take the long-term benefits of collecting and leveraging Page Likes and email addresses for ongoing marketing purposes over that any day.
For those businesses that run competitions on Facebook that have an objective of generating leads for your business, then you should continue to use a 3rd party app or a canvas Page on your website to host your competitions.
See the announcement of the Facebook competition rules 2013 changes here.
What will you be doing? Competitions on your Page timeline or via a 3rd party app? I will use the comments below as a form of voting on what businesses feel are best. Please note, this is not a competition. There will be no prize and Facebook has not endorsed this post in any way.