Facebook Contests and Promotions: Read the Restrictive Rules

by Aaron on January 7, 2010

Contests are a popular use of social media. I’ve blogged about my thoughts on contests on Twitter, run a couple contests here on Social Photo Talk, and used Twitter and Facebook to drive traffic to my contests. Yesterday it came to my attention that Facebook has recently updated their Promotions Guidelines, which set the rules by which Facebook members can conduct promotions and contests using the service. I learned a lot – if you’re going to use Facebook in any way for a contest or promotion, read on.

FacebookHead over to check out the Facebook Promotions Guidelines; I’m not a lawyer; what follows is my personal interpretation and opinion.

  • “You may not administer any promotion through Facebook, except… with our prior written approval.” Yes, that’s right. Facebook requires that any promotion on Facebook be approved by Facebook, in writing.
  • Users may only enter promotions on Facebook in two places: “On the canvas Page of an application on the Facebook Platform” and “On an application box in a tab on a Facebook Page.” Contest entries that use Facebook status updates or any sort of wall posting are forbidden.
  • All promotions need to include language that the promotion is not endorsed by Facebook. I’ll leave it as an exercise for a lawyer to figure out how they can both require Facebook approval and then require a statement that they’re not endorsing the promotion.
  • “You do not need our prior written approval if you are publicizing a promotion that is administered completely off of Facebook.” If you’re not actually running the contest on Facebook, it would seem that you don’t need approval, but…
  • Contests can’t include entry by “taking any action on Facebook, for example, updating a status, posting on a profile or Page, or uploading a photo. You may, however, condition entry to the promotion upon becoming a fan of a Page.” The only thing allowed, it seems, is asking for fandom.
  • They wrap things up with a disclaimer with loopholes as wide as Texas: “We may modify these Promotion Guidelines at any time without notice to you. You will subject to the most current version of these Promotion Guidelines then in effect.”

Read the entire set of guidelines and choose to proceed at your own risk. Like many things with Facebook, it’s worth weighing if the benefit of the reach of their platform outweighs the risks of their overly-restrictive terms of service.

Were you previously aware of these rules? Will this change how you conduct business on Facebook?

Photo by Gauldo, used under Creative Commons licensing

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