Look to your left. Now, look to your right. Odds are, one of those people has engaged in illegal Facebook contests. And most didn’t even know it.
Facebook has a strict set of rules for what you can and can’t do when it comes to giving stuff away. You can see the full terms and condition here. Since the social network eliminates so many boundaries between brand and audience, a lot of people start to look at it as the wild west of marketing. And while there’s been very little policing, the landscape is becoming more and more domesticated everyday. Facebook has been introducing major updates for brands and personal users almost weekly since the IPO. It’s only a matter of time before they bring the hammer down on back-alley like-and-win shams.
So here are a few basic rules to live by when it comes to creating or promoting a contest online. You will see a common theme among all. Facebook doesn’t want to be legally liable for your contest in any way, which is understandable. Haven’t they had enough legal trouble anyway?
Facebook Means Business
Facebook will shut down your page without warning if you are caught breaking any of these rules. Allow me to repeat myself (clears throat). Facebook will shut down your page without warning if you are caught breaking any of these rules.
If you think you are lucky enough to avoid the po-po, then by all means, break the rules. If your boss or client is prepared to hear you lost access to thousands of customers, then by all means, break the rules. Otherwise, you’d better toe the line.
Facebook Actions are Prohibited in Contests
Facebook actions are ingrained in our lives – they were present even before it existed. We’ve always liked and commented on things in our daily lives. When I was a kid, I liked the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and commented on their awesome karate moves to my friends. I do the same thing as an adult, expect it’s on Facebook – and possibly a little creepy.
The point is, Facebook owns the digital “like,” “comment” and “share” just like Nike owns the swoosh. Using Facebook actions (the like, comment or share) to qualify for a contest is like giving people a Nike paddle at an auction house. It looks like one brand is endorsing another. And Facebook doesn’t endorse anyone’s contest. To that point, terms and conditions also say you can’t notify a contest winner via Facebook message or comment.
Facebook has Authorized Vendors
Facebook contests are pretty trendy right now. A lot of brands don’t know why they want Facebook contests, but they’re sure they do. In reality, most contests on Facebook aren’t actually Facebook contests. They are simply contests promoted on Facebook. Entering and voting in contests mostly happens on brand websites or on third-party vendor’s websites. Some top third-party vendors include:
These vendors create apps or tabs for your Facebook page. The same way you access photos and fans on a page, you access other custom tabs. These tabs are actually other web pages, housed on separate servers. They are then replicated within a Facebook page. This is done through a programming technology called iframes, which makes a mirror of a page and put it somewhere else on the Internet. Hence, Facebook is released of liability because nothing related to your contest is housed on Facebook’s server.
You can make iframes do the same thing with a page on your website. Just make sure it’s sized to fit Facebook’s content area (810px wide).
Facebook Contests Must Adhere to Federal and State Laws
So, in short, your contest is fine as long as it’s not really a Facebook contest. It needs to be housed on a different server and can’t use any Facebook verbs to qualify a contestant.