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Beware of Facebook law

Facebook campaign

Fiona Robertson, from The Rights Lawyers, says there are guidelines for running Facebook promotions

July 21, 2012 2:00 by

It’s like a plague in my inbox each day: clients arranging competitions that require entrants to navigate to a Facebook page then click on a button.

Everyone on Facebook knows that many com­panies now use the social network to spread news of their brand. The thought of 800 million users, leaning into their screens to devour content always was too tempting for marketing teams to ignore. All that word of mouth, all that potential spending power. Marketing departments now have social media agencies that advise them on ways to maximize their exposure on Facebook. And competitions are too attractive to leave out of the equation. In running a competition, the operators of a Facebook page get a boost to their fans for the week, and an automatic notice is posted on the page of all entrants, which of course notifies all of their connections about the competition, thereby spreading brand exposure far and fast. But the downside? These competitions may at times violate Facebook’s rules, which some people don’t seem to know about and others simply ignore. Specifically, it does have “promotion guidelines”.

A few years ago, a brand had to actually seek Facebook’s prior written approval before it could conduct a competition on its pages and, alarmingly, Facebook could require a minimum ad spend as terms of its consent. We believe that few companies did this.

The new guidelines, altered in February this year, are quite clear. Aside from the practical regulations (you must administer the promotion within a certain apps page, for example), you must include a complete release of Facebook in relation to the promotion, and this must come from each and every entrant. It also insists that there is an “acknowledgment that the promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook”. You will now see that most pages simply replicate this language in the opening page of any promotion.

From a privacy perspective, you must tell the participants who is collecting the information, stating clearly that it is not Facebook. This does not in any way alter your obligation in relation to privacy under local laws – you may need to add more than a simple line about Facebook to comply with those laws.

The “Like” button causes confusion. You CAN use the “Like” button as a condition of entry, but it should not be the only entry mechanism: the simple act of liking the page cannot automatically register an entry. Facebook is basically demanding that a brand place more “opt in” conditions (fill in a form, consent to navigate to another screen…) to enable entry. And you cannot use the “Like” button as a method of voting for a winner for your promotion.

Similarly, the use of any other Facebook features should not be a condition of entry – the guidelines specifically mention that you cannot use the features of liking a Wall post, commenting or uploading a photo on a Wall, but this would extend to any feature. The practice of asking people to share a picture on their wall, for example, would also breach this guideline

Finally – and this is the one most often abused – you cannot notify winners through Facebook (whether through messages, chat, or posts). Of course, most territories will have laws that require notification to be made in particular ways (a phone call or a notice in a national newspaper). Despite the widespread use of social media globally, a Facebook post will gener­ally not satisfy government criteria for notification.

So far, despite what appears to be widespread ignorance or deliberate non-compliance by many brands, the consequences of failing to adhere to these regulations have been little reported. A couple of sites have been pulled down, but Facebook can do that any time it wishes, for any reason. However, while it is unlikely that Facebook itself monitors your activity, your competitors do, and they are more likely to get your site pulled down, rather than any monitoring that may be done at the US headquarters.

It is easy to simplify your marketing headaches by complying with these guidelines. If you also comply with local laws and regulations, you will have happy winners… and very happy brand

-By Fiona Robertson

*First published on Communicate

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