Is your Giveaway/contest Legal in social media?

I attended an event done by the Social Media Club in Atlanta. It was “The practice and pitfalls of running promotions and games of chance through social media.” It sounds like an in depth and jargon filled program, but it was in fact done in very easy to understand English. The presenters were Mark Staples, Senior Director of Strategy and Ben Ryder, Manager of Emerging Technologies from ePrize.

If you are like me, you have run giveaways on social media. It is a very easy way to do them, and can be put together very quickly. I admit they aren’t my favorite things to do due to the rules and they can be very labor intense in managing them. But, I have found from a branding perspective they are really great and gaining awareness for a new or growing brand.

I won’t go into the legality of running a contest. That you need to consult an expert but know that there are qualifications for a contest to be legal. So I would strongly suggest running it by legal or companies like ePrize to make sure you are covered.

Facebook contests have changed, and by changed I mean BIG TIME. I’m sure you see companies saying the 4th person to respond or comment on this post and you will win. Well, those are no longer “legal” on Facebook. Facebook now requires you to do a contest on their platform; you must use a third party app to run it. Which means no more doing contests the way many brands have been doing them for years. Honestly, I’m not sure how Facebook is enforcing the policy but I would imagine big brands will be the first to be enforced and then it will move down the chain. Ben, from ePrize, told us that Facebook is now using bots to search Facebook and more then likely going through wall posts. Granted, this is Facebook and is still very vague and a big gray area. I’m sure we will see people’s promotions pulled. I am of the school better safe then sorry.

There is one bright spot though, if you are running a contest completely off Facebook. Meaning you aren’t allowing people to enter through Facebook, then you can promote it all you want on Facebook. Promotion is allowed with out any qualifiers.

Here is a short list of what is out to enter a contest:

  • Upload a photo
  • Post on a wall
  • Make a status update
  • Tell Friends
  • Share content
  • Can’t Give extra entry for liking
  • Can’t notify winners via Facebook.
  • It is not legal for Belgium, Norway, Sweden and India

The list above means you can’t make people do things in order to enter a contest. I know we have seen contests recently on Facebook that do at least one of the things above. One question that was brought up, and in my opinion is a great one, is if you run a contest on your own blog or site and do it entirely outside the Facebook Eco System, can you post the winners on Facebook. It is not known if that is allowable. This would be to me be promotion rather then announcing winners. But, until we get further clarification I would refrain from promoting it too much on Facebook

Some of the other things you need to be careful of are:

  • No prefilled status updates
  • Must have a skip on anything you share, you can’t make people share things they do not want.
  • Must have a publish button. You can’t name it ok, Post or anything else it must say “PUBLISH”

We all know that many things can’t be given away on Facebook or in general in contests. Those would include alcohol, firearms and such. Generally running a contest for those items carry many legal issues. However, on Facebook you can’t give away dairy products. Yes, Dairy! So don’t go giving away Dairy Queen Blizzards, Ice Cream or Milk. It’s one of those WTF things. I’m sure there is a reason but it’s bizarre.

If you were going to run a contest on Facebook I would say read the rules in the Facebook Terms of Service. They are changing them all the time so best to keep up to date. Second, if you need an app to run a contest a company called North Social has a Facebook app called Sweepstakes. It will handle all the registration and keep everything off Facebook. It is very simple to use. The cost depends on how many fans you have but is quite reasonable. This is a great solution for small/medium size businesses. The company will also give you access to all the other plug ins they have for Facebook. They have about a dozen or more and it maybe worth the investment. I personally haven’t used the plug in yet, but know friends who have and really enjoy it.

There is some good news though. Well not for doing a contest on Facebook, but rather for Twitter. If you want to run a contest it’s pretty much anything goes. As long as you cover the legal requirements, Twitter has no rules governing contests. Although, Ben suggested that you have people retweet a tweet that contains the rules so others who want to enter can see who you are and exactly what the rules are.

I hope this helps some of you out there, I know it’s crazy and hard to keep up with. I left and talked to a few people that said their clients are currently doing contests the old ways and they weren’t going to change. I won’t say that Facebook is going to shut you down but I definitely would keep up on this and contact an agency or legal team that specializes in this area.

Tim is the founder of Element33. A social media agency specializing in education, management and strategy for small businesses. He comes from a traditional marketing agency but has embraced all things digital. He considers himself a marketing nerd and believes that all marketing is tied together. This means no matter what silo you are in, social, email, seach, etc, changes in one will affect the other!

2 comments on “Is your Giveaway/contest Legal in social media?

  1. Reply Anonymous February 24, 2011 at 2:48 am

    Thanks for the post. We just started running contests on Facebook and it has been great for helping us grow awareness of our brand. Looks like we won’t be doing this anymore. Now to start thinking of a new way to keep our contests going. I’d hate to lose this monthly feature.

  2. Reply benjamin foo July 7, 2011 at 3:40 am

    Hi Timothy,

    Just want to ask if posting a trivia on my page every week for one day, and whoever answers the quickest  gets prize. 

    Will that be legal?

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