Like many social media platforms, Facebook has rules in place that specifically govern the administration and advertisement of prize promotions on the site.  Marketers who wish to run sweepstakes and contests must comply with these rules, or risk having their carefully-designed sweepstakes or contest shut down mid-promotion, cutting off access to a key segment of their customer base (and possibly leaving them open to legal complications).

Since its initial announcement of the Facebook Promotion Guidelines  several years ago, Facebook has revised its rules several times, incrementally scaling back its restrictions on prize promotions conducted on the site.  In its most recent set of changes, announced August 27, Facebook quite literally opened up the playing field to allow promotions directly on its “Timeline”, and made a number of other changes that will permit marketers considerably greater latitude in offering prizes on the site.  While previously Facebook had required promotion sponsors to administer prize promotions only through a third party, Facebook-compatible app or on a canvas Tab, rather than conducting promotions directly on their Facebook Fan Page, the recent amendments to the guidelines provide that sweepstakes and contests can be administered through a Facebook Fan Page timeline.  Moreover, the revised guidelines permit a variety of conduct that had been barred before; for example, promotion sponsors can now condition entry into a promotion on a user posting a message on a Fan Page timeline, commenting on a post on the timeline, or liking a post on the timeline.  Promotions cannot, however, be administered through personal profile timelines; conduct such as requiring as a condition of entry that users share a message on their timelines or a friend’s timeline is prohibited.

In another important change, promotion sponsors are now permitted to use “likes” as a voting mechanism in a contest.  Previously, Facebook features and functionalities such as “liking” a page or posted content could not be used to vote for the winner of a contest.  Now, a promotion sponsor can, for example, run a promotion in which the sponsor posts photo, video, or other user-generated content entries and determine the winner of the promotion based on the number of “likes” the posted content receives.

Facebook still requires that the terms and conditions for promotions include a complete liability release of Facebook by entrants as well as an acknowledgement that the promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.  Nonetheless, Facebook’s changes to its promotion guidelines clear the way for new types of sweepstakes and contests on the world’s most popular social media site, and open up the field for marketers who could or would not use a separate “app” to launch a promotion in the past.

Under the newly-relaxed Facebook promotions rules, marketers now have considerably greater promotional options, and lower barriers to entry, for creating prize promotions that tap into Facebook’s vast user community.  So if you’re a fan of user generated content contests, looks like you’re in luck—we will likely all have more opportunities to win, sponsored by the many, many brands looking to promote on Facebook…and starting as soon as today!