Facebook recently updated its Promotion Guidelines to ease restrictions on conducting contest and sweepstakes promotions on the Facebook platform. Facebook previously required promotion sponsors to administer promotions through apps and restricted sponsors’ use of basic Facebook functions, such as a "like" or a message to a sponsor’s Facebook Page, in connection with a promotion. For example, in the past, sponsors could not use the “like” function as a promotion entry or voting mechanism. Similarly, sponsors could not previously require promotion entrants to send a message or post to a Facebook Page to obtain an entry.
The new guidelines, posted here, allow sponsors to administer promotions directly on Pages and through apps. These revisions open up new possibilities for engaging promotion entrants through the Facebook platform, including by allowing users to enter a contest simply by "liking" a product page or commenting on a brand's status update. For example, a shoe manufacturer could post a picture of its upcoming shoe and invite potential entrants to comment on the post with a suggested product name in order to enter a contest.
Although the entry mechanisms on Facebook have been simplified, sponsors should take care to ensure their promotions comply with applicable state and federal legal requirements. For example, each advertisement for, or call to enter, a promotion should still be accompanied by legally required language disclosing key promotion details.
While Facebook’s Promotion Guidelines have been relaxed, some restrictions remain. Businesses are still prohibited from incorporating Personal Timelines into a promotion. For example, asking potential entrants to "Share this picture of our new shoe on your Timeline for entry into a drawing to win a pair!" or “Share this picture on your friend’s Timeline to get extra entries.” is not permitted.
Additionally, while Facebook removed the requirement that promotion rules disclose that the participant is providing information to the sponsor and not to Facebook, sponsors are still required to include a complete release of liability favoring Facebook in the official promotion rules, along with an acknowledgement that Facebook does not sponsor, endorse or administer the promotion. Also, the guidelines require accurate tagging of pictures used in promotions, which prohibits the practice of having users enter a contest by tagging themselves in a picture that only shows a product (e.g., “Tag yourself in the picture of our new shoe for a chance to win a pair!”)
Facebook has relaxed its guidelines to give sponsors more options for advertising and conducting promotions on the Facebook platform, including, for example, by administering promotions directly through a Facebook Page rather than solely through an app. Even so, administering a promotion through an app may provide a more customized user experience and certain legal advantages. For example, if a contest incorporates user-submitted content and warrants a strong release, license or assignment of rights in the content, an app can require an entrant to give affirmative assent before participating and is therefore more likely to legally bind entrants. Apps also provide a dedicated promotion page, and therefore more space, for disclosing promotion rules and legally required information. Regardless of whether the promotion is administered through an app, sponsors should take care to comply with the myriad state and federal legal requirements that apply when designing, operating and advertising a promotion.