Facebook just updated their rules regarding running promotions on brand pages. The rules have changed, but I think you need to look long and hard at whether it matters to you. The changes now allow you to avoid having to create an app to run your contest. You can now use a like, a comment, a message, or a post as a voting or entry mechanism. Woohoo. Everything I told you back in May is now obsolete, right? Don’t be so quick, padawan.
Promotions are hard, this doesn’t make it easier
The nice thing about Facebook’s old rules is that they actually protected you in a way. Running a promotion isn’t so much about the joy of the winners, or the buzz you get by giving something away. It is about managing the expectations of all, including all those who didn’t win. You need to have auditable processes of entry. When you were forced to run it through an app, you had a built-in mechanism for just that.
If a like is all that is needed, how are you managing that? What staff do you have on hand to monitor the likes, the messages and the comments? What about comments that are posted and then deleted? Who is administering the contest? Same person who does community management on your Facebook presence? If not, are they talking? Is a comment that is posted and then deleted an entry? What about a like which is quickly rescinded?
When someone doesn’t win they will always have an axe to grind. Why didn’t I win? Did someone get an advantage over me? You need to manage the non-winners. Running an app made it so much easier. Facebook just made it so much harder, if you take them up on it.
Barriers are good, but now there are none
If you advise on social issues with clients, you need to be really scared of this change to Facebook’s policies. Developing an app was a great barrier that forced your clients to think ahead with what they were doing. Admittedly, it wasn’t much of a barrier but anything that allows clients to pause is a good thing. Now they have no pause.
Any of your clients could decide to do something absolutely crazy and it is now so easy. They get a few iPads and want to give them away. All they have to do now is put up a post saying “Like this comment to enter our free iPad giveaway.” The friction is gone. It’s like the surface has become ice it is so easy. Is the iPad the 64Gb 3G+WiFi version? Well that is valued at $829 in the US and you just incurred an IRS reporting obligation. You are giving 10 away. Now the aggregate value of prizes is $8,290 and you have a bonding obligation in some states.
If all you are giving away are t-shirts or miscellaneous tcotchkes, I think this makes things easier. The problem is that you will now think everything is easy. If you aren’t talking with your clients about the proper use of these new rules, I think you are signing yourself up for a lawsuit at some point.
Practical concerns abound, too
Brooke Ballard, at SteamFeed, has a really good article on the practical concerns with dumping your own custom app. Brooke didn’t touch on any of the legal concerns, so that’s why I led with that. Here are the highlights of Brooke’s concerns:
- Control. The great benefit of running your own entry mechanism is control. You control the look and feel, you control the information flow. It looks like your stuff and hopefully stands out. What differentiates you from other people’s content if you do nothing more than a like as an entry mechanism.
- Lead generation. If you run your own, you can easily harvest contact information to build out lead lists. If you don’t, you have to maintain a separate list. This is the practical corollary to my audit concern about not deploying your own app.
- Market research. Your own app can have the ability to derive other information about the entrants. This helps you build out good research about your reach and where you are strongest and weakest.
- Sharing. I think Brooke’s comments here are very insightful. With your own custom development you build in the share capability and make it easy for the user to do it. Builds engagement across their connected network. If you just rely on a like, you lose some of that. Consider cross-platform promotion as a quick example.
Be careful with gifts, especially large wooden horses
I don’t think that Facebook is emulating Troy here. They are not getting ready to invade your city. But just like you should beware when something seems too easy, you should be wary of things that previously required some investment being suddenly free. Social media is all about removing friction. I am all about removing friction. In some cases the friction serves an unknown benefit. That benefit is to help you not run afoul of rules around promotions. Running a promotion is not an easy thing. You shouldn’t think it’s easy.
If you are small and agile without much of a marketing budget, this is something you will probably take advantage of. Or, perhaps small nominal things to give away. You now have some good clearance.
If these two examples don’t fit you, keep on doing what you have been doing. It is harder to do it right, but force yourself to go through the process you have been doing. Part of working through that process is protecting yourself.