On May 11, we noticed that Facebook put out a statement citing changes they made in their Promotions Guidelines—the rules for governing the way business pages run their contests for users. Like anything that has more than four bullet points and contains the word “guidelines” in the title, it’s easy to pretend like it doesn’t exist. However, in the past few weeks, pages have been shut down due to their resistance to follow the changes, so it’s a good idea to take a closer look at the terms of service.
First of all, think of the Guidelines not so much as “completely revamped,” but “more defined.” A lot of the terms of service spelled out in the recent Promotions Guidelines were also in the “old” version as well. For example, the fact that you can’t “use Facebook features or functionality as a promotion’s registration or entry mechanism” (“liking” a page, for instance) is something that was established already. This clause is there because, well, a: there’s a chance that they don’t want to “win a lifetime supply of coffee” (or something equally wonderful), and b: Facebook wants to cut down on the amount of “‘spam tactics’” businesses could use to “promote their pages,” according to Advit Sahdev in his article “Understanding Facebook’s Promotions Guidelines.” The contest is about the business itself, not the fact that the business has a page, and Facebook wants to cut down on the spam so users don’t get annoyed. Another part of the guidelines state that businesses can’t notify winners of a contest through any Facebook means, like posts or messaging, which, again, was already an establish rule. It’s only done to protect winners from essentially getting harassed. As an extreme example that properly illustrates this point: writing on Katherine’s wall “Congratulations on winning a brand new airplane,” may look harmless, but what happens when people start to bombard Katherine with requests to be flown around everywhere? Maybe this is news Katherine would like to keep private.
The way it worked before is that a user would like your page, then to enter in the contest, would be taken to your contest page where they would be prompted by Facebook connect. This would get their permission to give away email information, and would take them to the contest site. It worked, though it was a bit of a hassle. Now, thanks to the creation of iFrames, you can run your whole website into FB, i.e., you can stick your whole contest page into a box.
Because this makes things easier, Facebook wanted to make sure that businesses follow all the guidelines, especially the ones about how a like does not equal an entry, or how businesses can’t inform users that they won via Facebook. So nothing has “changed,” per say; they’re just cracking down and making businesses take a harder look at the fine print, which is a fair deal, considering they’ve given us iFrames and made putting sites on Facebook pages, making contest sign-ups and sharing a heck of a lot easier than it used to be.
See the Facebook Promotions Guidelines.