Blogger Beware! Facebook Contest Policy Changes You Need To Know About
This is a guest post by Mark Wright, aka The Blog Lawyer. With over 20 years of experience as a lawyer, Mark has worked with companies and individuals ranging from IBM to The Human Calculator.
On August 7, 2014, Facebook updated some tools for developers to use when accessing certain features of Facebook. In addition, Facebook updated some policies that relate to how you use Facebook to build your audience and attract “likes” and followers. Although the announcement and the updates are pretty important for app developers who use Facebook, bloggers and other Facebook users who use Facebook login and other functions should pay attention to these changes as well.
Here’s what Facebook said:
Changes to Platform Policy. You must not incentivize people to use social plugins or to like a Page. This includes offering rewards, or gating apps or app content based on whether or not a person has liked a Page. It remains acceptable to incentivize people to login to your app, checkin at a place or enter a promotion on your app’s Page. To ensure quality connections and help businesses reach the people who matter to them, we want people to like Pages because they want to connect and hear from the business, not because of artificial incentives. We believe this update will benefit people and advertisers alike.
What Does This Mean For Bloggers?
Some of the words in here may be a little confusing if you’re not technically skilled. For example, what does “gating apps” mean? Simply put, it’s an app that won’t let you access the content or a promotion (like a coupon or discount) offered through a Facebook page unless you first “like” the page. Facebook says this is no longer allowed. Facebook wants people to “like” your page because they’re interested in what you or your business has to offer, not because they were offered a reward.
Similarly, you can’t offer an incentive for someone to use a social plugin on Facebook. The Facebook social plugins are listed here. This includes the “send” button, the “share” button, and the “comments” feature.
However, this does not mean that you can’t offer incentives in the way of a contest or promotion. If a person already “likes” your page, and you offer some kind of incentive for some other kind of action (like a giveaway directly through a status update) that’s o.k. since the incentive is not tied to “liking” your page or to a social plug-in activity. You can offer whatever kinds of promotions that you want to at your own website or blog, so long as it’s not tied to Facebook likes and social plugins.
Why Does This Matter to Me?
So, why should a blogger care about this? It’s pretty simple, really. If you offer giveaways, contests, and other promotions that are connected to your Facebook page, you need to be sure that you and any developer or third party services and apps that you use to promote your Facebook page (think Rafflecopter, offerpop, fanappz, PunchTab, etc.) are in compliance with these new policies. If not, and if you or they violate Facebook’s policies, they can punish you. A lot.
Here’s the important language from Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities:
If you violate the letter or spirit of this Statement, or otherwise create risk or possible legal exposure for us, we can stop providing all or part of Facebook to you. We will notify you by email or at the next time you attempt to access your account.
In the simplest terms, if you violate the terms and conditions of Facebook, including this new policy about offering certain types of incentives to get people to “like” your Facebook page or engage with Facebook social plugins, Facebook has the right to shut down your Facebook page or shut down your Facebook account.
If you’ve spent a lot of time building your brand and promoting your brand on Facebook, this could be really, really bad. Since you have until November 5, 2014 before Facebook starts to enforce this policy, you should check your promotions and make sure that you’re in compliance. Some social media services, like Rafflecopter, have already notified their users that they will be changing their Facebook promotion functions prior to the November 5, 2014 deadline.
So, be careful out there and happy blogging!
Mark F. Wright
The Blog Lawyer
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