What do Facebook’s new competition rules mean for brands?

I’m sure you’ve heard by now that Facebook recently made a number of changes to their promotion/competition guidelines, most importantly, to allow brands to conduct ‘Like to enter’ competitions. I’ve been asked by quite a few people for my thoughts on the issue, so I’ve put together a quick run through of what it may mean for brands and Facebook users.

What has changed?

Obviously brands could only run Facebook competitions via apps.
The reason for this, as stated by Facebook, was that apps were essentially ‘hosted’ on another site, and so Facebook couldn’t be held liable for a competition going wrong.

As we also know, some brands flaunted these rules, by running competitions on page, asking fans to ‘Like To Win’ or ‘Share To Win’ etc. Radio stations for example did this quite a lot, and some pages got shut down because of it, though not nearly enough.

However, last week, in a surprise move, Facebook stated that they were now allowing brands to run competitions via the timeline, and that comps didn’t have to be via an app.

Pages can now run promotions by having having users post on page, or comment/like a Page post (not share a page post) or collect entries by having users message the Page.

My inclination as to why this has changed is that it’s a push from Facebook to get more SME brands onto the site, (the cost/technical requirements of an app can sometimes be an issue), and also a play to get more brand using sponsored posts, which are a big money spinner for Zuck & co.

What does it mean?

So, a big change, and we’re really still seeing how it’ll impact in the long run.
However, it’s mixed news for page owners. Like & Comment comps will certainly make it easier to run smaller comps for small prizes. However, the fear is that user’s timelines will start to get very spammy, with their friends entering competitions.

You’ve also got the issue that there’s a lot lower barrier to entry for FB users to enter a comp. So previously we could have ‘likegated’ a competition, meaning only people who like the page can enter. Now though, any fan, whether they like the page or not, can enter with one or two clicks, and therefore running lots of these comps may mean you’ll see an influx of people who just want competitions, and don’t actually interact with the brand other than that.

Of course, you’ve also the added functional issues, eg how do I pick a winner, how to I set Ts & Cs etc.

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What about apps?

So with all the furore, people are forgetting a few critical things. Firstly, apps are still the best way to run a big, engaging competition or campaign on Facebook.

The functionality afforded to us with apps is such that you can almost literally build a website to site inside your Facebook page, so whether that’s an engaging Flash game, a data capture mechanism, or something or something even more innovative, apps offer a lot more scope and opportunity to really make an impact.

Secondly, data capture. Apps are still the only way to do this, and it’s important both for marketing, but also for running smooth competitions (easier to contact winner, pick winner etc).

Finally, branding. Using an app is exponentially more professional and smarter looking than a simple ‘like’ competition, particularly for bigger, or more complicated mechanisms. There’s more space to get your message across, you don’t need to be as concise, and you’re afforded much more of the user’s attention than if they simply ‘liked’ a post from their timeline to enter.

While ‘Like’ competitions are great for smaller businesses, and perhaps for smaller comps, apps are still the best option for bigger brands with more strategic reasons for running competitions/promotions.
Brands should also remember that ‘LIKE & SHARE’ competitions are still illegal, and that ‘TAG YOURSELF TO WIN’ mechanisms are too, not that it seems to worry too many.