By Ricky DeMaio
From Twitter’s IPO announcement, to the recent iOS7 update, social media professionals have had a lot to chat about lately. To me, the most exciting news was announced exactly one month ago: Facebook changed its promotion guidelines. Up until this time, all Facebook pages were required to use a third-party app in order to run any promotion on their page. Promotions (giveaways, contests, sweepstakes, etc.) were not allowed to use Liking, Commenting, Sharing, Posting, or Tagging as a point of entry. Facebook changed this rule in an effort to even the playing field between pages with big budgets, and pages for small businesses. Now, companies and brands don’t need expensive app developers or custom built graphics to host an exciting promotion on their page. But before you break your contract with your preferred vendor, it’s important to keep a few things in mind.
1. You do not have access to all the information you think you do.
Yes, it’s very exciting to run a sweepstakes by asking your fans to Like or Share one of your posts. The potential reach here is huge. You could “go viral” as they say. But when you see thousands of Likes on your image or post, be warned: You can only access 500 or so of these “entries” at a time. When you click to see who Liked your post, Facebook only populates the list with 500 people at most. That leaves potentially thousands of people who think they’re entering your contest with zero chance of being selected. They don’t know this. It’s not transparent, and it’s not fair. The issue is even worse for Sharing: Many Facebook users’ privacy settings prevent page managers from viewing their Shares. So even though, say 600 people shared a post, when the administrator clicks to see who did so, he or she can only access the Shares that are public. (Also, it is STILL against Facebook guidelines to run a contest by having a user Share your post on their Timeline.)
2. You cannot collect information from your fans.
When running a promotion on your page, what is your goal? For many brands, it is to gain future customers. It is a best practice to ask for an email when running a promotion on Facebook—it’s the easiest way to contact your winner, and you can add all the emails collected to your database (so long as you make that clear that by entering your promotion, fans are “opting-in” to these emails). However if you run a promotion without a third-party app, you have no means to collect emails or other information about your customers. Facebook Insights won’t connect data to individual users. It will only give you broad data.
3. You still need legal rules for your promotion.
You cannot simply run a contest on your Facebook page. Fans must actively know that they are entering your promotion. You must have a legal document stating rules, eligibility, prizing, etc. that fans can read. An easy way to implement this is to add a Note to your page. Adding the Notes app to the top of your page is a great way house promotional documents without cluttering up your page Timeline. After posting your Terms and Conditions as a Note, you can link to the note at the bottom of your Promotional Post. Keep in mind, that when you post a Note, it automatically publishes to Newsfeeds and your Timeline—so be ready to “hide from Timeline” if you don’t want your legal document to take up space.
Overall, this might be a nice strategy to boost engagement and reach for your page, while surprising your customers and fans with a few free goodies along the way. But it should not be used as a replacement for a well-thought out promotional strategy. Sticking with a third-party developer app allows for a professional, branded experience.
What else have you learned from your experience with Facebook’s new promotional guidelines? Share your thoughts and lessons in the comments below.