Facebook Puts the "Pro" Back in "Promotion"

November 23, 2009

One of the fairy tale selling points of social media marketing has been that it presents a level playing field. That is, small businesses and organizations could compete just as effectively as the big boys. After all, it doesn't really take much time or effort to sign up on Twitter or create a Facebook page, right?

In practice, it's been a bit more complicated—owning a tool set doesn't make one a mechanic, after all. Still, the egalitarian lovefest has continued, and we've seen brand after brand starting one online gimmick after another. That's why it's surprising few people noticed when Facebook tightened its rules for running promotions.

To their credit, the people at Facebook are completely open about the matter; feel free to read the fine print. However, the changes can be summarized as follows:

Facebook doesn't want you handling your own promotions

That may seem a bit harsh, but after carefully considering the rules they would have you follow, I can't come to any other conclusion. Moreover, some of the provisions don't seem to jibe with a freewheelin', open, and transparent social network, even allowing that they likely were written by FB's legal team. Let's take a look at a few of the requirements:

Section 1.3

You will not in any way use our name, trademarks, trade names, copyrights, or any other of our intellectual property in the rules or any other materials relating to the promotion, without express written consent.

In other words, don't mention Facebook in your Facebook promotion. Now, I'm fully behind any company guarding its intellectual property, and I know they simply want to protect themselves. But this sounds a little too restrictive, especially when you consider that a win for the company running the promotion equals more traffic for Facebook.

Section 3. Administering a Promotion through the Facebook Platform

You may not administer any promotion through Facebook, except that you may administer a promotion through the Facebook Platform with our prior written approval.

"Prior written approval" may be code for "Fuhgeddaboutit," or it could simply mean you have to (im)patiently wait them out. But there's actually a lot more in this Section 3 that bears mention. For instance:

  • The promotion cannot be presented on your wall, which is the natural home for participatory contests.
  • You must submit all promotion materials to Facebook for their prior review. Very Orwellian and time-consuming.
  • Despite being heavy-handed about requirements and approvals, Facebook is passing the buck on comments or complaints to you. What a deal!

One further requirement, however, is the real stake in the heart for small organizations trying to run promotions on Facebook:

Section 4.2

In the rules of the promotion, or otherwise, you will not condition entry to the promotion upon taking any action on Facebook, for example, updating a status, posting on a profile or Page, or uploading a photo.

Even after allowing for the liberal abuse of our justice system, I can't fathom why Facebook would cut off these methods of entry. Allowing them increases participation and conversation, something most social networks tend to promote.

Many small businesses/organizations don't have the time, staff, or budget to ensure full compliance with all the rules, so you know what that means: they have to hire someone to do it for them. Granted, in some cases, you likely should hire an outside firm for these things—but having options is always nice.

Look, we all know social media are supposed to be about people and conversation, not brands and condescension. Still, it seems clear that consumers want to interact with businesses on Facebook. Stop making it harder, guys.

As a parting note, I'd appreciate someone giving me a good reason for this one:

Section 2.3

The promotion, if a sweepstakes, is open to individuals residing in Belgium, Norway, Sweden, or India;

Why are you hating on Belgium, Facebook? What did it ever do to you?