No, Virginia, you can’t have people LIKE your Facebook page as a method of entry for your blog giveaway. Facebook released a video earlier in December that has confused much of the blogosphere. The video can be summed up as Facebook’s official Facebook promotion guidelines.
Update, August 9, 2012: You can use Rafflecopter to stay in compliance with Facebook’s promotion guidelines.
The most important thing to note is that it is the official FACEBOOK PROMOTION guidelines. The video is specifically address the rules for how to administer a contest or sweepstakes ON FACEBOOK. This is not a set of rules for blog giveaways. This video is telling you the rules for how to run a promotion that is being administered via a Facebook tab on a Facebook page. When it talks about third party apps, it is talking about third party Facebook apps like Wildfire.
When running a FACEBOOK PROMOTION, there are disclosures you must provide to all entrants, and all entrants must acknowledge that Facebook is not responsible for the promotion, etc.
YOU CANNOT SAY: ”Like our page to enter the promotion.” So even if you’re running a legitimate promotion on your Facebook page via a separate promotion tab or canvas tab, you CANNOT allow liking your page to be a method of entry. (You can create a promotion that is available only to fans who have liked your page by creating a promotion tab visible only to those who have liked your page. But this is a SELF-CONTAINED promotion ON FACEBOOK.)
“You’ve got to create your own means, your own entry mechanism.” Facebook recommends using a field asking users for their names, email addresses, or other information, but you cannot use any form of Facebook functionality as a method of entry for your promotion. This means you cannot ask people to like your page, comment on your wall, upload a photo, etc. as a method of entry. (The wall comment thing is news to me, and I will no longer be using it as a method of entry for future giveaways.) If Facebook doesn’t allow legitimate Facebook promotions to use liking a page as a method of entry, it is certainly against the TOS for offsite giveaways to use liking a page as a method of entry.
Is Your Giveaway an Illegal Lottery?
Okay, so now that you know that it’s against the Facebook TOS to use any of their functionality as a method of entry for your giveaway, I want to make sure everyone’s running legal giveaways. U.S. law prohibits privately run lotteries. A lottery is defined as a promotion that includes all three of the following elements: prizes, chance, and consideration. If all three elements are present, you are running an illegal lottery, and the federal government can stomp all over your face. Take away any one of these elements, and you’re good to go. Giveaways involve both chance and prizes. What about consideration?
Consideration means that the entity administering the giveaway is receiving a benefit from the method of entry. This is why you’ll see big brands use words like “No purchase necessary” and then offer some other way of entering their contest, like entering by mail. If buying their product was the only way to enter, that is consideration, and would therefore be an illegal lottery.
What is consideration when it comes to blog giveaways? It could be asking people to follow you on Twitter, subscribe to your RSS feed, etc. You are getting a benefit from those methods of entry. (You can put a dollar value to Facebook fans and Twitter followers.) You have to include a method of entry that doesn’t involve asking people to jump through some hoops to benefit you. That is why I have started using a generic question for people to answer in a comment as a method of entry. It’s free. I’m not asking anyone to commit to my blog feed or my Twitter stream. Comment, leave, and maybe you can win. Following me on Twitter can get you an extra entry, but it is not required. That’s how I get around the consideration issue. It’s like how you can mail in a postcard (do those exist anymore?) to enter a contest run by Coca-Cola, but most people are just looking under their bottlecaps every time they buy a Diet Coke or Sprite for more chances to win.
If I’ve gotten some of the above information wrong, and you have an official source like a statement from a Facebook staffer or an attorney, please contact me and let me know. I want to ensure that the information I am sharing is accurate!
There’s also a fantastic post by Susan Getgood from last year that says the same thing: The scoop on Facebook contests. I had a video I could transcribe quotes from, but she actually parsed the legalese herself.
And then there’s Leslie from Leslie Loves Veggies who asked Facebook directly, “Can I have my Readers like a Facebook Page for bonus entry into a giveaway?” She got a response from Tamara from Facebook who said: “This is against our guidelines. Per the clause below, you cannot use any native tool of facebook as a method of entry. Therefore, you cannot have users like the page to get bonus entries, there is no way for you to track that nor pull a full list of your facebook fans anyways.”
This post does not constitute legal advice, and is provided for informational purposes only. If you have legal questions, please contact an attorney.
Tags: Facebook, giveaway, social media