Facebook promotions just got easier – so what now?

If you manage a Facebook page and were awake yesterday, you probably heard that Facebook loosened its promotions guidelines. Whereas before, contests and sweepstakes had to be administered through third-party apps, page managers can now run contests right on their timelines and take submissions through Facebook actions such as likes and comments.

This is huge news that a lot of administrators have been wishing for, for a long time, but before anyone goes completely nuts with this new freedom, it’s worth looking at what’s changed and how it can best be used. For that, we put together this quick guide:

What exactly changed, and what’s still not allowed?

As of yesterday, pages can now:

- Collect entries by having users post on the page or comment/like a page post
- Collect entries by having users message the page
- Utilize likes as a voting mechanism

But pages still can’t:

- Use shares as a method of entry.
- Ask fans to tag themselves in photos that the fan(s) don’t actually appear in.

The full guidelines are available on Facebook’s Promotions Guidelines PDF, which you should download and read right now.

Note that you can still administer contests from a third-party app on a separate tab on your page – we’ll get into advantages and disadvantages of that below.

What does all this mean?

In a nutshell, Facebook contests just got a lot easier, and potentially cheaper. You no longer need to spend time, money, etc. developing apps and creative, but it would probably still be wise to include a link to official rules and legal (oh, and you still need to mention that Facebook is in no way involved in your contest).

Pros and cons

As with any new Facebook feature, it's important to consider strategy and avoid abusing the new toy. It’s great to have one more tool in the toolbox, but this shouldn’t be seen as some kind of Swiss Army knife. In other words, keep in mind that your fans don’t want to see “tell us what you think and win an iPod!!!” on every single post.

Third-party apps still have a purpose to serve, too. The new promotion rules allow many small businesses to boost engagement under smaller budgets, but consider some of the advantages of apps that timeline contests can’t achieve:

- Like-gating allows you to grow page likes as you receive new entries in your contest.
- Does your company send out a weekly newsletter? With a third-party app, you can build custom forms to collect email addresses.
- Terms and conditions. If your contest has a minimum age requirement, for example, you can include a checkbox in your third-party app that prompts users to declare they’re at least X years old.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, you should consult with your legal department before you start offering to give away product for likes. This post from Sarah Hawkins points out some of the potential legal pitfalls of the new rules.

Fans come first

Your first job on Facebook is always going to be to give the best user experience possible. If these new rules allow you to do that, by all means, use them. But be thoughtful and don’t get so caught up in the numbers game (MOAR LIKES!!!!) that you forget who you’re there for.

Your Facebook page should be an extension of what it’s like to interact with your brand in real life, and that experience should make people feel great. Check out this contest we worked on with our clients at Whole Foods to get a sense of what we mean.

We’ll be thinking of new ways to use the new guidelines, and we’ll be sure to share any big successes here on our blog. In the meantime, what do you think of the new rules, and how are you using them?