Facebook promotions come home

In the early, “Wild West” days of Facebook pages, brands promoted contests directly on their page. “Like this post to be entered to win!” Soon enough, Facebook rolled out terms of service requiring pages to use dedicated apps to host their contests. New apps offered greater functionality and design capability for brands — but came with a cost, which was, well … cost. Services such as Wildfire evolved templates for small businesses that could be utilized to manage contests at relatively low cost, often as little as a few hundred dollars. Wildfire and others offered more robust apps for larger brands that promised added customization for fees in the thousands of dollars.

Unfortunately, as contests became more and more important to brands on Facebook these very same app producers decided to focus solely on larger brands with bigger budgets. Many providers eliminated the low-cost “do it yourself” template model altogether earlier this year. Small businesses, such as independent hotels, were left trying to decide whether a Facebook sweepstakes was worth an investment of thousands of dollars in order to build their fan base.

Acknowledging the dilemma, Facebook quietly announced changes in its terms of service for pages recently, on its “Facebook for Business” blog. The blog commented, “We’ve updated our Pages Terms in order to make it easier for businesses of all sizes to create and administer promotions on Facebook. … Now, promotions may be administered on Page Timelines and in apps on Facebook. For example, businesses 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; and utilize likes as a voting mechanism.”

This short paragraph offers welcome opportunity for small businesses and promises increased flexibility even for larger brands. Using “comments” entries, for instance, a hotel might post a photo and the recipe for a specialty cocktail offered at the hotel bar and ask fans to post comments suggesting a name for the drink, offering a prize to the winning selection. Or a hotel could simply post a glamour shot of the hotel itself, inviting fans to like the post in order to be entered into a random drawing. 

Facebook’s new terms don’t absolve brands from operating contests and sweepstakes in compliance with applicable laws in the state and country within which they operate. In fact, Facebook reminds brands that they must still do so. Best practices dictate that even an inexpensively produced sweepstakes include a link to “rules for entry” that clearly explain eligibility requirements and prize-selection criteria. Still, the changes should inspire brands to offer fans timely offers in engaging ways.

What do you think? Are these changes a welcome addition for page administrators?