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Facebook Policies/Guidelines

June 27, 2011

Let me start by acknowledging I spend way to much time on Facebook. As a company which develops and integrates business solutions within Facebook, it's become important for us to know what's possible, but also what Facebook allows. When monitoring the activity of local and national brands on the Facebook platform it's hard not to wince at some of the glaring violations businesses are committing against the guidelines Facebook has established.

The Documents

There are a few key documents which businesses that plan to utilize the Facebook platform should get acquainted with.

Promotion Guidelines

In this post we are going to look at the last of these four documents, specifically at some common violations of the Facebook Promotion Guidelines which businesses commit.

Common Mistakes

The Facebook Promotion Guidelines document referenced here is carries a revision date of May 11, 2011. This document starts with a overly wordy, somewhat vague disclosure, establishing that you need to perform all promotions in a way which is lawful and in accordance with the rules of Facebook, lastly stating if you are not certain you are meeting the above criteria then you should consult an expert (presumably an expensive lawyer who is going to read the same documents listed about). Following this daunting overview, Facebook goes on to layout eight points to help define their promotion policy. Of these eight, four seem to be commonly violated, often all within the same contest/promotion.

Here is a mock promotion (modeled after one recently run by a Vermont based business)...

A business posts "We are giving away a free t-shirt this week!, Like this post and comment your t-shirt size. A winner will be announced on Friday."

Come Friday, the business posts again, "Thanks everyone for entering, we'd like to congratulate [USER NAME] on being our winner this week!"

To start, Facebook states in Guideline #2 three different conditions which must be met when presenting promotions to users, none of which were met in the mock contest. Guideline #3 states that businesses may not use Facebook features (likes, comments, etc) as a sole means of entry into a contest. Again, our mock promotion fails to meet this stipulation. Guideline #4 states that you may not require users to take action using any Facebook feature other than like a Page or checking in to a Place. By asking the user to Like the wall post and comment their t-shirt size, this Guideline was broken twice. Last, Guideline #6 states that you may not notify winners through Facebook. Ops, we broke that one too!

Ok, so we've seen how easy it is to quickly break the rules, and it would seem a lot of people are doing it, so does it really matter? Short answer, I don't know. According to the Facebook Platform Policy if Facebook does decide to enforce the mentioned rules they can pretty much do what they want...I quote - "We can take enforcement action against you and any or all of your applications if we determine in our sole judgment that you or your application violates Facebook Platform Terms and Policies. Enforcement action is both automated and manual, and can include disabling your application, restricting you and your application's access to Platform functionality, terminating our agreements with you, or any other action as we in our sole discretion deem appropriate."

These type of statements are enough to keep my recommendations to clients well within the lines of acceptable use to prevent that "oh crap" moment waking up to a deleted account and lost access to an established fan base. Knowing this, it is my assumption that many businesses whom have established Page's have yet to read the guidelines they are to be working within.

Referenced Facebook "Promotion Guidelines"

2. Promotions on Facebook must include the following:

  1. a. A complete release of Facebook by each entrant or participant.
  2. b. Acknowledgment that the promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.
  3. c. Disclosure that the participant is providing information to [disclose recipient(s) of information] and not to Facebook.

3. You must not use Facebook features or functionality as a promotion’s registration or entry mechanism. For example, the act of liking a Page or checking in to a Place cannot automatically register or enter a promotion participant.

4. You must not condition registration or entry upon the user taking any action using any Facebook features or functionality other than liking a Page, checking in to a Place, or connecting to your app. For example, you must not condition registration or entry upon the user liking a Wall post, or commenting or uploading a photo on a Wall.

6. You must not notify winners through Facebook, such as through Facebook messages, chat, or posts on profiles or Pages.