Running A Legal Social Media Contest
Contests on social media networks are pretty ubiquitous these days — and with good reason. Contests are a great way to build a social audience, expand your existing network of followers, namedrop your brand, and even direct people to your website. Despite that, the rules for running social media contests aren't as easy or straightforward as you might think. There are tons of businesses out there that run social contests without ever reading the Terms of Service that they agreed to follow beforehand, which can result in unintentional violations... and even getting banned from the social network in question.
You don't want to be one of those people! Luckily, running a profitable, legitimate contest on social media isn't too hard, so long as you make sure you're well-versed in the rules of your chosen network before you start building. To make this a little easier, we've complied a list of the current contest rules for the most popular social networks:
Contests on Facebook
All contests run on Facebook must be administered through either a Facebook Page or within a Facebook App. They cannot be run though or by a personal page — this includes asking users to share the contest on their own Timeline (or their friends' Timelines) in order to be entered.
When running a contest on Facebook, make sure to include this important information:
- A release of Facebook by each entrant. This means each entrant must agree that they are providing their Facebook information to your company, and that it is your company — and not Facebook — that is responsible for that information once submitted through the contest.
- Acknowledgement that the contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed, administered by, or associated with Facebook as a company.
If you would like to read more about the guidelines for contests on Facebook, check out the full list of rules and regulations.
Contests on Twitter
When running a contest on Twitter, you can offer prizes to users for any of the following:
- Tweeting a particular update
- Following a particular user
- Posting updates with a specific hashtag
Be sure to lay out your contest rules and regulations to the entrants so that they're aware of your company's specific qualifications. You'll also want to discourage entrants from posting the same Tweet repeatedly, or creating multiple accounts — these actions violate Twitter's Terms of Service.
Twitter has some great advice on running contests and promotions on their website, so make sure to check it out.
Contests on Google+
This one was a bit of a surprise: Google+ does not allow for contests to be run directly on their network.
Yep, you read correctly! You can post a link on Google+ to the website where your contest is being run, and you can link to a pre-approved application running on Google+, but you can't use Google+ itself for any contest requirements. This means you can't ask users to +1 your page or post, add a page or user to their circles, or complete any other interaction that involves G+ in order for their entry to be valid. Specifically:
Do not run Promotions that offer potential rewards in exchange for +1ing content, following a user, adding a user to one’s circles, +mentioning a user (other than the contest creator or sponsor or an affiliate of the contest creator or sponsor), having other users enter the promotion, or voting in polls. Also, don’t run Promotions that encourage users to post unoriginal or repetitive content.
Contests have to be run separate from any Google product.
Contests on Pinterest
The first thing to remember about Pinterest is that the network is all about people discovering things that inspire them. The goal there is quality content over quantity, and they enforce it — be sure to check Pinterest's branding guidelines before associating Pinterest in any way with your contest (or even promoting your Pinterest page).
Pinterest is similar to Google+ in that you can't run a contest where a Pin, Board, Like, Follow, or comment represents an entry. This also includes asking people to vote on items using Likes or Pins. Asking users to take these actions in order to win something is considered spammy behavior by Pinterest.
Your best option for running a contest on Pinterest would be to, well, not run it on Pinterest. Instead, run it on a different provider (such as your website! Your Google ranking will thank you) and create a Pin that links to the contest. And always make sure to mention that Pinterest does not sponsor or endorse you or your contest.
If you would like to read more on the full contest rules and regulations and Pinterests branding guidelines click here.
Remember to always check the Terms of Service before running a contest on any social media network — by signing up as a user you've agreed to play by their rules, not yours. Most social networks have a separate section in their Terms of Service just for contests, so they're usually easy to find.
Finally, remember that you're also subject to the local laws and regulations regarding contests in your area, and behave accordingly.