Early in the game on Sunday night, Esurance ran a commercial announcing that it was giving away more than $1 million through a sweepstakes on Twitter.  You may remember that Esurance made a splash with a Twitter-based sweepstakes directly after the 2014 Super Bowl.   So what’s the big deal about this year’s sweepstakes?

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It was the hashtag.  In 2014, Esurance’s sweepstakes required entrants to use the hashtag #EsuranceSave30, but this year the required hashtag was #EsuranceSweeptakes.  Following a 2014 investigation into a Cole Haan sweepstakes on Pinterest that used the #WanderingSole hashtag as a means of entry, the Federal Trade Commission clarified that sweepstakes are no different from other types of advertising where sponsorship disclosures are necessary.  In its 2015 informal publication called What People Are Asking, the FTC noted that social media users are unlikely to understand that posts or retweets made by others to enter a sweepstakes are in fact being done to participate in a giveaway and/or that the people making the posts are receiving something of value in exchange for the posts without some form of disclosure. The FTC went on to say that “making the word ‘contest’ or ‘sweepstakes’ part of the hashtag should be enough.”  And that’s exactly what Esurance did here.  We see lots of sweepstakes on social media not following this guidance, but the safe play is to include a disclosure in your hashtag.

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