Facebook released revised Promotions Guidelines on May 11, 2011. The new Guidelines are more streamlined than previous versions. The clear signal from the revised Guidelines is that Facebook will allow you to promote your products and services through its platform, but it does not want to take on any liability from your activities. The Guidelines now make this clear in a number of ways:

1. Your promotion must take place through a Facebook Application.

Facebook has created an application platform where you, as an advertiser, have much more control of the content and inner-workings of your Facebook presence. You may have your own Terms of Use and Privacy Policy in connection with your App, and Facebook views the App as a "your" forum—entirely separate from Facebook's operations.

2. You cannot implement Facebook's core functions into your promotion.

Because your App is the customer experience that you create, Facebook generally prohibits you from using its features and functions in connection with your promotion. From the initial set-up of your promotion, Facebook's new Guidelines prohibit your use of functions like liking a page or checking into a place to automatically register participants. Likewise, you cannot require promotion participants to use Facebook's features or functions to enter the promotion—except you may require a participant to like your Page (though that may not serve to automatically enter the participant). These rules carry through to the end of the promotion, where Facebook prohibits you from using its messaging forums to notify winners.

3. You must include language in your rules and App to release Facebook from liability.

To further limit its risk, Facebook requires that you use affirmative language in your App and official rules to limit Facebook's liability as to your promotion. Facebook requires that all entrants agree to release Facebook and that you expressly state that Facebook does not sponsor the promotion or receive user's data.

Bottom Line

You should consider the following key points early on in your planning process:

  • If you use Facebook as a platform for your contest or sweepstakes, the promotion must operate through a Facebook App.
  • Facebook prohibits the use of its platform's features and functionality (e.g., liking a Page) for automatic registration or entry into a promotion.
  • Except for liking a Page, do not require a participant to use Facebook's features or functions to be eligible to win.
  • Do not initially notify winners through Facebook (e.g., messages, posts).
  • Be careful when mentioning Facebook or using a Facebook logo in product rules and promotional materials.

Should you meet any obstacles or questions in this process, you should consult legal counsel to assure that your activities comply with Facebook's requirements. There are often easy and practical solutions to limit the risk that Facebook will view your promotion as a liability-creating problem.