Facebook recently announced a change to the Facebook Promotions Guidelines (“Guidelines”), which can be found at http://www.facebook.com/promotions_guidelines.php, governing the conduct of promotions on Facebook.

Under the new Guidelines, companies may not administer any promotion through Facebook, including a sweepstakes or contest, without prior written approval from Facebook. This new rule prohibits operating or administering any element of a promotion through Facebook, without the approval of Facebook, including collecting entries or submissions, conducting a drawing, judging entries or notifying winners. The Guidelines also prohibit publicizing or administering a promotion on Facebook if the promotion is open to individuals under 18, promotes certain product categories (e.g., gambling, tobacco, dairy, firearms, prescription drugs or gasoline) or includes a prize from certain product categories, or conditions entry upon purchase of a product, completion of a lengthy task or other form of consideration.

Companies may publicize a promotion on Facebook without prior written approval, provided that the promotion is administered entirely off of Facebook. For a promotion to satisfy this requirement, companies may not condition entry into a promotion on taking any action on Facebook, including: 1) updating status; 2) posting on a profile or Facebook Page; 3) providing content on Facebook (e.g., uploading photos); or 4) becoming a Fan of a Facebook Page. Among other things, companies may not provide an automatic entry into a promotion when a person becomes a Fan of the company’s page, nor may companies otherwise instruct people to sign up for a Facebook account before they enter a promotion.

Requests for approval from Facebook must be submitted at least seven days prior to the start of the promotion. If Facebook fails to respond regarding a promotion within this time period, the promotion is deemed unapproved. Therefore, companies should allocate sufficient time for the approval process when requesting permission to conduct a promotion on Facebook.

If Facebook permits a company to conduct a promotion through Facebook, the company must administer the promotion through a third-party application on the Facebook Platform.* Using the third-party application, companies may collect entrants’ addresses or email addresses and may conduct promotions which ask entrants to provide content (e.g., upload a photo through the third-party application). Companies are also permitted to restrict access to the tab containing the third-party application for the promotion to Fans of the company’s Facebook Page.

Finally, companies should also note that where Facebook has approved conducting a promotion, the Guidelines set forth limitations on references to Facebook in the promotion rules, as well as specific requirements and sample language for inclusion in the promotion rules and entry materials, including clarification that Facebook is not associated with the promotion.