We’re all pretty used to seeing sweepstakes that require entrants to “like” an advertiser’s or app’s Facebook® page in order to enter—they’re probably the most common type of promotion on Facebook.  Many marketers require consumers to “like” an application’s Page as a condition of entry into a sweepstakes or contest, in order to receive coupons or other rewards, or in order to watch a video or some other type of content.  Advertisers like to do this because in exchange for offering consumers benefits for “liking” their applications’ Pages, the advertisers obtain a guaranteed base of Facebook fans and extend their brand’s reach on Facebook.

But, in a few months, as a result of recent changes to Facebook’s Platform Policy, these examples of “like-gating” will no longer be kosher on the Facebook platform.  Facebook’s revised Platform Policy, updated August 7, 2014, states that developers of Facebook applications may “[o]nly incentivize a person to log into your app, like your app’s Page, enter a promotion on your app’s Page, or check-in at a place.”  The revised policy goes on to state that “Effective November 5th, 2014, you may no longer incentivize people to like your app’s Page.”

Facebook provides these examples of what is no longer allowed:

Click here to view the image.

Most importantly, advertisers can no longer offer entry into sweepstakes or contests in return for “liking” an app page.  (It’s not clear whether the new policy will be interpreted to prohibit promotions where users enter by “liking” a post on a Page.)  It remains acceptable to incentivize people to login to your app, check in at a place or enter a promotion on your app’s Page.  Of course, marketers can still ask users to “like” a Page if no incentive is offered for doing so.

Facebook explains the reasons for the change on its blog for developers, saying the changes will “ensure quality connections and help businesses reach the people who matter to them….”    Indeed, Facebook goes on to say that it “want[s] people to like Pages because they want to connect and hear from the business, not because of artificial incentives.”  This is what we like to call “the Sally Field Principle of ‘Likes’ on Social Media,” harking back to Ms. Field’s famous exclamation at the Academy Awards in 1985: “You like me [right now], you really like me.”

From a practical perspective, advertisers should carefully examine any promotion that is planned to begin or run after November 5th that includes any requirement that users “like” the marketer’s Facebook page to participate, or they may not “like” the result if Facebook decides to invoke its new policy to block a proposed app they are developing or disable a key feature midstream.  Note that  the current changes to the Platform Policy—at least for now—extend only to advertisers who require consumers to “like” Facebook application pages, though of course these apps are key part of the Facebook ecosystem and are often used to run the more sophisticated sweepstakes and contests.  We will continue to monitor the situation.