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In the world of social media marketing there are some great examples of really innovative campaigns - and plenty of lazy copy-cats too. But in our clamour to measure, incentivise and prove that all-important ROI metric, are marketers putting their clients brands at risk by breaking Facebook (or other sites) terms and conditions?

Before I go any further, I should point out that this post ISN'T going to contain any naming-and-shaming - as much as I've occasionally been criticised on my blogs in the past for not providing examples, I have no desire to be seen as an industry 'grass' or whistle-blower. So if that's what you're expecting, you may be disappointed.

Despite the many different and varied metrics you could choose to use to 'prove' the success of a social networking campaign, many people still choose to take a metric such as 'Likes' or fan numbers as their metric of choice.

I have no gripe with this. As somebody who has worked in and alongside the search industry for many years, the concept of 'obvious but meaningless' metrics is one I'm very familiar with. How many of us haven't heard a brand bemoaning a lack or drop of a certain keyword ranking, despite no focus on conversions, traffic or click-throughs? If a metric is easy for your client to find by themselves, you have to expect that you'll be measured against it.

This dependence on improving 'Likes' had lead to a lot of brands or their agencies clamouring to gain quick results, by any means necessary. One of the most popular ways at the moment is incentivising to 'Like' a page, often by offering prizes, rewards or exclusive offers based on doing so. But did you know that by doing this, you're breaking Facebook's own terms and conditions?

I've seen some VERY high-profile brands doing this lately. As I mentioned above, I'm not going to embarrass anybody with a name-and-shame, but do any variation on the following Google searches and you can find examples of your own:

Like us on facebook for your chance to...

Like our Facebook page and...

There have also been a few very well-covered examples of this recently, including one well-known travel firm who made a sizable donation to charity when they hit a certain number of fans.

So what's the harm in this practise then? Surely it's just giving something back to the fans for helping to support you? You'd think so, but no...

Part of Facebook's promotional guidelines

Extracted from the Facebook Promotional Guidelines page.

As you can see, Facebook specifically forbids brands from asking users to 'Like' a page in return for something - and they'll happily remove content or possibly even remove the pages of brands who contravene these rules (if they spot them). Are you prepared to have your hard-earned community removed for the sake of a few quick fans?

Not to mention the can-of-worms that is the argument over whether an incentivised 'Like' is even of any value in the first place. Whilst there's no argument that having a fan 'Like' you can give you better exposure to both them and their social connections, how likely are fans who have only Liked you to enter a competition really going to be to add value to your community?

Whatever you opinion of these tactics and their validity, you need to make sure you're aware of the risks you're taking if you don't follow the rules of the communities you're interacting with. If somebody had told you that this is a good tactic, why not point them in the direction of Facebook's T&Cs and ask what their back-up plan is for when that content gets removed?

Henry Elliss

Published 26 November, 2010 by Henry Elliss

Henry Elliss is a senior strategist at Good Relations and contributor at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or via his own parenting blog.

18 more posts from this author

Comments (19)

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@sachinuppal

The challenge is that decision on metrics is not connected with the decision on selection of social media for communication with existing or new customers. Lack of connection/understanding leads to such ads. But asking someone to like your Fan page is similar to asking people to tell them in the feedback form to give an A. Funny but true that some brands are doing it.

BTW Henry, share some good examples of FB campaigns too. Your post's title was clever, I came here to see some campaigns which have broken the rules of advertising and done something brilliant but I found something opposite.

over 5 years ago

Henry Elliss

Henry Elliss, Digital Marketing Director at Tamar

Thanks for the feedback, @Sachinuppal - As I mentioned in the introductory paragraph, I was loathe to name-and-shame, as I don't want people blaming me for highlighting their transgressions to Facebook...

I love your point about asking people to like you being akin to asking people to rate you well on a feedback form. Bizarrely, I've experienced that too, usually from over-zealous eBay sellers! : )

over 5 years ago

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Ash - SEO Sydney

The actual theme of 'Like' button is clearly conveying that it is an option or a facility given to a page/website visitors who tend to show their positive intention towards them by clicking on it. But it is merely used as one of the promotioal way. When businesses opt-in for such promotional method they can get only fake results not the original because no body can create or develpe interest from others unless you have some interesting stuff!

over 5 years ago

Adrian Goodsell

Adrian Goodsell, Head of Social Media at Zone Ltd

Henry, I'm really glad that you've chosen to write about this subject for Econsultancy. It's an important area where there is a real lack of understanding and seemingly even less awareness.

I recently got into a bit of a Facebook debate with one of the world's leading social media experts concerning a promotion they had run on their own page (I'm going to follow suit and won't be naming names, if you're interested you should be able to find it if you can be bothered to do a little FB 'examining' - date 22.10.10). The promotion clearly broke the rules and someone had questioned this in the comments. Serendipitously, I'd had direct experience of this exact matter only days before - I confirmed my suspicions by querying it with our Facebook Rep - and got involved in the discussions to highlight the issue and the mistaken advice being given.

The point is that if that the experts are not completely clear on the rules, what hope is there for the rest of us in the marketing world (who often use experts for guidance)?

The experts in question are not likely to have had their page removed for their relatively minor infringement but others have and will in the future.

I guess the other lesson here is that Facebook's guidelines are chopping and changing all the time, we should all take on the responsibility for doing thorough 'due diligence' before deciding to run with a Facebook Promotion.

Thanks for raising the topic!

Adrian

@adigoodsell

over 5 years ago

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Meredith Keller

I am aware of the rule regarding contest entry, but exclusive content like coupons, free reports, etc is news to me. FBML even equips page owners with the ability to create reveal tabs so some content is for fans only. All the rules you quote mention "entry" which implies it refers to contests, not content. Has anyone at FB said the rule now extends to exclusive content?

over 5 years ago

Henry Elliss

Henry Elliss, Digital Marketing Director at Tamar

Hey Meredith - You're right, the terms do state that you CAN add content that fans can see only if they *are* fans. My point was only really meant to be about contests and competitions, as this is the thing I see most people doing. Here's a cut-and-paste of the relevant section:

You cannot: Condition entry in the promotion upon a user providing content on Facebook, such as making a post on a profile or Page, status comment or photo upload.

You can: Use a third party application to condition entry to the promotion upon a user providing content. For example, you may administer a photo contest whereby a user uploads a photo through a third-party application to enter the contest.

You cannot: Administer a promotion that users automatically enter by becoming a fan of your Page.

You can: Only allow fans of your Page to access the tab that contains the third-party application for the promotion.

over 5 years ago

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Vf2

With heaven knows how many zillion FB accounts there are worldwide, its own rules have become virtually unenforceable and will rely more and more on whistle-blowers to ensure that major transgressions go, if not unpunished, than at least noted. I foresee a new industry in this field springing up. Then again, if you're run a small business and are tired of the obstacles and sheer bloody awkwardness that FB seems to delight in springing on you, there's a little secret glee involved here when you see others successfully get round the controls.

over 5 years ago

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caroline rb

Interesting and helpful, although it implies SMEs will perhaps need to hire costly professionals to manage their social media campaigns after all, when they seemed to hold out the hope that someone could 'go it alone'.

over 5 years ago

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Tom Huxtable, CRO at EngageSciences

Carloline - SME's and mid-tier companies can go it alone. EngageSciences has developed a Facebook campaigns service that allows the self-service creation of competitions like sweepstakes in Facebook that conform to their rules. The service starts from just a few dollars a day for the duration of your competition. Plus you are not limited to just running the competition in FB - you can have it promoted out via Twitter, on your website, LinkedIn and others if you want. Set-up of a campaign takes less than 30 minutes. We will be launching commercially this December so would be good perhaps for eConsultancy to do a review as this is an area of interest for readers!

over 5 years ago

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Noreen Mastellon

I would interested in your insight to the interpretation of the 'shameful' FB promotional advertisers who feel they are able to get around Facebook's USA based governance.  Do you think this is a legitimate rationale? 

Noreen Mastellon, @BigRedShops

over 5 years ago

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Darren Bristow

Hi Henry,

The concept of 'obvious but meaningless' metrics - haha classic, love it.

I'd like to restate @Sachinuppal request for you to share some good FB campaign examples if I may.

thanks

Darren

over 5 years ago

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Darren Bristow

Hi Henry,

The concept of 'obvious but meaningless' metrics - haha classic, love it.

I'd like to restate @Sachinuppal request for you to share some good FB campaign examples if I may.

thanks

Darren

over 5 years ago

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Gareth Rees

Thanks for bringing this to light. Considering incentives seems to be the No 1 choice for brands to build likes, it's going to take Facebook a while to start deleting pages. However, do you have examples of Facebook actually deleting pages who've used this tactic? As a consumer I feel more at ease "liking" something with the option of using the incentive rather than having to "like" something to see more content. "Likewalls" are not for me.

over 5 years ago

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Gareth Goddard

You're right, theres not much point in someone who likes your page to gain something rather than to see your updates

over 5 years ago

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Tom Huxtable, CRO at EngageSciences

@Gareth - unless of course that the promotion that drove the 'like' was mutually beneficial for both promoter and recipient such as a coupon offer. There is no point doing any promotion unless there is a goal in mind that makes business sense. Some companies however may be after just establishing an audience in order to later find those that they can convert through a series of status updates, notifications and follow on promotions. That is a reasonable strategy as well. What probably makes no sense given the huge numbers who are spending ever increasing times on social networks is to do nothing :)

over 5 years ago

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Nicole Gläser eriksson

It is good you bring this up, because there are a lot of promotions out there which are not according to fb guidelines. The thing is, you are not correct in interpreting their terms. As long as the promotion is in an app, it is ok that people need to get a fan first

over 5 years ago

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Tom Huxtable, CRO at EngageSciences

@Nicole - in fact it is stronger than that - all promotions have to be administered by a third party app. You can build your own or use EngageSciences, but you have to run promotions through an app.

over 5 years ago

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Nicole Gläser Erikssom

@Richard - worth mentioning that FB considers only contest and sweepstakes as promotions, not coupons or promo codes

Some more info, I tried to "translate" the fb user guidelines into more reader friendly words:

This Type of Promotion ISN´T allowed:

• You are not allowed to use the native Facebook tools to run your promotions, such as the Facebook photo app or the wall. Don´t post the promotion or explain the rules there. • Do not ask members to contribute content by leaving a comment (such as "leave a comment today at 12am about what you like most about our product and win...) • Do not ask people to post photos to your wall or photo album in order to win a prize. • Do not ask members to use the ‘like’ thumb to vote for something.

Or more generally: Do not use any "native" Facebook tools to run your promotions!

This Type of Promotion IS allowed:

• You can mention a promotion on your FB page and you can promote it using Facebook ads. You can post a link to a promotion on your website – but in this case you are losing the connection with Facebook and the benefit of all the viral features which will generate additional new followers. • The promotion of an application by implementing all the powerful viral features available, such as automated notifications, friend’s invites or share. • You can also integrate the application as a tab in your Facebook page and offer it exclusively to fans. • You could also for instance run a photo contest, where people upload their photo directly through the application.

over 5 years ago

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Bangalow Accommodation

Interesting, I didn't realise that a Like couldn't be exchanged for something. Thanks for pointing that out.... I have retweeted this now. Love this post.

over 5 years ago

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