Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Is Facebook on its way out as a marketing tool for small business?

Facebook has issued some new promotional guidelines that can potentially derail a small firm attracting attention to it.

Have you ever sponsored a contest on Facebook?  Like my page, like this wall post, be the first to respond to this wall post, or tag yourself in a picture and we'll enter you in a drawing for a prize? We'll send you a message if you're the winner?  It worked to gain an audience for your product or service, didn't it?

Not anymore.

Excerpt from the New FaceBook Promotions Guidelines:

You must not use Facebook features or functionality as a promotion’s registration or entry mechanism. For example, the act of liking a Page or checking in to a Place cannot automatically register or enter a promotion participant.

You must not condition registration or entry upon the user taking any action using any Facebook features or functionality other than liking a Page, checking in to a Place, or connecting to your app. For example, you must not condition registration or entry upon the user liking a Wall post, or commenting or uploading a photo on a Wall.
It goes on like this for a few more bullet points.

As I said in the previous post, if you're going to engage in a promotional campaign in any social media format, be ready for change.  Online forums come and go.  This restriction may very well be a "CYA" move by FaceBook to protect from liability.  Unfortunately they may be protecting themselves from popularity as well. 

So what is a business to do if they want to keep using Facebook to draw attention to their product or business?  They're going to have to make the actual contest one step removed from Facebook.  That is, put the contest on another website and then use Facebook to announce the contest and drive traffic there.  That includes contacting the winner or distributing prizes.

SDOC's client, the Dunwoody Chamber of Commerce took this tack:  when the Business Expo Awards were open for public voting, the actual poll was on the Chamber's website.  Facebook was only used to announce the contest and the winners.

For other companies and their social media managers, it won't be so easy.  So everyone sit down with your PR/media people and have a serious think about how you're going to use Facebook for publicity - or even if you still want to.

More commentary from a digital marketing colleague