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Why you should think twice about running promotions through Facebook

By Jeremy Stern

April 30, 2013 | 7 min read

As it is reported that Facebook reportedly lost 2m users over the last six months in the UK, and 8.6m in the US, Jeremy Stern, managing director of promotional verification service Promo Veritas examines when Facebook might not be the best platform for a business to run a promotion through.

Facebook has truly become a global phenomenon. With over 1 bn registered users it is no wonder that over the last two years marketers have been falling over themselves to try and ‘engage’ with consumers via the Facebook platform. The hunt for ‘Likes’ has made lots of money for lots of agencies. However in recent months Facebook has taken a hammering : there are increasing concerns about its privacy policies, the company itself admitted that almost 9 per cent of all its accounts were fake or suspect and they have lost over 2m users in the last six months in the UK alone. No wonder their shares have tanked since the company floated.

Well, at the risk of becoming one of the ‘nay sayers’ I feel the need to warn you that Facebook is not the instant cure for all of your marketing challenges and if you are thinking of joining the procession to the palace of Zuckerberg, let me give you some food for thought. Facebook may not be what you need or want!

First up – what percentage of your target audience is really active on Facebook? And of these how many actually have any desire to be marketed to by you via messages on walls etc? The answer is very few. Facebook is a social media platform meaning that people want to use it for catching up with friends not being sold to by real world brands. I certainly don’t want a brand to be my friend, and I suspect you don’t either. If you want to market to me, do it through regular advertising, through experiential marketing or in-store presence but not when I am chatting to my daughter on holiday in Australia or my friend in Edinburgh. On the rare occasion I want to share my passion for a particular brand of deodorant, or crisps or TVs then I will do it by buying the brand – I certainly don’t want you sharing that information with my friends (and all the other odd bods that I let view my profile) just so I can get a 10 per cent off coupon!

But if you are still committed to running promotions on Facebook (and let’s face it most clients are in still in the ‘follow the herd’ phase) you must be aware that they have strict rules on how pmust be run on their platform. You can’t simply ask a consumer to Like a page to be entered into a prize draw. Not only could it make Facebook jointly liable for any disasters that came from that promotion (because consumers would be entering it via Facebook functionality), but it also limits you, the promoter, because the only way to communicate with a winner would be via their wall, since you have no opportunity to gather other contact details. That is why Facebook insist that promotions have to be entered via a third party app. And there are additional rules on prizes that are banned, about what data you can collect, what you can do with that data and limitation in relation to encouraging users to share the promotion with their friends. It is actually quite often easier and cheaper to run a banner on Facebook but then run the actual promotion through a microsite or a standalone page on your own website. It is certainly more flexible and gives you total control over what information you can collect and how you can use it.

The other big danger with Facebook promotions, especially those that involve voting, is fraud and abuse. We have seen many instances of entrants buying thousands of votes from one of the many overseas sites that offer this shady service, or otherwise exploiting loopholes in your terms & conditions (it’s your own fault, get your T&Cs done by experts next time). However, there are more organised and darker forces out there that will look to scam your promotion. Prize clubs will systematically enter hundreds of people into random promotions because that is what they have been paid to do. Then there are Scampers, who have no respect for the law or your promotion - they just want to win the prize. They will try to hack apps or firewalls to steal winning codes, manipulate votes and place winning answers in the system. They’ll write code that will enter the promotion multiple times etc. It is much easier for them to do this when the promotion is run through a platform that they are familiar with. Conversely, it is much easier for you to limit and to identify these attempts. You can protect yourself better when you have full control over the entry platform.

That is why, we would strongly recommend that you consider running any promotion through a microsite or your own website – for the record we do not build either - and then promote it (lightly) through Facebook and drive consumers back to the site you have created. It will probably require a little more planning, but this is no bad thing. Because Facebook makes running a promotion appear easy, too often marketers may not give it the time and consideration it deserves and that is when problems can occur. Chase Likes if that is your desire, but just be aware that they have little meaning in the real world and provide you with nothing that cannot be bought – 1000 for about $19 is the going rate. Real consumers value meaningful contact from real brands.

Jeremy Stern founded PromoVeritas in 2002. PromoVeritas provides promotional compliance and verification services for brands and agencies running online voting, prize competitions, prize draws and ‘golden ticket’ type instant wins and other forms of incentive in the UK and worldwide. Leaving the creative idea to the client, PromoVeritas’s specialist niche is to advise on and implement all elements of the administration of the campaign from logistics and writing terms and conditions, through to printing scratchcards and unique codes or ensuring that the process for selecting winners is secure and complies with relevant legislation and codes of conduct.

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