Facebook's the winner in competition changes, not the user

Craig McGill, digital strategist for Scotland, Ireland and Northern Ireland at Weber Shandwick, discusses the latest change by Facebook to its competition rules.

Facebook has caught a lot of people by surprise over the last 24 hours with the news it's relaxing the rules surrounding competitions but it could see the average user coming off a loser.

The main change is that you can now have likes on your Facebook page as entries to a competition, you can have comments count as part of them too. Previously it had to be all done through a third-party Facebook app.

Yes, that means all those "Like and Share to win" competitions you've seen over the past few years were actually not allowed but are fair game now.

Why has Facebook brought these changes in? Reading between the lines, there's a few reasons:

1. Apps don't work on mobile, which is where more and more people are spending their time

2. The more on-page stuff you like/share the better the ad profile they can build around you

3. The more your friends engage with what you like/share, the better the ad profile that can be built on them

4. Less work for their staff as people will not longer reports firms doing share/like competitions which could see you banned in the past (*cough* like at least one Scottish organisation *cough*)

5. Might boost ad spend

The main reasons, in my opinion, are Steps 2 and 3. This is all about making it easier for the user to engage with material they like and therefore allow Facebook to build up better data on you, allowing for more relevant ads to be directed to you.

On a similar note, that's what the picture album announcement from yesterday – you and 50 others can create a shared photo album around an experience – is about. The more data about your connections you give to Facebook, the better the chance of you being served relevant ads.)

Now for firms this means it's a lot easier to create competitions but there's a downside that could see this backfire incredibly. The more people like and share material, the more clogged up individual timelines and news feeds will get, leading to people unfollowing or perhaps even getting fed up with what feels like (but isn't technically) spam and leaving Facebook.

For Facebook it's a tricky one to balance and no doubt the engagement algorithms will put a shift in trying to make sure people only see the most relevant material, but for the end user it's another reminder that they are the product.

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