*READ THIS* It’s possible the contents of this article, written in 2014, are outdated. Check out our Facebook Promotion Guidelines page for all current info.
Last week, Facebook published a blog post on their developer blog bringing attention to their Graph API v2.1 and several other changes, but more importantly, they announced an update to their platform policy that affects third-party apps built on their platform. This new policy Facebook has put into place reads as follows:
You must not incentivize people to use social plugins or to like a Page. This includes offering rewards, or gating apps or app content based on whether or not a person has liked a Page. It remains acceptable to incentivize people to login to your app, checkin at a place or enter a promotion on your app’s Page. To ensure quality connections and help businesses reach the people who matter to them, we want people to like Pages because they want to connect and hear from the business, not because of artificial incentives. We believe this update will benefit people and advertisers alike.
You can read the full post about the changes and the following discussion here. In the past, you’d probably expect to read about updates surrounding promotions on Facebook through the page guidelines doc, but this update was specific to app creators that create software which integrates with Facebook. If you’re not an app developer, this update may have caught you off guard.
What do these updates mean?
The new policy update is very specific — it reads “this includes offering rewards, or gating apps or app content based on whether or not a person has liked a Page”.
When Facebook mentions gating an app, this refers to what you probably know as ‘fan-gating’. Fan-gating an app means that you put some content behind a door that can only be accessed by becoming a fan of the page. You’ve probably seen Facebook fan pages ask you to become a fan of their page before you can access a coupon, an ebook download, or a promotion.
In addition, the new rules state “you must not incentivize people to use social plugins or to like a Page.” Moving forward, all apps created on the Facebook platform cannot encourage people to like a Facebook page so they’ll get a discount, a music download, a freebie, or an entry into a promotion.
With those changes being introduced, Facebook is encouraging app developers to “update their apps to comply with these policy changes by November 5, 2014.” Since this is a fairly large update and a lot of app developers are integrated with this particular functionality, Facebook has given developers three months to become compliant with these updates and make the appropriate changes needed.
How does this affect Rafflecopter?
Rafflecopter giveaways aren’t dependent on Facebook (which is great! — more on that later). But, we do offer some convenient Facebook integrations: the Rafflecopter Facebook app, the ‘Liking a Facebook fan page’ entry option, and the Facebook flash giveaway app.
The Rafflecopter Facebook App
First, the Rafflecopter Facebook app makes it easy to host a Rafflecopter widget on a Facebook page tab, and one of its features is automatic fan-gating. If they’re not a fan, they’ll see the following image:
According to Facebook’s new policies, the fan-gate functionality shown above will not be allowed after November 5th. This feature of the Facebook app will be removed before then. When this feature is removed, both fans and non-fans will be able to access your promotion.
The ‘Liking a Fan Page’ Entry Option
Second, the ‘Liking a Fan Page’ entry option is an entry option that can be set up where participants can receive an entry for being a fan of your Facebook page. Below is an example screenshot of the ‘Like a Fan Page’ entry option:
According to Facebook’s new policies, this would fall under the rule of “incentivizing people to use social plugins or to like a Page”. Similar to the fan-gate functionality, this entry option will likely be removed before the November 5th deadline.
The Rafflecopter Facebook Flash Giveaway App
There haven’t been any changes to the page guidelines regarding promotions being run on your timeline. Because of this, this app will remain unaffected by the recent updates.
Four Upsides To These Changes
If you’re a Facebook page admin, there’s probably a good chance that at some point you tried to increase the number of fans your page had, probably with a fan-gate or some kind of incentive. While at first glance you might think this is a surprising and upsetting change, these changes may encourage Facebook page admins to shift in a direction that might be better for your Facebook community.
Increased Creativity From Facebook Page Admins
In a way, fan-gating functionality was a magic bullet that took out a lot of the strategic thinking around the question “how can my page gather more Facebook likes?”, when Facebook page admins should really be asking themselves “how can I keep my growing fan-base engaged and excited about my brand?”. You could say fan-gating encouraged folks to ask themselves the wrong question.
With a fan-gate, it was very easy to ask non-fans to like your page to access a coupon, discount, promotion, ebook, music download, etc. The removal of the fan-gate and social incentives will force Facebook page admins to ask different questions and think more creatively when it comes to managing their page.
Fan-gates and social incentives aside — online contests, sweepstakes, and giveaways will still have their place in the marketing mix. On that note, expect to see an increased amount of creativity when it comes to how marketers and page owners think about the promotions they run. If you’re a local mom and pop retail store or eatery, perhaps you’ll reconsider giving away a generic iPad and replace it with a prize more authentic to your brand that makes sense.
The Facebook Promotion Guideline Debates Will Finally Stop
For the past three years, there’s no question that Facebook promotion guidelines have been a hot topic amongst social media marketers. Three of our five of our highest trafficked & commented blog posts discussed Facebook promotion guidelines (read these posts and follow the evolution of Facebook promotion guidelines from 2011, 2012, and 2013).
There has always been a fair amount of gray area surrounding what could and couldn’t be done in regards to having fans like your page, how you could incentivize, when the line was crossed, etc. Since these new rules shift from focusing on Facebook page admins to app developers, it takes a lot of pressure off Facebook page admins. Because this update removes a fair amount of the gray area that surrounded this topic, you might expect this topic to become less debated.
Decline in Fake Facebook Accounts
There will be less of an incentive for folks to create second and third Facebook accounts. While creating multiple accounts is in violation of Facebook’s terms, it’s still something that’s difficult to enforce and something we’ve seen a fair amount of.
To detail this further, here’s a scenario that we frequently see: an individual sees a handful giveaways being run on various pages, but doesn’t have a strong interest with that brand running the promotion. Regardless, the individual still wants to enter their promotions, but all the promotions offered are behind fan-gates. The individual doesn’t want their news feed flooded with status updates from pages they’re not interested in. Instead of liking each page and unliking it after the promotion, the entrant creates a second Facebook account.
More Development in Areas Outside of Facebook
When Rafflecopter was conceived three years ago, it was intended to be an app that would allow you to run giveaways on your blog or website. In 2011, there weren’t many affordable options that would allow you to do this. The Rafflecopter Facebook page tab app was somewhat of an afterthought of that first app and was released a year later. With this most recent update to the platform policy, you’ll start seeing more folks gravitate towards running contests and sweepstakes off of Facebook, which is what Rafflecopter was built for.
As a marketer, this encourages you to diversify your social media efforts, and in turn your promotion efforts. As an app developer, this brings our focus away from Facebook and back to our roots. Rafflecopter is designed to make it possible to run a promotion on your own website. You can expect to see some deeper integrations and more advanced customizations over the next several months from us.
Facebook’s Motivations Behind the Updates
Below are a few possibilities that could have played a role into Facebook making these updates:
- Encourages organic growth of a fan page. The rate of folks liking Facebook pages will probably slow, but those that do like a page will do so for more authentic reasons.
- Puts more focus on quality, engaging content & less emphasis on increasing likes. Arguably, the main purpose of fan-gates were to incentivize non-fans to become fans of your page. Now that fan-gates are being phased out, this should help Facebook page admins focus on the content that gets their fans excited vs increasing the number of total likes their page gets.
- Places more emphasis on Facebook ads. In Facebook’s updates, they write that “we want people to like Pages because they want to connect and hear from the business, not because of artificial incentives”. If this holds to be true, the average value of one Facebook fan should be worth more. That will make their advertising services more effective. In addition, removing the ability to incentivize non-fans to like your page in some ways can be viewed as competition to or an alternative to using Facebook ads.
- Discourages individuals from creating fake accounts. As discussed above, this update should discourage people from creating multiple accounts on Facebook. The less fake account there are on Facebook, better user experience from an individual’s perspective as well as from a brand’s perspective will follow.
What To Expect From Here
Come November 5th, the days of fan-gating coupons, discounts, social promotions, downloads, freebies, and ebooks on Facebook are over. In the next 90 days, we’ll be keeping everyone informed ahead of time of the following:
- Details behind the changes we decide to make
- When changes will be made and how they’ll be implemented
- new product releases surrounding deeper integrations and more advanced customizations
We’ll make these future announcements on our blog and be sure to spread the word on our social media accounts (Facebook and Twitter) in addition to our newsletter. While we have until November 5th to implement these updates, we’ll explain the updates ahead of time so there’s a fair amount of heads-up time.
To add some thoughts from an app developer’s perspective, we’ve seen Facebook make big changes surrounding promotions about once a year towards the end of the summer every year since 2011. While this change came by surprise, it wasn’t too unexpected. Expect to see app developers affected by this change to focus on becoming a social media campaign builder, moving away from the realm of being a Facebook app vendor. You’ll also see an emphasis on running giveaways and promotions not to gain new fans, but to engage and give back to your current fans.
The concept of running a promotion like a sweepstakes or a contest will always continue to have value, but the way we choose to administer them online & best practices will always be changing. What do you think of these updates? Vote in the widget below and leave a note in the comments!