Contests are a mainstay of many social media campaigns. They’re a great way to build and engage a community, promote a brand or simply generate some good will among your target demographic.
It *should be* common knowledge by now that running contest on Facebook is risky business unless you’re using a third party platform to host the contest. Facebook’s rules and limitations are extensive. If you’re not familiar with Facebook’s contest rules, watch my video.
As a result, many businesses are turning to Google+ to run contests, but Google+ also has strict, albeit mainly unknown, polices about running contests and sweepstakes.
You may be surprised to learn that Google’s main contest rule is that you’re not allowed to run a contest on Google+.
No contests allowed.
I know you’re probably thinking ‘whaaaat? I see contests on G+ all the time!” But these contests contravene Google’s policies and those brands are taking a risk that Google could shut down their page.
Google’s language around this issue is clear:
You may not run contests, sweepstakes, or other such promotions (“Promotion”) directly on Google+ or in a manner that requires use of G+ features or functionality…”
Google has one saving grace, however. While you can’t host a contest on Google+, you’re allowed to link TO a contest from Google+.
You may display a link on Google+ to a separate site where your Promotion is hosted so long as you (and not Google) are solely responsible for your Promotion and for compliance with all applicable federal, state and local laws, rules and regulations in the jurisdiction(s) where your Promotion is offered or promoted.
The Google take on contest rules is hardly surprising – even Twitter has contest rules that must be respected and Pinterest is working on it.
What kind of social media contests work best?
Personally, I think that Instagram is the best social platform for running contests, particularly if your contest is helping you collect user-generated-content.
For example, why not invite your consumers to post pictures of their purchase with a special hashtag and choose a picture of the month?
By giving social recognition instead of a prize, you avoid many of the legal issues that plague contests and studies show that social recognition is more powerful than prizes and goes a long way to creating good will with your targets.
And the best thing about Instagram – apart from its explosive growth and high engagement rates – is its seamless integration with Facebook. Photos receive more engagement on Facebook than other kinds of content so why not leverage both networks simultaneously but without risking your investment?
Will Google or Facebook Ban My Page?
When I say “risking your investment”, let me be clear: It is well within both Google and Facebook’s policies to ban your page if they feel you’ve contravened their policies. It doesn’t matter how many thousands of fans you’ve gained over the years or how much you spend on advertising.
If you’re working with a social media consultant whose advice is to ignore the policies or simply doesn’t mention them, I’d think twice before moving forward. At Lyra, we’re very careful to advise that all clients stay within Google’s and Facebook rules when running contests or sweepstakes. The last thing we would want is to harm our clients’ communities, particularly when we’ve all worked so hard to build them.
So my advice to you is that, if you’re planning a social media contest of any kind, make sure you pay special attention to the rules and guidelines and follow them carefully. And remember: There’s always alternatives to the initial plan that don’t require your risking your online presence and, obviously, we’d be happy to help you explore them!