In addition to laws regulating sweepstakes, contests, and the prizes given in such promotions, social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, each have their own written policies regarding running promotions and contests on their websites.  If marketers are non-compliant with these rules, they can risk having their contest or promotion removed, resulting in lost resources and unhappy promotion contestants.

On August 27, 2013, Facebook changed the terms of its promotion and sweepstakes guidelines, making it easier for a business to manage and administer contests and promotions on its Facebook page.  In a large shift from its previous rules, Facebook now allows companies to run promotions directly on their timeline or Facebook fan page.  Prior to these changes, promotions were required to be run through a separate application run on Facebook’s platform.  Another significant change is that Facebook now allows promoters to use certain Facebook features and functionality as a part of their promotions.  For example, a business or individual with a fan page can now run a contest by posting user-generated content (such as a status message, photograph, or video) and determine the winner by how many “likes” or “comments” the content receives, provided the contest otherwise complies with applicable law.  In addition, “likes” or “comments” on status updates can be used as an entry into a promotion.  Depending on the company’s circumstances and the exposure of its fan page, these changes can make it much easier, and potentially less costly, for companies to run promotions on their Facebook pages.

Despite these major amendments, some of Facebook’s promotional guidelines remain unchanged.  For example,  the sponsor of the promotion is responsible for the lawful operation of the promotion.  In addition, the sponsor of the promotion must acknowledge that Facebook is not a sponsor of and does not endorse the promotion.  The promotion on Facebook must also include a complete liability release of Facebook by each entrant or participant.  Moreover, promoters cannot require that entrants post or share a message on their timeline or a friend’s timeline as a condition to entry of the promotion.

The decision whether to run a contest or promotion on Facebook can depend on a variety of factors such as a company’s following on its Facebook page, a company’s target audience, and a company’s available resources available to sort through entries and assist in choosing a winner.  These changes in Facebook’s promotional guidelines may result in more promotions and/or more entrants to the promotions, as users are no longer required to utilize a separate application on the Facebook platform.  In addition to ensuring compliance with all statutes regarding sweepstakes and contests, companies running promotions through their Facebook pages (or any other social media platform) should always review the site’s specific promotional guidelines and terms of service to ensure their promotion is compliant with the most current guidelines of the platform(s) on which the promotion will appear.

Shelby Knutson Bruce ( / +1 612 321 2207) an IP brands lawyer in Norton Rose Fulbright Minneapolis’ intellectual property practice.

As of this writing, promotions guidelines are available for

Twitter at

Pinterest at

Facebook at