Running a Social Media Contest or Promotion

Running a Social Media Contest or Promotion

Running a Social Media Contest or Promotion
Due to the amount of time the average person spends on social media sites, a clear route of advertising to the masses is now more accessible than ever. However, to grab (and hold) attention isn’t as easy as it may have once been, so it’s not uncommon for businesses, small or large, to administer contests or promotions for their followers. These days, it’s almost difficult to mindlessly scroll through a feed without seeing a giveaway or prize.

However, just because they’re popular, doesn’t mean they’re easy to implement. In fact, so many of the contests and promotions I’ve seen on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn are run without a proper regard for the law, or for each of the applicable Social Media Giants’ rules. While you don’t hear about punishments being served very often, it is worth noting that one of the legislation overseeing these forms of advertising is the Criminal Code, so if you’re thinking of soliciting some clients by way of a prize, you should definitely refresh yourself on the rules – or get in contact with someone you can rely on to cover your bases for you.

However, the purpose of this blog post is not to review the law, which can be found in the depths of the Criminal Code and Competition Act (and by applicable Competition Bureaus, case law, and if applicable, some Quebec-specific policies), but rather to discuss some of the additional rules imposed by the Social Media Giants themselves.

As you can imagine, while these platforms may provide their users with tools, formats, and other assistance in creating promotional material, one clear holdback is their desire to distance themselves from any liability that may be associated with your contest or promotion. What this means for YOU, is that there is specific language that must be included in your terms and conditions before posting to the sites. If you don’t have terms or conditions, that’s a whole other problem.

You can find platform-specific rules posted freely on the respective sites, on pages that look like these: Instagram or Twitter. They’re short, and worth a review whenever you’re planning on posting a contest or promotion, especially because they’re subject to change, but typically the requirements
are simple:

  1. You are running the contest/promotion, not Facebook, not Instagram, not Twitter, not LinkedIn, etc. You. They aren’t sponsoring it, involved with it, or associated with you, your contest, or its results in any way. They’re each going to want their own release from liability built in to your terms and conditions, and your assurance that you’re going to follow their personal rules, terms, conditions, and whatever else you agreed to when signing up.
  2. Your contest/promotion follows the rules of your local jurisdiction. In most of Canada, this is the part where the Criminal Code and Competition Act come in. In Quebec, or even if your contest is simply open to participants in Quebec, you also need to adhere to the local rules and regulations.
  3. The rules of your contest/promotion are simple enough for any person to understand, and are posted clearly and accessible. I was once taught that the standard for a deceptive contest is how it would appear to a “moron in a hurry”.
  4. The above are the big three, but each of the Social Media Giants may also have some additional rules specific to its platform. These are often more about the sharing and operation of your
    contest. For example:

    • On Facebook, you cannot ask potential participants to Like or Share a page in order to enter;
    • On Instagram, you cannot “inaccurately tag content or encourage users to inaccurately tag content”; and
    • On Twitter, they request that you include a rule nullifying entries from individuals

abusing the system by creating multiple accounts or posting the same Tweet repeatedly. Each company will continue to make unique rules as the platforms evolve and differ. Some of Facebook’s rules are relatively new, and a result of experience. Alternately, right now, Snapchat’s policy includes a rule against “spammy behavior”.

The takeaway here is to be sure that you’re considering more than just the law in administering a contest/promotion. While punishments for breaching the above may be rarely served, and cease and desist letters are more common, a brand can surely suffer from pulling a contest/promotion midway through its term. Especially if it had been doing its job and attracting a lot of eyes onto your company. The associated negative publicity or backlash may be reason enough to avoid any issues.

To discuss Social Media contests or promotions further, feel free to contact me at daniel@hummingbirdlaw.com or set up a consultation.

Daniel Wulffhart

Daniel Wulffhart is an articling student with Hummingbird Lawyers, and will be called to the bar June 2017.

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