February 3, 2013
When running promotional contests in Canada, compliance tends to focus on the Competition Act, Criminal Code, privacy and ensuring that mandatory short rules and complete terms accurately reflect the promotion (and give maximum latitude to a contest promoter to take steps in the event an issue or contingency arises). While all of this is of course important and in many cases fairly straightforward, one aspect that can be overlooked is social media site rules (and another reason one size does not fit all in terms of contest rules and disclosure).
Like everything else in our increasingly digital and virtual world, contest promoters increasingly want to increase the reach of a promotion beyond the more conventional retail and Internet website forums to have their promotions posted, Tweeted, liked, shared, linked, forwarded and favourited, among other things, on Twitter, Google+, Facebook and through other social media platforms.
Facebook’s Promotions Guidelines set out rules for using Facebook to communicate or administer contests. “Administer” is defined broadly as any element of a promotion, including collecting entries, conducting a drawing, judging entries or notifying winners. The definition of “communication” is equally broad and means promoting, advertising or referencing a promotion in any way on Facebook (e.g., ads, on Facebook pages or Wall posts).
Some of Facebook’s key promotions rules include: (i) requiring promotions to be administered within Apps on Facebook.com (on a Canvas Page or Page App); (ii) including certain information (e.g., a release of Facebook by entrants, acknowledgment that the promotion is not sponsored/endorsed/affiliated by/with Facebook); (iii) limiting Facebook-feature related conditions for registration or entry (limited to only liking a page, checking into a Facebook Place or connecting to an organizer’s app.); (iv) not using Facebook features/functionality to register or enter (e.g., not automatically register/enter participants that like a page); (v) not using Facebook features/functionality (e.g., Like buttons) as contest voting mechanisms; and (vi) not notifying contest winners through Facebook (e.g., through Facebook messages, chat, or profile posts).
Twitter’s Guidelines for Contests on Twitter are perhaps the least intrusive for contest promoters. They provide, among other things, that the creation of multiple accounts by users to enter a contest multiple times should be discouraged (recommending a contest rule against creating multiple accounts or be disqualified), highlight that posting duplicate or near duplicate links violates Twitter’s rules (apparently aimed at Tweeting contests and similar spam-type competitions) and recommending against using hashtags unrelated to the promoter or promotion. Perhaps not surprisingly, given that there is little room for including contest rules in only 140 characters, Twitter’s Guidelines for Contests are largely aimed at reducing the likelihood of spam or deception.
All in all, while lawyers tend to focus on “black letter” law such as the Competition Act, Criminal Code, the law of contract, and the like when vetting contests, marketers and promoters tend to focus (as they should) on brand and reputation. In this regard, considering social media site terms is one important step to ensure that a contest or other promotion does not backfire by turning buzz into page takedowns, complaints or negative PR.
PROMOTIONAL CONTEST SERVICES
I offer a full range of promotional contest legal services for compliance with the Competition Act, Criminal Code and other relevant laws. My services include: preparing contests to comply with relevant federal laws, drafting short and long contest rules and statutory disclosure, reviewing promotional contest marketing and advertising materials, preparing winner release documentation, and vetting contest materials for Canadian misleading advertising law compliance.
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