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The Dark Side of Digital Marketing

The darkside of Digital Marketing is always relatively close to the surface. “Black Hat” SEO techniques, email marketing which contravenes Data Protection regulations, running adwords on a competitors brand name (although this can be seen perhaps as just healthy competition!), and fake blogging or forum accounts are all regular practices, and we’ve all seen *ahem* examples of many of these.

Facebook Competitions and Promotions are one such area which is full of dark matter, (although in the main not malicious activity) and a huge amount of Irish pages are not adhering to the strict Competition rules, (either intentionally, or unintentionally), and may be in for a shock because of it.

Facebook states that they will not allow you to:

  • Condition entry in the promotion upon a user providing content on Facebook, such as making a post on a profile or Page, status comment or photo upload
  • Administer a promotion that users automatically enter by becoming a fan of your Page
  • Notify winners through Facebook, such as through Facebook messages, chat, or posts on profiles or Pages.

Essentially, you must run a comp. via an application (Involver or Wildfire are good non fully custom options) on the Facebook platform, usually hosted in a tab on your page, and of course, this has to be via a business page (don’t get me started on businesses who still have profile pages!). You can’t require users to do something native to Facebook (post a status update for eg) as a condition of entry, but you can

Request for Permission

Use a third-party application to do this. You also can’t require users to become a fan of your Page, or notify promotion winners via Facebook with messages or profile posts, but you can get their email via an app. This app may also allow you to post to the users wall, to promote the viral spread of the competition.

This normally comes as quite a shock to those who realise it for the first time, and even more of a shock is that Facebook may “ remove any materials relating to the promotion or disable your Page, application or account if (they) determine in our sole discretion that you violate any of our policies.”. Not a nice thing to hear if you’ve built up a good community of users for your brand, and there have already been instances of pages being shut down over such promotions in Ireland.

The fact that Facebook is relatively faceless when it comes to customer service, and seemingly, does not actively seek out pages which go against these rules seems to be tempting a lot of brands who should know better, to go against what is accepted industry best practice and run these promotions, irregardless of the consequences.

Running promotions

I tweeted during the week that I had noticed a large Irish fast food provider running a competition this week for GAA tickets, which invited users to tag themselves in a photo on the brands wall, while another Dublin based radio station (radio stations seem to be particularly bad for this one!), recently ran a promotion offering the chance to win tickets to Oxegen, (Ireland’s biggest Summer music festival), for any user who changed their profile photo to the station’s logo, and liked their page.

Whether by ignorance or disregard, these two cases are examples of larger businesses, who perhaps have internal marketing functions, and should really not be leading with such lazy campaigns.

Personally, I would have some sympathy with the SME,who wants to interact via Facebook intelligently, and is aware of the rules, but simply doesn’t have the in-house capabilities or money to employ an external agency to prepare a branded competition app for them. In fact I’ve been in that situation myself! However, it’s unclear whether Facebook, should they ever actively attempt to stop this, would feel the same way.

The safest thing to do if you can’t afford to or can’t figure out a competition app? Do it on Twitter! They’ll let you away with anything over there!

Have you seen, or been part of an illegal Facebook competition ring?! Do let us know below!

Shane O Leary is Communications Manager for