Social media prize promotions: Five tips to stay out of trouble

It's ironic that when brands are working harder to win consumer trust, their promotions are often just a click away from becoming PR disasters. Complaints to the ASA rose to more than 30,000 in 2014 and recent surveys suggest members of the public are sceptical about the fairness of prize promotions.

Social media prize promotions: know the rules, warns Jeremy Stern
Social media prize promotions: know the rules, warns Jeremy Stern
Almost one in four do not believe that prize draw winners are always selected fairly or independently.
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are temptingly low-cost mass channels that make it easy to set up prize promotions.

This has created a ‘Wild West’ of reckless rule-breaking.

A specific requirement of the CAP Code is that winner selection of prize draws, competitions and instant wins be done under independent supervision. Social media promotions are not exempt, yet the rules on independence are flouted frequently.

Better practice means safer practice. Ignoring the rules can bring reputation damage that spreads like wildfire. Promotions can even be subject to instant bans, with potentially costly implications.  
Here are five tips to stay out of trouble:

1. Know the rules
The major platforms are constantly updating both functionality and promotional policies. Did you know that Facebook has outlawed promotions asking users to 'Like' a page to enter? Did you know that entrants to YouTube promotions must be over 18? Also, you must heed the laws of the countries you are operating in.

2. Take greater care with Terms and Conditions
You must have a solid set of T&Cs including material facts likely to influence participation. Earlier this year the Hard Rock Café received an ASA ruling and lots of bad press after failing to include T&Cs for Twitter promotions. Terms must be mentioned in promotional posts, ideally with a link to them. And you need the disclaimer most platforms require as immunity from your mistakes. Yet T&Cs can protect you too. For example, specifying that entrants must be UK residents avoids the costly mistake of having to award prizes to overseas winners.

3. Gather data properly
To be code compliant you must be able to prove you have selected winners from all the relevant data. It can be tricky to ‘scrape’ data such as Likes and pictures after promotions have started; on Twitter you can only extract the last 120 comments. Use forward planning and specialist software to enable full data extraction.

4. Be whiter-than-white in winner selection
Even small promotions are required by the CAP code to have independent third parties overseeing the random selection of prize draws, the judging of competitions or the distribution of Instant Win chances. Don’t scrimp on this detail. 

5. Announce the winners
This is a big part of promotional compliance and a sure sign that you are running things fairly. If you don’t do this your audience will ask questions. Each platform has different functionality for communicating with users, so make sure you plan ahead. 

Jeremy Stern is managing director of PromoVeritas 

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