What’s the News?
Thanks to a recently announced change to Facebook’s “Platform Policy,” it will soon become more difficult for companies to get consumers to “like” their Facebook page as part of a promotional campaign. The change will take effect on November 5, 2014.
The Policy Change
On August 7, 2014, Facebook announced that it will no longer allow advertisers to provide consumers with “incentives” to like a Facebook page. The change is primarily aimed at eliminating the practice known as “like-gating” or “fan-gating,” in which an advertiser uses a third-party Facebook application (app) to block access to their company Facebook page unless the consumer likes that page. According to Facebook, companies can still require consumers to enter promotions through third-party apps or even to incentivize consumers to log into an app, but they may not offer rewards or access to apps in exchange for requiring consumers to like a page. Thus, for example, an advertiser can no longer require a consumer to like their page as a condition of entering a promotion or give out free products to consumers in exchange for likes.
Notably, Facebook has not prohibited the use of the like feature in connection with other aspects of promotions, such as using the like button as a voting mechanism, requiring consumers to like posts or photos, or otherwise using Facebook pages to market to consumers. Thus, under the new policy, companies are still encouraged to run promotions through third-party apps and they are free to ask consumers to like their page. However, they may not offer items in return for these actions.
Facebook announced the policy change on the sidelines of its annual conference for Facebook app developers and the change is specifically directed to the app developers who build the programs that many companies use to administer promotions. Nonetheless, the new policy is likely to affect any company or advertiser that has incentivized consumers to like their Facebook page. The bottom line, according to Facebook, is to “ensure quality connections and help businesses reach the people who matter to them.” Even though the new policy may cost advertisers extra likes, Facebook is hoping that the remaining “likers” will be more valuable to companies since the fans that each page attracts will be composed of individuals who chose to like the company’s page without any artificial incentives. In other words, Facebook is pushing value over volume.
Who is Likely to be Affected?
All companies with a Facebook presence should be aware of this policy shift. This change could have a big impact on companies that use Facebook apps to administer sweepstakes or promotions on the social media site. In the past, many advertisers have required consumers to like the advertiser’s Facebook page as a means of accessing a promotion entry page or as a step in the entry process. If the consumer declined to like the page, they would not be able to enter or to view the promotion entry form. Under the new policy, this type of promotion structure would be prohibited. Instead, advertisers will have to grant access to their company page or to their promotion entry form regardless of whether a consumer has liked their page. In addition, because the new policy prohibits Facebook app developers from building the “like-gating” capability into Facebook apps, it is likely that the “like-gating” function will no longer be a reasonable option for companies. These changes may require some shifts in common promotion practices.
Arent Fox will continue to monitor this issue and will post updates as we learn of them. Please contact Anthony V. Lupo, Sarah L. Bruno, Matthew R. Mills, Eva J. Pulliam, or Daniel B. Jasnow with questions.