Is your practice's Facebook giveaway a potential legal problem?

Is your practice's Facebook giveaway a potential legal problem?

Avoid trouble for your veterinary practice by ensuring you're playing by Facebook's promotions rules.
Jul 15, 2011

As more veterinary practices use social media as a marketing and communication tool, we’re seeing a variety of approaches to connecting with clients. For example, some veterinary teams post photos of their new patients to welcome them to the practice. Other practices put up links to their latest blog posts, helping position themselves as the local veterinary expert. And other practices create promotions, posting funny photos to their Facebook pages and awarding a gift card to the client who writes the most clever caption.

Would it surprise you to learn that one of these three examples could get your practice in deep trouble with Facebook? If you guessed that the caption contest is the potential troublemaker, you’re correct. The idea seems innocent enough, right? And it is—at first.

You take a great photo and upload it to your practice’s Facebook page then ask clients to write their funny captions in the comments section. So far so good. The problem comes when you offer a prize for the best caption. Doing so violates at least three of Facebook’s promotions guidelines.

The rule breakers
Facebook defines a contest, sweepstakes, or competition as a promotion that includes a prize of monetary value. Once you cross that line, there are some strict guidelines in place that you are required to observe. (Anyone who’s an administrator for your practice’s Facebook page should review these guidelines at least quarterly.) Here are the rules the caption contest broke, based on Facebook’s guidelines from their May 11 update:

> All promotions must be administered within the Apps function on Facebook. Usually this is an app on a page tab. The caption example used a post that appeared within everyone’s newsfeeds, which violates the rules.

> You can’t use Facebook’s features or functionality as a promotion’s entry mechanism (the act of liking something or making a comment cannot be the means of entry into a promotion). For our example, asking fans to list their caption in the comments section of the photo violates the rules.

> The post must include a complete release by each entrant, or the post must acknowledge that the promotion is in no way associated with Facebook. The caption contest did neither.

How to run a safe contest

Go with Plan B
While the caption contest seems like a great idea, it could create some serious legal problems for your practice. But don’t get discouraged. As long as you follow Facebook’s rules regarding promotions, you’ll be fine.

You could also try an alternative: The quickest, most efficient way to create a deal for your Facebook fans is to use Facebook Deals. These deals focus on rewarding clients who use Facebook to check-in to your practice using Facebook Places on their smartphone.

Create a Facebook Deal for your practice by going to your practice’s page and clicking “edit.” There you’ll see several options in the left-hand column (your settings, manage permissions, basic information, and so on). Look for an icon that says “deals” when you hover over it with your mouse. Click it and you’ll be able to create your first Facebook Deal.

You could reward clients with something like a free nail trim for checking-in, or you could create a deal where they earn a prize after a certain number of check-ins. Once you create your deal, Facebook will review it and approve it within about 48 hours. It will then become visible to your clients when they use their mobile device to check-in. There’s no charge for creating a Facebook Deal, other than what you reward your clients with.

Another great resource is Facebook’s “Best Practice Guide for Marketing on Facebook.” You can download this guide by visiting your practice’s page and clicking “edit.” From here select “resources” then under the heading “additional resources” you’ll find a link for the downloadable guide.

Coming up with promotions, deals, and other ways to connect with clients can be a fun way to keep your creative juices flowing. Just be sure you’re always an advocate for your practice by arming yourself with the information you need to play by the rules.

About the author
Brenda Tassava, CVPM, CVJ
, is a Firstline Editorial Advisory Board member and author of "Social Media for Veterinary Professionals." She manages multiple Twitter and Facebook pages, among them the page for Broad Ripple Animal Clinic and Wellness Center where’s she’s hospital administrator. Tassava will present on social media at the 2011 CVC in San Diego this October.