Social Contest Platforms: Inexpensive, Easy…and Risky
Today I was sent a link to an article touting Platforms for Social Contests that will “launch and track your contest with ease.” The article then went on to list eleven platforms, all relatively cheap – well, really dirt cheap or even free – and all the wonderful features each one had.
If I were looking for a way to run a contest and I didn’t know any better I would think that this contest business should be this inexpensive. Cough up a couple hundred bucks and we’re ready, right?
But hold up. I know better. And you get what you pay for.
Here’s the thing: not one of those platform features spoke to making a contest legal in the US or other countries, or following FTC guidelines for advertising it, or following best practices for collecting and using personal information, or even following social platform guidelines.
Here’s what you need to ask yourself before buying into a contest platform solution.
- Who gets the data? And how can you use it?
Some platform solutions offer you a discount rate to use their service so they can use the data you collect. That’s right – for every email you may collect as an entry in your contest, the platform company may be getting it too. Check the fine print before you sign anything because you may not want your customers to be solicited by other companies.
Similarly, the way they collect the data may dictate how you use it. For instance, if you don’t have people opt-in to your texting list when you collect their mobile phone number, you can’t legally use that list to send texts or you could face large fines. Check with the platform to see how and where you can legally use the collected data to mail, email or text your participants.
- Who writes the rules?
All contests and sweepstakes and giveaways need legal, official rules or your company could face a lawsuit. If you use one of these platforms you will need to find someone to write the rules for you. A reputable legal firm may charge a few thousand dollars for this service. Shop around and make sure you are getting someone that knows what they are doing, and can do it at a fair price. The alternative is to take a risk and go without rules. Just remember the price of a lawsuit is a lot more than the price of writing rules.
- Who is checking to see if the promotion is compliant in the US? And internationally?
Some countries and states in the US have special sweepstakes and contest laws that require registration, bonding, or even prohibit certain types of prizes and promotions. Ask the social platform if they can handle checking compliance for you – and if they can’t, make sure you find someone who can, or void your promotion in those states and countries.
- What about data collection?
Right now data collection from minors or from certain countries requires very detailed and specific data handling and security measures to meet legal standards. Make sure you ask your platform if they will be adhering to the standards in the US or other countries (especially the EU) where your contest is running – and get it in writing from them.
- Advertising law
There are also laws governing how you communicate to the public about your promotion. The FTC is currently cracking down on people that are using social platforms to “share” about a sweepstakes in exchange for an entry if the post/tweet/share doesn’t say “Sweepstakes” or “contest”. Ask the platform if they review how your program works so you can make sure you are in compliance with advertising laws – and if they can’t do that find a professional who can.
- Social platform guidelines
Finally, the social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, YouTube, etc. all have posted guidelines for running promotions on their platforms. The social contest platform you use may, or may not adhere to those, so it is your job to be up to date on platform guidelines or you run the risk of the platform (like Facebook or YouTube) closing down your account.
Remember, the contest platform solution may sound like an inexpensive solution, but you are really only buying the technology piece of the contest. You still need help with the actual legal, advertising review and data collection aspects of the promotion. If you are covered on all of those aspects, then a social platform makes sense. But without those bases covered your contest may fail.
If you need contest help, Marden-Kane can assist. Contact us to discuss!
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