Facebook’s new promotion rules are set to diminish the relevance of third-party app providers and result in a “shit user experience”, according to social experts.
The changes allow brands to choose between running a competition directly on their Facebook page’s Timeline or to continue using third-party apps.
Daniel Christos, technical partner at Cypha, said the update is an attempt to boost Facebook’s advertising revenue but has been done at the detriment of the user experience.
“There is going to be a lot of confusion for brands around ‘do I run it on my feed, do I run it on an app?’
“But really the best thing for my brand is going to be to run it on both, but that is going to be a shit user experience and drop offs are going to be quite high.”
Facebook is poised to receive a revenue boost with brands set to lift the visibility of their Timeline based competitions with Facebook paid media such as sponsored stories and promoted posts.
“I really don’t think the user has been thought about in this situation, it does really look like a Facebook push to boost promoted and sponsored posts,” Christos said.
Will apps lose their relevance?
The third-party app providers are going to struggle to sell their propositions now, according to Christos.
“They are going to have to push the angle of those extra functionalities that they provide, which is that it’s going to be difficult for brands to actually trawl through their posts to find votes, likes and comments and tracking themselves is going to be a bit of a headache.”
App providers have already spotted the gap, with third party app platform ShortStack today spruiking its ability to import responses to a Timeline competition to a database where brands can pick a random winner.
“When businesses combine a Timeline Contest with Facebook’s new embed feature and ShortStack’s Comment/Like Importer they have a super powerful marketing tool.”
Christos agrees that running a promotion using both an app and the new Timeline function will be best for brands, as while a Timeline based promotion will boost a brand’s EdgeRank it will limit data collection.
Also, without an app he says brands will need to display the wavier as well as the terms and conditions in its post.
However the combination is likely to result in a clunky user experience.
“The user flow is likely to be: go to my page, like it and comment, but before you do that make sure you opt in to the terms and conditions. So go to our page to view them then go back to the feed to add your comment in. Then go back to the app to put in an email address and further details so we can contact you if we win.”
Tom Brownie, director of social at Melbourne-based agency The Social Garden, said the changes will be negative for users in the short term.
“They might start to see the newsfeed getting clogged up with a lot of these individual competitions and giveaways that are being run through brand's walls.
“In the long term I think the user is going to benefit a lot because community managers and agencies are really going to have to put on their thinking caps and come up with something special.”
Carly Drew, social media manager at MercerBell, said there “will still absolutely be a place for third party apps”, but stressed the need for creative thinking to continue.
“MercerBell sincerely hopes that we continue to see the level of investment in big, creative ideas that come along with well-considered app strategies.”
The bottom lines of digital agencies are also likely to take a hit, according to Christos, who says clients will move to cut agencies out of the process.
“A lot of agencies generate quite a lot of revenue out of simple Facebook apps – some agencies were founded on building Facebook apps.”
“Brands are going to try and do it themselves to save costs by cutting agencies out. But they could potentially get themselves in a lot of trouble when it comes to random draws, permits and terms and conditions.”
If there is an element of chance in a Timeline competition brands will be required to acquire a permit from the lotteries authority in each state they wish to run the promotion in.
And a competition run purely on likes falls into the area of chance, according to Connor James, director at competition permit and management agency Permitz Group.
Skill based competitions – such as choosing a winner based on how many likes their entry receives – do not need a permit.
With competitions where you win if you are one of the first 50 to ‘like’ is another matter. In this case the rules change state to state.
“But basically it will come down to, for at least the couple of the states, is if there are less prizes than there are likely to be likes than you still need permits, this is definitely the case in NSW.”
“One of the trade promotion requirements is you keep records of everybody who has entered a competition,” explain James who doubts this can be done through ‘likes’ alone.
Accurate records are also important in the case that there is a dispute over the winner.
Permits take anywhere between a week-and-a-half and one month to be awarded, a factor brands should keep in mind.
“Timeframes for permits is really dependent on total that is being given away as well,” James added.
“If you are giving away less than $50,000 you can expect to get permits back within a couple of weeks. If it is under $5,000 than you only need permits from NSW and ACT.”
Level Playing field
The changes have opened the door for small to medium sized businesses to engage their audiences without big marketing budgets, according to Drew who added: “If we’re honest, they’ve probably been doing this all along- now it’s just ‘legal’.”
One comment on yesterday’s story announcing the shift by B&T welcomed the new rules for leveling the playing field.
“As the manager of a company Facebook page that played by the rules it was always so frustrating to see how many companies were continuing to run promotions on their pages illegally,” the post said.
“This puts us back on a level playing field and we can be more competitive, more flexible and cater better to the needs of our social media audience.”