Social Media

Facebook Promotions Change Likely to Benefit Smaller Merchants

Facebook recently announced a change to its promotions policy that is likely to have a major impact on the way retailers run contests and sweepstakes on the social network. Promotions are no longer required to be administered using third-party app providers solely, but can now run directly on the Page Timeline instead.

According to Facebook, Page owners can:

  • Collect entries by having users post on the Page or comment/like a Page post;
  • Collect entries by having users message the Page;
  • Utilize likes as a voting mechanism.
Facebook Timeline Promotion

Example of Facebook Timeline promotion.

Benefits to Merchants

This change offers several benefits to smaller merchants.

  • Ease of use. Since merchants are no longer required to use app providers, they can quickly and easily host a promotion just by posting a status update.
  • Simplicity. Instead of requiring users to like a page before entering a contest or complete a form, fans can now simply “like” or comment in response to an update. Likes can also be used as a voting mechanism. In addition, app providers often required that merchants create graphics to fit the 810-pixel width requirement for app pages. That is no longer necessary.
  • Lower cost. Many app providers require the use of premium plans to run contests. For example, North Social charges as much as $5.99 per day to use its suite of 18 apps. Tabsite, which offers both free and paid plans, can cost up to $30 per month to use its services. Other providers have similar pricing plans. Smaller businesses with little or no marketing budget now have that constraint lifted.
  • Increased engagement. Due to the simplicity and ease of use of Timeline promotions, it’s possible that Page owners will see increased activity around them. In addition, such posts could receive favorable treatment from Facebook due to the recent changes to its algorithm, which provides greater visibility to posts that receive higher levels of engagement.
  • Relieve user concerns. This change should relieve privacy concerns of Facebook users who may be reluctant to share personal information with third-party companies.

Limitations on Timeline Promotions

This change has limitations, which include the following.

  • Data collection. The use of Timeline promotions hampers data collection. For example, merchants will be unable to capture email addresses or other personal information.
  • Page Likes. Merchants do not have the ability to use “fangating” techniques to gather Page Likes before someone can enter a promotion.
  • Tracking entries. It will be harder for retailers to track entries, especially with promotions that accrue a large number of Likes or comments.
  • Facebook rules. Page owners must adhere to Facebook rules regarding the “lawful operation” of promotions, which are outlined in the page guidelines. These include offering terms and eligibility requirements and compliance with applicable rules and regulations governing promotion and prizes offered. In addition, promotions must include (a) a complete release of Facebook by each entrant or participant, and (b) acknowledgement that the promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. Pages cannot ask fans to “share” promotional posts, which is something they could do using apps. Also, Facebook forbids the use of personal Timelines to administer promotions.
  • Push to advertise. It’s conceivable that merchants will consider using ads such as Sponsored Stories and Promoted Posts to increase visibility for promotions. It’s also likely that, in an effort to increase revenue, Facebook will encourage the use of advertising around such promotions.

Effect on Third-party App Providers

The change may negatively impact third-party app providers, many of which are scurrying to adapt to the new policy.

For example, Tabsite announced it will soon launch a new Timeline contest app that, according to co-founder Mike Gingerich, is designed to manage entries quickly and easily, select random winners, and deploy these posts with the Facebook disclaimer requirements.

Heyo is following suit with a Timeline contest creator. CEO Nathan Latka said the app will make it even easier to administer Timeline promotions. “Page owners will be able to launch a promotion with one click in under 30 seconds and pick a winner more easily,” stated Latka. Heyo’s app also includes the appropriate disclaimers needed to abide by Facebook regulations.

Similarly, Shortstack has developed a new feature that allows businesses to import comments and Likes into a database, making it easier to organize contest data, which will make it easier to pick winners.

Despite the potential negative impact, app providers remain upbeat. Heyo’s Latka said, “Our mission is to make it easier for small businesses to market online, and this change is great for them.” Tabsite’s Gingerich sees this as a “good opportunity for free, basic promotions,” but adds that it could also increase spam. Shortstack CEO Jim Belosic remarked, “I think this is great for small businesses because they can now quickly get engagement from their fans, no hoops to jump through.”

Timeline Promotion Recommendations

Merchants can use Timeline promotions in a variety of ways: gather feedback from consumers, draw attention to a new product launch, promote products in the catalog, and incentivize engagement.

Here is a list of recommended practices.

  • Don’t overuse promotions. Due to the ease of use, merchants may be tempted to run numerous promotions. Such actions could backfire and actually deter fans from participating. Even worse, they could be viewed as spam.
  • Include photos with promotions. The use of photos and other images may increase engagement rates by as much as 53 percent.
  • Use both Timeline and app promotions. For simple, quick promotions use the Timeline version. For more sophisticated promotions such as when there is a need to gather email addresses or accrue Page likes, use apps.
  • Incorporate hashtags. Facebook now supports the use of hashtags, which may help make posts be more easily found and increase their visibility.
  • Consider advertising. Even though it costs money, Facebook ads such as Promoted Posts can increase visibility and extend the life of a promotion, which could result in more engagement.


Timeline promotions can benefit smaller merchants in a number of ways. They make running promotions easier, simpler, and quicker, while reducing costs. However, the limitations that come with them make the use of app-based promotions still attractive.

Paul Chaney
Paul Chaney
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