How to Make Sure Your Contest Collaboration is FTC Compliant

Social media contests are as close to a sure-fire, brand-building, audience-building campaign as there is in marketing. That said, there are best practices you need to be aware of, as well as common pitfalls you need to avoid. (Lest you get a nasty-gram from the FTC…but that’s a bit of foreshadowing.) Read on to find out how your next (or very first) social media contest (or giveaway, if you choose) can be a flawless hit.

Quick warning: you may have a voice in your head that wants to skip the minutiae and “jump right in” to the contest. We all have that voice. It hates broccoli and it doesn’t want to floss. Don’t listen to that voice. You need to make the FTC and your social media platform very happy first; then, you can make your followers happy (the dessert after the broccoli).

Tip 1: Collaborate with a Fellow Influencer

You want to be the hero, we get it. You’ve put in the hours and sacrificed so much to build your influencer brand. Know this, though: when you collaborate with another influencer you can get 2x the audience. (Quite often, much more than 2x!)

Influencers collaborating on an FTC compliant giveaway

A partnership for a social media contest lets you pool your resources together for a better prize. A better prize means more eyeballs. More eyeballs mean more entries. And more entries – well, you can see where we’re going with this.

By collaborating with another influencer on your contest, you’ll increase your social media contest’s engagement; you’ll get to meet a brand-new audience (who may not even know you before this contest and might say, “Hey, this influencer is alright. I may just follow them.”), and you’ll give your audience what they want: exciting content that makes their day, every day.

Where can you collaborate on a social media contest right this minute? Perlu. There are hundreds of influencers (and brands) collaborating right now on projects, and social media contests are growing more popular every day. Look for an existing collab invitation, or start your very own today.

Tip 2: Follow FTC Guidelines

As in life, following the Golden Rule will — more often than not — help you avoid misunderstandings. Be honest. Do what you say you’re going to do. Follow up. Be nice. Play by the rules. And so forth.

We try to see the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in this same light. They aren’t necessarily the big, bad wolf looking to rain on your parade.

They are the protector of the consumer (aka your audience). And as a protector, they can get, well, very protect-y, but for good reason. They basically want to make sure you reflect “truth in advertising.”  They want you to be honest, forthcoming and play by the rules.

Their words: “endorsements must be honest and not misleading.” In the influencer’s world, this means that if you’re hawking a product, let your audience know, either in the opening of a video, in your post and/or with specific hashtags. (Note: “#sp” doesn’t cut it with the FTC.)

When it comes to social media contests, the FTC has an actual Q&A example in their FTC Endorsement Guide.

Here’s the snippet:

Influencer Question: My company runs contests and sweepstakes in social media. To enter, participants have to send a Tweet or make a pin with the hashtag, #XYZ_Rocks. (“XYZ” is the name of my product.) Isn’t that enough to notify readers that the posts were incentivized?

FTC Answer: No, it is likely that many readers would not understand such a hashtag to mean that those posts were made as part of a contest or that the people doing the posting had received something of value (in this case, a chance to win the contest prize). Making the word “contest” or “sweepstakes” part of the hashtag should be enough. However, the word “sweeps” probably isn’t, because it is likely that many people would not understand what that means.

The Guide is a few pages long, but takes only a few minutes to read — particularly the “What People Are Asking” guide.

OK, who are we kidding. In case you’re too busy to read the Guide, here’s a 5-step quick guide.

How to Keep the FTC Happy During Your Next Social Media Contest:

  • If you’re partnering with a brand, let the consumer know.
  • Be sure you spell out (or say specifically in a video) that you’re referencing a “contest” or “sweepstakes.”
  • Don’t say “sweeps” or use “#sp.” Being hip does not matter to the FTC. Being honest does.
  • Write the contest or sweepstakes rules and let your audience know where to find it.
  • Be transparent and honest.

Learn How Perlu Can Lead to Honest Collabs

Schedule a Demo of Perlu Today!

Tip 3: Follow Social Media Platform Guidelines

Now that you’ve made the right connection and you’re ready to please the FTC, let’s narrow down your options for mishaps to your specific social media contest platform or platforms.

binders of FTC policies and procedures

To start, there are guidelines that apply to all platforms, and many follow the leadership of the FTC. For example, terminology is everything. We’ve used “contest” in our example. Just be aware that a contest chooses a winner based on merit (best picture, best comment, etc).

A “sweepstakes” is the most common giveaway, which is where the winner is chosen by chance.

Whatever giveaway method you choose, you need to identify the prize and how the winner is chosen. Why start with the prize? Here’s why: if your prize value is over a certain monetary threshold (e.g., $5,000 in Florida and New York; $500 in Rhode Island), then you may trigger specific registration and bonding requirements in those states.

This is one reason that many sweepstakes and contests exclude those three states. Just be aware of that $5,000 value. (To avoid this, maybe you hold five sweepstakes for $1,000.)

The majority of common pitfalls aren’t quite so scary. They’re mainly administrative issues you need to monitor and define clearly (even if you have an admin person doing the heavy lifting).For some, you may want to seek the advice of a lawyer.

  • Create a very well defined Terms and Conditions landing page.
  • Include the dates your campaign will run.
  • Include participation restrictions (such as states and ages). We recommend excluding anyone under 18, unless your audience is completely alienated.
  • Make your guidelines clear.
  • List how and when your winners will be chosen.
  • Explain how your prize(s) will be delivered.
  • Apply for any particular licenses, depending on state requirements.

Each platform, of course, has their own rules and regulations, of which you’ll need to familiarize yourself with. We’ve created a quick cheat sheet below to help you out. Please be aware: these are paraphrased, oversimplified tips. Follow the proper links for full disclosed guidelines.

Twitter Contest Guidelines

person holding a phone looking at twitter

  • Let your audience know that entering under multiple accounts is a no-no. More specifically, you’re asked to make them ineligible.
  • Monitor your entries properly by asking your participants to mention you in their update.
  • Keep your contest/sweepstakes hashtags relevant.
  • Follow the law (see FTC notes above).

Facebook Contest Guidelines

  • Don’t be deceptive (duh).
  • Use tags correctly.
  • Include a complete release of Facebook by every entrant (thanks Facebook lawyers!)
  • Let your audience know that your social media contest is “in no way sponsored, endorsed, administered or associated with, Facebook” (That last comma bothers us, just sayin’.)
  • Do not use Personal Timelines or friend connected to administer your contest (keep it on Pages, Groups, events or within apps)

Instagram Contest Guidelines

  • Note: These are very similar to Facebook…same lawyers. Use tags correctly.
  • Include a complete release of Instagram by every entrant (thanks Facebook lawyers!)
  • Let your audience know that your social media contest is “in no way sponsored, endorsed, administered or associated with, Instagram.”

YouTube Contest Guidelines

Note: YouTube either has more highly skilled, or highly skilled at being billable, lawyers than the previous platforms.

Youtuber hosting a FTC compliant giveaway

  • You are solely responsible for your contest. (Our note: even if you partner with another influencer, pretend that your contest is yours alone…at least legally…which requires you to read every detail.)
  • You cannot ask the user to give up their entry rights to you.
  • The contest must be free.
  • You cannot manipulate metrics.
  • You cannot associate YouTube with your contest (without written consent, of course).
  • A strict contest rules guide must be followed, found in the link above.

Tip 4: Interact with Your Audience

We’ve all seen it. An influencer, with grandiose ideas gets their audience in a fervor, kicks off a contest, and…nothing. Entries come and go and that influencer is if off on the next project.

Few responses. Little interaction. Only their planned, “canned” posts to remind their audience to enter.

Don’t be that influencer! Interact with your audience! Yes, you’ll want to plan for timely posts to remind your audience. However, true interaction is required to show that you really are doing this for the benefit of everyone. You’re building your brand, but you’re also creating fun, cool content for your followers (and new followers).

Rules can be a drag, but social media contests definitely aren’t! Seeing how amped your audience gets when you host a contest is enough to want to do it again and again. And the all engagement and growth social media contests bring? Totally worth following a few rules. Head over to Perlu to find an influencer to collaborate with!

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