Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

A LOT of businesses make use of Facebook pages as a promotional tool, usually without the use of a third-party application. But very few of them have spent time understanding or even reading the terms and conditions — and the consequences could be dire.

For instance, Facebook does not allow competitions in which companies say "‘Like’ our page in order to enter", or require users to upload photographs or comment to enter.

Essentially, you are not allowed to use any part of Facebook’s functionality as an entry point to a competition. And every page has a drop-down menu that allows Facebook users to flag pages.

If Facebook notices your company is being reported, it could result in your pages being shut down.

The only way you can create the functionality you need is by using a third party-application — a company that will create a separate Facebook app and have it on their page.

These terms aren’t hidden, but most of us tend to click "yes" automatically when asked whether we’ve read the terms and conditions. If you are running a competition through the site using any of the tactics mentioned above, chances are that your Facebook competition is most probably in violation of these conditions.

It is risky, as a company in New Zealand with 6,500 fans found out, when its Facebook pages suddenly became inactive. The company was informed it was in violation of the rules and forced to start the whole process of growing a fan base from scratch. And as a discerning marketer will tell you, if your page is inactive or no longer functional, the chances are your fans will move on to the next best thing.

The lesson is: stick to the rules. If you ask an entrant to upload a photo or video as part of a competition entry, do so through a third-party application, or your own Facebook application.

If you ask them to "like" a page, ask for their contact details so you have a way of contacting them without using Facebook. Read the terms and conditions. Don’t run competitions that require the use of Facebook facilities only and if you have done so in the past, remove them.

Businesses are limited in what they can and can’t do using Facebook. As a page owner, you cannot ignore the terms and conditions or attempt to bypass them. Third-party applications will make the process much easier, and ensure compliance. To be on the safe side, remember you can require an entrant to "like" your page, check in somewhere or connect to your platform to enter a competition — if you include a further step where they submit contact details. If you choose not to use a third-party application for video or photo uploads, you will need to create your own application and link it to your Facebook page.

Your application must be registered with Facebook and should include a disclosure adjacent to any promotion entry field such as: "This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administrated by, or associated with, Facebook."

Do not fall prey to prowling form competitors who might report you. Remember that Facebook does not need permission to shut down your page, and it can deny you reinstatement.

Middleton is a director of Teedu