I think it’s fair to say that Facebook has witnessed exponential growth since launching all those years ago back in 2004. The current user base stands at 1.15 billion from all areas of the globe and of all age ranges from 13 upwards. The truth is the world is now heavily under the influence of the services that it provides but recently the tide has started to change with recent figures showing for the first time Facebook’s numbers have started to recede. Facebook Competition Guidelines

In April 2013 social bakers reported that users in the US had dropped by six million for the first time ever. Then in June it was also reported that across the world in Japan user numbers had also dropped by almost a fifth. So is this a blip or are we seeing the next slow and painful death of our favourite social platform? Could Facebook about to become the next Google Buzz or Friends Reunited? Only very recently Mr Zuckerberg himself stated that if Facebook had been launched today it would only be a mobile application, and to be honest he is right. Just look at the popularity of apps like Foursquare, What’s App and Snap Chat. It is these types of applications that Facebook will be looking to acquire to ensure it stays relevant and interesting to the everyday user. The one thing every social network owner dreads is becoming boring, old hat and irrelevant. So I found it particularly interesting at the end of last month when Facebook announced it was changing its promotional guidelines which have been in place for a number of years now. Its promotional guidelines told you what you could and couldn’t do when holding a competition on a company page. So is the latest update to these its first move to pull people back and open its platform to a wider marketing base? Way back in July 2010 I discussed the problem of having all Facebook competitions stuck within apps and how this would be hurting the smaller businesses. I was worried that Facebook was pandering to the bigger brands and the smaller companies had less chance of being able to engage with their audiences without spending large amounts of money on Facebook advertising. Well the truth three years later is 70% of Facebook pages now need to use some kind of advertising just to get visibility within Edgerank. New Competition Guidelines So Facebook has confirmed it is now loosening its grip on the previously rigorous rules and regulations it created for competitions. So in the eyes of many SME’s across the world this development could prove very beneficial as it means they need to spend less to generate buzz on the platform. Competitions can now be run in a more affordable and accessible manor. The total possible engagement that a post can get in its first five hours of being published can be as much as 75%. So many will argue that, especially for larger brand, Facebook Apps provided community managers, like myself and my team, better control over the applicants and they worked as a good source of data collection. In fact, there are more than 10 million Facebook apps operating as I write this article. The new competition mechanics mean all you have to do to enter a competition today is simply ‘like’ or ‘comment’ on a post or update. You may have probably been doing this for the last few years anyway but if you did the chances are they were actually breaching Facebook’s guidelines. Personally, I believe it will become far more difficult to monitor entrants, and with the number of participants potentially rising, it could also become near on impossible to get in contact with some or all of the winners. Add that to the fact that applications helped with the ability to be more creative with competition ideas and provided more opportunity for branding. I think it’s fair to say that Apps do work better for some campaigns and as such Facebook still supports the use of them, so for those (like me) whose preference is to use them, you still can. Facebook Application Companies The applications companies such as Offerpop  and Shortstack might be a little worried now, as the days of 10 million Facebook apps may well be over. However, with their extra flexibility and other benefits there should still be business out there for them. If I was them I would focus on improving the analytical and data capture side of applications as this will now be their USP (Unique Selling Point). A growing concern to all of us whether businesses or consumers should now be the plague of tacky competitions taking over our newsfeeds. Let’s be honest none of us like (pardon the pun) the advertisements on the right hand side of the newsfeeds. So our job as the guardians to these company spaces should be to get the content balance right and not just go for quick likes and shares for the sake of it as there will be no longevity in that strategy anyway. People want to see interesting content not pointless competitions to win an IPad. The truth is if people do start to find their newsfeeds being clogged up this will lead to people becoming irritated and unfollowing the pages and so it will become counterproductive. So the big question is why did Facebook decide to take this action? Many brands used to ignore the necessity for a competition application and the guidelines became fairly difficult to enforce. So was this most recent move just the next logical step forward? Potentially, but when Facebook was questioned two main reasons for the decision were revealed these were:

  1. To make it easier for businesses of all sizes to create and administer promotions on Facebook.
  2. To align their policies to better meet the needs of marketers and customers.

Whether this has been a sensible decision or not, it will hugely impact the future of social media marketing for all of us. You might think more competitions will be great but for me I think quality is better than quantity but I think this has levelled the playing field for the very small local companies to promote their local pizza place for example and for that we should all be happy. Do you think these latest updates to the guidelines have the potential to ruin your Facebook experience?

About Chris Norton

Chris Norton is the founder of Prohibition and an award winning communications consultant with more than twenty years’ experience. He was a lecturer at Leeds Beckett University and has had a varied PR career having worked both in-house and in a number of large consultancies. He is an Integrated PR and social media blogger and writes on a wide variety of blogs across a huge amount of topics from digital marketing, social media marketing right through to technology and crisis management.