Does Facebook sell out their own Terms of Service?

I spotted an interesting post last week on AllFacebook.com about a marketing campaign that JVC was running on their Facebook page.   Its headline promised to explain how JVC added “35,000 fans in 30 days” which is an eye-popping number for anyone who’s ever tried to drive traffic to a Facebook page.  Only the largest companies have more than 35,000 fans total, let alone added in 30 days, so of course I had to read on.

JVC Like It to Win ItJVC is holding a contest in which they give away one product each day to one of their fans on Facebook.  The contest requires people to do three things to enter:

  • “Like” the JVC USA fan page (fairly standard)
  • Submit their email address
  • “Like” a post on JVC’s wall that is dedicated to a JVC product for a chance to win that product (JVC posts a new product on the Wall every day)

As many astute readers of AllFacebook noticed, the last condition of entry is against Facebook’s Terms of Service.

4.2 In the rules of the promotion, or otherwise, you will not condition entry to the promotion upon taking any action on Facebook, for example, updating a status, posting on a profile or Page, or uploading a photo.  You may, however, condition entry to the promotion upon becoming a fan of a Page.

Seems pretty cut-and-dried, right?  Here’s where it gets interesting.  RMI, the marketing company that designed the promotion for JVC says Facebook explicitly gave them permission to run this promotion because they paid Facebook.  The article’s author, Dennis Yu, tries to clear up the confusion but ends up pouring fuel on the fire:

Were any advertiser to just start running a campaign as we did, that would clearly be against the Facebook TOS, as clearly stated in their contest rules. You have to have explicit permission from their team in advance and spend at least $10k.

We had approval at every step of the way from our Facebook rep– Blair Thomson-Levin– and we spent $25k.

The crew at AllFacebook.com later added a note to the article making clear that the promotion actually is against Facebook’s ToS, but as of today JVC is still running the promotion with no sign of slowing, so this would imply that Facebook does indeed condone the promotion.

Maybe I’m being too nitpicky?  Maybe Facebook should allow this promotion?  The problem with this sort of promotion is that it artificially inflates the “quality score” for JVCs posts, making them far more likely to show up in people’s friends’ feeds.  It breaks the whole “I liked this, so you might like it, too” model that Facebook has executed so well, and turns it into “I liked this because I was bribed, and a thousand other people were bribed, too, so here’s some spam on your wall.”  Not cool, guys.

So it appears that companies who can afford to fork out the cash to Facebook are allowed to buy their way past the Facebook Terms of Service.  This makes Facebook a much more effective marketing venue for wealthy companies than for startups, and could ultimately make it hard for them to compete at all.  Slimy?  Not a big deal?  Capitalism at its best?  Let me know what you think in the comments.

Note: I contacted Facebook’s Ad Support group asking them what it would take for me to run a campaign like this…no response yet.

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