New FTC Regulations Regarding Social Media #Sweepstakes

Federal Trade CommissionFTC Issues New Guidance on Endorsements and Related Online Disclosures

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced it updated the FAQs to its Guides Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. This is important because three specific clauses effect the sweepstakes community from both a marketing and entrant’s perspective.

Twitter:  The FTC updated the FAQs to state that starting a tweet with “Ad” or “#Ad” would “likely be effective” in communicating that a tweet is an advertising message (as opposed to its previous iteration which stated it “might be effective”).  As a fundamental matter, the FTC reiterates its previous guidance that there is no specific wording necessary for Twitter disclosures, explaining that it will assess the sufficiency of a disclosure based on the broad principle that the consumer must receive the necessary information to evaluate the sponsored statement.

This point is important because: many of the bloggers or sites you follow are frequently hired to promote products, services and giveaways. I have seen #ad at the end of posts, but now they should be at the start. Do not dismiss #ad posts before reading it in full as it might be, for example, one of my tweets promoting a giveaway you may wish to win.

Social Media “Likes”:  “Like-Gating” has received a lot of publicity over the past several years, and the FTC acknowledges that people enjoy sharing their fondness of a particular product.  With that in mind, the new FAQ’s add a section on social networking sites, stating consumers are allowed to write about their love of a product without making disclosures – as long as they are not being “rewarded.”  However, the FAQs state that “if you’re doing it as part of a sponsored campaign or you’re being compensated – for example, getting a discount on a future purchase or being entered into a sweepstakes for a significant prize – then a disclosure is appropriate.”  The guidance acknowledges that it is unclear at this time “how much stock social network users put into ‘likes,’” and giving incentives for “likes” in fact “might not be a problem.”  However, the FAQs add that “[a]n advertiser buying fake ‘likes’ is very different from an advertiser offering incentives for “likes” from actual consumers.”  If the likes are from people who are not consumers, they are clearly deceptive.

This point is important because: this clause goes against Facebook’s own promotional guidelines with regards of incentivise consumers to garner likes, not to mention that advertisers could inadvertently buy fake likes from Facebook directly (see video Facebook Fraud for further details).

Social Media Contests:  The new FAQs add guidance reminding businesses engaging in social media contests that they must disclose clearly that the post is being made as part of a sweepstakes or contest.  In other words, simply stating #XYZ_Rocks” is not sufficient without a hashtag disclosure of “contest” or “sweepstakes.”  These words should not be abbreviated, as the FTC notes that “Sweeps” probably isn’t sufficient because many people “would not understand what that means.”

This point is important because: all companies now promoting giveaways via social media channels must add in the hashtag #sweepstakes, #contest or #giveaway, shortening the number of characters available for the sponsor, company or agency for the promotion itself or for you to retweet (not so important for sharing or pinning).

Have you seen any of these changes online yet?

2016-03-25T12:33:31+00:00June 2nd, 2015|Social Media Contests|5 Comments

About the Author:

Carolyn Wilman (aka @ContestQueen) is a Digital Marketing Strategist and Sweepstakes Specialist. Carolyn teaches others how to Find, Organize, Enter and Win giveaways along with working with companies to create, and viral market, winning promotions maximizing ROI and loyal customers.


  1. Mary B June 2, 2015 at 4:25 pm - Reply

    I’m still seeing FB pages require you to “like” their page for a sweepstakes entry.. which I thought was clearly written up as a no-no by FB.. as noticed in lots of blogs now looking for “visit” FB page..

    • carolyn
      carolyn June 2, 2015 at 6:13 pm - Reply

      You are right. Asking you to like their page to enter is a no-no. See my blog post Should You Break the Rules? for more details.

      • Teresa Young June 3, 2015 at 9:58 am - Reply

        The ones I see still asking for likes are smaller FB pages, like local businesses, etc. They probably don’t have someone who stays on top of social media regulations like a corporation does. I always wonder if I should point it out to them…but then they probably wouldn’t have giveaways at all.

  2. Mia S June 3, 2015 at 9:44 pm - Reply

    What I don’t think is fair and which shouldn’t be legal is the referral links. Sweepstakes are meant to be a level playing field, that is why it always states ‘No purchase necessary” Lotteries are where people pay more to get more entries. Referrals are like monetary items because they are likened to advertising dollars. Lotteries need approval from the govt. to make sure they are legitimate.
    Is it fair that a person can pay to have their referral links listed on a bloggers social media accounts? Is it fair that a blogger with over 50,000 followers have their link used? Is it fair that my younger cousin Ashley has 1235 friends and my older Aunt Sally has 52 friends just because Aunt Sally comes from a very small town? Also, I think all sweeps on Social Media should be ran by a third party, a Prize Company not a blogger, just to keep it fair. How many times have we seen winners with very few tweets or being friends with a FB giveaway. I know many bloggers play fair but some don’t. Thanks for letting me vent and hoping that sweepstakes will get back to being won by many not just a few!

    • John D. June 4, 2015 at 3:43 pm - Reply

      I agree Mia S! Referral links only bring spam, scams and other unfair advantages.

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