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Sweepstakes and Contest Laws and Guidelines Overview from BlogPaws 2011

By Guest Blogger, Donna DeClemente, Donna's Promo Talk

BlogPaws2011 Both a hurricane and an earthquake where the main topics of conversation this past weekend at the BlogPaws 2011 Conference which was held in Tysons Corner just outside of D.C. There was approximately 400 people in attendance consisting of pet bloggers, sponsors, news media, as well as about 70 dogs, a few cats, three ferrets, and one guinea pig.

BlogpawsDonna This was the second year, and the third conference, that BlogPaws has hosted and they all did a fabulous job packed with many great sessions and some really entertaining keynotes. Unfortunately a few people did end up leaving a little earlier than planned to get home before the storm hit, including one of the founders, Caroline Golin, who lives in Long Island. Those of us that hung in there had a great time. Here's a photo of me with one of the puppies up for adoption from Lucky Dog Animal Rescue. Almost brought him home!

I spoke at one of the last sessions and was pleasantly surprised that we still had a good number of people in the room. It was a panel titled Copyright Basics, FTC Updates & Contests Rules & Regulations. Emily Campbell from Dunlap Codding, P.C. started us off with advice on how to best protect your work on your blog. Mary Engle, who I met at last year's BlogPaws, followed with tips on how to stay out of trouble with the FTC. Then I wrapped up the session reviewing sweepstakes and contests rules and guidelines. Here's a summary on my presentation:

Social_Sweeps_Logo_Web People love the chance to win! Entering sweepstakes and contests is one of the most popular online activities. 50% of online users enter sweepstakes at least 1x/month, 25% weekly. By integrating social media with an interactive promotion that offers a chance to win, what I refer to as Social Sweeps Marketing, it enables people easy access to participate and encourages them to spread the word for you. With just a few clicks participants can post on their Facebook wall that they just entered a sweepstakes or contest and they can then personally share it with some of their friends.

The word contests and sweepstakes are both used when referring to any type of chance-to-win promotion. However, there are big differences between the two. Sweepstakes are games of chance and conducted by a random draw with odds based on the number of people that actually enter. Contests on the other hand are based on a degree of individual skill or uniqueness and all submissions should be judged or evaluated. Here are the various types of contests:

  • Intellectual – photo, video, essay, recipe, design
  • Personal - most beautiful smile, cutest pet, closest resemblance to a celebrity
  • Physica - kicking a 50 yard field goal, tossing bean bags, hole-in-one, etc.

BlogPaws2011Contest Contests are the heart of today's social promotions. Many you see now invite users to submit content, such as a photo, video, essay, design, or some ask for two of these. These types of contests help to creates buzz and awareness for the brand, or blog, and engage followers. Participants are encouraged to share their submissions with their friends, especially if there is a voting phase. Applications that include easy options for wall posts, Likes and tweets help to increase the sharing.

Here is a promotions checklist to start with when considering to run a sweepstakes or contest:

• Is the promotion a game of chance or a game of skill?
• Is there consideration? (purchase required or are you asking the person to do something above the norm?)
• Is so, is there a free alternative method of entry?
• Are there official rules, and do they meet state law requirements?
• How will the promotion be advertised?
• Are all material terms disclosed in the advertising?

 All sweepstakes and contest promotions should have official rules which are your contract with the public. They need to be readily available to all eligible participants and clearly set forth the terms and details of the promotion such as the following:

1. No purchase necessary (for games of chance) – clearly disclosed.
2. Void where prohibited, void in (list states that must be or wish to void).
3. Sponsor’s official name and address.
4. Start and end dates
5. Eligibility: national vs. local, age, who's not eligible, Sponsor’s employees, etc.
6. How to enter: web/blog url, Facebook, Twitter
7. Prize(s) description: ARV of each prize & total
8. Drawing date: Winner announcements
9. How to obtain winner’s list
10. If utilizing Facebook as a way to enter the rules should include the following statement: “This promotion is in no way sponsored endorsed, administered by, or associated with, Facebook.”

Lastly, there are some state legal regulations that you must be aware of. With sweepstakes if your total prize pool is in excess of $5,000 in total value, then it needs to be registered and bonded in the states of Florida and New York. If you don't do this then you need to exclude anyone from these two states to be eligible to participate in the sweepstakes. If you have retail locations in the state of Rhode Island, then you need to register and bond the sweepstakes if the prize value is $500 or more. If you want to include Canada then you need to be aware that the providence of Quebec is very strict and requires bonding and registration for sweepstakes along with all communications to be produced in both English and French-Canadian. This is why you will see many U.S. based promotions excluding Quebec from eligibility.

Facebookpromoguidelines And then there's Facebook which has it's own set of Promotional Guidelines which have been updated this past year. All sweepstakes or contest promotions that run on a brand's or company's Facebook page must run within a 3rd party application. This means that you may NOT use Facebook features or functionality as a way of entering or registering for a promotion. You must include a registration form and you cannot have users simply “Like” page to enter. Also you cannot use the "Like" button as a method of voting in a promotion. Lastly you cannot use the Facebook wall to notify winners. It is always good policy to contact winners private and get their permission first before you announce them.

So, I hope all got home safely from the conference, (people and pets). It was great to see some friends that I've met through this pet community, along with my fellow Lip-sticking bloggers Robbi Hess, Lena West and of course the one an only Yvonne DiVita and her partner, Tom Collins, both the BlogPaws founders.

By the way, BlogPaws 2011 ended up donating over $12,500 to five rescue and shelter groups. Next year we'll be in Salt Lake City in June, 2012. Hope to see some of you there. In the meantime, if you'd like more information on how to run a Social Sweeps promotion on your blog, website or Facebook page please feel free to reach out and contact me.

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