In the world of social media marketing there are some great examples of really innovative campaigns – and plenty of lazy copy-cats too. But in our clamour to measure, incentivise and prove that all-important ROI metric, are marketers putting their clients brands at risk by breaking Facebook (or other sites) terms and conditions?

Before I go any further, I should point out that this post ISN’T going to contain any naming-and-shaming – as much as I’ve occasionally been criticised on my blogs in the past for not providing examples, I have no desire to be seen as an industry ‘grass’ or whistle-blower. So if that’s what you’re expecting, you may be disappointed.

Despite the many different and varied metrics you could choose to use to ‘prove’ the success of a social networking campaign, many people still choose to take a metric such as ‘Likes’ or fan numbers as their metric of choice.

I have no gripe with this. As somebody who has worked in and alongside the search industry for many years, the concept of ‘obvious but meaningless’ metrics is one I’m very familiar with. How many of us haven’t heard a brand bemoaning a lack or drop of a certain keyword ranking, despite no focus on conversions, traffic or click-throughs? If a metric is easy for your client to find by themselves, you have to expect that you’ll be measured against it.

This dependence on improving ‘Likes’ had lead to a lot of brands or their agencies clamouring to gain quick results, by any means necessary. One of the most popular ways at the moment is incentivising to ‘Like’ a page, often by offering prizes, rewards or exclusive offers based on doing so. But did you know that by doing this, you’re breaking Facebook’s own terms and conditions?

I’ve seen some VERY high-profile brands doing this lately. As I mentioned above, I’m not going to embarrass anybody with a name-and-shame, but do any variation on the following Google searches and you can find examples of your own:

Like us on facebook for your chance to

Like our Facebook page and

There have also been a few very well-covered examples of this recently, including one well-known travel firm who made a sizable donation to charity when they hit a certain number of fans.

So what’s the harm in this practise then? Surely it’s just giving something back to the fans for helping to support you? You’d think so, but no…

Part of Facebook's promotional guidelines

Extracted from the Facebook Promotional Guidelines page.

As you can see, Facebook specifically forbids brands from asking users to ‘Like’ a page in return for something – and they’ll happily remove content or possibly even remove the pages of brands who contravene these rules (if they spot them). Are you prepared to have your hard-earned community removed for the sake of a few quick fans?

Not to mention the can-of-worms that is the argument over whether an incentivised ‘Like’ is even of any value in the first place. Whilst there’s no argument that having a fan ‘Like’ you can give you better exposure to both them and their social connections, how likely are fans who have only Liked you to enter a competition really going to be to add value to your community?

Whatever you opinion of these tactics and their validity, you need to make sure you’re aware of the risks you’re taking if you don’t follow the rules of the communities you’re interacting with. If somebody had told you that this is a good tactic, why not point them in the direction of Facebook’s T&Cs and ask what their back-up plan is for when that content gets removed?