7 Legal Mistakes in Instagram Contests and Giveaways

7 Common Mistakes That Make Your Instagram Contest and Giveaway Illegal or Non-Compliant

Throwing contests and giveaways or sweepstakes is a popular marketing technique. Your audience becomes more engaged and aware of your brand. However, there are many issues that need to be taken into account when throwing a social media contest. We know how challenging and overwhelming the legislative obligations can feel, but don’t worry, we are here to make things more clear for you.

Note: this post is not written to follow any specific jurisdiction’s rules, but Instagram Promotion Guidelines and general legislative rules typical to contests and giveaways internationally. You should always make sure you are following the rules relevant in your jurisdiction and in the jurisdictions where your contest/giveaway is targeted to. Instagram’s Promotion Guidelines are subject to change every now and then, so always check the current version before launching a promotion. This article is based on the Guidelines as they were on March 14, 2020.

You don’t have the official rules

How often I see the official rules of a contest or giveaway on Instagram? Rarely. Usually, only the biggest and most-compliant brands use them regularly, but even they don’t always follow the rules, especially when they are co-operating with influencers. However, whenever I see a small brand or company having promotions with official rules, I am thrilled to find more about them. If they are professional and compliant in small things, I am definitely interested in doing business with them. You should never underestimate the impact of what these kinds of things can have on your prospects or clients.

Obviously the above is not the most important reason to have the rules. The most important reason in our case is simply that Instagram obligates you to have one. Being non-compliant with Instagram’s Guidelines, you might end up getting your promotion removed. Imagine how that would affect your brand!

The real reason why you should have the rules is that it is basically a contract between you and the participant. It defines the relationship between you and grants you both rights and obligations that you would not have otherwise. It protects you from getting sued or ending up in litigation. The most recommendable way is to have a link to your webpage where you have the official rules. Remember, do not change the rules after launching the promotion.

You don’t disclose eligibility requirements and clear terms

You should at least offer eligible age and place of residency in the promotion post if those are included in the criteria to enter. You can simply state something like “Giveaway open to Canadian citizens age 18 and up.”

Remember that often the minors are protected by stricter regulation and if you through your promotion in many geographical areas (foreign jurisdictions) you are more likely to be non-compliant with local regulations.

If there are any additional terms, for example, that the entrant’s profile must be public, not private or the participants need to pay for postage, you must state this in the original promotion post.

You don’t disclose commercial co-operations

If the prize is sponsored by a third-party and you disclose that information, in most cases and jurisdictions you are considered to be in commercial co-operation with that party. That means that relevant regulation and guidelines related to (influencer) marketing and consumer protection become relevant (see for example the CAP guidance in the UK). Most importantly, you need to disclose clearly the commercial relationship.

In the EU, UK, and US, the safest option is to start your promotion posts with #ad, #advertisement or “In commercial collaboration with [Party X]”. Remember that in most jurisdictions, it is not enough to only use the paid partnership tool.

You ignore rules and regulations governing such promotions

Instagram obligates you to follow with any rules and regulations that govern contests, giveaways, and sweepstakes in your jurisdiction. These tend to vary in detail, so make sure you know what is relevant for you.

For example, if you need to register it or get approval from some authority, you need to do that also to be in compliance with the Instagram Guidelines.

You encourage users to inaccurately tag content

One of the often ignored and violated Instagram rules is that you cannot make it an entry requirement to get users to tag their friends in a picture which is not an image of them. Guess how many promotions are shut down because of not following this rule?

Instead, in light of the current guidelines, we suggest using branded hashtags, following requirements, asking for creative captions or asking users to share the promotion post in their Stories.

You don’t release Instagram by each entrant or participant

It’s a good business practice to follow Instagram’s rule that you need to release Instagram by each entrant or participant, so remember to include that in your posts and rules.

You don’t acknowledge that Instagram is not involved in the promotion

Using Instagram’s own wording related to this guideline is the simplest way to be in absolute compliance, therefore our suggestion goes: “The contest/giveaway is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Instagram.”

There is a reason why Instagram uses word verbs in that part of their Guidelines, and it’s not the same thing to ONLY mention “sponsored” or “endorsed”.

Consequences of not following the Instagram Promotion Guidelines

“You agree that if you use our service to administer your promotion, you do so at your own risk.”

Instagram Promotion Guidelines

As it is clearly stated in Instagram’s Promotion Guidelines, using Instagram for promotions is done at your own risk. Among other things, that means that if you are not in compliance with Instagram’s Guidelines, you could get your account canceled in the worst case (for example, if you constantly run non-compliant contests and giveaways in your account).

Secondly, not following relevant and required rules and regulations will make your brand look ignorant and amateur. This will essentially have a negative impact on brand reputation. This also applies to any influencers that brands use in their marketing, but naturally, the influencer has their own reputation to protect, as well. As influencers are professionals in commercial collaborations, they should be aware of the relevant legislation that concerns those activities. It is essential for an influencer to know the regulations that apply to them in order to protect themselves legally (and does help to know about influencer agreement contractual matters).

However, we truly understand the legalities related to contests, giveaways and social media marketing can be tricky. To help you stay on the right track, we provide a free legal checklist for online contests, sweepstakes and giveaways in our Free Legal Resources Library.

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    Anne Nyström


    LL.M. Anne Nyström is Co-Founder of BeLegally. She practises law at Vedinor Law Offices in Finland, providing advice to clients worldwide. Her focus areas include international and European e-commerce, intellectual property, marketing, and social media. In her free time, she enjoys art and culture in many forms, exercising in nature and writing fictitious adventures about sassy ladies in the charge of their own life. Anne is always happy to connect, so feel free to contact her at anne.nystrom@belegally.com or on social media.


    • Madelyn Mazurek

      April 24, 2020 at 12:31 am

      Thank you for such a comprehensive look inside what makes an instagram giveaway legal! I have always been curious about that… and as a new blogger I haven’t done an instagram giveaway yet but this is an awesome resource to reference back to when the time comes!

      • Jemima Nyström

        May 1, 2020 at 6:43 pm

        Thank you, Madelyn! I am so glad you found this useful. Good luck with your blogging path!

    • ปั้มไลค์

      June 20, 2020 at 10:01 am

      Like!! Really appreciate you sharing this blog post.Really thank you! Keep writing.

    • ปั้มไลค์

      June 20, 2020 at 10:12 am

      Like!! Great article post.Really thank you! Really Cool.

      • Jemima Nyström

        June 20, 2020 at 10:21 am

        Thank you for your feedback, glad you found it useful.

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