A recent Facebook competition by Boots was criticised after all entrants were told they had won.

The launch of a UK specific set of guidelines to make sure that marketers understand how to use Facebook for competitions and stay within advertising regulations is expected in the coming months. The IPM is having similar discussions with Twitter.

The aim is to provide brands and their agency partners with more confidence in how to run online competitions in accordance with the Committee of Advertising Practice’s codes and Facebook’s own terms and conditions for competitions running on the social network.

Once completed the guidelines will be hosted on Facebook.

The guidelines and terms and conditions set by Facebook have changed a number of times over the past 18 months. Originally they mirrored those used in the US but were found to be at odds with CAP codes.

It is hoped brands will welcome a clear set of guidelines for Facebook and Twitter competitions so that budgets are not wasted developing campaign activity that is later pulled by Facebook if it attracts complaints and is found to be in breach of rules. While Facebook does not actively police online competitions it will investigate if complaints are lodged.

The guidelines are being developed in response to the rising tide of online promotions running on social media channels, which will inevitably run the risk of an increase in mismanaged promotions.

The challenge brands face running competitions on Facebook was highlighted by a recent promotion run by retailer Boots. Boots paid out more than £90,000 worth of Boots Advantage Points to entrants in recompense and re-ran the competition.

Although there is no suggestion that Boots’ competition broke CAP codes it has been criticised for its handling of a competition that saw it inadvertently inform all entrants to a competition that they had won.

Online competitions are seen as opportunity to grow positive associations with the brand but industry observers say equity is being put at risk if consumers do not feel that competitions are being run fairly.

A recent OnePoll survey carried out on behalf of promotions specialist PromoVeritas found a growing cynicism over the fairness of online competitions and 39 per cent do not believe competition winners are always selected fairly or independently.