How not to run a facebook promotion

Over the past month, Nissan Australia has been running a public online promotion – managed by their own internal staff titled Micraspotting (twitter hash tag #micraspotting), to win a car and some vouchers. The prizes were won by spotting random photos on random partner facebook company pages in the quickest time per week and over the whole 36 days of the competition.

As Search Engine Optimisation experts and social media / online promotion fans in general, we watched much of the exciting competition. During the competition there were several odd occurrences, and possibly unethical and illegal behaviour. More facts and cries of scam seem to be coming to light hourly.

In the end, Zac Martin (“Digital Strategist” at George Patterson Y&R), a male described as “BFF” – best friends forever (who says that?) of the internal employee and competition manager Simon Oboler ended up winning the major prize. Another friend, who some claim was a girlfriend of Simon, also won a high value weekly prize.

Since the competition was a game of skill, knowledge, intelligence and time, the odds of both winners (out of an estimated 3 to 4 thousand entrants) being very close friends to the employee who was running the promotion is more than a little curious. This has obviously led to a lot of suspicions and even anger from some other vocal facebook fans and other media outlets.
Such a result is not impossible, since employees would naturally encourage their friends to enter to spread the word (and would be some of the initial and earliest entrants). That is how social media works, and was within the terms and conditions as far as we know.
We are not aware of any proof of any direct passing of clue answers on to entrants/illegal behaviour occurring, and would be impossible to prove. They could have genuinely won, and being early adopters into the competition would have given them a substantial but fair advantage.

However, due to the skill required to win the prize we find it absolutely astonishing that 2 friends won, and the social media channels are starting an uproar about this and throwing around several accusations. Some people are raising valid concerns, but some are flying off the deep end, in what has been an otherwise fairly well crafted social media campaign.

We are not aware of any proof that would indicate cheating.
At this point we see no reason why they do not deserve their prize (and they personally do not appear to have broken any conditions), but certainly there are several other entrants that may have been shafted out of a prize, due to altering the terms and conditions and adjusting the results, as has been admitted by Nissan. These people, if not all entrants too should also be fairly rewarded.

The main issues we have are that are fact are that Nissan Australia has admitted to manually adjusting times for 1 or more of the bonus clues, which could have changed the overall times for some by hundreds of hours or more. By adjusting these times, giving some an advantage, and giving disadvantage to others, it is a fact that the overall spot times are subjectively changed, and would have definitely changed the rankings of many entrants.

The reason for them manually biasing the data this way was given with the reason that the terms and conditions had changed part way through the competition. Making such adjustments, whilst possibly against government body regulation rules or illegal, would have definitely given a bias to some, after the competition has already started.
Given the fact that a statement was made by Nissan Australia on their facebook feed that such action would be taken (and was) that was contrary to the edited term, and was at best confusing to many, it makes an unethical change to terms and conditions even more questionable.

Such manual adjusting of both the terms and times in the database could have easily turned some one ranking in first place to then losing several positions, and turn someone with a discovery time of hundreds of hours and a low ranking, into a person ranking in first position, and “unfairly” winning a prize.

Even if run with their intention of best ethics and ethical rules, and non intentional rigging (not purposefully rigged to a particular individual’s favour) this would have affected the overall rankings and altered the entire leaderboard. If it changed weekly or overall first place winners or not, we can not say without analysing the secret data.

Even Qantas did better with their embarrassing #qantasluxury PR campaign (which has been a huge laughing matter on Twitter, and widely cited as yet another public relations blunder), and at least offered some gifts to their customers.

So what can we learn from this?
What you should not do in online competitions and promotions is change the terms and conditions half way through.
You should definitely not manually adjust entrants and rankings, this will inevitably bias some entrants and disadvantage some, taking away the objectiveness and fairness.
Even if no intentional rigging has occurred, such mismanagement and the fact that
adjusting the times inevitably gave an unfair advantage to some brings your whole brand into question, and defeats the whole purpose of you running the promotion in the first place. Rigging or not, the fumbling, moving the goal posts and complaints now leaves thousands of people with a bitter taste in their mouth.

If you do stuff up like they have, you should do your best to admit your mistakes and offer a generous prize/gift to those concerned, not something cheap like a showbag/pyjamas as some have.
It is also a better idea to outsource such promotions to a dedicated firm of social media management, not run by internal staff (who may have little experience), to leave it in the hands of experts. This way you mitigate much of the brand damage and legal responsibility if something does go wrong, and you’re more likely to get a smoother running, a positive campaign and a better result in the end.

Business owners looking to gain many more customers and better rankings and results from Google and Facebook should get in touch with us today.