Could FaceBook Ban You or Your Business?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for last several years you will have heard how FaceBook is such a great medium for promoting your business, you can set up a fan page or a group, run competitions, connect with like-minded businesses etc etc etc.

I agree. FaceBook is great for business promotion. What scares me though is the number of people who are risking having their business and themselves banned from FaceBook.

Google search ‘Fail’

I went searching on Google for “how to use FaceBook for business”. That was a mistake. If I hated PLR (Private Label Rights) before, I hate it even more now. I had to skim through what felt like thousands of almost identical articles to find a couple of originals that actually sounded like they knew what they were talking about. So of those articles that were more than ‘set up a fan page, invite people to join, talk to them’ (seriously, that’s what all the PLR articles were saying. Sigh…) there were two things that were suggested often enough to be noteworthy:

  1. Set up two accounts on FaceBook, one personal and one for business; and
  2. Run competitions to get fans.

Big problem here folks. Both of these are against FaceBook’s Terms of Service (TOS). Let’s have a look at these two separately.

Two accounts

It makes sense doesn’t it. Separate your business from your personal account. Sounds logical. Unfortunately for a lot of business owners, FaceBook very clearly states that a person can have only one account. If it is discovered that someone has two accounts, even just for the purpose of business, then both accounts will be terminated. There go all your loving fans, people.

The FAQ relating to multiple accounts is here.  It’s also in the TOS but you have to dig through a few pages as it’s buried.  *rolls eyes*

The solution
Have one account, and a business Fan page on the same account. Fans won’t see your personal posts and status updates. You can brand a Fan Page much better than a normal FaceBook account and it keeps your personal and business life separate.

There’s nothing that says you have to accept fans as friends on your personal profile (I don’t), you can if you want to, however you need to be careful of what you post in your status. I personally don’t want my fans reading my vent about the idiot who took my vegie box garden instead of a bag of root cuttings (true story). That’s up to you however.

FaceBook competitions

You ARE allowed to run competitions on FaceBook. However, it must be approved in writing and conducted using an Application. There are also a lot of restrictions on what you can and can’t do in a competition.

I’m sure you’ve all seen the ‘Become our 1,000,000th fan and win…’ type competition. Sorry, not allowed. The TOS very clearly state “You cannot: Administer a promotion that users automatically enter by becoming a fan of your Page.”

The “upload your photo/video here and win” competitions? Again, not allowed. And yet we’ve all seen countless examples of these and many other similar competitions.

Have a look at the full TOS relating to promotions and competitions here.

The solution
Apply to FaceBook to run a competition and run it via an application as per the TOS. At this point I don’t know how to get or find an application to run a competition (sorry, I know that’s not much help). I’m still researching it and when I find an answer – assuming I do find one – I’ll let you know.

If anyone has any suggestions, or has seen an application for running competitions, let us know in the comments. I’m sure everyone would be most grateful for help with this one, I know I will be.

Edit 14 Dec 10: A friend referred me recently to an app/site/program called Wildfire.  According to their website

We provide simple tools to help you engage the 100s of millions of users of social network sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Our web application allows companies both big and small to easily integrate branded interactive campaigns like sweepstakes, contests and give-aways with the viral features of the social web to create engaging campaigns that spread like wildfire.

I haven’t used it myself yet, however if you’re planning on running competitions on Facebook then check it out.  There’s been quite a few businesses recently that have had their accounts deleted for breaching TOS, Facebook is definitely starting to crack down on unauthorised competitions.

I found these TOS by accident

A couple of weeks ago I was searching through the TOS looking for something totally unrelated to business (the minimum age requirement, actually) and stumbled across both these restrictions. Surprised doesn’t cover how I felt.

I’ve done a lot of reading on using social media and FaceBook for business. These two suggestions are rampant throughout everything I’ve seen.

I feel misled, and I’ve lost a lot of respect for some people

Do these people selling “How to use FaceBook for your Business” type courses and ebooks not read the TOS before making their recommendations? So many ‘experts’ are recommending business owners do these two things, and they’ve obviously not read up on the legal requirements and restrictions.

Don’t be caught out

One argument I heard when discussing this was “FaceBook will never catch me, they don’t really care”. This might well be true. They may never catch you. Are you prepared to risk that? Are you prepared to take the chance that they don’t monitor competitions and user accounts?

Or are you better off doing the right thing and playing it safe?

Melinda is the founder of SuperWAHM.com and started the site to share her learnings to help other Work At Home Mums become more independent and able to spend time with their families

Melinda Jameson

Melinda is the founder of SuperWAHM.com and started the site to share her learnings to help other Work At Home Mums become more independent and able to spend time with their families

9 thoughts on “Could FaceBook Ban You or Your Business?

  • February 16, 2010 at 11:09 am
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    Thanks for these tips. I’ve been working with a few people who are new to Facebook and Fan Pages. There’s a lot of confusion about how to set things up and how to keep from revealing too much information.
    .-= Joe´s last post…Exclude your own visits from Google Analytics =-.

  • February 16, 2010 at 11:42 am
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    Great article. I’m always a fan of “doing the right thing” and I find many people out there recommending “doing whatever it takes” because “everyone else is doing it”. In the US, the housing bubble burst happened mostly because of shady lending practices that took place because “everyone else was doing it”.

  • February 16, 2010 at 1:47 pm
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    Great tips Melinda. For the competition apps, you can find them when you edit your page details. I stumbled across it the other day, but can’t remember the link!
    .-= Melissa´s last post…Check your links and update your site =-.

  • February 16, 2010 at 2:14 pm
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    Thanks so much for the great tips, Melinda. It’s lways nice to find out ‘the easy way’ instead of the hard way! Facebook is certainly a valuable tool, and none of us want to risk getting banned…

    Thanks for saving us the agony!
    .-= Amy´s last post…3 Keys to Empowered Parenting =-.

  • February 17, 2010 at 12:19 am
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    Good post Mel.

    If anyone is still new to the whole groups and pages thing and are feeling confused, try this article:
    Facebook Groups v Pages

    Here’s the page I found when I was looking to promote my business on Facebook:
    Using Facebook for Business Networking

    I did also search the Facebook applications directory for “competitions” and turned up 17 applications. Unfortunately it didn’t provide a URL for the page, it just went straight back to the Applications directory.

    I’m not sure if any of those 17 applications are what you are after Mel, but the other option is to create your own 🙂
    .-= Marc´s last post…Why You Shouldn’t Work for Your Friends, Family or Yourself =-.

  • February 17, 2010 at 6:42 am
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    Great Social Media Networking tips! Privacy on Facebook is undermined by three principal factors: users disclose too much, Facebook does not take adequate steps to protect user privacy, and third parties are actively seeking out end-user information using Facebook.

  • February 17, 2010 at 10:13 am
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    @ Joe, I see questions all the time on setting up FB accounts and Fan pages. And how much to reveal is a huge part of it. For me, I want to keep my private life separate – at least for the most part.

    @ Marina, same here. Isn’t that the definition of character? Doing the right thing because it’s right, even when no one is watching? And I’m one of those mean mums who won’t let her kid do stuff just because everyone else is. Leads to some very interesting discussions!

    @ Melissa, cool, I’ll go and have a look for those.

    @ Amy, I’ve found out too many things the hard way through ignorance, fortunately this wasn’t one of them!

    @ Marc, thanks for the links. 🙂 Write my own application? Don’t you need to be a coder to do that?

    @ Claudia, I’m not quite sure how your comment relates to this post except that it mentions facebook….. Wouldn’t be spamming me would you? No, of course you wouldn’t….

  • March 12, 2010 at 2:39 am
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    This is a very important post. I work for a large brand (that will remain nameless) and we recently got our Facebook fan page banned, after it had been up over a year. We had over 400 loyal and engaged fans. We violated the TOS at a few points: we used to do “submit your best pic of our establishment and be featured on our company blog.”; we used to post links to our product specials; etc. I had no idea these were against the TOS. After our account was banned, I contacted the Facebook QC dept. to see if I could get the account reinstated. They said under no circumstances, and the reason they gave was that we were operating two accounts or “fake accounts.” The account wasn’t fake, it was merely that our PR agecncy created it and got it going, then handed it off to us to maintain. Again, I had no idea this could be viewed as a fake account or was in any way in violation of the TOS.

    Such banning may not seem serious, but it can be a blow to a company’s branding and marketing efforts. For example, how can we refind and reengage those 400 customers and potential customers? And what will they think, when they try to find our fan page and it is no longer there? What impression will that leave in their minds? Will they suspect us of doing something illegal or unethical? And what if they start tweeting and bloggin abou how we got banned? Now you’ve got a PR problem and a reputation management problem to deal with. And, how do you exaplin to your marketing director, or whomever, that your FB fan page was banned becasue you didn’t take time to read the TOS and violated it?

    The moral: It pays to take time to read the FB TOS; those guys are serious about it.

  • March 14, 2010 at 3:53 pm
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    @ Anon, thanks very much for sharing your companies experience and pointing out some of the ongoing issues. Ouch…. a very hard way to find out the rules.

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