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Is your business obeying the Facebook rules?

03 May 2012

Did you hear about Velvet Burger? They are one of the most recent companies to have their Facebook page deleted for breaking the rules. They waved ‘bye bye’ to almost 10,000 fans in the process. 

You may have also heard Hell Pizza went the same way – losing their page and 20,000 fans along with it. Hell managed to get their page back through someone-who-knew-someone who worked at Facebook, but sadly – in most cases – if this happens to you, you’ll be starting from scratch.

In case you think being in a little country (Velvet Burger and Hell are in New Zealand) or that having far fewer fans will prevent this from happening to you, think again. Don’t get all up in arms with Facebook about this either, the only person to blame is … you.

When you created your Facebook page for your business you ticked a box saying you read and agreed to the terms and conditions. I know, I know, of course you didn’t actually read them (and I don’t blame you, there are pages and pages to read) but ignorance is definitely not bliss.

As Facebook says "We reserve the right to reject or remove Pages for any reason.” And they’re not kidding. Don’t think you’ll get a warning either.  One day it could just be gone.

The bad news is that claiming you didn’t know you were breaking the rules won’t cause Facebook to reverse your page deletion decision.

The good news? With a little learning you can prevent the next victim being your page.

Even if you have been playing by the rules, you might read the following list and think "But everyone does that. Why can’t I?”

Well, to paraphrase mothers around the world -"If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?”

So here’s my list of the most commonly broken Facebook rules; pay attention so your page is not the next in line for the chopping block.

  • You know that lovely big new image at the top of your page? As tempting as I know it is, you cannot use it as an ad. What does that mean? The list includes:
    • Include your contact details – i.e. no website address, no phone number, no email and so on. That’s what your about box and info page are for. Basically if it’s a way to get in touch with you, or if there’s a field for that information on your info page, then it cannot go in your cover photo.
    • Include pricing or purchase information – i.e. '40% off…’ or ‘Get yours now at our website…”
    • Reference any "user interface element” – i.e. you can’t ask for, mention or even use a graphic to point to Like, Share or any other Facebook feature. Facebook even makes special mention that you cannot encourage or incentivise people to upload your cover image to their personal timelines.
    • Include calls to action – i.e.‘Get yours now’ or ‘Tell your friends’.
    • Use an image you do not own or have the rights to use, that is false, deceptive or misleading.

Want to read Facebook’s new cover photo rules for yourself? Here they are and here are some examples of cover photos from brands breaking the new rules.

Here are the rules that caused Velvet Burger to lose their page (and their 9,500 fans along with it). 

You may not:

  • Run any sort of promotion, competition, sweepstakes etc on your Facebook page using Facebook’s features and functionality – i.e.make sure you use an app or ‘custom page’ and not ‘like this update’, ‘share this photo’,  ‘upload your photo to our page’,  ‘add a comment’ (and so on) to enter .
  • Hold Facebook responsible: you must include a disclaimer that releases Facebook of any responsibility. You must mention something along the lines of "This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook”. This is best put on the page/s of your app and in your terms and conditions on your website.
  • You must also disclose who the entrant is giving their information to. The usual wording is "Participants are providing information to [your company name and the name of any other companies who see entrants information] and not to Facebook.”
  • Use any Facebook features or functionality as part of the promotion or participation other than liking your page, checking in or connecting to your app.
  • Use Facebook features or functionality as a promotion’s registration or entry mechanism - i.e. the act of liking your page or checking in cannot automatically register or enter the person in your promotion. Basically a condition of entry can be to like your page but the fan must then complete their entry on your Facebook app or custom page.
  • Use the Like button as a way of voting - 'most likes wins' is not okay. No other Facebook feature or functionality can be used for voting either so you can't use 'the person who invites the most new fans wins'
  • Notify winners through Facebook – i.e.: don’t use Facebook message, chat or posting on the winner’s page, your page or another company’s page to notify winners.

These rules also apply when promoting your promotion. So when you advertise (Facebook ads) or reference a promotion (in a Wall post) you need to follow the rules.

These types of promotions, often called wall promotions,  are therefore not okay because you’re using Facebook features and functionality to run the promotion:

  • Share this [update / photo / video etc] to be in to win
  • Upload a photo / video …
  • Every 25th new fan wins…
  • Add a comment …
  • Invite your friends to like our page …
  • Answer this question …
  • Photo with the most likes wins …

Whether promotional or not, whenever you collect content or information from a Facebook user, you have to make it clear that you and not Facebook are collecting it.

You’ll need to notify Facebook users and obtain their consent plus tell them (or link to your website privacy policy or terms and conditions page) how their information will be used by you.

DISCLAIMER: Do not use this article to decide if what you’re doing is or is not okay. Other than the fact that I haven’t made a complete list of ALL the rules, Facebook updates the rules all the time. You’ll need to do your own research or check it past your Facebook Rep or agency to be sure. You can get started here.

Anna Gervai is the owner of digital agency, Orchid Web Design.