Daniel Burstein

Social Media Marketing: How to ensure Facebook doesn’t tear down your wall

September 23rd, 2011

Photo credit: Sue Ream

Like many marketers, I am not a lawyer. So when I see terms and conditions, my eyes glaze over and I shoot an email to our excellent in-house counsel.

However, if you conduct a campaign on a third-party site, you are at the mercy of their rules.

Take Facebook, for example. According to a recent whitepaper from Bulbstorm, “Run afoul of the guidelines, and your page could be shut down by Facebook at a moment’s notice … Facebook accepts reports of violations, and no one watches your page more closely than your competitors. They’d love nothing more than to see your campaign fail. So, follow the guidelines and don’t give Brand X a reason to tattle.”

But if you’re not a lawyer, following these guidelines to the letter is easier said than done. So, to help you avoid the LSAT, I grabbed Matt Simpson, Director, Interactive & Client Services at Bulbstorm, a developer of Facebook applications, and asked him a few questions that will keep you on the sunny side of Mark Zuckerberg and his team …

Daniel Burstein: In reading Facebook’s guidelines, sweepstakes and contests seem like the biggest way to run afoul of Facebook, since there are some pretty strict limits. However, I see marketers violating these guidelines every day. How strict is Facebook at monitoring and punishing violators?

Matt Simpson: There are multiple examples of pages being shut down for violating the promotion guidelines. Scandinavian Airlines is a good one. Our Facebook rep says, “We have people constantly monitoring the site for promotion violations (…). If someone is caught, the page is taken down, and they are asked to reach out before we can re-enable to ensure they are clear on the issue.”

Obviously, it’d be impossible for Facebook to police every page. I tell social media marketers that shutdown is a risk, not a certainty. How open are you to losing your investment in the campaign? How open are you to seeing your page shut down? How open are you to telling fans that the rules of the contest or sweepstakes they entered just changed?

Of course, no one watches your page as closely as your boss and your competition. The latter observer has a vested interest in you following Facebook’s promotion guidelines … and in tattling when you don’t.

DB: How do you tell if you’ve been penalized by Facebook? What are the initial steps to getting your account reactivated? Do you lose all data and friends when it is deactivated?

MS: We’ve never seen a page shut down because we follow the rules! That said, I’ve had contacts verify our Facebook rep’s description that “If someone is caught, their page is taken down and they are asked to reach out before we can re-enable to ensure they are clear on the issue.” It’s my understanding that you don’t lose your data or fans. Your page is just invisible until you address the issue and earn reinstatement.

DB: What are three key steps every marketer can take to avoid getting penalized again (or in the first place)?

MS: Here are three questions to ask yourself before launching your promotion:

  • Am I seeking virality? If the premise of your promotion is to go viral, it’s a huge red flag. That’s not to say that a creative concept and well-built technology won’t drive organic growth. But don’t expect to spam the news feed and get away with it.
  • Am I using Facebook functionality? Be careful here! Do not ask fans to post, like or comment on content on your wall or photo albums. Do not use “like” buttons as a voting mechanism. You must run your promotion through a third-party application.
  • Am I collecting contact information? At the end of your campaign, you’ll have to contact your winners to distribute prizes. Remember to collect their contact info in your promotion app, because you cannot contact them through Facebook.


DB: Given the need to follow Facebook’s terms and conditions, what factors should marketers weigh when deciding whether to hold a promotion on Facebook or not. For example, I see many print ads that used to send traffic to a brand website, instead sending traffic to the brand’s Facebook page to enter a sweepstakes or contest. Would they just be better off holding promotions on their own site? In the end, what value does a Facebook fan really have to a marketer?

MS: The concept of collecting fans with an iPad sweepstakes on Facebook is very 2010! It’s a snoozer. Plus, how many of those iPad fans stick around to engage with your brand after the sweepstakes ends?

As marketers, our objective should not be to build a Facebook promotion. It should be to create passionate bonds with consumers by delivering social and interactive engagements. Currently, Facebook offers the best platform for delivering that kind of engagement.

By social, I mean that the engagement should offer frictionless sharing and visibility into how my friends are engaging. By interactive, I mean it should be more than a contact form. For example, I should be able to submit content and browse, vote and comment on others’ content. Ideally, I’d also collect a marketing opt-in such as an email subscription or Facebook like.

Interactivity is easy to deliver on a website. However, no one delivers a personalized social experience like Facebook. Fortunately, the Facebook Graph API enables you to add Facebook-esque social elements to experiences – including contests and sweepstakes – on your website. We often see this referred to as “connecting with Facebook.”

The next frontier is to deliver social and interactive engagements on your Facebook page and on your website simultaneously, with or without Facebook Graph API.

Why force consumers to log in to Facebook.com or connect with Facebook on your website? These steps are barriers to engagement.

Related Resources:

Strategies and Tactics for Advertising on Social Networking Sites (members-only webinar) – Wednesday, September 28, at 4:00pm EDT

Ten Facebook Promotion Myths whitepaper (no squeeze page)

Webinar Replay – Strategic Social Media Marketing: Get your business or agency started with an ROI-based approach

Landing Page Optimization: Goodbye stock photos and Happy Man, hello social media

Marketing Psychology: The behavioral triggers behind success at Amazon, Groupon and FarmVille

Social Media Companies: 3 non-obvious ways social media will impact big companies


Daniel Burstein

About Daniel Burstein

Daniel Burstein, Senior Director of Editorial Content, MECLABS. Daniel oversees all content and marketing coming from the MarketingExperiments and MarketingSherpa brands while helping to shape the editorial direction for MECLABS – digging for actionable information while serving as an advocate for the audience. Daniel is also a speaker and moderator at live events and on webinars. Previously, he was the main writer powering MarketingExperiments publishing engine – from Web clinics to Research Journals to the blog. Prior to joining the team, Daniel was Vice President of MindPulse Communications – a boutique communications consultancy specializing in IT clients such as IBM, VMware, and BEA Systems. Daniel has 18 years of experience in copywriting, editing, internal communications, sales enablement and field marketing communications.

Categories: Social Networking Evangelism Community Tags: , , ,

  1. September 23rd, 2011 at 14:51 | #1

    Good and timely advice

    It is important to note that facebook is a business, and as such, everything on facebook is for sale if the price is right 🙂 This isn’t mean to be a negative comment in any way, it is just the reality, they generate a lot of revenue this way.

    When it comes to Intellectual Property infringement, they are very slow to take action. When we reported a fan page profile picture that said they were the “official page” of one of our clients on retainer, the official facebook response was “You’ll have to take that up with them”.

    Alan Robbins

  2. September 23rd, 2011 at 16:04 | #2

    Hi Alan! I agree that Facebook has at times been unable to meet the demands of brands attempting to do business on its platform. The good news is that they’re constantly improving. The bad news is that they’re rarely fast enough to make us all happy!

  3. Chris
    September 23rd, 2011 at 20:41 | #3

    Interesting but I’d have to disagree that FB is a barrier to engagement, in addition to several other things.

    FB Simple SignOn and FB Connect are a couple ways to have fans engage with two mediums simultaneously. As someone that represents recording artists, I find that most fans have visited the artists FB page over their own website, making FB the most relevant platform to initiate promotions, fan engagement, and updates.

    Also – Asking fans to post, like, and share is a Call To Action that is comparable to “visit http://www.blah.com” or “tell a friend.” I’m not sure why this is frowned upon.

    Finally – What marketer initiates an online promotion without the premise/hopes that it will go viral? Isn’t that the whole point?

    This is surprising, but moreso, I’m confused by this as it counter-acts almost every social-media campaign that I’ve seen with artists. It has my head spinning!

  4. October 5th, 2011 at 01:20 | #4

    This is a solid post and good high level tips for marketers. We’ve seen a lot of Wild West in Facebook with folks trying to just throw one-off contests without any rules either. One of the biggest areas of concern we’ve seen with launching our UGC contest platform is that most folks disregard the actual legal terms. How much of a factor has this been with the promotions you folks have been running?

  5. March 26th, 2013 at 10:20 | #5

    FB is working hard to become a big player in Local Search, and they just might succeed… keeping an eye open is wise 😉

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