We’ve been huge proponents of Facebook policy…we preach almost on a daily basis about the potential dangers of violating Facebook Terms of Service and Promotion Guidelines. We tell stories of violators who have received cease and desist phone calls and/or letters from Facebook. Most folks tend to waive it off, believing that “it won’t happen to me.”
Well, we beg to differ. And, with a groveling “awww shucks”, we have to admit….Yes, it happens to the best of us!
One of our clients was rolling out a service with a name that was all-too-similar to a competitor’s name. Not knowing of the dispute, Emily posted an innocuous Facebook status update. Our client’s competitor complained to Facebook, and Facebook stepped in. Emily received the following prompt on her Facebook account:
And, in case Emily didn’t get the point, Facebook followed up a few minutes later with this email:
Wow…talk about a beat-down. Now, there are a few things to note about this:
- All it takes in a complaint from a competitor. In this case, the rule violation was brought to Facebook’s attention by a competitor’s complaint. Remember, Facebook- like YouTube and other social platforms- is policed by its users. So, if you are violating policy- whether it is copyright policy or promotions guidelines or terms of service, all it takes is a user lodging a complaint. It’s that easy, folks. Do you trust your competitors to NOT report you if they see that you are violating policy?
- One complaint opens up your entire page to review by Facebook. You may be reported for a minor, or even baseless, reason. A disgruntled employee or unhappy customer could report a harmless photo simply to get even. Once the report goes in, ALL of your content is open for review. If you have other violations- even weeks or months previous- and they are discovered, you could be held responsible.
- Facebook took action against the page admin. Emily wasn’t knowingly violating Facebook’s copyright policy, but her account would be terminated nonetheless. If you are found to be in violation, then your personal profile plus all accounts associated with your login are subject to review and termination. It doesn’t matter if you are unaware of policy. Ignorance is not an excuse for non-compliance.
The take-away is that you, like most other businesses out there, are spending lots of time and money to build your Facebook following and learn to engage your customers and create word of mouth. It would be such a shame to waste that effort by not following the rules. It’s simply not worth it. Facebook is still a new and emerging tool for branding your business, but there are right and not-so-right ways to utilize it.
So, again…we STRONGLY encourage everyone to read, understand, and adhere to policy:
- Facebook Principles
- Statement of Rights and Responsibilities (Terms of Service)
- Advertising Guidelines
- Promotions Guidelines
- Facebook Pages Terms
- Pages Terms for State & Local Governments
- Facebook Platform Policies
Some might ask why in the world Facebook has so many policies and guidelines and terms??? Think of it this way: if Facebook were a country, it would be the world’s third largest, behind only India and China. A body of people that large and that diverse needs rules. All things considered, the rules really aren’t that bad. The State of Mississippi is way smaller than Facebook, yet has way more laws.
Thankfully, we were able to smooth over the violation by our client. And, aside from some ribbing by the rest of us, Emily carried on none the worse for wear. But this situation was a stark reminder that assuming that “it won’t happen to me” can be a reckless and costly attitude.