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Updated: Facebook’s Brand Page Removal: Should Social Networks Control Content?

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Update: Facebook has been shutting down a large number applications due to changes to the automated platform monitoring system, and a number of developers have been complaining about the issue, reports All Facebook. Facebook has responded by issuing a statement saying that it has enabled a new enforcement system that takes user feedback more seriously, and high negative feedback results in removal or some features being partially disabled. While we feel that the move is in the direction of eliminating spam, Facebook should diligently restore pages which have been disabled as soon as they make changes, in order to follow its guidelines.

Facebook’s Statement:

“Over the past year, we’ve worked hard to improve our automated systems that catch spam and malicious behavior on the platform. These systems allowed us to cut spam on the platform by 95 percent in 2010, greatly increasing user satisfaction and trust with apps on Facebook. Recently, we started getting a lot of user feedback, spiking significantly over the past week, on the amount of application spam people are seeing in their feeds and on their walls. As a result, we turned on a new enforcement system yesterday that took user feedback much more heavily into account. This resulted in a number of applications with high negative user feedback being disabled or having certain features disabled. We’ve posted a link for developers where they can appeal if they feel they’ve been disabled in error. Also, we’re working on new analytics to help developers better monitor negative user feedback to prevent a spike like this in the future.”


Earlier: While big Indian brands continue to push promotions via social media channels, they are certainly not abiding by the rule book, when it comes to practice. Atleast, this seems to be a reason why brand pages of some big names including Cadbury and French Connection India/FCUK, were recently removed, according to the online blog Penn Olson. This was not the first time that a page was taken down by the popular social networking site. Previously, similar action was taken against Pizza Hut India, although its Facebook page has been restored.

At the time of writing this post, we found that FCUK’s Facebook page has also been restored, while the Cadbury Bournville page is still down. Apparently, the brands in question were not following Facebook’s guidelines for brand pages that clearly specify that brands are not supposed to run contests on their pages through the Facebook wall. The promotions guidelines say:

– Promotions on Facebook must be administered within Apps on Facebook.com, either on a Canvas Page or an app on a Page Tab.

– You must not use Facebook features or functionality as a promotion’s registration or entry mechanism.  For example, the act of liking a Page or checking in to a Place cannot automatically register or enter a promotion participant.

– You must not condition registration or entry upon the user taking any action using any Facebook features or functionality other than liking a Page, checking in to a Place, or connecting to your app.  For example, you must not condition registration or entry upon the user liking a Wall post, or commenting or uploading a photo on a Wall.

– You must not use Facebook features or functionality, such as the Like button, as a voting mechanism for a promotion.

– You must not notify winners through Facebook, such as through Facebook messages, chat, or posts on profiles or Pages.

Facebook says that it imposes the above guidelines to ensure that the user experience of the site is not compromised, and brands are not able to spam users with promotions.

Social Media Marketing Vs Noise

Over zealous social media marketing companies, with little knowledge of the guidelines are at times ruining the social media experience for users. They tend to undermine the fact that the power of the medium lies in engagement and not in bombarding users with promotions and running flimsy contests. Facebook has devised a way to run and manage contests, via connected apps, so why spam other users’ feed?

We would say that the same holds true for Twitter. With an increasing number of companies running lame re-tweet contests just to get more followers and branding exposure, one is unable to do anything (except maybe hashtag based muting if you happen to use a Pro Twitter client), but see relevant tweets getting lost between noise. It’s high time Twitter also adopts a social media marketing policy. Oh but we heard that they are planning to insert promoted tweets in user timelines.

But isn’t Facebook being a nag?

If we look at time from the brand’s perspective, why can’t it run a contest on its wall, or ask users to vote, when it is the one responsible for the page? Also, at times this helps in directly interacting with users/customers and establishing a relationship. So why not let users decide what they want to do on Facebook. Ofcourse spamming them via messages should always be in check. It is also possible that Facebook is worried about brands commercially leveraging its features, and in turn affecting its Facebook Credits eco-system, since all commercial transactions in apps now need to be through credits.

What about Social Media Marketing Metrics?

We all know that social media marketers’ pitch to brands includes discussing how the number of likes and RTs will make their campaign a huge social media success. So essentially these are metrics for social media marketers and brand owners alike, to assess campaigns. If social networks themselves start restricting and controlling what brands can do or cannot do on their platforms, isn’t it going to impact the very foundation of social media marketing?

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  • I am not sure if the Cadbury’s page was blocked due to non adherence of Facebook guidelines. My guess is the page was probably hacked, as this google search suggests http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8&q=site%3Afacebook.com%2Fcadburybournville#q=site:facebook.com/cadburybournville&hl=en&tbo=1&prmd=ivns&source=lnt&tbs=rltm:1&sa=X&ei=DM4BTprUCoj5rQf6n4SGAw&ved=0CAoQpwUoAQ&fp=1&biw=1366&bih=643&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.&cad=b 

    • Vikas SN I’m afraid that’s not the case. Esp. since I have evidence to the contrary!

  • Sandeep Varma

    Interesting obsrvations

  • Vipul Agarwal

    This was a uncalled for. In my opinion, the ultimate decision to block content from a page (Cadbury in this case) should lie with the user. If the user does not like the content/offers etc. from the brand then he/she has the authority to unlike the same. Strict guidelines to stop brands from spamming might be required but that should not be imposed on a brand.Better to be left to the user to decide…

  • Kavita

    Firstly, brands still don’t take SM seriously. They think kya sale hoga re and not understand the seriousness with which community is thriving there. And give the work to inexperienced and unskilled SM boys like 22 feet, Drizzling who have lots of show-sha but no substance. And then this happens. I mean good lesson Cadbury. Lets bury this and move ahead. Go hunting to skilled SM agencies. 

    • Internetdude

      Skilled SM agencies? Do they exist in India? 

  • Songitab Verma

    What I appreciate in this entire episode is that FB has tried to keep the soul of Facebook intact. As Social Media Agencies, we will have to restraint ourselves from over indulging or crossing the fence. Today denizens can smell a marketing sentence from miles away and thats a put off. We will have think engagement in more creative fashion…

  • To answer the question, Yes, any platform has the right to control content. So Facebook should and can take down the pages who do not follow their guidelines.,But this also requires education from Facebook on why they are taking a particular step or why this guideline is enforced. I believe Facebook should start engaging the brands to come up with better solutions to the problem of spam.
    I would like to put forth few points (you might have heard them before) – 1) I am totally against agencies handling social media. Social Media is not just Twitter/Facebook but much much beyond that. The way a company is going to interact in public domain has to come from the values, philosophy and processes of the company and should not be measured by likes/followers.

    2) Not just in India, there are lot of social media experts/gurus but hardly any practitioners. Since there is no entry barrier, anyone can read few blogs and books and opine on “how it should be done”. We do not need enthusiasts,experts or gurus, we need practitioners.

    3) If any brand wants to open up to social platforms, first please ensure the link between customer care and social media team. There is no better trust agent than letting the world know that their problems can be resolved via this medium. That makes it sticky.