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

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:

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– 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.

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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?

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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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