This morning I was alerted by one of my Facebook fans, that the network marketing company she represents has been put in “Facebook Jail.” The consultants from their company are suddenly not allowed by Facebook to post any links to their personal websites or blogs, or to their company replicated websites. Not on their personal timeline, not in Facebook groups and not even on their business Pages they’ve created.
Last week, I heard from a consultant from a different company that one of her company sisters had their entire Facebook account deleted a few months ago, and she had to start completely over from zero. She lost her personal timeline, all her posts, all her connections. She was devastated and spent the next couple months desperately begging people to join her again.
This is SCARY when you consider the amount of time and resources you or your company may be putting into social media marketing. What’s more is that Facebook makes it difficult to appeal their decisions or to talk to a live person and explain yourself or even understand why you are suddenly blocked.
Following are 16 ways you and your company can avoid being put in this unfortunate situation. (Updated March 2016!)
- Understand Facebook’s Terms of Service both for personal Timelines, and for business Pages. Most sanctions on Facebook can be avoided by following their rules. Unfortunately most people do not read them.
- Never ever ever use a business name for a personal profile/timeline name. You cannot create a personal Facebook account using “Susie’s Sweet Shop” as the name of the account, just so you can post within groups and elsewhere as the name of your business. Profiles/Timelines are for real people and need to use your real name. Use your personal name and then within the About section, alert people to your business. Create a business Page for business.
- Each human being on the planet can only have ONE Facebook account. From your personal account you can create multiple business Pages but you can only have one personal account. Use your Account Settings to add multiple email addresses to your account if you want to make sure business contacts can find you easily.
- Do not post overly promotional items on a personal account. One of Facebook’s rules is that your personal Timeline cannot be used for commercial purposes. There has been some debate about the definition of “commercial” but in general when you are sending a marketing message including a link or call to action, it should be from a business Page, not a personal Timeline. Sure you can talk about what you are doing in your business, you can share ageages and information, but including a link to where they can buy or sign up crosses the line into promoting, and Facebook wants all of that to occur on business Pages. Following my 9-1-1 Code, whether on a personal Timeline or business Page is highly recommended. This code states that your proportion of posts should be 9 non-marketing (inform, inspire, educate) to every 1 promotional post (buy-book-join) along with 1 personal or casual post.
- Avoid posting your web link to multiple places on Facebook in a short time. When sharing your business website link within Facebook groups or other Pages, even when it is encouraged by the group or Page admin (such as on Facebook Friday) avoid doing so in multiple groups in short succession. It is never a good idea to blast your link all over the place on the web anyway – it appears desperate and spammy! But it is common on “Facebook Friday” for groups or pages to ask you to share you link – it helps everyone get to know each other and support the other pages. Spread them out time-wise so you aren’t doing them all at once.
- Do not friend-request people you do not know or aren’t otherwise connected to. As I state in almost all of my training, social media is about connecting with people, not collecting people. When you have a relationship with someone, either in real life, or in a Facebook group, and you want to get to know someone better, sure, reach out to them, as long as they are someone who would recognize you. The reason for this is that after they ignore your friend request if they do not want to add you back, Facebook asks if they know you. If they say NO that they do not know you, your account is flagged. I do not know the magic number but if your account is flagged too many times, you are blocked from sending friend requests, since it appears you are adding people to spam them.
- Do not promote your business on other business’ pages or walls without being asked. Whether it is a “wall post” or a comment, it is not OK to visit another business and tell their network all about yours. Do not go and like someones page and then post on their page “New liker from XYZ company, like me back!” either. Do not troll for “openings” on pages and comment with “You can buy a great XYZ here: ” and include your link. Would you go into a store and pass out fliers about your store across the street? The page admin will likely delete your comment and mark it as spam, flagging your account.
- Do not use Facebook Messages to send promotional content to multiple people at once without their consent. Facebook does allow you to send a message to up to 20 people at a time but this function is designed for people who all want to discuss something – not for someone to broadcast an advertising message. When you send a group message, every reply or activity on that message is sent as a notification to all 20 people, and this gets annoying fast. Members in the message will click the settings to leave the conversation and mark it as spam. It is against Facebook’s rules to send commercial messages to people without their consent.
- Do not repeatedly send the same message to different people or post the same item in different places. This is tracked by Facebook and seen as spam or harassment. If you have a useful, non-commercial message to send (say, connecting with someone for your class reunion) simply vary the wording and personalize the messages or posts. If you want to share your blog post to several different groups, simply add a caption that is relevant to the place you are posting it on Facebook, so it is seen as a unique post. I would also spread them out over time to be safe.
- Watch for competitor saboteurs. Unfortunately, since it is so easy for people to mark a post, Page, or message as spam, unethical competitors may simply be trolling you or your consultant’s pages and posts and marking them as spam, whether they are or aren’t. If you are aware that someone might be doing this, the first step would be to ban them from your profile or page. This way they will not be able to see your posts or interact with your pages. You can also visit their personal Timeline and click the little gear and then Report/Block them individually. Then I would use one of the contact links below to appeal to Facebook and explain what you think has happened.
- Do not friend-request people who are not likely to accept you or are not expecting it. Facebook logs both your unanswered friend requests and your rejected ones. If you have too many people who did not accept your friend request (no one knows the magic number) you might be considered a spammer, since they will often friend-request many people they do not know. Also when people delete the request on their end, Facebook makes it easy for them to mark you as spam. Remember Facebook is a social network, designed to be used to stay connected to people you know. This is especially important if you have no mutual friends. Cancel ignored Facebook friend requests here.
- Do not private message someone who is not your Facebook friend. This is an automatic red flag and although Facebook has a small tolerance for it once in a while, if you do this too often you will surely end up in Facebook jail. The assumption is that if they wanted to receive messages from you, you would be friends. This is similar to the opt-in rules of the CAN-SPAM act whereby someone needs to acquire written permission to be able to email marketing messages to another. Facebook does not want to get in trouble for spamming any more than you do.
- Some applications that violate Facebook’s terms can flag your account or get your business Page taken down. This one is scary since for a long time many people used apps to create landing pages for their business Page and the companies that created the apps and tools to do this were not in compliant with Facebook’s terms. I recently heard that apps/tabs that take users off of Facebook can get flagged. This means my beloved woobox html fan gate tabs are at risk when using as a redirect. Use with caution or switch to embedding the web page within the tab within Facebook.
- Only tag people in posts they appear in AND which they would approve. Never tag someone that is not actually in the picture, and never when you aren’t 100% sure they would appreciate it. Everyone gets a notification when they are tagged and if the person removes the tag and then reports the tag, you are at risk. If you want to alert someone to a post, tag them within the comments.
- Only use images you are 100% certain you have permission to use. You cannot grab an image off the Internet and use it unless it has an open creative commons license or you have purchased a license, or you have permission from the originator. This includes whether or not have you altered the image, or included it in a collage or “polyvore” style post (those aren’t for commercial re-use) or even if you got it from someone else and assumed THEY had permission. It’s your responsibility to be sure. The person who created the image can very easily do a “reverse image search” to find all the places the image appears, and mark your post as an intellectual property violation which Facebook takes very seriously. They may even take further legal action. It’s not worth it. See this post for further information to avoid litigation when posting images.
- Do not copy and paste someone else’s post or image to repost. Facebook sees this as duplicate content which is similar to how Google does not want exact copies of the same blog post or article – it does not serve its readers to have multiple copies, unable to credit the original. Best to simply click share and then add your own content. If you see something you want to say that is similar to someone else’s post, create your own verbiage so it is different.
What are some other reasons you might get a Facebook warning or be blocked? Here are some links to discover other things to avoid:
What can you do if you are put in Facebook jail? Sometimes with the error message when posting, Facebook will provide a link to you to be able to explain the situation or appeal. If not, here are some ways you can contact them:
Do you have any direct experience with being put in Facebook time out or jail? How was it resolved? How long did it last? What did you find most effective in dealing with this? Share your story in the comments.
For more Do’s and Don’ts in social media, listen to my FREE 30-minute training just for direct sellers, Social Media Tough Love.
PS: Just because you see someone else doing something does not mean it is OK. And do not believe it when someone tells you they have a special agreement with Facebook to break the rules. 🙂