One thing that you need to be aware of is that there are some changes taking place at Facebook, and you need to stay on top of them to make sure that you are in compliance with their Terms of Service.
The reason for these changes is that Facebook is a business. They need to make money. With last year’s public offering, the company took a bit of a bath and has some work to do. When the stock went public last May, it was at about $42 per share. It quickly dropped and hit a low of just over $18 in September. Since then, it has slowly climbed back up to around the $28 level, and is showing signs of a very slow rebound.
The problem for Facebook is that they now have two different groups of people to keep happy: investors and users. And even with the users, they need to balance the desires and interests of both individual users and business users. Not an easy balancing act, but I think they are learning.
Most of the moves that we have seen in the last half of 2012 and will see in 2013 are a part of that balancing act: trying to keep users happy while generating revenue and profit for stakeholders.
With that in mind, here are are a few of the things happening with Facebook in 2013, including some things you can expect to see:
1. Timeline Cover Photo – Whether it’s out of a desire to maintain a clean and spam-free look on business pages, or a need to sell advertising, Facebook is now cracking down on the cover photos that are being used on business pages. That’s the big photo at the top which is really only seen when people visit your business page. One of the main reasons behind this is to keep the platform free of anything that looks like a banner ad. As of January 15th, here are a few of the rules which will apply to the cover photo:
- No call to action – You can use no language asking people to like your page, download anything, share anything, etc.
- No promotional information – No price, discount, or purchase information can be included.
- No contact information – You can’t use your cover photo to promote your website, phone number, or address.
- No more than 20% text – The cover image is intended to be an image. Too many words, and you risk having it removed. Facebook will be offering a tool to help you determine whether your images are in violation.
- No copyright violations – Interpretation of this is still up in the air, but it appears Facebook has been deleting cover photos that aren’t original to the user. In other words, don’t use just any image you find on the web. The problem with the interpretation here is that some services and businesses want their fans to use their pre-produced cover photos. Facebook might not allow that practice to continue.
2. Advertising on Facebook – The rule regarding cover photos having less than 20% text also applies to the images you use in Facebook ads or promoted posts. While you can post images on your wall that have more text, you won’t be able to use them in ads or promotes posts.
3. Facebook contests – These rules have been in place for a long time, and yet I still see businesses, and sadly, marketing companies, running contests that are in violation of the platform’s Terms of Service. Simply put, if you are running a contest on your page that involves liking the page or liking or commenting on a status or image, you are in violation. If you are running a contest on your own on your wall without the help of an approved third-party app (such as Wildfire), you are in violation. This isn’t new. What is new is that Facebook is starting to crack down.
4. False profiles – If you have a profile page set up under your business name, or the name of something other than a human, you are in violation. Facebook has made a concerted effort over the past few months to shut down profiles that aren’t for real people. I’m actually surprised at how many businesses are still using personal profiles. But the sad fact is, if you are doing so and have built a community on a profile rather than a page, you risk losing that entire community.
To wrap it up in one sentence:
Facebook is cracking down
Whereas in the past they have looked the other way at violations, now they are being more vigilant. They want a uniform user experience across the board, and want people to take the TOS seriously. Some of these are new rules, while others are merely the enforcement of longstanding rules. Either way, it pays to heed the stipulations of the Terms of Service.
As Facebook seeks to keep users happy, they also need to show a profit for their stakeholders. There are bound to be many more changes, subtle and not so subtle, in the months to come. We probably won’t like some of those changes, but we should be ready for them, as Facebook continues to try to improve the user experience, while at the same time making money.
How will these changes in Facebook’s rules and enforcement affect you and your business?
- 16 Small Businesses with Awesome Facebook Cover Photos (blogs.constantcontact.com)
- Best of 2012: The Three Things Marketers Keep Forgetting About Facebook (inklingmedia.net)
- Post This, or Facebook Will Own Your Soul…and Your Kids…and Your House… (inklingmedia.net)
- Facebook Selling Inbox Access – Does It Really Matter (v3im.com)
- Best of 2012: The Importance of Being Random (inklingmedia.net)
- 7 Little Known Tricks to Maximize Your Facebook Page (v3im.com)