Don’t Mess with Facebook Rights and Responsibilities!

by Joanne Steele on May 8, 2012

If you aren’t following Facebook’s terms of service to the letter, you’re risking big consequences. Imagine spending tons of time building up a long friends list only to have it all disappear because you failed to follow the rules!learn about Facebook

That’s what is happening to a growing number of small local businesses who have used their business name to set up a personal profile. If you go to Facebook’s Help Center to the page, “What names are allowed on Facebook?” you’ll see that they only want personal profiles used by people not businesses. You are told that the name you use should be the same one that is on your credit cards and your student ID.

They allow nicknames in place of first or middle names and permit maiden names for women. But Facebook stresses that each personal profile should be set up by one real person.

Don’t get me wrong. As many of you have read recently, I think your personal profile is a great place to socialize with your customer friends. If you missed the post it’s “Why Small Local Businesses Are Better At Facebook Than Big Business”

But you don’t interact as your business, you interact as yourself. You, personally Jane Doe Smith. The reason this works so well is that you ARE in many cases your small local business. Your customers associate you with your business.

You don’t need to break Facebook’s terms of service to do this. You follow their terms to the letter, and “friend” your customer friends, socializing with them person to person, which strengthens your relationship which increases their loyalty to you/your business. Those customer friends might not want to read what you ate for breakfast (come to think of it, nobody does!!). But they will love to hear the things about your life that relate to your business.

For most small local business owners, the only time you’re not thinking about your business is when you’re sleeping. And then you’re dreaming about it!

What to do if you have already blown it.

You can change your name, and you should, right now. Go to your account settings by clicking on the little arrow in the upper right corner of your timeline or your newsfeed page. You’ll see your general settings, with your current name right at the top.

Click the “edit” link to the right of your name. Replace your business name with your personal name. You’ll see the announcement that the change will probably take 24 hours while your name is confirmed.

Next, go to your profile page and post an update to your friends that you’re changing your business name to your personal name. Reassure them that since you ARE your business they won’t see much change. Still fun, still informative, still no blatant advertising.

If you have both a personal profile AND a business name in a personal profile, follow Facebook’s instructions for converting your business profile to a business page.

This is vital. You’ve worked so hard to build up your friends, and all your hard work could be lost if you fail to follow Facebook’s rules. You’ll still have two Facebook accounts to keep updated, but they’ll both be sanctioned by Facebook.

Why do I suggest that small local business owners interact with business friends through their personal profiles rather than a business page?

1. It’s easy. You can talk about all the things you do and love on your profile, and since you are your business, they often deal with business related things.

You just have to be very committed to NOT do any blatant advertising. Social media is about being social and building relationships. Never forget that.

2. It’s fast. You’ll only have to maintain one Facebook profile rather than two – a personal profile and a business page.

3. You don’t have to wait to be liked. You can “friend” your customers and build relationships that will enhance their loyalty to your business.

4. It’s more natural for small business owners. Have you ever been at a social event where you and your friends all agreed to not talk about business? Remember how quiet things got?

When you are your business, it’s so much a part of what gets you excited that it’s natural to talk about your latest adventure, thing you bought for your business, recipes your testing, funny things that happened at work and more. It’s what you do everyday anyway, using Facebook instead of face to face interaction.

But… Don’t ever break Facebook’s rules. It’s their platform and they get to decide what happens to rulebreakers. And it’s not pretty.

Here are several past posts about Facebook:

Do Facebook Likes Mean They Love You?

If you have Facebook  business page, read this one:

How Facebook is like Your Rotary Club

1 Gem Webb May 15, 2012 at 6:10 am

Very clear and concise post that could easily go off course with the many possible ways to break Facebook’s policy & TOS.

I work as a Content Creator for Bruce County Tourism brand ExploretheBruce on and, am hyper aware of these FB policies. I’ve read about some horror stories where people lost there over 10,000 fan account. Gives me chills to think about it…

One area I’d like to caution businesses on Facebook is about having LIKE based contests. This is an easy thing to do, yet is not allowed in any form. The TOS reads that you must use a 3rd party app external of facebooks timeline. You can’t even message winners through facebook! Some people get away with it and some don’t. I’m building in contests that use programs like

Thanks for the good read, it’s always a positive to keep refreshing this very important aspect of facebook. Or, else!!!

2 Joanne Steele May 15, 2012 at 10:00 am

Thanks Gem for adding to everyone’s Facebook knowledge. Contests are fun – good to have the link to that program. The thing that will keep everyone effortlessly on good terms with Facebook, and make Facebook worth the time and effort is to keep your eye on the prize – customers, happy, engaged, loyal customers.

3 Kathy May 12, 2012 at 4:02 am

How should or may an employee of a government entity, county tourism department, set up a FB page while following the rules? Right now I have a personal page that I don’t use and a page for the tourism department. I am the administrator for the page. Although I represent the department, it isn’t a small business that I own.

4 Joanne Steele May 15, 2012 at 10:09 am

Hi Kathy, you are in a very different situation from the average small business owner who IS for all intents and purposes their business. For them, using their personal profile to keep in touch with customers is natural and legal according to Facebook’s terms of service. For you, an employee, you will have your personal profile, where you might have a few customer friends, but it’s primarily personal. As an employee, you might be tapped to manage your tourism department or governmental entity’s social media. Business pages on Facebook are made for you and people like you. You must have the authority to represent your company or entity, and have connects deep and wide within your organization to manage your presence effectively. You become the voice of that business on Facebook, answering complaints, making suggestions, announcements, holding contests like Gem Webb in a previous comment and more. If you remember two things, you’ll do great – 1. it’s SOCIAL, not free advertising and 2. The goal is not sales but relationship building that will ultimately lead to loyalty which leads to sales.

5 Doug Cole May 12, 2012 at 3:17 am

OK – now I am worried / paranoid. Am I in potential trouble because I “use as Marble Mountain Ranch” and also “use as Doug Cole””? Facebook seems to be allowing us to post as personal entities AND as business entities while switching back and forth between the pages. So, I am unclear why this might be against the TOS while Facebook enables a dual presence and posting from both perspectives. If this is a problem, is there a way to consolidate all the effort of the two pages into a “just me” presence?


6 Joanne Steele May 15, 2012 at 10:21 am

Hi Doug, You’re fine if your BUSINESS PAGE is Marble Mountain Ranch and your PERSONAL PROFILE is Doug Cole. That is where people are getting into trouble. You have a perfect opportunity to use each option well. Continue to build your friendships and interactions with those customer friends on your personal profile, and when you want to advertise a special, do it on your business page. In Take Control of Your Internet Marketing, I teach how to use both in the fourth module. It allows you to be blatantly business oriented on your busines page, talking about new additions to your menu, price changes, discounts, etc. And, you can actively “friend” those customer friends who stay at the ranch as “Doug Cole”, keeping them updated on the horses, the funny animal antics etc on your personal profile. You have the perfect funnel – your “friend” them on your personal profile and encourage them to “like” your business page too. You get two chances to keep Marble Mountain Ranch at the top of their Bucket list. It’s not too hard to keep both balls in the air once you are clear about what kind of info goes in each spot

7 Herb Lawrence May 9, 2012 at 6:42 am

Joanne great post and very appropriate topic especially with new timelines. I see businesses setting up on profiles as brands and now a lot of pages ignoring FB’s TOS concerning the new timelines image rules. My question is…does Facebook really do anything about it? I for one kinda get ticked off for “playing by Zuckerberg’s rules” and seeing so many others ignore them (and seem to get away with it).

But realize they may be playing a dangerous game, taking the chance that Facebook will not catch them. Curious if you have seen any kinda stats on how many profiles or pages Facebook actually shuts down?

Thanks again for a great post will share with our small business friends (especially those who may be violating the TOS).

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