An Open Letter to Facebook
I started this letter before f8, so for the record, it’s not about anything new. However, it even holds more water as a result. While Facebook is introducing new developments, they are losing sight of the old issues that are mostly “broken” or that have not yet been addressed. As such, this letter serves the purpose of reminding Facebook that they should focus on current affairs — especially for businesses — before launching new initiatives.
I’ve been your buddy since you were open to a handful of select universities and were called thefacebook.com. In fact, you can validate that by cross checking my user ID, 102991, which should indicate that I’ve been around for a real long time (since February 2004, to be more precise). And though I signed up when I was a recent college graduate, I’ve been an addict for quite awhile and even was impressed by the early app offerings, consistently applauding many of your developments. So you see, my complaints to you are that of someone who has been with you through and through. I like you, Facebook, I do. You’re kind of fun. Usually.
I have to tell you, then, that I wasn’t a huge fan of you opening your doors up to everyone. Yup, it’s true. I was a Facebook purist in its former form and I liked having access to select group of exclusive folks knowing that these were trusted people and that only certain groups of individuals were allowed to have access. It felt good to be exclusive. I, like other “students” at the time, always thought Facebook wouldn’t “sell out” and become an open platform.
But Facebook, you did open your doors to the world, and we all got used to it. Facebook’s goal to be the social network of choice for all was a lofty one, but I gotta hand it to you, Facebook — it was a big deal, and let’s be honest here, it made lots of sense. I can’t blame you for wanting to be accessible to everyone everywhere. After a good amount of time, in fact, I was trying to convince my entire family to sign up. My grandfather, one of Facebook’s holdouts, even created his first account (finally!) after my convincing appearance on The Agenda on TVO in February 2010.
Facebook announced Facebook Pages, too, for businesses to have a real presence. And here’s where the real problem starts. By then, Facebook, you were so big that you didn’t have the staff to accommodate the requests and inquiries — some which are quite legitimate and require personalized attention — that resulted as a consequence of being more open to businesses. With the initiative for Facebook to be open and to empower businesses to host pages that celebrate their business, offering deals and giving the community the ability to converse directly with the business or entity these pages represent, you forgot about accountability.
Where Did My Facebook Page Go?
I’ve heard about dozens of businesses who created Facebook Pages, pouring their hearts and souls and development hours into crafting content and attracting new fans, only to find out that their account disappears without a trace. Some ask me directly for help; I’m not Facebook and I do not have any answers.
Neither does Facebook, apparently.
When these individuals ask Facebook why their Facebook Page was deleted, they are met with silence. Sure, you have staffers to respond to the requests, but it seems that you refuse to. Your standard messaging goes to the effect of “Unfortunately, we are unable to respond to every [concern] individually, but we are reading them.” I get that, but this isn’t just a casual encounter anymore. With Facebook being the social destination of choice, these pages are businesses’ lifelines. Facebook, you’re cutting them where it hurts and you don’t even care to respond to these panic-stricken individuals who have to pour in hours of work, money, and time again to make things right.
It’s sad, really.
It would be sadder if someone built a brand new Facebook Page only to find out that Facebook canned it a second time. That would be really unfortunate. Maybe instead, Facebook, you can respond to the original concern so that the businesses learn from their mistakes.
Personally, I worry that our memories are being lost in digital oblivion, never to be easily recalled or referenced by us — especially with the threat to the long-term viability of our accounts.
Wait, that’s it?
If this was the only problem related to Facebook, I guess this post really wouldn’t have a place. After all, it’s a similar issue to Robert Scoble’s when Facebook disabled his account two years ago. Many individuals have had their accounts cancelled for violations of the Terms of Service.
Or maybe there weren’t TOS violations at all. Who knows. A lot of people don’t seem to be breaking any rules but see their accounts and Pages gone.
Here’s another situation I recently encountered. Through a digital agency and with full approval from a client, I was tasked with building up the client’s Facebook presence. Consequently, I was the original creator of the Fan Page. Well, if you know about how it works with agencies, you know that this stuff is campaign-based, and when the campaign ends, you really don’t belong as the page admin anymore. If you’re not involved with the client any further, why should you still have access to the page and all the data? So, after several months, the client asked me to remove myself as an admin.
The thing is, and I wish I knew this earlier, you can’t. The Page creator — the original Page administrator — cannot remove himself. At all. So I emailed Facebook, only to receive a generic acknowledgment saying that I might not receive a response. Well, great. With Facebook’s track record, I knew that, and I kind of respect that given the volume of junk reports they likely get that are answered in Facebook’s help documents. But yet, to this day, Facebook has done nothing about it — which would make sense from your perspective, Facebook, because you’ve covered yourself via your help documents. However, you need to start seeing it from others’ shoes.
I’ve no hard feelings against the client and therefore they’re lucky that I’m the admin of the page as I won’t do anything hurtful now that I have no client relationship with them. But let’s just say that the main admin of a big brand’s page or other type of page leaves the company on bad terms and defaces or even removes the Facebook Page. Now what? Whose fault was it? We have no resources available to us to remove the main person as the administrator. This can translate to very horrible things down the road.
You see where I’m getting with this.
Engaging on the Pages Themselves
Let’s take another issue that more people can relate to. I’m the admin of a few Facebook Pages. Sometimes I want to respond to these pages on behalf of the business that powers that Facebook Page. Sometimes I want to respond as me, myself, and I, Tamar Weinberg, Facebook ID 102991. But if I’m the admin of a page, I can’t respond as me. I can only respond as the business/entity powering that Facebook Page. Why, Facebook, can’t you give me the option to represent myself?
And now that I’m an admin of that client page, well, what if I wanted to engage on the actual page on behalf of myself? I can’t! I HAVE to respond on behalf of the company, even though I’m not at all affiliated with the company anymore.
I’ve seen similar issues with news outlets, especially those with postings that are authored by multiple writers. If you’re the admin of the Facebook Page but want to comment on a posted article, you can only do so as the Page owner, not as an actual participant in the conversation. Essentially, the communication appears to be coming from an official capacity.
I have a colleague who maintains two Facebook accounts — one where he can respond on behalf of the business represented on the Facebook Page and one where he can be himself (transparently, of course). Oh wait, is that against your Terms of Service? You don’t really give business owners a choice. No wonder you have 400 million members. I wonder how many of those are actually unique users.
Here’s another interesting issue. The only way to remove a fan on Facebook is to click “Fans” and then find the user to remove him/her. Let’s just say you were tasked with doing this on a Facebook page that has hundreds of thousands of fans. Yes, you’d have to manually go through the list, hitting Next, Next, Next, and Next again until you find it … 30 years later.
Seriously, Facebook? You can’t give us a search box?
Okay, maybe there’s a reason for this, but I never found out, and to this day most of us really have no idea. Just a few months ago, you removed the ability for businesses to easily run contests on Facebook pages. The stipulations that surround contest hosting on Facebook at this present time actually benefit big brands and not small companies who are looking to build their presence on the network. Apparently, Page owners have to ask permission but only if they are spending a lot of money on Facebook Ads.
Sure, Facebook, we get it. You have your reasons for doing this, and they’re probably financially driven, but why not be honest about why you shut so many people out? Why not work with small businesses and those affected most by this policy change to find something that would work better for them that does not complicate the process or require a substantial financial investment? Believe it or not, even with my minimal reach, I’ve been asked about Facebook contests from businesses of all sizes dozens of times. People want to do it right without fear of being punished and losing their hard-earned Facebook Page.
Why did you have to change your terms to kill the potential for businesses to use promotions to shine on Facebook? Most people explicitly join Facebook because they want exclusives, deals, and freebies. Way to take much of that away.
If this decision was financially motivated, perhaps you should have just charged money for the ability for a business to create a Fan Page versus forcing them to spend money on ads before contest permission is granted. Maybe then it would have solved the issue about the permanent administrators. Only people truly financially invested in their companies would actually pay to create Facebook Pages, after all.
Are you Listening, Facebook?
Where, Facebook, can we request these legitimate improvements, and more importantly, will you really listen? I know I’ve made several requests of numerous individual staffers before, but apparently I’m a nobody whose requests deserve not a single listen, despite the fact that I’m not speaking for myself. Facebook needs to improve upon itself instead of innovating with uselessness.
Maybe it’s time to be attentive to these concerns and not shut them out. After all, this time, they’re not complaining about news feeds. Facebook, when you open to everyone, you need to have ears and listen to everyone. Sometimes the concerns are actually legitimate. From what we’ve gathered, the people behind these support forms are junior staff who don’t pass on requests to senior staff, and that’s why nothing gets done.
Facebook, it might actually be a good idea sometimes to listen to your users. When you’re a platform for businesses, having a mutually beneficial relationship could even be a good idea. So, Facebook, when are you going to have a Business Center that regularly communicates with owners of small businesses or larger businesses who don’t place ad buys on your network? I’m aware of your larger-scale relationships with businesses with deep pockets, but not every business is there yet or feels comfortable in the social space. Perhaps creating and fostering relationships can help make it better for everyone involved. Being responsive, though, is a critical first step.
Facebook, I (we) ask that you start valuing business entities and not ignore those who might not be in a financial position to invest with you (yet!). They might not be the lifeblood of your site, but they’re definitely driving more users to the network, which we hope actually helps your bottom line.
Readers, Now it’s Your Turn
What other flaws have you found in the way Facebook handles its relationship with businesses? Readers, the comments are yours.