Legal Considerations and Facebook Marketing - dummies

By Andrea Vahl, John Haydon, Jan Zimmerman

The first step in figuring out the legal considerations for Facebook marketing is finding them! Go to the main site for the Facebook Terms and Policies. Within this page, you can find links to many other lists of terms and policies, such as Ads and Sponsored Stories, Pages, Promotions, and Platform Policies (for Developers).

Facebook does monitor these Terms and Policies although not always thoroughly, because after all, it can’t be everywhere at once. And yes, Facebook will indeed disable your account if you violate these terms.

You may (or may not) know, however, that you can send messages to people who aren’t your Friends. This ability is helpful sometimes, say when you need to get a private message to someone who likes your Page but who isn’t a personal Facebook Friend. The problem with sending messages to people who aren’t your Friends on Facebook is that you don’t know “how much” is “too much.”

Facebook doesn’t specify how many messages you can send without getting banned. Typically, you aren’t going to be sending many messages to people you aren’t Friends with, so you should be riding on the right side of Facebook law.

If you go to the Profiles of people you aren’t Friends with, you see a Message button if they’ve allowed people who aren’t their Friends to message them. If you click the button, you can send a message even though you aren’t Friends with that person.

In the following figure, you see a profile of someone named Molly, and you can see that you’re not Friends with Molly. You can’t see some of her personal information — but you can send her a message.

A Facebook profile page

If you send a message to too many people you don’t know, though — especially if the message contains a link to a website — you’ll get a warning from Facebook. If you continue sending messages like this, your account will be disabled. Not good.

So the message (ha!) here is that you can send messages to people you don’t know — just don’t send too many simultaneously. Sending ten or fewer messages a week to people you don’t know if you need to contact people you aren’t Friends with on Facebook.

Another important aspect of sending messages to people you don’t know is that your message typically ends up in the Other folder of the Facebook Messages area. Most people don’t check this folder regularly, if at all. Facebook sometimes gives you the option to pay $1 to get the message into the main Inbox, but not with every message.

You can’t send any Facebook messages actively as your Facebook Page. You can respond to Facebook messages that come into your Page only if you have the Message button activated. You can send Facebook messages only through your personal Profile, in any case — to Friends or non-Friends.

Pages have also been shut down for violating the Promotions Policies. So, if you’re going to run a contest or sweepstakes, or have some type of promotion on your Facebook Page, make sure you read through the Promotion Policies.

The one that gets violated the most is the first one listed in the Promotions section: Promotions on Facebook must be administered within apps on Facebook.com, either on a Canvas Page or a Page app.

You are also responsible for following the applicable local laws for running a contest in your geographic region. Consult with a lawyer if you have questions about running your promotion or contest.

The Facebook Advertising Guidelines are fairly extensive; review them before you run an ad. Although you won’t violate any laws and your Page won’t be shut down if you go against these guidelines, you will save yourself some time by starting your ad the right way.