Dealing with the Ever-Changing Faces of Facebook

December 31, 2009

As I write, the clock has yet to chime midnight on December 31; however, all indications are that 2009 was the Year of Facebook, for both personal and business communication. The five-year-old social network has become a behemoth of users and capital, and marketers like myself have been forced to spend hours wading through silly farm games and virtual Yankee Candle giveaways to better understand how the service may be used by our clients.

What's truly annoying is that it's a never-ending process, as Facebook changes crucial parts of its service often, and sometimes with little notice. This reinforces the often-overlooked fact that digital marketing is not a set-and-forget process; you have to stay on top of things. A little tweak from Facebook or a nudge from Twitter could call for a serious reevaluation of your marketing plans.

Just take a look at what we had to deal with this year on Facebook:

Terms of Service Changes

In February, Facebook changed its TOS to stipulate that it had an ongoing, perpetual license for any content uploaded to the site, provided that the profile remained active. Strangely, the site's owners seemed surprised when users appeared upset about the idea of being controlled by digital overlords.

Most of the concern came from average users, and rightfully so, but this switch could have had a profound effect on businesses. Imagine having to deal with FB's use of an expired promotion, trademark, or copyright. If you think the folks in charge there would be too smart to do something like that, you might not be aware that Facebook's founder just recently became old enough to qualify for adult car insurance rates.

By the way, Facebook reverted to the previous TOS after the outcry.

The End of Easy, Free Promotions

Few people seemed to notice when Facebook decided to radically change its rules regarding how businesses can administer promotions through their fan pages. We did, seeing as how we were in the middle of establishing a client's FB presence, and we detailed our thoughts here.

In short, the new rules make it very difficult for organizations to run Facebook promotions, and they've forced a number of businesses back to the drawing board to rethink their plans.

Fan Page Ownership Issues

Granted, these didn't just happen in 2009; as so many businesses and organizations rushed this year to establish fan pages, we believe the problem became acute. What problem? You can't change ownership of a Facebook page. If you let an ex-employee or former marketing partner create your fan page, it's still theirs.

Why Facebook hasn't addressed this issue is a bit confusing. Until they do, we have a solution that will help you maintain ownership of your Facebook page.

What can you do to maintain a viable, fresh Facebook presence?

Stay alert, for one; it's already been announced that major changes are coming to fan pages. Facebook is selective about what they publicize, and it sometimes takes a while for information to disseminate. Moreover, be flexible; changes may come in the middle of a campaign.

Finally, keep in mind that Facebook—like each social network—is only one tool that can be part of a larger digital marketing strategy. If any of the above changes or scenarios would have proven disastrous to your marketing efforts, you may have too many eggs in Facebook's basket. There's always Twitter, you know ...