Profile Picture from a FAN page for a Shiba Inu
Recently, a string of incidents on Facebook brought a shining spotlight on to the differences between personal accounts and fan pages. Sadly, as I help people wade through these, it reinforces that Facebook is really missing a chance to do well by their users and create marketing opportunities.
A little background: when you sign up for an account on FB, you agree that you are over the age of 13, you will not use an alias or a false name, and you will not the account for commercial purposes. And so enters the pet people – people who want to not have a personal online presence so they build an account under the pet’s name and don’t read the terms of service (ToS). If you use Twitter, it’s may even be logical to you that it’s OK to do this on FB. On Twitter I follow the Bay Bridge, the SF fog, a few robots, a shark, and the Mars Rover – all clearly not people but things. In addition, if you are new to Facebook, setting up a fan page is not intuitive. So people make “personal” accounts called Sir Fluffy Meowalot and build up a network of friends – other people with pets who interact and schedule meet-ups and promote events and buy goods…oh wait, yes, people with pets spend a ton of money. They are a perfect target for ads on Facebook if the targeting system allowed it. Which it doesn’t because all of these accounts violate the terms of service.
And that brings me to the disconnect. Yes, these folks have violated the ToS. However, they have then had their accounts deleted, been notified they must convert to a fan page, and their history is gone.
From the Facebook perspective, a page is meant to be a fan page, or a page geared for businesses. The Page design seems to have been developed with the idea that the person, entity or business represented on the page does not care about their privacy and does not want to interact with their audience. For example, a page can not start a private message to someone who has liked their page. Communication has to start with the fan first sending a PM. In addition, a page cannot comment on anything in a personal account, even if that personal account has liked their page. Furthermore, blocking trolls on a page is much harder than blocking a person on a personal account. In fact, blocking someone on a page means they cannot post, but they can still lurk and see your content.
Here is an example of how some of this could play out. Let’s say I’m a famous singer with a name like “Justin”. I have a fan page. Peggy Smith has liked my page and she sent me this great snail mail letter with a song she had written and she hopes I can sing it someday. It’s really a great song and I want to send her a private message via Facebook saying “I have a concert tomorrow night and I’m totally singing your song”. But I can’t do that. Furthermore, I can’t go to her personal profile and post on her timeline. I can’t even post on my timeline and tag her as the awesome person who wrote this song.
The wrench in all the gear works here is privacy. I understand FB doesn’t want a brand with a page to be able to spam you with private message and dump garbage on your timeline – Facebook wants the brand to pay for that privilege – but Facebook is missing a golden opportunity to have an account somewhere in the middle between a personal account and a fan page. One of the biggest mantras I have for my clients is that marketing needs to be human and needs to be a two-way conversation. So realize how a Facebook page essentially violates what modern marketeers are trying to accomplish. A page can essentially only “talk” to another page – ruining the whole idea of human authenticity in marketing.
One final note on my reasoning here: pages do not get ads presented to them but personal accounts do. Back to my comment above about pet people spend tons of money. However, by forcing them to convert to a page, Facebook is missing a great marketing opportunity. Creating a type of account that is somewhere in between a personal account and a page would keep the faith with their users and allow Facebook to sell better targeted ads.
What are your thoughts on this? Should Facebook have a new type of account, are Pages useful to you? What have you seen?
Disclosure: I have a fan page for my Shiba Inus and have always ran it that way – but I knew about pages because I’m in marketing and I knew about the ToS. Not everyone has that insight.