In this series of blog posts we are looking at what is often described as 'Facebook Jail - a state where a users access to their account is restricted - sometimes to the detriment of their business.
To find out more about what Facebook Jail means, take a look at my previous blog entry - Under Arrest - What is Facebook Jail?
We know there are certain things which will 'flag' up at Facebook HQ but unfortunately Facebook keep the magic numbers very close to their chest. No-one knows for sure how many times you can be reported, or what weighting is given to copied and pasted article - but don't despair! The best thing you can do is adopt these strategies and ensure you minimise your chances of being blocked.
TIME TO DO SOME HOUSEKEEPING
Even if it has never happened to you, its probably a good idea to take some preventative steps. Clear out your friends list. All those people you added because you were hoping to increase your network? Check them out. Are they competitors? Do they have an axe to grind with you or your business? You don't need them right now so unfriend and if they are likely to be your problem then block them too.
Have you got lots of groups where you post? Team groups where you share ideas and marketing plans? What about those selling groups? If you are the owner of the group then its time for a clear out. In a small group its easy to clear people out and remove them from the group. In a larger group it may not be a simple - but it is unlikely to do your business any harm if you create a new group and ask people if they want to be a part of it. That way you are talking to people who want to listen AND you can control who you communicate with.
And those sales groups? Are you really getting a return on the time you invest in posting? Or are you just another person offering an 'incredible opportunity'? These kinds of sites are full of spammy (if well meaning) posts. Save yourself the effort and invest your time in building relationships with people instead.
TAKE YOUR TIME
We’ve all been there and it is often encouraged - especially when posting on Facebook is not your full time job! Getting the maximum activity out of the time available can lead to a burst of intense activity which can result in a jail term.
Often called the ‘POWER HOUR’, and encouraged by those who consider themselves MLM 'leaders', an intense burst of social media activity can lead to jail time as people post the same content to multiple groups or pages within a short space of time. This is just the type of behaviour that gets people into trouble. And it doesn't matter what the subject is. Posting in several groups or for sale pages may result in a black mark which will ultimately be regarded as spam just as soon as someone reports you.
Those of us who work with Facebook professionally, know that its essential to leave a gap between each post. If posting in multiple Pages then use the scheduling facility to ensure your posts have a time delay (it doesn’t need to be a long delay - 10 minutes is the minimum) or use something like Hootsuite to schedule group posts and avoid them all hitting Facebook at the same time.
THERE IS ONLY ONE YOU! BE ORIGINAL
Probably the most vital of all social media strategies. It is your content that generates engagement, it should be your greatest asset and it is important that your online presence has ‘your voice’ and doesn’t feel like a copy and paste exercise.
In my experience, those who get blocked have often been using images from search engine results. The first few results of any search will often be the ones that have been clicked on the most times and shared before and they are the ones that are most likely to have been previously reported as spam.
Additionally, you need to be aware of the rules surrounding image ownership and licensing. If you don’t have a licence then you will require permission from the person who owns the image. If you don’t have this and the owner finds out then they may report you to Facebook - and back you go to jail. If you are working on behalf of an organisation or you work in direct sales then chances are the company will provide images for your use - you can use them but with caution. Once they have been published there are likely to be thousands of representatives using the same images too and if they start getting reported as Spam, then its back to square one for you. Facebook may also think they are spam without anyone reporting them at all. If it sees lots of the same content then it will try to stop it.
The same goes for words. Don’t simply copy and paste the words of someone else. Make it your own OR share the original using the share button.
Making content original can be quite simple. Take your own product photos or use one of the many collage apps to create a unique image. Facebook will use a pixel matching system to find duplicate content and so it won’t simply be enough to add a border or a little text. You may need to be more creative than that. Video is a great way to use the original content but avoid Facebook jail but BEWARE of copyrights when it comes to the use of commercial music (only use the music provided royalty free - don’t pick something from your iTunes!)
Finally, you can help make images or text less spammy by posting them on your business page and then sharing that into your groups or your profile. This fits the way Facebook want you to use the site AND has the advantage of making your business page more visible.
Use Facebook for connecting to other people rather than simply trying to collect likes or followers.
Facebook hates it when people add friends they do not really know. If you want to increase your network you are going to need to be a bit more sophisticated and avoid simply adding people and hoping they accept.
If you send out multiple friend requests which are ignored or rejected then Facebook may consider you to be spamming. The people effected may also complain - adding fuel to the fire. After rejecting your friendship, Facebook asks users if they know you, and if many of them say “no”, then you’ll be marked as SPAM. Its the same if you start adding yourself to lots of groups and are subsequently rejected OR if you add multiple people to a group without asking them (only for them to leave or be removed)
Beware of tagging people in photos. If you do this often and they go on to un-tag themselves, Facebook will consider it to be spam. It is far better to mention them in the comment or at least ensure that the person is likely to want to be tagged in the photo.
Finally, be careful about your use of messenger. If you set up a chat group and people leave then you will get a black mark. You also run the risk of it being reported as spam. The messaging of people who are not already your friend is likely to raise Facebooks hackles too. That said, if the person accepts and you go on to have a conversation then there won’t be a problem but if you are rejected or ignored too many times then you are likely to go to jail.
One of Facebook’s golden rules is that your personal profile cannot be used for commercial purposes. Its good practice to talk about what your business is doing or share news and information but once you start including a ‘buy now’ or ‘shop here’ link you have crossed the line. Keep your personal profile for personal posts - shared with people you know - and you won’t go far wrong.
KNOW WHEN TO SHUT UP!
You really don’t need to share everything every day. Identify what the optimum time for posting is (you can judge this on interaction with previous posts) and then try to follow this number. Posting more than 6 or 7 times a day on your personal profile will likely cause people to unfollow and if you post too often on your business page then the chances are you will be unfollowed and potentially reported as spam.
Try to avoid oversharing your website details as well. Links are often reported as spam and the click through rate is generally not high enough to make it worth your while. It is far better to include this information on your page and give your followers enough good content that they feel compelled to find out.
Remember to use a combination of personal posts and business posts - with most of your content being non-marketing, and find creative ways of telling people what you do. Posting the same image every week at the same time is going to bore your followers and may get you unfollowed.
If you are fed up of dodging the tumble weed on your page, profile or group then its time to switch things up. Do not be tempted to copy someone else, or find a generic post from the corporate team. If Facebook see very little interaction on your posts and then you post a sales message it is likely to trigger a spam flag. If people don’t like what you are doing then stop and find another way. Talk to the leaders in your industry and find out what they do.
The best use of your time here is to try and figure out what the problem is and take advice to go about fixing it Start personally messaging some of your friends and followers - rebuild the personal link with them and tell Facebook to start showing your posts to them again. Reach out to them via Linkedin or Twitter - follow them on Instagram or simply send a text or pick up the phone.