Does Exposing Your Business Content To Facebook Friends Constitute Spam?
A client recently brought something to our attention on ‘Facebook Usage’ and we felt compelled to investigate. The usage relates to exposing business content or unsolicited commercial communication to your ‘Facebook personal profile or wall’ where your activity is visible to friends. Her concern was whether or not that’s accurately defined as spam. Ultimately, if it’s spam, are there consequences?
To be more specific, we’ve been pushing our blog posts to both friends and also to our fans. With friends we justified this because we feel our content is [mostly] educationally based; however, if this constitutes spam we’ll be the first to admit we have been guilty AND we’re going to STOP!
According to Wikipedia Spam is defined as “…the abuse of electronic messaging systems to send unsolicited bulk messages indiscriminately. While the most widely recognized form of spam is e-mail spam, the term is applied to similar abuses in other media: instant messaging spam, Usenet newsgroup spam, Web search engine spam, spam in blogs, wiki spam, online classified ads spam, mobile phone messaging spam, Internet forum spam, junk fax transmissions, **social networking spam**, and file sharing network spam.”
And I repeat, that includes the abuse of electronic messaging systems to send unsolicited bulk messages … including **social networking spam**.
Why Do Social Networks Care?
The success of a social network depends on how well they insulate their users from abuse. For a social network to remain relevant, they need a thriving user base. So, defining & preventing spam makes a great deal of sense. If registered user identities and activity are shared with marketers too freely OR if the environment becomes overrun with unsolicited spam, it’s likely those users will NOT stick around. We’ve said it before: “FREE services are BOTH provider & user loyalty FREE!” In other words the social network will bear the cost of invasive marketing spam by losing its capital – the *social* user. No more social users, no more content and no more social network!
Twitter, for example, is a great example of a network that many business people use [or possibly abuse] for marketing purposes. We business folks can currently use Twitter to generate search indexing visibility and also to drive back links to our primary web presence. And in doing so, rather than purely to add & share value, are we undermining it for users who entered for the social value?
In Twitter’s case, maybe or maybe not, but clearly Facebook is concerned.
Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities
A quick review of Facebook’s ‘Statement of Rights and Responsibilities’ shows the following:
3. Safety – We do our best to keep Facebook safe, but we cannot guarantee it. We need your help to do that, which includes the following commitments:
1. You will not send or otherwise post unauthorized commercial communications (such as spam) on Facebook.
4. Registration and Account Security
2. You will not use your personal profile for your own commercial gain.
12. Special Provisions Applicable to Pages
1. Pages are special profiles that may only be used to promote a business or other commercial, political, or charitable organization or endeavor.
14. Termination – If you violate the letter or spirit of this Statement, or otherwise create possible legal exposure for us, we can stop providing all or part of Facebook to you.
Ultimately, this pretty much answers the usage question. The Fan Page is setup so that participants or ‘fans’ can authorize us as a business to send marketing communication; whereas, the spirit of a personal profile is social, for friends, family AND NOT unsolicited commercial marketing communication.
Because Facebook retains the right to terminate your personal profile, our advice would be to ONLY point your business blogs feed into your Fan Page.