In mid-November, Facebook announced that it had removed tens of millions of user posts in just the past six months for violating its terms of service.

“What it says, if anything, is that we’re working harder to identify this and take action on it and be transparent about that than what any others are,” the company’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a report.

If you’re of the tens of millions of small businesses that use Facebook (and its sister site Instagram) to advertise, sell products and communicate with your community what does this mean for you? It means you better be careful. Facebook has thousands of algorithms and a large internal team monitoring its users’ activities, and the company is quick to shut down any user or business page that is trying to sell products or otherwise exercise behaviour that it considers to be unacceptable. 

If any of these violations occur, Facebook has the right to immediately disable your account, even without giving you warning. If it does happen, you’ll likely be forced to fill out a special form requesting a review of your account. Facebook says it will resolve issues within four to five business days. But there’s no guarantee that the resolution will be to your favour. If Facebook’s team decides to ban your page even after a formal review, then unfortunately you’ll have little chance for an appeal.

Why is the company so draconian? It’s because Facebook (and Instagram) is a free service. When you sign up for this service you have to agree to their terms and conditions. In this current hyper-sensitive political environment, the company is subject to more scrutiny than ever. Facebook makes its money from advertising which mostly comes from big corporate brands. If you’re a small business, it’s better off for them to just ban you and move on, rather than deal with the fallout of bad publicity. But that’s not a great option, particularly if your business relies on the social media giant for its livelihood. So how can you make sure you stay in the company’s good graces?  By at least doing these three things.

For starters, take a close look at Facebook’s Terms of Service which has links to its community standards, advertising and commerce policies. There you will see a complete list of prohibited products and activities as well as what specific types of behaviour to avoid. Many of Instagram’s Terms of Use are similar. Be aware that these rules change regularly so make it a point to re-visit often. If you think your company is even close to a violation, it’s best that you make the appropriate adjustments as fast as possible.

Next, make sure to avoid spamming and posting too much. Most experts agree that posting a few messages a day is fine, but posting or sending hundreds or thousands of messages or ads will catch the eyes of the Facebook police and could cause them to increase their scrutiny of your business page. Social media experts have different thoughts on this, but my rule of thumb is to give yourself at least a half hour between your posts and messages and to limit your current campaigns to less than a dozen at a time.

Finally, make sure your content is original. Frequently using pre-published posts, images or videos from others will also catch the attention of the Facebook review team. Also make sure you either have permission to use images in your posts or are using images from a royalty free sites.

If you’re depending on either Facebook or Instagram for leads, product sales or even as your main platform for communicating with your customers then it’s important to pay close attention to how you – and your employees – behave on the service. It’s not too hard to be shut down and when that happens getting your business reinstated is very difficult.  All of this should give you some pause for thought. Given the changing environment and the lack of control your company has, is it possible that placing too much reliance on Facebook for your small company’s growth has more risks than rewards?

Source: INC