Page Squatting: The Next Challenge for Facebook Pages?

brooklynpageInside Facebook, any user can set up a Facebook Page, whether or not they are acting in an official capacity. As a result, fans often set up Facebook Pages for products, companies, or brands they like as a place to earnestly express their passion. Brand owners have to figure out how to respond, but usually, these cases are resolved smoothly and amicably.

However, as Facebook Pages are becoming more widely adopted, a new type of “Page squatting” is starting to arise: creating a Facebook Page with the intent of selling ad space on it. A new case (reported on Buzz Marketing Daily) in which someone has independently set up a Facebook Page called “Brooklyn, New York” seems to fall under the latter category.

While the “Brooklyn, New York” page could be seen by some users as the famous borough’s official Facebook home, if you dropped an e-mail to the Page’s administrator, your message would not land in the inbox of the New York City Chamber of Commerce or City Hall. Instead, you might receive the following, grammatically incorrect response (as Buzz Marketing did):

  1. Level 1. “Basic” $75.00 USD. I will add your facebook fan page to the main page in the “favorite pages” section. You can the post on the any wall in my network of local pages. Since spamming is not allowed, you will be limited to 2 posts per week. This level entitles you to 6 months of service.
  2. Level 2. “Featured Local Business” $150.00 USD. All of the above, plus I will promote your business with 2 blasts to more than 35,000 – 60,000 fans. This helps you acquire fans to your page which you can then market to indefinitely and usually results in immediate sales. You can create any message or promotion you want for these blasts. Each additional blast is $50.00 USD.
  3. Level 3. Full Service Social Marketing Plan: $500.00 USD. One full year of service. I will create or optimize your current fan page and promote it in a special custom section on the page called “Shop Locally” which provides permanent links to information about your business. This level includes 6 blasts, and is geared to increasing awareness about your business and in driving revenue directly from facebook. This also includes a consultation on how to best use social media to increase revenue and awareness. Each additional blast is $50.00 USD.

In short, the person who wrote this message created the “Brooklyn, New York” Facebook Page, grew it to 17,000 fans, and is now trying to profit by selling ad space on it to local businesses. He convinced businesses in the borough that he can effectively promote their Facebook presence by posting content to this page’s Wall tab, or by sending Update blasts to fans of the Page.

picture-11

Unless he has been hired by the city, this approach could run counter to Facebook’s Terms of Service for Facebook Pages. Under the terms, the company writes, “Facebook Pages are special profiles used solely for commercial, political, or charitable purposes. You may not set up a Facebook Page on behalf of another individual or entity unless you are authorized to do so. This includes fan Facebook Pages, as well as Facebook Pages to support or criticize another individual or entity.”

While we imagine cases like this have occurred on Facebook in the past, the historical precedent for this type of incident traces back to the early days of the public Internet. Since the beginning of the web, people have cybersquatted (or domain squatted) on the URLs later sought by famous companies and celebrities. Courts have generally ruled in the favor of companies or celebrities, making the defendant prove that he or she had a legitimate use for the name.

In this case, it’s Facebook setting the rules. Although it’s possible for hundreds of Pages to exist with the same name, Facebook’s Pages team is working to consolidate all Pages named after companies or brands under the official ownership or the brand or its agency. However, whether those policies strictly apply to cases like Pages named after cities is more ambiguous.

Conclusion

Ultimately, we think Facebook should manage this issue as the courts have on the public Internet. The fact that someone wants to make a living running a community’s Facebook Page is a good idea. Many governments, schools and companies lack the expertise internally to do effective Facebook marketing on their own. But if they choose to outsource the task, an official contract should be drawn up like it would for any vendor providing a service to a government or company. The person running the “Brooklyn, New York” Page has clearly capitalized by moving quickly.

Companies are more vigilant in preventing someone from taking their name on the Facebook Platform than governments or cities. A Coca-Cola or a McDonald’s, for instance, has dedicated marketing professionals who spend a good portion of their day monitoring their companies’ presence on social media outlets like Facebook. But like most municipal governments, New York City has other issues to contend with first, like providing public transportation, safety and other basic services to its residents.

If this Facebook Profile brought leads to Brooklyn-based businesses, it speaks well for this type of arrangement. But whether Facebook intends to create a traffic arbitrage marketplace within Facebook Pages is unclear – we wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t and prohibit this type of behavior altogether. However, Facebook needs to make sure such Pages do not mislead the businesses who pay to have their presence listed there, or the end-users who think they are visiting an official Facebook Page that represents their community.

As it happens in the future, Facebook will likely deal with this problem reactively. If they get a critical mass of users — or prominent officials — who complain, then they will terminate or suspend the Page. Although you could argue that Facebook should be proactive about monitoring such behavior to ensure authenticity across the site, that’s unrealistic. People add apps and Pages to Facebook everyday. The growth of the ecosystem would be seriously hindered if Facebook took the time to check each and every one.

Social Media 101

Mediabistro Course

Social Media 101

Get hands-on social media training for beginners! Starting November 10, hear from our expert speakers on the  best practices for getting set up on the major social media platforms, how to create meaningful content, and engage with your audience across sites. Register now!

 

Leave a Reply

12 Responses to “Page Squatting: The Next Challenge for Facebook Pages?”

  1. Jeff Strank says:

    Good post but I think it’s more than this. For example, there are two Pages with around 1,000,000 “Fans of Summer.” What’s to stop the admins of those Pages from selling ads to vacation providers, etc?

    And there are many other general categories of Pages that are going viral quickly and can then be used to sell advertising space or updates to Fans. There is, for example, a Page with over 3 million fans of “pizza”. Pizza Hut, by contrast, has 940,000. Should Pizza Hut who has played by the rules (i.e. is promoting their brand) and devotes a lot of effort to social media be disadvantaged vis-a-vis a presumably individual user who doesn’t represent an actual brand/product but suddenly has the marketing power to directly reach 3 million pizza lovers? Couldn’t Domino’s make a deal with the “Pizza” admin to send updates to 3 million fans and circumvent the limitations of its own Page (which only has 287,000 Fans)?

  2. Ann Evanston says:

    As a small biz owner, I agree with Michael Gerber that more entrepreneurs need to work on their biz not in it- so having someone set up and manage your biz page makes sense! What bothers me is that I woudl have NO CHOICE but to use this person – don’t like that!

    Ann Evanston
    The Warrior is Within You
    http://www.warrior-preneur.com

  3. Page N Group says:

    Until facebook gives website embedding like youtube, the pages remain almost useless. Facebook page wall should be iframe embeddable in any external website.

    Facebook converts unauthorised pages into groups. Groups app is yet to find its place, what I feel is Groups app canvas page should work as launchpad for groups. Currently this canvas page only lists just groups and useless. We cant go to each group and check whats happening.

  4. Jamie Ellis says:

    An Potato Smiley Faces page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Potato-Smiley-faces/60431779482?ref=nf) has interior motives

    497,000 fans of the potato things but the developer uses the status update for own motives

    add xyz page
    add xyz – there ‘best’ friend
    join [referral site]

  5. Cybersquatting Goes Social - News: Everything-e says:

    [...] minds of the unethical. The same goes for Facebook Pages. Chris Lynch at Inside Facebook recently discussed a Facebook page called "Brooklyn, New York," which is not owned by that city, but rather somebody trying [...]

  6. Cybersquatting Goes Social : virtual gambling says:

    [...] Lynch at Inside Facebook recently discussed a Facebook page called "Brooklyn, New York," which is not owned by that city, but rather somebody trying [...]

  7. Us Weekly the Latest to Profit from Selling Inventory on Its Facebook Page says:

    [...] this week, Inside Facebook detailed the nascent market surrounding Facebook Page squatting: some entrepreneurs are building Facebook Pages around local cities and towns and trying to sell ad [...]

  8. Cybersquatting Goes Social « new media monthly says:

    [...] Lynch at Inside Facebook recently discussed a Facebook page called “Brooklyn, New York,” which is not owned by that city, but rather somebody [...]

  9. PamelaJaye says:

    the link in the article lands somwhere in the middle of rules which were updated May 1. Where are the rules for Pages now?

  10. Vladimir Vlach says:

    I agree. I see it as a waste in many cases. Many people will become fans of many pages. Many of these Fan pages are not even maintained.

  11. Sean Gibson says:

    You say “Facebook’s Pages team is working to consolidate all Pages named after companies or brands under the official ownership or the brand or its agency.”

    Do you have a shortcut to getting in touch with them? The Pages product guide has no contact info and all I’ve found so far is a sales web form. But I know there’s a batphone line somewhere.

    I work with multiple brands on social media and we have some squatters to chat with.

  12. SPOOF queens says:

    How do I get my fan box on my Myspace profile? I have a Myspace music account. Please send your answer to SPOOFqueens@live.com, it would be very much appreciated. Also, is it possible to get it on YouTube channels?

Get the latest news in your inbox
interested in advertising with inside facebook?

Social Media Jobs
of the Day

Social Media Manager

Joe Fresh
New York, NY

Weekend Editor and Social Media Manager

Cinema Blend LLC
Telecommute, OR

Social Media Manager

The Culinary Institute of America
Poughkeepsie, NY

Web and Social Media Manager

Health Resources in Action, Inc.
Boston, MA

Online Social Media Manager

WellPoint
Chicago, IL

Featured Company

Join leading companies like this one and recruit from the nation's top media job seekers on the Mediabistro Job Board. Every job post comes with our satisfaction guarantee. Learn More
 

Our Sponsors

Mediabistro A division of Prometheus Global Media home | site map | advertising/sponsorships | careers | contact us | help courses | browse jobs | freelancers | content | member benefits | reprints & permissions terms of use | privacy policy Copyright © 2014 Mediabistro Inc. call (212) 389-2000 or email us