A cautionary tale: why you need to read the Facebook fine print

  • Digital
  • May 3, 2012
  • Anna Gervai
A cautionary tale: why you need to read the Facebook fine print

Too many brands have been severely punished for failing to do their homework. So tread carefully and learn to navigate the maze of ever-changing Facebook page rules.

Did you hear about Velvet Burger? It's one of the most recent companies to have its Facebook page deleted for breaking the rules, waving ‘bye bye’ to almost 10,000 fans in the process.

You may have also heard Hell Pizza went the same way—losing its page and 20,000 fans along with it. Hell managed to get the page back through someone-who-knew-someone who worked at Facebook, but sadly, in most cases, if this happens to you, you’ll be starting from scratch.

In case you’re thinking being in a little country like New Zealand or that having far fewer fans will prevent this from happening to you, think again. Don’t get all up in arms with Facebook about this either, the only person to blame is you.

So this is what you CANNOT do on Facebook. Page admins take note.

When you created your Facebook page for your business you ticked a box saying you’ve read and agree to the terms and conditions. I know, I know, of course you didn’t actually read them (and I don’t blame you, there are pages and pages to read), but ignorance is definitely not bliss.

As Facebook says: “We reserve the right to reject or remove Pages for any reason.” And they’re not kidding. Don’t think you’ll get a warning either. Poof! One day it could just be gone.

The bad news is claiming you didn’t know you were breaking the rules won’t cause Facebook to reverse your page deletion decision.

The good news? With a little learning you can prevent the next victim being your page.

There are Facebook rules that page admins break on a daily basis, so included in the list of what you CANNOT do that follows below are no doubt many you’ve been guilty of.

Cover photo rules

You know that lovely big new image at the top of your page? As tempting as I know it is, you cannot use it as an ad. What does that mean?

You cannot:


  • Include your contact details – ie: no website address, no phone number, no email and so on. That’s what your about box and info page are for. Basically if it’s a way to get in touch with you, or if there’s a field for that information on your info page, then it cannot go in your cover photo.

  • Include pricing or purchase information – ie: ’40% off…’ or ‘Get yours now at our website…”

  • Reference any “user interface element” – ie: you can’t ask for, mention or even use a graphic to point to Like, Share or any other Facebook feature. Facebook even makes special mention that you cannot encourage or incentivise people to upload your cover image to their personal timelines.

  • Include calls to action – ie: ‘Get yours now’ or ‘Tell your friends’.

  • Use an image you do not own or have the rights to use, that is false, deceptive or misleading.

  • By the way, your cover image should be 851 pixels wide by 315 pixels tall and under 100 kb in file size.


(Shameless plug: If you’d like us to design an impressive, professional cover image and profile image for you, we have a special running for just $99 + GST NZD for a limited time, so get in touch.)

Want to read Facebook’s new cover photo rules for yourself? Here they are and here are some examples of cover photos from brands breaking the new rules.

Promotion rules

Here’s where you’re going to feel guilty as these are broken all the time. It’s these rules that caused Velvet Burger to lose their page (and their 9,500 fans along with it).

You cannot:


  • Run any sort of promotion, competition, sweepstakes etc on your Facebook page using Facebook’s features and functionality – ie: make sure you use an app or ‘custom page’ and not ‘like this update’ / ‘share this photo’ / ‘upload your photo to our page’ / ‘add a comment’ (and so on) to enter (a more complete list follows below).

  • Hold Facebook responsible: So you must include a disclaimer that releases Facebook of any responsibility – eg: You’ve got to mention something along the lines of “This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook”. This is best put on the page/s of your app and in your terms and conditions on your website.

  • Following on from above, you must also disclose who the entrant is giving their information to. The usual wording is “Participants are providing information to [your company name and the name of any other companies who see entrants' information] and not to Facebook.”

  • Use any Facebook features or functionality as part of the promotion or participation other than liking your page, checking in or connecting to your app.

  • Use Facebook features or functionality as a promotion’s registration or entry mechanism - ie: the act of liking your page or checking in cannot automatically register or enter the person in your promotion. Basically a condition of entry can be to like your page but the fan must then complete their entry on your Facebook app or custom page.

  • Use the Like button as a way of voting (eg: most likes wins is not okay). Any other Facebook feature or functionality cannot be used for voting either (eg: The person who invites the most new fans wins …)

  • Notify winners through Facebook – ie: don’t use Facebook message, chat or posting on the winner’s page, your page or another company’s page to notify winners.


These rules apply when promoting your promotion as well. So when you advertise (eg: Facebook ads) or reference a promotion (eg: in a wall post) you need to follow the rules.

These promotions below (often called Wall Promotions) are therefore not okay because you’re using Facebook features and functionality to run the promotion:


  • Share this [update/photo/video etc] to be in to win…

  • Upload a photo / video …

  • Every 25th new fan wins…

  • Add a comment …

  • Invite your friends to like our page …

  • Answer this question …

  • Photo with the most likes wins …


Data collection

Whether promotional or not, whenever you collect content or information from a Facebook user, you have to make it clear that you (and not Facebook) are collecting it.

You’ll need to notify Facebook users and obtain their consent plus tell them (or link to your website privacy policy or terms and conditions page) how their information will be used by you.

Your page name

Your page name and your Facebook username must reflect / match your company name.

So if your company sells milk called Moo Juice then your page name should be ‘Moo Juice’ or ‘Moo Juice Milk’ but not ‘Milk’ as you can’t call your page a generic term – eg: ‘Beer’ or ‘Pizza’.

Your page name cannot be entirely in capitals unless your organisation’s name is an acronym. So the Bank of New Zealand can call its page BNZ but if it’s not an acronym, even if your logo has your name all in capitals, your page name cannot be all caps.

You also cannot use character symbols, such as bullet points or excessive punctuation or trademark symbols, in your page name

Facebook Ads

Before you run Facebook ads, have a careful read through the Facebook Advertising Guidelines here. There are so many that it deserves its own post.

One last word: Do not use this post to decide if what you’re doing is or is not okay. Other than the fact that I haven’t made a complete list of ALL the rules, Facebook updates the rules all the time. You’ll need to do your own research or run it past your Facebook rep or agency to be sure. You can get started here.


  • Anna Gervai is the co-founder of Orchid Web Design, a full service digital agency based on the North Shore in Auckland. This post originally appeared on her blog at marketinggum.co.nz.

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