Facebook delisting can be traumatic

The disappeared

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Diana Frerick felt as if her heart had stopped on Valentine's Day of this year when Facebook pulled the plug on her profile page.

The former Cedar Rapids resident, who now lives in Phoenix, Ariz., was one of many Facebook users who have mixed a healthy dash of business with social networking. She is an independent distributor of Isagenix, a weight-loss and nutritional-cleansing system, and used Facebook to stay in touch with customers and other Isagenix distributors on her team, along with many friends.

Facebook told Frerick her page was disabled because it "does not authentically represent you which violates our policies."

She called the claim ridiculous.

"I have been on Facebook over 3 years, had thousands of friends, 500 subscribers and dozens of groups and pages, including one group with over 10,000 members," she said.

When Frerick inquired, Facebook initially said it couldn't verify the ownership of her account. She was asked to reply to an email, attaching a digital image of a government-issued identification such as a passport or driver's license.

When that didn't work, Frerick tried everything she could think of to get Facebook to reinstate her page, including circulating a petition to Facebook to request her reinstatement, and even at one point sending a box of chocolates. She was able to start another page, but it took a lot of time and effort to reconstruct her web of social and business contacts.

Frerick had been recognized within the Isagenix organization for her success as a social-media marketer. In fact, she was preparing on Valentine's Day to travel to Toronto to teach a social-media marketing class for a group of Isagenix representatives when her page was yanked.

Other Facebook users who've had their profiles yanked have said they've encountered the impersonal side of "the social network."

"I tried to figure it out," recalled Carla Davis Vawter of Cedar Rapids, whose page was removed by Facebook at 4 a.m. one Friday this spring as she was posting pictures of her daughter. "They don't have a real person you can talk to. It's like trying to find the Wizard of Oz."

Vawter produces "Me 2 We With Carla Davis," a blog talk radio podcast that promotes not-for-profit events such as the Marion Arts Festival. She used the Facebook page as part of the promotional effort.

The longtime Cedar Rapids radio personality and former on-field voice of the Kernels baseball team had more than 5,000 Facebook friends. Like Frericks, she was told by Facebook that she was not authentic.

"I am the queen of promotion, to be honest," she said. "But I do it to raise money for non-profits."

Vawter jokingly admitted that she tints her hair, but insisted she's not in the least fake.

Both Facebook users were caught in apparent violations of Facebook terms of use, although neither was successful in gaining specifics about the alleged offense.

Facebook did not return calls seeking comment, but a social media consultant from Des Moines defended Facebook.

Nathan Wright, founder of Des Moines-based Lava Row, said after hearing about the deletions of Frerick's and Davis's profile pages that they almost certainly violated Facebook's terms of use policy. He said they likely would have avoided the deletions if they'd used Facebook Pages instead of Facebook Profiles.

Facebook Profiles are individual Facebook pages that are designed for making and keeping connections with friends, relatives and co-workers.

Facebook Pages, by contrast, are intended for businesses, organizations or publicity-dependent individuals such as celebrities who are primarily concerned with marketing or publicity-related uses of Facebook.

Wright said Facebook Profiles are limited to 5,000 "Likes," while Facebook Pages have no caps. He said users of Facebook Profiles are allowed to send messages, while Facebook Pages users cannot.

One of the big temptations for some marketers to use Facebook Profiles, Wright said, is the ability to message other Facebook members. He said bars and restaurants are frequent abusers, establishing Profile Pages through an individual and using Facebook as a way to mass email members.

Marketers already should be using Facebook Pages, Wright said, because it gives them access to a set of valuable analytical tools that tell them things such as which of their posts have gone viral, which are shared the most and which are the most popular.

"Facebook is very business friendly," Wright said. "To not know how to use it is simply inexcusable."

But Frerick thinks it's more complicated than that. She briefly had been bumped from Facebook once before when a keylogger virus infected her computer and it was taken over by a spammer who used her account briefly to advertise shoes to her Facebook friends.

Although she was reinstated after that incident, Frerick thinks she may have gotten on Facebook's radar screen because of it, or because of a complaint from a Facebook friend she dropped.

Facebook users who appeal profile deletions sometimes are steered toward Facebook advertising, as Davis was.

"It's almost like they're saying, 'We're not going to let you reach all these people unless you pay money,'" she said.

Wright noted all users have an obligation to honor a social media site's terms of use. Using a Facebook profile too much for business also violates the expectations of other users, who assume they are "friending" an individual not a marketing channel, he said.

Facebook could become more focused on recruiting business members and encouraging them to buy paid services, Wright added, as the company will face greater pressure to generate profits after going public earlier this year.

Frerick said the worst thing about her Facebook deletion was losing her history of contacts and interactions. As she rebuilds her online community, she said she'll definitely make sure she duplicates the information posted on social media sites elsewhere.

"Did I use Facebook for commercial purposes? Sure!," she said. "Like many other millions of people, I did so on occasion in a professional and respectful manner.

"Every once in a while I would reach out to business leaders or mention something about what I do for a living or something related to health, but I was careful not to overdo it.

"Through posting things about my life, I was able to attract others who inquired about my business. My business is part of me, but not all of me." she said.

She never spammed anyone’s wall with marketing, she continued, "and I never once posted my business information in my 10,000 member group."

Vawter acknowledged that she used her profile page to send mass invitations to not-for-profit events. She felt that Facebook's choice to delete her profile seemed puzzling given her non-commercial uses, and her own promotion of Facebook.

She and her husband, for example,  attended the same high school in Clinton but met much later on Facebook and publicized their wedding reception there.

"We were tooting the horn on Facebook, telling everybody how great it is," she said. "I think it's a wonderful asset."

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