Facebook deleted my account last Thursday and I assumed they would change their minds very quickly given the circumstances. I assumed wrong. The reason I was kicked off Facebook is both silly and kind of fucked-up. Maybe I’m just â€œone user,â€� a “statistic” Facebook could care less about given their current circumstances. But considering what I have done for the site, acting as a true evangelist — and maybe their best monetization strategist — the least I deserve is a response.
Here’s what happened.
The day Facebook Pages launched, and to the knowledge of Facebook, I built five pages on behalf of brands I liked: Polo/Ralph Lauren, Lacoste, Patagonia, Kleiner Perkins (the investment firm) and The Sopranos (TV show). I documented all of it. Then out of the blue, Facebook got angry with me.
FACT: I did not ever market to people in these communities; instead I let each community grow organically.
FACT: It would have been simple for any of these brands to create another page with the same name and with clear sponsorship from the actual brand.
FACT: It would have been simple for Facebook to simply take a page and transfer ownership
QUESTION: Does a brand really own the ‘access rights’ to its community?
The reason I decided to build these pages was that as a digital strategist, I wanted to see exactly how powerful a brand could be within Facebook. Given an existing community, would a mico-community rally around a brand? How viral could the mini-feed really be? Would large and active communities emerge?
Answers: Yes. Very Viral. Yes.
Very quickly and with no additional marketing, I had three groups with over 10,000 people. The Sopranos had over 15,000. Polo/Ralph Lauren had over 200 comments on the wall including amazing anecdotes; how someone had met their boyfriend while wearing a Polo dress, someone else commenting about the new fall clothing line.
In essence what I did was to prove that Facebook has clear advertising potential for top brands. My creation of a Polo/Ralph Lauren community within Facebook has lead directly to advertising revenue for Facebook. Would Polo/Ralph lauren be investing resources in Facebook if I had not proven a community could be successful? I don’t know. I do know my account should not have been deleted. If anything, I should have been commended.
The day before Facebook deleted my account the head of Polo/Ralph Lauren interactive sent me an email thanking me for all I had done. In the email (below) she offers to send me a gift certificate for $200 — ironically, $100 less than what a Facebook account is intrinsically worth based on its per-user valuation. Would you take a $200 buyout to leave Facebook? I wasn’t given the choice.
The rule nazi’s will ask: Did I violate Facebook Terms of Service? Emphatically, I say No.
The day FB Pages launched was the day I built the pages. At that time there were no terms of service explaining that certain pages were off-limits. Facebook clearly wanted users to create Pages for brands so that people would use them. I never went back and modified any pages, spammed any users or misrepresented myself. Nevertheless, as Facebook’s policy changed, I began to suspect Facebook wouldn’t like me controlling such large bodies of users on behalf of potential advertisers. After all, I was all that stood between them and a major brand. Aware of this, I actually reached out to both Facebook and the brands themselves, offering to turn over the pages to their â€˜rightful owners’ if I was asked to do so â€“ and I have evidence of this.
The following is a bit of a tirade. I apologize in advance.
Real smart Facebook. Delete the account of someone who helped you build some of (if not THE) largest brand-based communities of your site. Real smart. Delete the account of someone who blogs consistently about your product and almost always in a favorable light. Real smart. Delete the account of someone who runs a media company that has built multiple applications for top entertainment brands on your platform.
Umair Haque has written some very negative things about Facebook calling it â€“ among other things â€“ evil. Even after having my account deleted, I don’t agree with Umair. However, it is clear that Facebook is moving into uncharted territory for a major company: massive valuation needing justification through an ipo, but little revenue or clear business model to get it there. Selling-out its true community to better position itself for big-brand revenues is the clearest evidence yet that Facebook is in for a tumultuous ride.
Facebook â€“ The day you reinstate my account, I am happy to remove this post. Additionally, anyone who wishes to support my position can send an email to email@example.com stating the account of Sam Huleatt should be reinstated.
Update: ReadWriteWeb has a great post that overlaps with thoughts in the comments of this post