fcbk-biz-2109Facebook has a good ecosystem for promoting brands, however many small business owners make the mistake of relying on Facebook as their primary social media channel. They are giving away their content to Facebook and relying on Facebook to be there when they need it. Many companies also build up their client lists on Facebook as followers. These business owners never think about what would happen to their client lists or their content if Facebook decides to make changes.

What many small business owners haven’t realized is that they are at the mercy of Facebook. Small business owners need to ask themselves a simple question – what will you do if suddenly you are cut off from your customers (followers) or content? Think it can’t happen?

It already has for many people.

Simply Google “Facebook suspension policies” and you will be presented with many examples. Although many of them should be banned from social media because of hateful or terrorist activities, the problem for business owners lies in that Facebook’s ecosystem is too large and it does not focus on limiting access but rather encouraging online sharing. Because of that, Facebook does not have a clear policy or process for suspending users.

There have been various journalists and well known individuals that have been suspended by Facebook because of misconstrued posts or news items. Most recently, Shaun King, a well-known Black Lives Matter activist, was suspended by Facebook over a racist post sent against him by another user. King shared the post on Facebook to bring attention to it. Facebook cutoff King’s access to Facebook for violating “community standards”.

The suspension cut off Shaun King from accessing his 800,000 followers and the primary medium he uses to communicate his activities. King had only shared the racist message directed at him and had not created it. Because Facebook uses algorithms and entry-level employees in other countries and has no clear process for handling complaints, its knee-jerk reaction is to suspend users who receive a complaint.

In the case of King, his suspension from Facebook was temporary as his direct connections to journalists and Facebook employees allowed his suspension to be addressed manually by individuals with the ability to intervene on his behalf. Almost all of you reading this do not have the same access.

The vast majority of users do not have direct access and thus they must rely on an arbitrary and mostly automatic process to manage any suspension. Facebook’s suspension varies from 24 hours to a permanent suspension and it is not entirely clear how the suspension time is determined.

For the average Facebook user and small business owner, that leaves the content and followers they have painstakingly created over the years entirely at the mercy of a flawed Facebook platform that has no built-in mechanism for addressing user suspensions. That makes everything you have worked for entirely dependent on Facebook.

What are you going to do if Facebook suddenly decides to suspend you?

In the last few weeks, I have received many requests from clients asking for help in accessing their followers and content. In one case, the Facebook user was suspended because someone complained that they were misusing intellectual property – a graphic.

The problem is that the graphic in question was actually the clients own work. What we assume happened is that a malicious user filed a Digital Millennium Act complaint against my client because they wanted to cause the client some grief. Well it did, because Facebook’s cumbersome and unorganized suspension policy kept my client from accessing their content and followers for weeks while some ambiguous process determined if in fact the client had stolen the image from someone else. Of course, Facebook finally determined that the client did not steal the artwork and restored my client’s access. That was no consolation for my client who lost business and the ability to even let his clients know what was going on. His clients’ were seeing that his account was suspended when they went to visit his Facebook page. To add injury to insult, Facebook has refused to release details about the complaint other than to tell the client that the have suspended the abuser’s account.

In another recent case, an individual had created a “personal” page for their professional Facebook page instead of using the official “business page” option in Facebook. Facebook suspended the page and told the user that they had to create a business page for their professional persona. All of the user’s followers, many of them, were now gone and the professional had no way of letting them know that the page had changed.

Does that mean small business owners shouldn’t use Facebook, or other social media for branding or advertising campaigns?

On the contrary, that is the future of generating leads. But it should be done intelligently.

Facebook and other social media channels should only be drivers to your own website. A website that you control. Your content and your followers should be under your control and not under the control of Facebook, Twitter or any other social media channel.

You can even have it all for free. That is one of the reasons I created the Amitor platform, a fully-integrated cloud-based app that allows you to organize all of your content, your followers and social media channels in one central online location where you always have access to what is yours.

If Amitor, which is free, does not meet your needs, a small business owner can use any of the many self-managed website hosting services to create and maintain their content.

The key is to register your own domain name and build your brand around it. The site authreg.com is a great place to start. (Disclosure: AuthReg is one of my companies)

Ultimately putting all of your greatest business assets on Facebook is a disaster waiting to happen.

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...