By Danielle Reckless, Account Executive

Any communication advisor worth their salt will talk about the importance of Facebook for consumer brands to build their audience and drive brand engagement. And with almost 12 million users in Australia alone, most will agree that Facebook is an essential part of a business’ marketing strategy.

While many brands have come to the Facebook party, a surprisingly large number aren’t playing by the rules. Facebook has developed some strict, detailed, ever-changing, and at times incredibly complex guidelines for brand and business pages. Having your page suspended or shut down is the penalty if you don’t comply.

Some pages receive a warning, many more don’t. We shed a sympathetic tear for Cool Hunter when its page got shut down due to what Facebook deemed copyright infringements late last year. All that work, all those fans, gone in an instant. And its nigh impossible to appeal.

To avoid getting into trouble, be aware of the rules. Here are six of the most common violations that can lead to having your Facebook page shut down:

1. Ignore copyright restrictions for images or other content posted on your page. This has led to the closure of many high profile business pages. When posting any content that isn’t your own, ensure that you attribute the original author/owner (and even link to their page). If you don’t know whose content it is, don’t post it!

2. Display a cover photo that doesn’t adhere to Facebook guidelines. Facebook has some very specific rules for cover photos. It must not:
 – include prices or special offer information such as ‘40 percent off’
 – provide company contact information (details such as your website, email address, customer service number etc should be listed in the ‘About’ section)
 – include pointers such as ‘Like’ or ‘Share’ or a call to action such as ‘Tell your friends’. Likewise, images cannot point an arrow towards the ‘Like’ button
 – feature more than 20 per cent text

3. Break contest guidelines (and there are lots of them). Any promotion or competition run on Facebook must abide by these rules.
 – Contests asking for submissions or votes via comments, ‘liking’, sharing, posting photos or ‘checking in’ to a venue are prohibited.
 – Contests must not be posted on the brand’s wall, but administered within apps. Third-party promotional app developers like Wildfire and Offerpop can help here.
 – Your promotion must acknowledge that it is not sponsored, endorsed, administered by or associated with Facebook
 – You cannot notify contest winners through a Facebook wall post, message or chat. It must be through the app or via contact details provided by the entrant when they entered your competition.

4. Display third-party advertising on your page. This is an easy way to get your page closed down. Any ads and commercial content are subject to Facebook’s strict Advertising Guidelines.

5. Create Facebook offers for third-party suppliers. Facebook offers have become an incredibly popular way for brands to engage their audience and turn likes into sales. But again, Facebook has some very specific codes that all offers must adhere to. You cannot run offers for third-party suppliers or use the function to offer the equivalent of a gift certificate. Any restrictions on your offer (i.e. expiration date, redemption limitations) must be clearly outlined in the T+C’s.

6. Be offensive. It goes without saying really, but if you post offensive content, Facebook is going to take you down. And if Facebook doesn’t, the Australian Advertising Standards Board very well might. Unsurprisingly, there are few brands that go around aiming to be offensive but could the same thing be said for some Facebook users? Last year, the Advertising Standards Board ruled that brands are responsible for both their own page content and the content posted by fans. This decision was reached after the Board received a complaint about obscene, sexist and racist comments posted by fans on the Smirnoff Vodka Facebook page.

More information on Facebook’s guidelines can be found here.