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Understanding (More) Recent Facebook Changes

Jim Dayton

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As Sr. Director, Emerging Media at Intouch, more and more of my time is spent keeping up with Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg and company seem to make changes every time I turn around. Frankly, these quick changes keep me and my clients on their toes. It makes my job fun, because every day holds some new challenge due to the fluid landscape of social media. And for as much as my dedicated team may curse the name Facebook, deep down they love it too. They know that every change means another opportunity to talk about social media with our clients.

But to that point, Facebook’s fast-and-furious approach also causes a lot of confusion. For instance, I’ve received frantic calls from clients telling me that Facebook is "turning off the Like button" or "changing Pages to disable moderation." My first response is to calm them down. To my knowledge, Facebook has never made a major change that they didn’t announce and provide a timeline for activation. They’ve also never made a change that was 100% retroactive. In every case, I’ve been able to contact our Facebook representative and get clarification about any design, process or policy change. And this is the case, most recently, with whitelisting.

Over the last year, Facebook has recognized the need for Pharma companies to disable certain functionality of their Pages due to FDA regulations. Most notably, this includes the disabling of the "comment" functionality. Some companies have even requested the Like button be removed. As far as I know, Facebook has worked with companies to get this functionality disabled on an as-needed basis. This practice is called "whitelisting."

Recently, Facebook made a change in its policy regarding whitelisting. Of course, I don’t work for Facebook, but below is my understanding of how the policy has changed according to our rep:

  1. First, the change in policy will not be retroactive. Pages that have been approved for whitelisting will continue to be whitelisted.
  2. Second, new Pharma sites that require whitelisting will need to apply for it. This process is not formalized, yet. You must contact your rep and discuss the use case and justification for needing any functionality changes. The request will then be evaluated by Facebook’s Product Management team. Their job is to preserve the integrity of Facebook as a social network. And, frankly, whitelisting goes against that goal.
  3. Finally, companies that apply to be whitelisted will have to keep in contact with their reps to find out if they get approved. I have not been told exactly how long this process takes, but you will need to account for this process in your social media initiatives.

Of course, all of this information is subject to change. And knowing Facebook, prepare for it to change quickly. But, if you stay vigilant, you will hear about the change, stay calm and get clarification before any changes take effect.

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