Nonprofit Profiles, Groups, and Pages: Facebook Policy

A close-up of a statue in profile

When cre­at­ing a Face­book pres­ence for your non­profit, you need to decide which kind of pres­ence to use.

In addi­tion to cre­at­ing a Face­book Cause—which you should con­sider as a sup­port­ing ser­vice rather than a pri­mary presence—you really have three options: a Pro­file, a Group, or a Page.

Pro­files are intended for indi­vid­u­als; Pages are intended for brands and orga­ni­za­tions; and Groups are gen­er­ally more infor­mal, may give you less con­trol, and (not coin­ci­den­tally) seem more prone to going viral.

Choices, Choices

There’s been much dis­cus­sion of the trade-offs between these options for a non­profit, so I won’t do my own detailed analy­sis here.

Unfor­tu­nately, much of the infor­ma­tion you’ll find is from before March when Face­book made some impor­tant enhance­ments to fan pages. The fol­low­ing resources reflect the new changes, though, and can help you think through your decision:

My feel­ing is that in gen­eral a Face­book Page is the best approach­but Groups have their place too. Some­times it makes sense to have both a Page and a Group if their pur­poses are distinct.

Pro­files, though… not so much.

For­bid­den (?) Profiles

For quite some time Face­book has been unhappy about peo­ple using Pro­files to rep­re­sent organizations.

For quite some time Face­book has been unhappy about peo­ple using Pro­files to rep­re­sent orga­ni­za­tions, fic­tional peo­ple, or dop­pel­ganger copies of them­selves (for exam­ple, hav­ing one busi­ness pres­ence and one per­sonal pres­ence), at times threat­en­ing to shut down offend­ers’ Face­book access. In fact, the enhance­ments they made to Face­book Pages in March were appar­ently to pull peo­ple toward Pages with a Car­rot, rather than just rely­ing on the Stick of their terms-of-service (TOS).

Which raises an inter­est­ing fact: Face­book appears to have removed their profile-prohibiting lan­guage from their terms of ser­vice.

Pre­vi­ously the TOS included this lan­guage, as it still appears on the non­profit IT blog Wild Apri­cot: you “agree not to use the Ser­vice or the Site to … reg­is­ter for more than one User account, reg­is­ter for a User account on behalf of an indi­vid­ual other than your­self, or reg­is­ter for a User account on behalf of any group or entity” (empha­sis added by Wild Apricot).

This restric­tion is con­spic­u­ously miss­ing from the Face­book terms of ser­vice as of Fall 2009.

Whence Pro­file Prohibition?

Why did they drop it? I haven’t seen an expla­na­tion, but I’m con­fi­dent it’s not because they want orga­ni­za­tions to use Pro­files. The TOS still strongly implies that Pro­files are for individuals.

Maybe they got tired of tak­ing crap for their far-reaching TOS and decided to friendly it up some­how. Maybe fewer orga­ni­za­tions were both­er­ing with Pro­files because the Face­book Page has become much more attrac­tive. Maybe they just decided they didn’t care anymore.

Regard­less, if you do have an exist­ing Pro­file for your non­profit, it appears you’re no longer liv­ing under the threat of Face­book shut­ting down your account. As dis­cussed by the blog posts above, there are still lots of other good rea­sons to avoid Pro­files for orga­ni­za­tions. But at least fear is no longer one of them.

Post image credit: .michael.newman.

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