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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