How To Create Facebook Community Guidelines

by Becky Johns on Jun 07, 2011
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Facebook House RulesFacebook fan pages have emerged as a universal lifeline to customers. The number of brands sharing news, addressing customer service issues or fostering discussion in these passionate communities is growing rapidly.

With the amazing conversations Facebook creates, there are some inherent risks. Creating a set of “house rules” will encourage productive participation by users and grow a transparent community.

Small fan page communities may only need a few simple rules, while larger brands and regulated industries may have more detailed guidelines.

Most Facebook fan page conversations, good or bad, are constructive. But unfortunately, people won’t always play nice. Having a plan and fair guidelines that you can point your community to will save you a bigger headache in the long run.

Begin with the Basics

1. Facebook’s official terms of use ultimately governs all.
Users are expected to respect and protect the rights of others and have laid out rules specifically for what that means. Of course, the final word for whether any post warrants disciplinary action or account removal belongs to Facebook, but as a page administrator, you can further encourage these terms to foster a healthier community.

2. Define the purpose of your page.
Having a clear picture of the intended use of your fan page, what types of content you plan to share and what users can expect from you may help eliminate some problems up front. If there are specific types of discussions your company needs to handle elsewhere, then offer that information up front to be most helpful to your fans.

3. Provide contact information
Provide an email (or phone number) for your communications department, customer service representative or page administrator. People appreciate transparency, but more importantly, people want to connect with the right person. Do your best to make it easy for people to reach out should the need arise. You may get a few unwanted calls or emails, but that shouldn’t trump being accessible to your community.



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4. Ask the community to look out for each other.
Fans who feel a sense of camaraderie and find genuine value in what you share on your page will want to protect it. Should a repeat offender threaten the well-being of the connection point between fans and the brand, they may be willing to help you police it by bringing problematic posts to your attention.

5. If you plan to remove posts, set expectations.
If you are going to remove certain types of content, be clear about what that means, right from the beginning. Hopefully, you’ll be able to personally handle any escalating situation offline, should it arise. The best way to encourage appropriate behavior is to use consistency in identifying what crosses the line.

Remember, fan pages are public, so posts there aren’t guarded by the same posting privacy you’re used to on your personal page. It’s up to you to know what type of content is appropriate for your brand and your audience. Overall, there are some common themes in many house rules policies.

Identifying Problem Content

There are several types of content that are commonly addressed in community guidelines. Here is a sample list:

  • Profane, defamatory, offensive or violent language
  • “Trolling”, or posting deliberately disruptive statements meant to hijack comment threads or throw discussions off-track
  • Attacks on specific groups or any comments meant to harass, threaten or abuse an individual
  • Hateful or discriminatory comments regarding race, ethnicity, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation or political beliefs
  • Links or comments containing sexually explicit content material
  • Discussion of illegal activity
  • Spam, link baiting or files containing viruses that could damage the operation of other people’s computers or mobile devices
  • Acknowledgement of intent to stalk an individual or collect private information without disclosure
  • Commercial solicitations or promotion of a competitor
  • Violations of copyright or intellectual property rights
  • Content that relates to confidential or proprietary business information
  • Content determined to be inappropriate, in poor taste, or otherwise contrary to the purposes of the forum
  • Promoting competing products, services, or brands
  • Personal promotion

Once you’ve decided on the house rules that make sense for your page, be sure to post them somewhere on the page for easy reference to fans. A simple way to do this is to use the notes feature or information section of the page. As time goes on, it doesn’t hurt to remind users of the house rules from time to time, particularly if you see a spike in problematic posts.

Community Management or Page Administration

Not everyone is going to play nice, so be prepared for situations where fans get out of hand. Understand that sometimes negative comments may not be meant to cause harm, but simply to raise issues about products, websites, lack of information or buggy applications.

For example, if you use a coupon-serving application on your page, and it malfunctions, people are likely to complain. Take the opportunity to address the problem and answer questions rather than just removing the negative discussion about frustrations.

Try to treat complaints as customer service opportunities first and house rules violations second.

Examples

To see some examples of different fan page house rules, check out the following pages.

  1. Oreo
  2. PlayStation
  3. Delta Dental
  4. SunDrop
  5. Disney
  6. Gillette
  7. Laughing Cow Cheese
  8. Intel
  9. Skittles
  10. Best Buy
  11. Victoria’s Secret
  12. eBay
  13. Southwest Airlines
  14. Coca-Cola
  15. National Guard
  16. McDonald’s

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What other examples have you found that you like? How do you handle monitoring posts on your fan pages?

 

 

Post Author

Becky Johns is a communicator, storyteller, blogger and photographer. She blogs about communications and social media from a young professional’s point of view at www.becky-johns.com. By day, she's part of the agency communications team at Cramer-Krasselt in Chicago. Find her...

  • Cheryl Black

    Point 5 about setting expectations before deleting anything is a great one. If you don’t do this, beware, accusations of censorship may come your way.

    On my company’s blog (Convio’s Connection Cafe), Carie Lewis Emerging Media Director for the Humane Society, recently shared her thoughts on social media detractors and monitoring content of that nature. http://www.connectioncafe.com/posts/2011/05-may/haters-what-can-you-do.html

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    Good job. All of them are useful.

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  • http://www.ghostexecutivegroup.com Michele Lorito-Chase

    Hello Becky! You have written about a very important component of building and growing online communities. From what I see, you hit every nail square on its head. 

    In November of last year, I created a Facebook group as a local community outreach initiative  supporting the unemployed and under-employed in Southwest Florida. The primary goal of the group was to bring together those who are seeking employment and local businesses in need of talent. Within minutes of making the group public, I discovered an immediate need to create “Group Guidelines”. Needless to say, my fingers were going a mile a minute creating some sort of policy on the fly. I made addendum’s and changes throughout the first week as instances arose. While “on-the-fly” worked for this particular group at the time, there are very clear reasons to be proactive and formulate sound guidelines prior to launch and should be the first thing a community manager addresses before anything else. Since that time, I created a simple template for planning an online community and use it for client needs.

    If you want to take a look at what I created for Back-To-Work SWFL, you can find it here:
    http://on.fb.me/mBE4bf

    Thanks for your valuable contribution!

  • http://loneplacebo.com/ Tony Hue

    Hey, there. I’m the community manager at UC Irvine Athletics, and one of the things that we implemented to our Pages was a “House Rules” tab. Thank you for the great post. I wished I had read this earlier!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=691357535 Daylyn Presley

    how do you actually “create” the page. I don’t see an option to add this a House Rules page.

  • http://web.me.com/treacl Tony Harewood

    Our Community Group for Brain Injury – Circle Group, has just had (another) 30 day ban placed on it. This is for ‘inviting unknown guests’, from Facebook recommendations. In side panels, I have 2-5 recommended Profiles, who “you Share xxx Friends” with. I am  quite puzzled by how Facebook state certain restrictions in their Rules. Yet under the “Statement of Rights and Responsibilities”, I have referenced where I had thought they were mistaking the infringement & eMailed them?!

  • Steffen Schulz

    Thank you. This is a great contribution. I run a community page, and have unfortunately needed to actively moderate posts lately. This is a very useful guide.

  • mrtwobit

    What do you do when a creator of a page bans you for disagreeing with them on their own rules?

  • http://socialfresh.com/blog Jason Keath

    You really cannot do anything. The best you can do is contact them through other paths… like through their website or customer support channel. But a page owner has ownership over what can be said and who can say it on their page.

  • http://socialfresh.com/blog Jason Keath

    Glad it helped!

  • Hans Whitaker

    Hello I am an Administrator of Panther Nation Facebook Group, also Head of Policy and Rule Enforcement I set the Rules and Regulations for the group, I have heard many things about sports fan groups having problems with wagering and betting during events, I would like to prevent any problems that comes with it.