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Facebook’s Approach to Control SPAM by Limiting Friend Requests

Facebook originally was created for use by college students and now has become the largest social network, by surpassing rival MySpace and now receives more weekly visits than Google.  Unlike MySpace, Facebook has been very tolerant of unsolicited promotions, although its policy states that “You will not send or otherwise post unauthorized commercial communications (such as spam) on Facebook.”

Facebook’s recent approach to this issue has been to control the types of friend requests that users can make.  Age and other factors now limit the ability of users to connect with other members who are in different generations and/or have few mutual interests.  For those using Facebook as a source of potential marketing leads, what are the implications?

Social networks expert, Max Steingart, believes  that these changes won’t significantly impact the marketing methods that he teaches his students.  This is because to some degree what Facebook is doing makes sense and shouldn’t really be limiting to those pursuing a viable strategy.  It doesn’t make sense to recruit outside your own age group, anyway, because of limited common interests.

The underlying premises may be flawed, however, and he expects Facebook’s stringent rules to evolve over time.  Facebook, in fact, would stand to lose some of the momentum it has built up if its changes limit the flexibility of its use by its fastest growing segment:  women between 45 and 55. How will a grandmother now be able to connect via Facebook with relatives to see pictures of the grandchildren in far away locations?

As pointed out by Steingart, the main issue is network marketers who send unsolicited ads to others via Facebook.  As mentioned, rival MySpace has long prevented this type of activity by more closely adhering to its terms of service.  Facebook appears to be making an attempt to control spam by limited marketers’ ability to connect with friends and expand their networks.   The question is, how can Facebook determine the “intent” in a friend request?

Making friends socially is something that every marketer needs to do.  When their “enthusiasm” leads them to post or send unsolicited links to their business websites, it is only at this point that Facebook’s terms of service have been violated.  There is nothing in the Facebook terms of service that prevents making new friends.   Like it or not, network marketing activities will take place on social networks.  But, network marketers don’t need to be banned unless their activities warrant their removal.

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