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Note: I write this as a fan and frequent user of Facebook. In addition to helping my family stay connected with friends around the world, the site has helped our company find new customers and team members. I wish them well. That being said, there are many areas where FB really needs to get its act together.

Our company does a fair amount of advertising and promotion on Facebook. We've found it to be an effective platform for acquiring new business and growing brand equity. Instead of doing traditional press releases, we use promoted posts on our Facebook page. These days, a well crafted FB post gets at least as much attention as a press release, and instead of just talking at your audience you are giving them an opportunity to engage. They can ask questions, compliment and criticize.

The frustrating thing about Facebook is that its very rough around the edges. The quality of their UXD is inconsistent (good in some places, terrible in others), and they really don't know how to take care of customers. We are a pretty good customer. Ikayzo runs multiple campaigns on a weekly basis for our own brands and we bring customers to their platform.

A couple days ago our VP of Engineering invested time in putting together a post about our work with Mobi PCS on their new responsive site. We invested significant time in the project so we really wanted to showcase our work. The image we selected for the promotion seemed obvious: a portion of a screenshot from the new homepage. The post went up without a problem. When we promoted the post Facebook happily started the campaign and took our money. The promotion ran for half a day and got about 7K impressions with some users making comments and asking questions. That night, after the promotion was well underway I received the following email:

Facebook: Your ad wasn't approved because it uses too much text in its image, which violates Facebook's ad guidelines. Ads that show in the Feed are not allowed to include more than 20% text. You'll still be charged for any impressions or clicks your ad received before it was disapproved.

OK. We technically violated some obscure rule about text in images because there was a large title on the screenshot that was flagged by a batch process that does automated image analysis. The promotion was halted and we were given the option of letting the promotion die or deleting our post and putting up a new one. Lovely. 7,000+ people had already seen the post and there were comments. Deleting it would be disrespectful to those who commented and "Like"ed the post. Re-posting would also annoy people who had already seen it.

The rule was clearly created to prevent people from embedding text in images to circumvent Facebook's automated scans for things that violate rules about abusive language and other inappropriate content. Clearly that wasn't the case with us. This was a screenshot of a customer's homepage. Surely once we explained the situation, they would re-enable the promotion. We filled out the appropriate form and explained:

Ikayzo: This is simply an image of the homepage for Mobi's site. There is a large title on the front page that your image analysis software is flagging. Clearly we aren't violating the spirit of your policy. Can you please unblock our promotion?


Facebook: Your ad was rejected because it violates our text in image policy. Ads and Sponsored Stories that appear in News Feed may not include images with more than 20% text in them.  In this case, image refers to the thumbnail of the link shared, you can now upload any customized image for Page post link shares (organic or paid) via the Page composer when you post a link's URL. I encourage you to select an image that has less or no text to comply with the said guidelines.

Facebook: Here is what adults would do in this situation: Take care of the loyal customer that gives you revenue on a weekly basis. Clearly the image was appropriate for the post. The best course of action would have been to simply re-enable the promotion.

Failing that, if you really want to dogmatically adhere to your arbitrary and ridiculous policies, let your customer replace the image rather than deleting a post that already has customer and friend interactions attached to it. Doing so is insulting to those who took the time to engage.

Finally, if you don't want to allow such posts, and you refuse to allow posts to be edited, verify compliance on submission. Fail fast / in-place verification is a canonical rule of user experience design. Allowing posts to go up and promotions to start only to be shut down mid-stride for easily verifiable technical reasons with no recourse for the advertiser is absurd in the extreme.

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Comment by Brian on January 12, 2014 at 2:14am

I feel this is a common trend with tech-smart companies that provide generally-excellent products/services - but when something goes wrong in an unexpected way you are kinda screwed because "that isn't supposed to happen" and it is impossible to get to a real person that will actually grok your issue (Apple, Amazon, Google, ...)


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