A couple of weeks ago, when web developer Michael Lee Johnson was trying to figure out how to get some of his Facebook friends to adopt Google+ so he could try it out, he leveraged the most effective tools made available to him by, well, Facebook. He created a Facebook ad asking people to join him on Google+. It didn't take long for the Gods of Facebook to take notice and shutdown his ad. While this particular ad does violate Facebook's Terms Of Service and is grounds for removal of the ad, Facebook also cancelled his entire advertising account which contained several non-Google+ ads that he was paying Facebook cash-money to run.
Also back in July, an app called Google+Facebook was created by an Israeli company aimed at solving the problem of users wanting to share content and friends lists more easily across both networks. It was only a matter of time before Facebook blocked it. This comes as no surprise since Facebook was already rumored to have been actively blocking third party exporter tools designed to dump a user's contacts into other sites similar to Google+.
While blocking the opportunity for competitors to capitalize on a social network's own user base, one has to wonder about the premise behind social networks whose existence is based on the concepts of sharing, transparency, openness and other kumbayas. It seems that those concepts ONLY matter as long as it's within the confines of Facebook's own ideals. Sound familiar (ehem, Apple, cough)?
Google covers this in their policy as well for AdSense but it comes off as more of a subtle recommendation: "Promoting your site on third-party sites not designed for site promotion, or where such promotion is unwanted, such as classifieds or social networking sites" falls under the "Things to Avoid" section. It's standard to protect your business but I wonder if Facebook, or Google for that matter, are approaching their policies the best way. Do you think we still have work to do to create better standards or is this as good as it gets?
Can Facebook handle competition gracefully?
From a policy perspective, the way Michael Lee Johnson's case was handled seems a little ridiculous to me. It smells a little juvenile and reactionary to also shut down the rest of Michael's paid ads that had nothing to do with Google+ or any other competing sites. If you check out the Facebook Advertising Guidelines, you'll see the one statement that says it all: "Facebook reserves the right to reject or remove advertising that we deem contrary to our ad philosophy. These guidelines are subject to change at any time and Facebook may waive any of these guidelines at its discretion." I read this as — "Welcome to Facebook. You have no control, even if you follow the rules. We can change those rules. We can delete your account at will or any of your activity at anytime."
Admittedly, Facebook reserves that right. It's their website. However, in cases like Michael's, where he is a paying customer, wouldn't it be more appropriate for Facebook as a company with paying customers to have some type of system in place for communicating a heads up via private message that they had violated the ad policies, providing them with a notification and a reason, instead of bluntly convicting them in the form of a full shutdown? My guess is that the reaction to this web developer's Google+ ad campaign on Facebook revealed at a least a little pretentiousness and insecurity on the Facebook side of the fence.
I'm not convinced that behind closed doors at Facebook, the comfort level is high with the quick adoption of Google+ by techies and others, pushing its user base to well over 10+ million accounts in a very short amount of time. I have a feeling there are going to be some missteps in moderator behavior on the Facebook side as Zuckerberg and team put on their big boy pants when real competition rears its imminent head.