Jul 062010
close up of ophelia the doll

Until last Sunday, Facebook was working well for jeweller Victoria Buckley; the page for her store in Sydney’s upmarket Strand Arcade was generating sales and had a rapidly growing fan base from around the world.

One of the key parts of her marketing campaigns are porcelain dolls made by the Canadian designer Marina Bychkova. Her classic doll Ophelia features in the window displays, on posters in the store and on the shop’s Facebook page.

Ophelia is a little bit different to most dolls in that she’s naked and anatomically correct — she has nipples.

Last weekend Victoria received six warnings from Facebook about “inappropriate content” on her page. There was no indication of which images or text broke the rules or what would happen to her page if she took no action.

“The frustrating thing is I can’t pinpoint which images” says Victoria, who goes on to point out that over the year she’s used Ophelia in her marketing, including two large banners in the busy shopping precinct, she’s received no complaints.

“It’s all a bit arbitrary”, says Victoria “it only takes one anonymous person to click on the flag content button and there’s a problem”. Earlier this year her Flickr account was set to restricted because of Ophelia’s nudity.

To avoid problems, Victoria has blacked out any potentially inappropriate parts of Ophelia on the store’s Facebook profile and started a “Save Ophelia- exquisite doll censored by Facebook” group until she can resolve the issue.

But here lies another problem; she can’t find a way to contact Facebook. “It’s become an increasingly important part of the business” Victoria says of the Facebook page and “I just don’t know what’s going to happen to the site”.

Right now Victoria has no idea what is going to happen to her business’s profile. As she can’t talk to Facebook, she’s uncertain of the page’s future.

This uncertainty illustrates an overlooked issue with social media sites. All these services are proprietary, run by private organizations to their own rules and business objectives.

In many ways, they are like private mall owners. They are perfectly entitled to dictate what merchants and customers can do on their premises. If you don’t like it, you have no recourse but to take your business elsewhere.

As consequence these sites have a great deal of control over your online business, a lesson that’s been hard learned by many eBay and PayPal dependent Internet retailers.

A good example of what can go wrong are the Geocities websites. Ten years ago Geocities was a popular free hosting site used by many micro businesses and hobbyists. Just over a year ago the now parent company Yahoo! shut them down and all the data on them has been lost.

By relying another company’s Internet platform, you are effectively making them a partner in your business. That’s great while things go well, but you have to remember their business objectives and moral values are different to yours.

This is why a business website is essential; your traffic and all your intellectual property is too important to sit on another businesses’ website with all the risks that go along with that.

The lesson is that while using Facebook, Twitter and other Internet services are an important part of the business marketing mix, your business needs the security of its own website and all your marketing channels, both online and offline, should point to it.

Fortunately Victoria’s across that, she’s pointing her Facebook fans to her website telling them, “You can join my independent mailing list at this link, in case they get really stupid and close this group.”

  7 Responses to “The downside of social media marketing”

  1. Unfortunately, just because business owners haven’t received complaints elsewhere, does not mean that all areas of business will be accepting of risky marketing methods. As exquisite and ornamental as these dolls may be, they go against the terms and conditions of Facebook. If business owners are to rely on Facebook to sell their wares, it is up to them to be aware of the conditions set by the social networking site.

    Flickr also has regulations against nudity, and has a function to allow users to flag their content as adult material so only adults can see the content.

    While this might seem ridiculous to us in western cultures, in a global environment there are different levels of acceptance of nudity. I don’t pity her for the situation she is in, because if anything, this press has only given her business more attention.

  2. […] Nipplegate was a good example of this, regardless of how silly Facebook’s rules are regarding nudity it is their their sandpit and if we want to play in it we have to agree to their rules. […]

  3. […] rely on one Internet service. Some months back we looked at “Nipplegate”, the story of a Sydney jeweller who had her Facebook page closed down because of her anatomically correct […]

  4. […] itself hounded from various web hosting and payment providers. As we’ve discussed previously, relying on other people’s services to deliver your product raises a number of risks. Make sure you have alternatives should one of your service providers fail and never allow an […]

  5. […] Online Payment, social media and other cloud computing services have shown themselves to be quick in shutting down business accounts without warning, any due process or an accesible way to resolve […]

  6. […] the past we’ve discussed businesses thrown off online services because a doll has shown too much flesh and the current Facebook breast feeding controversy is another example of the often bizarre and […]

  7. […] is the latest shot in Facebook’s War On Nipples. Two years ago a Sydney jeweller found her page shut down for using a naked doll as a model and breast feeding mothers waged a long campaign against the site taking down pictures of babies […]

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