Despite its various quirks and idiosyncrasies – I love Facebook. In my opinion, it is still the best social media platform for me both professionally and personally … at this time. But Lord Facebook did you test my patience and scared the hell out of me on Thanksgiving.
Damn the Hellgorithms!
Hopefully this post provides beneficial information in case you ever try log into your Facebook account and discover you have been locked out. Like a loner standing before a small-town judge in a B movie, you will be guilty until proven innocent in Facebook Court.
Many of you know that I’m a bit of a poster boy for all the things that can possibly go wrong on Facebook. Liiiiike when I maxed out my number of “likes.” I was slapped on the hand a number of times early in my career while aggressively trying to network business events, romance Klout and increase my profile status on Empire Avenue. That led to me getting kicked off, only to be reprimanded with the equivalent of trip to the principal’s office when I was denied the ability to “friend” new followers for a certain period of time. Admittedly, I have done my fair share of ill-advised practices on Facebook but never in a malicious context. AND IT’S FAIR TO SAY, in my humble opinion that I while I don’t undergo, nor condone such practices now, I’d trust someone that says they’ve been there-done that, then someone that preaches the techniques don’t exist.
That’s all ancient history now. I learned my lessons. However, I learned some new ones on Thanksgiving day of 2013 after making a number of morning posts about the gluttony of the holiday. I fired up my phone for another post, only to find that I did not exist in the eyes of Facebook.
The nervous sweat beading up on my forehead was my body’s early warning system for the impending panic attack, because my Facebook account is tied directly to my livelihood. Not to say my account is more important than the casual user, but I have clients that depend on me to update pages and engage on behalf of their brand to increase thought leadership, community, and brand retention. I was terrified to think that this glitch might affect client relationships.
Most of all, I was very concerned about losing irreplaceable photographs of my child as she has grown up. But then again, the photos won’t matter if Daddy loses credibility with his clients, the work dries up, money stops flowing into the account on the other end of the debit card, the electric bill doesn’t get paid, and we are never ever again able to turn on a computer at our house.
Plus … TACOS! What if we can’t afford tacos any more? Demons! Is that a bug on me?
If you’re in the business, you understand what I was going through. Anyone who is paid to engage on behalf of a brand will understand the sense of dread that was destroying my chances of enjoying the dysfunctional livelihood of the holiday. I imagined every meaningful person in the industry gathering at a “Justice is a Hack” cocktail hour where they would review resumes of my potential replacements.
Furthermore, the almost 4,000 friends, fans and followers that I have on my personal account received a message that read something of the likes that “this user has been removed due to spamming.” That did little in the way of allowing me to correct the problem before potential personal brand corruption could occur.
This overdose of “freak-out” shouldn’t surprise my friends and regular readers. You already know ’m a bit neurotic and high strung, especially when it comes to adversely affecting my personal life and family.
So in typical Justice fashion, I went into hyper protection mode.
After finding out that Facebook accused me of utilizing a fraudulent identity, I took the following steps in order to get my account reactivated and protect myself professionally. I by no means believe that this process is either foolproof, or that it will work in the future as Facebook policies morph. But it worked for me this time, and can serve as a template for others. I did a great amount of due diligence through the four days that I was blocked, and found that people had been reactivated anywhere from two hours to upwards of two months later. And in some cases, worst of all, their accounts were deleted permanently.
SIDE NOTE: When I say permanently, let me give you a snapshot of what it was like to be locked out of the system. Their profiling is so granular that I had graphically designed cover photos for community groups in which I am an administrator, and they were deleted during the time that my account was locked. My wife’s marital status defined her as “married,” but not to Justice Mitchell. Perhaps she enjoyed those few days. Needless to say, if like me you are an extreme Facebook user, getting the “delete” laser shot at you is a little like the men in black coming and erasing your existence.
So here’s a survival guide for social media professionals as well as users alike:
First and foremost, protect your clients. I was very fortunate in that there was an alternate manager on the Facebook pages that I administrated. I immediately contacted them, and set them up under my wife’s Facebook account.
You’re probably wondering why I didn’t set up a new account under my name. My reasoning was that if Facebook did it believe that I had falsified my previous profile, establishing a new “Justice Mitchell” account would only serve to fortify the appearance that I am not who I say. Additionally, not knowing how long the process would take, I wanted an established user profile that Facebook would not red flag as problematic. Other than being married to this whacked out yahoo that isn’t who he says he is, Shannon Mitchell (my wife) makes about as much noise as a mouse farting in the smelting furnace at American Cast Iron Pipe Company.
After I had spread against my professional social graph and received “manager” status against all clients that I effectively run and manage, I felt a great sense of anxiety lifted. At least there would be no adverse client disruption.
Next I sought out: “Disabled Facebook Accounts”:
Here’s the courtroom:
In the process of filling this out you are asked to state your full name as it is listed against your profile. Next you will be asked to upload a government issued identification that must meet all of the following requirements:
- Must be government-issued (e.g. passport, driver’s licenses
- Must be in color
- Must clearly show your full name, date of birth, and photo
PLEASE NOTE: I did find a number of instances in which people used a nickname when they originally created their account, this caused problems in their case reviews due to the fact that the account name did not align with the government identification that they supplied. So it is in your very best interest to go back into your original profile settings and establish your actual government issued first and last name.
From this point forward are the actions that I did in addition to what Facebook requested. Again, I am in no way suggesting that it improved my ability to get my profile reinstated. However, I was successful. So I might as well share what I did.
I think that it is most important that you complete the form using a standard web browser (I used the most recent version of Chrome on a MacBook Pro), in lieu of utilizing a mobile device.
Roughly half an hour later you should receive the following email:
The Facebook Team has received your inquiry.
In an effort to maintain a culture of authenticity on the site, Facebook requires users to provide their real first and last names. Impersonating anyone or anything is prohibited, and fake accounts are a violation of our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.
Our systems indicated that your account may not be authentic based on a variety of factors.
Please note that the only way we will be able to verify ownership of this account is if you attached a scanned image or digital picture of your government-issued ID (e.g., driver’s license, passport, etc.). This identification must meet all of the following requirements:
– Must be government-issued (e.g. passport, driver’s license)
– Must be in color
– Must clearly show your full name, date of birth, and photo
If you did not upload the requested image, please respond to this email with the proper file. If possible, please save this file in JPEG image format. In addition, please black out any personal information that is not needed to verify your identity (e.g., social security number). Rest assured that we will permanently delete your ID after we resolve your issue.
Also note that writing in and submitting your ID multiple times will not result in a faster response. We reply to each request on a first-come, first-served basis.
If you have already uploaded a picture of your government-issued ID, we apologize for any inconvenience you may experience in waiting to have your identity confirmed. We will get back to you as soon as we’ve processed your request.
In the meantime, we encourage you to review our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities for more information:
Please click on the link to view status of your case http://fb.me/yourcasenumberlink (keep this URL saved!)
Thanks for your patience,
The Facebook Team
The response I received stated that my “case was closed,” but gave me the availability to appeal the closure – If that makes sense.
I gave it exactly 24 hours before I checked my case-numbered link. For those of you who have ever been incarcerated (for a first-time, minor offense), you might be familiar with the sense of desperate foreboding that occurs while you wait to see if anyone is listening. This Facebook business has surprisingly the same sense of tension. Mainly due to the fact that you have NO idea what you did exactly, nor how you got here.
Next I found the ability to “submit an appeal” (after the bullet points):
At that point I did what any totally neurotic, freaked-out person would would do after reading the line “Also note that writing in and submitting your ID multiple times will not result in a faster response. We reply to each request on a first-come, first-served basis” – I followed up by sending a photo of my governmental passport as well. I submitted this piece of material stating that I was apologetic for anything that I may have done unknowingly, but that I had no intent to falsify my profile and hoped that sending a different source of redundant identity would support my cause. In retrospect this looks totally pathetic and unnecessary, but you’re not the one who has to live inside of my skull.
From this point forward I waited another 24 hours, realizing that it was a holiday weekend. I threw my hands to the gods and assumed no one was listening until Monday.
Did I mention that I am neurotic?
So Saturday night, with little to do but think about all of the photos that I would never get back, and the ugly idea of having to start from ground zero, I sent a verbal (ASCII ONLY; no images) appeal. Inside of my case folder there was an additional form allowing you to forward any material that could further support your case, as I did with the extra passport photo. At that point I “kill them with kindness” and advocated that I am indeed a professional Facebook user and evangelist. I outlined my background with my extensive array of professional clients, associated groups and communities as well as my advocacy for utilizing the tool in my teaching at the University of Central Florida.
I felt this last post to be a bit like burying the ax in the ground and stating what will be will be. I don’t know if my additional appeals helped. Or if it mattered that they were all 24 hours apart. But three days later the nightmare came to an end with the following message:
Now I can be mad, frustrated and hellbent to make my life Facebook free if I wanted to. But the simple fact is, it’s the finest social media network on the Internet at this date and time, bar none. Along with the fact that I simply have more time invested in Facebook than I do emotionally invested in this fake identify situation. So as with many things in life, I just need to let it go. And know that your Facebooks’ bitch.
A couple of other survival tactics that you might want to employ are the following:
Backup your Facebook data progressively:
If your client is large enough for it to fiscally affect you should a situation like this arise, it might be best to have redundant profiles established. Perhaps you can establish one in the name of your dog/spouse/initials, as well as one in the name of you personally. Yes, this does indeed go against the very thing that got me locked out, but what are you gonna do?
I’d love to know if you have ever been affected by this particular situation. If you have any further advice that you would like to give my readers it would be much appreciated. If you have been spared this drama, I hope it stays that way for your sake as well as that of your clients and communities that you manage.