Businesses caught up in Facebook’s news ban are relieved to have their content restored, but after a tumultuous few weeks of negotiations between Facebook, Google and the federal government over the controversial news media bargaining code, many are re-thinking their digital strategies.
Kimberley Collier, the owner of Newcastle-based open-air photo booth business The Photo Booth-less, did not realise she had no content on her business page until Sunday.
“I became aware of it on Sunday because of posts in a lot of the different Facebook groups I’m in,” Collier tells SmartCompany.
Collier says she first realised her account was affected when she was blocked from inserting her business website in a post. She then noticed her entire page had also been caught up in the news ban.
“Quite a number of photographers had been affected, which is an extra blow to an already hurting industry,” she says.
Getting a Facebook business page restored
Facebook banned Australian news content last Thursday to express its opposition to the federal government’s news media bargaining code.
The code will force large platforms designated under the code into final-offer arbitration with media outlets, as a last resort to strike revenue sharing deals.
Facebook’s sweeping ban also barred content from many non-news pages, including small businesses, such as an independent bookshop in Sydney, a small brewery on the Gold Coast and a cinema complex in Mount Gambier.
Collier consulted several Facebook business groups to figure out how to get her content restored.
She says the first option was to use Facebook’s help centre and submit a report.
“I used the support links, but Facebook support is notorious for being slow. So, I wasn’t holding my breath doing it that way,” she says.
The second option, which Collier says was faster, was to contact Facebook Business Support via instant messenger.
“I did that way too. The message I got was quite vague and that they would restore it eventually,” Collier says.
“By Monday lunchtime I could see my content again.”
Overall, Collier says she is reconsidering relying primarily on Facebook for her business.
“I think I’ve actually made a decision to change my primary social media over to LinkedIn,” she says.
The news media bargaining code passed parliament with bipartisan support on Wednesday, after some last-minute changes were made following negotiations between Facebook and the government.
In response to the changes, Facebook Australia managing director William Easton on Monday said he was pleased to have reached a deal with the government and apologised for the ban’s impact on non-news pages.
“As a result of these changes, we can now work to further our investment in public interest journalism and restore news on Facebook for Australians in the coming days,” Easton said.
“We apologise to any pages that were inadvertently impacted, and we’re working to restore these.”
Brendon De Villiers, the owner of digital marketing agency Your Local Web Guy in Ipswitch, says the ban on Australian content is a lesson for small businesses not to rely on one platform.
“A lot of small businesses rely on Facebook for traffic because on paper it seems like the easiest and cheapest way,” De Villiers tells SmartCompany.
De Villiers says while Facebook should be commended for taking “brazen” action against the government’s code, it was unfortunate that non-news pages were banned too.
Ultimately, De Villiers says it is a reminder to businesses to make sure they have an email marketing strategy on top of using ads and social media.
“It’s fine to rely on big tech companies, but not to put all of your eggs in one of those baskets,” he says.
“It’s just smart business to diversify.”
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