Facebook for sale: Group buying sites buy rights to Facebook fan pages to grow databases

The administrative rights of Facebook fan pages are actively being bought and sold for thousands of dollars, with group buying sites snapping up fan pages in order to access what are essentially ready-made marketing lists.

SmartCompany can reveal that at least two companies in the group buying space, Zoupon and Jump On It, have purchased the administrative rights of Facebook pages in recent months.

But it is unclear whether Facebook condones the action.

Jump On It, one of the biggest companies in the local group buying scene, currently runs a number of different Facebook pages for each capital city, with names such as “I Love Sydney”. Through these pages it promotes the deals available on its website to hundreds of thousands of users.

But chief executive Colin Fabig says the company didn’t actually create its “I Love Melbourne” page. Instead, it contacted the administrator and paid him to absorb the page into the company’s own marketing plan.

“I Love Melbourne was run by a bloke,” he told SmartCompany. “The site had started already, and we talked to him. This was at the time we were starting up the other sites as well. We spoke to him and at that time he worked for us for awhile, and he was paid.”

Jump On It began in November 2009, just as the group buying craze was beginning to take hold. But there are posts on the I Love Melbourne page that date back as far as April 2009.

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Zoupon founder Adam Schwab says his company has done the same thing, by obtaining a fan page called “Secret Melbourne” for a sum he would not disclose.

“We just kept it the same, and then we started to add Zoupon deals in there for Melbourne users. We kept the purpose of the group intact, it’s a great way to start plugging deals to your members.”

“We just approach them and ask. Of course, it depends on the group and the negotiations between the parties, and you can pay per member, but it differs from project to project.”

Schwab indicates there are more companies dealing in these types of transactions, and says the real interest is in how businesses can value them.

“In a sense, we’re not actually buying and selling the page, we’re buying and selling the administrative rights. We go to the person, give them x-amount of dollars and we become the administrator.”

“The interesting question is, how do you value it? How do you value each name of the group? I think there is definitely a market for this sort of stuff.”

But it is unclear whether Facebook actually knows about this activity and whether it actively condones or condemns it.

While the company was unable to respond before publication, a quick look at the social network’s terms and conditions reveals a clause that could apply to trading pages.

“You will not use your personal profile for your own commercial gain (such as selling your status update to an advertiser),” the fourth point states.

Schwab says he has not discussed with Facebook the possibility of trading pages being against terms and conditions. However, he says the site doesn’t actually trade in them anymore.

“It’s not a big deal for us anymore. We’ve bought it and moved on. It was a small marketing avenue for us, and was more of a secondary thing. We probably wouldn’t do it again, but there is a market for this and it is happening.”

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