The merchant association’s Facebook page had built up to over 63,000 fans and, as one of the state’s most popular destinations, was growing daily. However, it was controlled by a former board member, who no longer ran a business in the area and who was allowing posts from competitors to appear.

For a group of small businesses who invested their physical locations in this destination area, and who built up it’s charm and commercial viability through their hard work, this was a big issue. The merchant association needed to get control of this page.

Even when it seems there’s no possible way to reclaim a page, there are some things you can do that we believe can make all the difference. These steps took paying attention and lots of persistence, but anyone can do them.

Facebook Help is Not Very Friendly On This Topic

AND If I knew then what I know now, I’d probably would have thrown a little money at buying Facebook advertising just to get a sales rep there to help out as well. Facebook does have people that answer those phones.

It’s hard finding any kind of help on this topic officially from Facebook. The standard line is basically “the person that first creates a page owns it, take it up with them.” It seems that Facebook is overwhelmingly concerned with businesses buying ads. Got to “Visit the Help Center” link on the Business Resource page “Get Answers” section and it takes you to Facebook Ads Help.

Facebook even seems to ignore or intentionally misunderstand the question in its own forums.

Here’s how Facebook gave a Page back to its rightful owners without buying any advertising and how we got an advantage in our quest to reclaim a page with over 63,000 fans:

The Advantage – Facebook Autofill Places is Your Friend

While heading to the offending page to see the latest offense, I noticed as I was typing the name in the Facebook search field — omnipresent at the top of every Facebook page — that Facebook was auto-filling the most likely answers and there appeared to be a duplicate page for this area.

The plain, light blue icon gave away that it was likely unclaimed or a new page, in fact it was what Facebook called a “Places” page, a new entity from Facebook tying in physical locations and allowing Facebook users on their mobile devices to “check in” to businesses.

Facebook Places are automagically created in two primary ways:

1) Facebook licenses data from a 3rd party provider, like Localeze (the original source in 2011) and Foursquare, and if they got smarter at it, our own Infogroup here in Omaha

2) Facebook users on their mobile devices create a Place by dropping a pin.

Nowadays, you can create a Place for your business by selecting Local Business as a category on your Business page and entering address information. 

Claim Your Facebook Place

This new Facebook Place page for the shopping district was relatively new, but was already attracting some check-ins daily. If you are the rightful owner, you can claim a Places page by clicking on the gear icon and “Is This Your Business.”

In this case, I jumped on it, working with the merchant association president to provide documentation, in this case articles of incorporation. We received an email reply from Facebook confirming our claim, A PERSON, and responded with the details of the Page being hijacked. No response.

The Places page had fewer than 2 dozen check-ins at the time, but it was some small proof that this merchant association was the official representative for this area.

Report Abuse

What came next was a long, steady drip of Report Abuse every time a post appeared that did not relate to the merchant association and especially if it promoted activities by a competitor.

We can’t swear that this is important, but to make it easier for Facebook, we made sure the merchant association officer who now controlled the Places page from their personal Facebook log-in (the only way to control a Business or Places page), also reported and we recruited other businesses with Facebook pages in the area to report as well.

Over the course of 3 months this continued.

Then, one day the officer controlling the Places page sent out an email. He logged into Facebook, went to Report Abuse again, but this time he had an admin view on the BIG PAGE, the one with over 63,000 Likes.

We had control! The hijacked Page had been freed and returned to its rightful owner!

In next week’s post we’ll talk more about Facebook Places, why duplicates keep popping up and how you need to stay on top of making sure you’re claiming them.

If you have your own Facebook hijacked Page or a Places story to tell, we’d love to hear from you!