Why Associations Should Avoid Facebook's New "Tell Your Fans" Feature

On December 1, Inside Facebook announced a new tool available to some Facebook Page admins called "Tell Your Fans." The tool allows "“admins of any new or smaller Pages” (wording apparently Facebook's, although the link to Facebook's documentation about "Tell Your Fans" seems to be inactive now and I can't find anything in Facebook help about this feature now) to import contacts directly from supported email web services or uploaded through a contact file pulled from a database.

Photo by cogdogblog

I don't really understand how Facebook determines which Pages are eligible for this feature; "new or smaller Pages" is pretty vague. The page I'm an admin of is over 2 years old and has over 26,000 fans and this feature is not enabled; however, Inside Facebook says their page is years old and has over 21,000 fans and has the feature enabled. Granted, I suppose it's in Facebook's interest to enable this feature on Inside Facebook's Page, right? ;)

John Haydon, who is awesome and who I totally respect, writes about this new feature like it's a good thing, suggesting it's a good way for a nonprofit to leverage its email database.  However, I beg to differ and think that this feature is a TERRIBLE idea and one businesses should avoid...assuming it's available to them.

Why? Well, for starters, why on Earth would you dump up to 5,000 of your members/subsribers/contacts email addresses into Facebook? Facebook already has--and is monetizing--enough personal data and are doing just fine on the world domination front without you charitably giving them another big batch for free. Call me crazy, but the idea of members being fine with their organization dumping--without their knowledge or consent--their email addresses into Facebook--I just don't see it. If there's a sure way of making someone do the opposite of "Like" your organization or brand, I'd say handing their email address over to Facebook without their consent would probably be at the top of the list.

The Ogilvy blog actually has a really good list of further reasons why using this feature is a bad idea:
  • You are not allowed to personalize the message that Facebook generates with "Tell Your Fans." Less functionality than an email you can generate yourself and NOT pull all those contacts into Facebook in the process? Fail.
  • The email it generates invites itself the recipient to join Facebook, then states once you join you'll be able to connect with the specific Page. So basically Facebook is leveraging your database to get more members...nice.
  • When the email arrives in the recipient’s inbox, there is no clear indication from the subject line that the email is from Facebook — the subject line just indicates the name of the Facebook Page. This leaves too much room for an email subscriber to be confused by who the email is from, especially if they are not Facebook users. Again, fail.
The good news is that you can leverage your database to increase your organization's Facebook Page: by creating your own email, customizing it with whatever language you want, even adding ads to generate additional revenue for YOUR organization, not Facebook, and sending the same way you send your other emails. e.g. NOT through Facebook.

But A for effort, Facebook...would have been a good way to pull blocks of 5,000 new users into your own coffers.