8 minute read
Can we set up separate Facebook profiles for work, in order to manage our charity’s Pages and Groups?
Unfortunately, you cannot.
The Facebook rules are: one profile per individual, using your real name. This is clearly stated in their terms and conditions, which you have to agree to in order to use the platform.
Facebook is very strict about this, and they shut down second profiles, often with very little warning. I have seen so many organisations and individuals get locked out of their Facebook accounts because of the use of fake profiles.
Never set up second profiles.
What are the consequences of using fake profiles? Is it really that bad?
It really is that bad. I’ve heard from so many organisations and individuals who’ve run into problems. The fallout includes:
- Getting profiles shut down with barely any warning, sometimes in the middle of a live campaign
- Getting banned, having Pages and Ad accounts suspended
- Having the Facebook Giving tools deactivated, cutting off a crucial income stream
- Getting cut off from running Meta Ads, meaning the most powerful digital ads channel is no longer available to your charity
- Two factor authentication not working any more and people’s real accounts getting locked out
All of the above meant the affected organisations had to try to get help from Facebook’s Kafkaesque ‘customer service’, which swallows up days of time and rarely actually resolves the problems.
Facebook is now a leading digital fundraising platform. If you depend upon a platform as one of your charity’s income streams, it is indefensibly risky and short-sighted to break its terms and conditions.
But we’ve had fake profiles for ages, and they haven’t caused any problems
Firstly – are you sure? Is it possible that some warnings came up that you cancelled without reading properly? (We’ve all definitely done that at times!) Are Facebook’s “Oi, stop this now!” emails going to an email address or spam folder that you haven’t checked in a while?
If you genuinely have been using fake profiles and Facebook has never flagged them in any way – then that’s just luck. Facebook’s systems for checking and moderating are AI based, so they can be inconsistent. But they will eventually pinpoint that you have two profiles and shut down one of them. In my experience, they do rounds of culls where suddenly a load of fake profiles are cancelled all at once. Just because you haven’t been caught yet, is no guarantee that you’ll continue to get away with something forever.
There’s also a serious risk when fake profiles are the only ones with admin access to your Facebook assets – because when they get shut down, you will get locked out of the page.
But our fake profiles are really convincing – they have posts, photos and friends. How will Facebook know that they’re fake?
Facebook has so many ways of knowing who people really are. It knows your various IP addresses and the different devices you’re logging in on, and the pixel knows which websites you’re visiting. The profile contents are only a tiny part of it, and it’s naive to think that the system can be fooled by adding photos and friends. I’m sorry to break this to you, but if Facebook hasn’t found your fake profile, it’s not because you’re a savvy hacker who has outsmarted it – it’s because its Sauron-like eye of doom is currently pointed in a different direction. It will eventually swing around to you.
Facebook’s tracking is so powerful that it can know when two devices are close together. That’s why you’ll sometimes see ads on Facebook for things that your partner or housemate has been searching for online. Even a VPN won’t stop Facebook from detecting fake profiles – see the next question.
Can we use a VPN to set up fake profiles?
VPNs won’t get you around this – Facebook can detect them. VPNs will trigger Facebook’s security checks and can end up with you getting locked out of your real account.
But we want to set up ‘work’ profiles because our staff are worried about privacy
There’s a very simple solution to protect individual privacy – get each staff member to set their real profile to the strongest possible privacy settings. This means that other users can only see their name and profile picture – none of the posts on their page, their friends list, or anything else.
Being an Admin on a charity Facebook Page or Ads account, does not give anyone else access to your individual personal information or any control over your profile – all they see is your name in the Business Suite settings.
Digital Charity Lab’s free guide to managing your digital accounts covers how to set up Facebook Business Suite properly.
But I have a Facebook account that I share with my partner / friend to post pictures of our kids / hobbies, and that doesn’t cause issues?
You will definitely end up having issues with this account at some stage if two people are regularly logging into it from different devices – but that’s not the point. The point is that when it comes to using social media for your organisation, you have to be much more careful than when using it for personal stuff.
Your charity’s Facebook assets are not personal accounts, they are business tools. You need to follow their terms and conditions, because if you don’t, the fallout can have a seriously painful impact on your organisation.
But I don’t want to have a Facebook profile at all, I hate Facebook! Can’t I just set up a ‘Susie Charityname’ profile and not use my real name?
Look, we all hate Facebook! It’s ghastly. But if you’re working on digital communications, fundraising or campaigning projects, you have to have a Facebook profile. There’s no way around it. It’s a leading platform and you can’t fully and safely manage your charity’s Facebook assets without a profile.
If you don’t want to put any personal information on Facebook, then all you have to do is:
- Create your Facebook profile with your real name (as long as you don’t already have a profile – it’s one per person. If you have an old or deactivated profile, you’ll need to reactivate that instead.)
- Upload a profile picture of a cat or a cartoon character or something, rather than a photo of yourself
- Connect with some people that you know in real life – Facebook requires profiles to have ‘friends’ in order to allow them to interact in Groups etc
- Set the privacy settings to maximum
That way you have the bare minimum needed to manage Facebook Pages, Ads and Groups, while still being compliant with Facebook’s terms, and not putting your organisation at risk.
Remember – you are putting your organisation at legal risk if you create second profiles
I’ve heard from some organisations where they have actually put in their own internal policies that staff have to use fake profiles. This is your organisation explicitly saying, in writing, that you’re breaching the terms and conditions that you’ve agreed to. If you ever find yourselves in a legal dispute around your use of Facebook, you won’t have a leg to stand on. Using fake profiles can also stop third party integrations from working properly. It’s about so much more than personal preferences – it’s a governance issue.
Read more about platform governance, an emerging area of compliance that charities need to be aware of.
Didn’t Facebook announce they were introducing Business Profiles? Can we use those?
Facebook did announce that they were testing work profiles, back in 2021. Then nothing happened for ages, then an update in February 2023 said they’re testing work accounts with a limited number of businesses this year. It’s frustrating, but until they actually fully launch this new standalone feature, you can’t create second profiles for work. When Facebook rolls out a new feature like this, it can often take quite a long time before a) it’s widely available and b) it works properly.
If and when this feature is widely available to charities, we’ll update you about it – sign up to Digital Charity Lab emails to get our ezine and other updates.
But we really want to keep work and personal use of Facebook separate, and our charity wants us to as well
You can keep them separate, and you don’t need two profiles to do it.
There seems to be a big misconception going around that attaching your personal Facebook profile as an admin on your charity page gives other staff access to your profile. It doesn’t. All they’ll see is your name in the backend.
In order to keep work notifications off your personal profile, do the following:
- Ensure that Business Suite is set up to manage all your charity’s Facebook assets. See our free guide to account management for instructions on how to do this.
- When you’re using Facebook for work (posting, checking messages, responding to comments etc), don’t go to the standard Facebook interface – go to Business Suite instead. Bookmark business.facebook.com for easy access.
- Turn off Page notifications on your personal profile. Do this by going to your profile and selecting:
- Account > Settings and privacy > Settings > Notifications > Pages you manage
- Turn off ‘Page notifications on your profile’ for each of the work Pages you manage, and opt for email notifications instead.
This process can sometimes be glitchy, because Facebook is riddled with glitches. I have turned off notifications from specific Pages and then suddenly had them reappear. So occasionally I will see a work notification creeping in among my personal notifications. But – and please trust me on this – the inconvenience of occasionally getting a work notification on your personal profile, is a minuscule fraction of the inconvenience of being locked out of Facebook.
Remember that if your charity are requiring staff to set up two profiles, they’re breaching Facebook’s terms and conditions, and this is a really risky thing to do. See the section above about legal risk.
We’ve been using fake profiles for a while – what should we do to fix this?
The issue is very fixable, but proceed with caution. You need to make sure that real profiles are connected with admin access to all your Facebook assets (Page, Business Suite, Ad accounts, Instagram account, Groups, etc), so you don’t get locked out.
The steps to follow are:
- Put it in your internal policy documents that everyone has to use their real profile when managing the charity’s Facebook assets. Often staff aren’t aware of the terms and conditions, and the risks that second profiles create. Make sure everyone is clear on this.
- Ensure that all your Facebook business assets have real profiles set up as their administrators. See our free guide to account management for support with doing this. It’s really important that these are real profiles that people can still get into, so you don’t lose access to any assets. I’d recommend doing this on a screenshare with your team so you can double-check everything as you go.
- Once you have the real profiles connected and people have accepted the invitations, remove the fake profiles that are connected as administrators / editors, etc
- Only after this is done, get everyone with a fake profile to fully delete it. Instructions available here on how to delete a profile.
- Provide each staff member with instructions on how to lock down the privacy on their personal profile, so supporters of the charity interacting with them in Groups can only see their name and profile pic and nothing else. This way their privacy isn’t compromised.
Remember in Facebook Business Suite, you also have the option of giving people access through a work email address instead of a profile – this will give them access to the Business Suite settings and Ads accounts. What it won’t allow, though, is management of Facebook Groups. So if team members need to manage and interact in Groups, they need to be set up through their real profile.
I’ve raised this with my charity and they’re still insisting on using the fake profiles. What should I do?
If you’ve given them all the information and highlighted that the organisation is in breach of Facebook’s terms and conditions, and they’re still not taking it seriously, then you need to get it added to your charity’s risk register.
Note that the organisation is in breach of Facebook’s terms and there is a risk the accounts could be suddenly banned, and ask senior management to develop a contingency plan. What platform will you use as a replacement if your organisation gets banned from Facebook? What will you use to make up the shortfall in digital fundraising? Who will be responsible for dealing with the endless, pointless loop that is Facebook’s customer service? This way you can’t be blamed if (when) it all comes crashing down.
Need help with sorting out Facebook accounts?
Digital Charity Lab has a free downloadable guide to managing your digital accounts, created in partnership with Facebook experts ODV Digital. It includes detailed instructions and a template for recording who has access to what account.
The following Facebook Groups are great for getting support with Facebook issues:
- Facebook Fundraising for Non-Profits – Community Support Group (unofficial)
- The Social Media Geekout
Credits: Dumpster fire icon by juicyfish on Flaticon.com; Eye of Sauron illustration by dragonJAR on Flickr
Desperately seeking some help on an issue just like this. I work for a nonprofit and a couple of months ago I lost my phone and with it access to my authenticator app for FB. Faced with zero options to get back into my FB account, I resorted to setting up a new profile for work. I doubt I’m the only person this has happened to and it’s driving me mad trying to gain access. I’m worried now that the new profile will cause problems for my work business manager. Any guidance would be greatly appreciated!
I’m so sorry Danielle – such a frustrating situation! And Facebook’s complete lack of support on these issues is just maddening.
There’s an agency in the US who mentioned to me a while back that they offer a service around straightening out Facebook account issues. It might be worth contacting them to see if they can help? They’re called Elevation: elevationweb.org.
Thanks so much for the tip – I’ll check it out!
Sorry to butt in but if you use an iPhone and have your log in stored in settings-passwords it generates the access codes Facebook requests. I switched phones, don’t have the authentication app but it generates codes that charge every 30 secs which I successfully used to access FB when I lost access to the authentication app.
That’s a great tip Fay, thanks so much!
Sorry don’t have an iPhone. That would actually make sense as switching phones is such a common thing and I can’t be the only one with this issue. Ugh.