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AVOID These 15 Things That Will Probably Get You BANNED On Social Media Graphic © WealthPowerBoost. Background photo © Tomasz Zajda (via Fotolia, under license)
NOTE – None of what follows is, or should be construed as, legal advice or a recommendation to break Terms of Service of any social media site. Full disclaimer in the page footer.
If you are a social media entrepreneur… at some point, it will probably happen to you. Bans happen.
It’s frustrating – especially if you lose a big audience. But it’s not the end of the world. Let’s clear up a common misconception right away.
When “you” get banned from a social media site or a search engine, it is not YOU that gets banned. It is one of your sites or one of your accounts that gets banned. (Tip of the hat to “Eli” who first taught me this. He was right.)
The big exception is AdSense advertising program, which has a rule that once someone has been banned, it’s “Game Over” and they forbid you to create another account. But there are lots of other advertisers – and some of them pay better nowadays anyway!
If you think that getting banned only happens to “the bad guys” – think again. Quite often, people whose account got banned have absolutely no idea why it happened. “The rules” are often deliberately nebulous, giving them what seems like the ability to ban whoever they want for whatever reason they want. There are certain things however that you should definitely avoid.
Build In Some Resilience
In internet business, just about everything has a rise and a fall. Anticipate that. Like surfing, the perfect wave doesn’t last forever; at some point you either wipe out or the wave reaches the shore… and you gotta go catch another wave.
So you do what you can, while you can – and then you move on. There is always another wave and always something to learn from what happened. Roll with it. With experience, you learn to pay closer attention to the ToS, and to make some preparations, so that you can shake off any loss more easily and keep advancing on other fronts.
It’s best to assume that even if you think you are doing everything right, “anything could happen” – and to plan accordingly.
⭐ Pro Tip: If you are going aggressively after internet income, it’s always good to create a few “spare accounts” and new brands before you need them, where permissible – and start gently building them up in a low-key way. Be careful with ToS: Some sites allow you as many channels as you want i.e. Youtube – although they only let you verify a few accounts using the same phone number, to stop people abusing the system. Tumblr deletes an account if you don’t log in for 2 years so you will need to log in to your spare accounts at least more frequently than that! Facebook allows you one personal profile but unlimited fan pages connected to that profile. And so on. All the sites have their own little rules and hoops to jump through. And you are not alone: Lots of people are asking Google “How many Twitter accounts can you have” so the answers to all these questions are out there.
Creating spare accounts gives you something of a “backup” if you get banned – and all will not be lost. Note however that this is harder if “your brand is you” because obviously you cannot easily have more than one authorized profile of yourself. But there is no harm at all in creating multiple brands and securing that keyword real estate while you can – and you might also find that as you get better at it, one of your more recent brands turns out to have greater zing and overtakes the older one anyway! You would never have found that out if you did not create several brands.
With ad networks (i.e. ads on your blog), even if you got accepted to one and you are loving it, apply to a few more. If something “goes down” you can then flip to another ad network instantly and minimize your down time! And you might find that your new ad networks perform better than the old one anyway. Always be testing! 🙂
⭐ Pro Tip: You should also pull as much of your following onto an email list as you can, while you can. Give them freebies, learn email marketing, keep them sweet by giving value. A good email list is probably the most reliable way to safeguard future income that exists on the internet.
Here Are The 15 Things That Will Probably Get You Banned:
1. Stealing Content
Never steal content. Just don’t. You cannot just help yourself to images (or written content, or audio, or video) on the internet. This is very important. The times are changing and there is a huge backlash happening – right now…
The internet used to be a bit of a Wild West of stolen content, but the hammer is coming down. Please trust me on this one: There are companies who are actively pursuing content thieves now with serious legal action – on a mass scale (thousands of legal actions simultaneously!) The gloves have come off and they mean business. This is a potentially horrible and expensive situation ($20,000 fines and thousands to settle out of court) that you truly don’t need.
Only use content you legally can. Learn about and fully understand the various licenses – including Public Domain (CC0), Creative Commons and the restrictions of purchased image use licenses. Understand copyright law and what constitutes “fair use” (tons of people interpret this wrongly!) Use your own photos, understand how Model Releases work, and be ultra careful not to publish something that does not belong to you.
You are a pro now – yes you are – and not knowing the rules of the game is amateurish, so do your homework here. It’s worth the time investment.
If you post something on Pinterest, Youtube etc that is not yours, you risk a DMCA takedown (at best) – which is where someone files a copyright claim against you. This is a legal claim and the social media site in question is then legally required to remove your content until the dispute is settled.
Youtube has a “three strikes” rule on copyright infringement and losing a big YT account is a huge setback. They also have some clever tech that can detect and recognize audio and other stuff, so just assume that it isn’t safe.
⭐ Pro Tip: Ask Permission! Many people will allow you to use of an image in return for a link – because good links are currency online! I have gained use of TONS of images this way and typically people are very happy that you even asked because this is not the norm! Be friendly and remind them that a link will give them “Google benefits”. And keep a copy of permissions granted for future reference / proof.
Be aware also that sometimes, people post images as public domain that aren’t – and in such cases if you use the image it might still be your legal problem, because under Copyright law, you are the one responsible for ensuring that you are cleared to use any materials that you use. Similarly with permission. If someone gave you permission to use an image that they don’t actually have the right to use, it might still be on you. So ascertain that the person took the photo themselves / find out where they sourced it.
Very many people “walk the thin line” by lifting content and linking back to the source, counting on the fact that the owner won’t mind because a link is valuable. I CANNOT of course legally recommend that you should do that, though it is visibly a very widespread practice. Just ask! It’s far better just to be cool and ask permission… and you will get lots of yes’s!
2. Activism / Political Content
I would advise you to steer entirely clear of controversial “trigger topics” and any that are causing account bans / demonetization for others. Watch out for the “canary in the coal mine” – other accounts that get banned – and avoid doing what they did!
If you are an activist of any kind, I would strongly advise to keep that kind of activity completely separate and “ring fenced” from your main business – even to the extent of using different hosting for those websites, different accounts, computer hardware, domain name provider, IP addresses. Yes, it’s tempting, when you have a million followers on FB, to utilize that for a “cause” that you are passionate about, but causes (especially political ones) invariably get a negative reaction at some point. Be sensible! Speak your truth (without hate, incitement or defamation of course) – but “do it from a safe distance” and don’t risk your income over it!
3. Weight Loss
Facebook seem particularly opposed to content that is weight loss related, although you can clearly see that Youtube seems to have no problem with it. Good quality weight loss content is massively popular on Youtube – and weight loss is one of the world’s most lucrative internet niches. However on FB, even using the word “fat” in a post could cause a strike. Yes, that has happened to me.
4. Dating Niche
It depends on which platform: “How To Get The Girl” type posts are very high risk on Facebook – although on Youtube there are dating tutorials everywhere so no problem there.
This applies to most platforms but anything even vaguely hinting of eroticism is probably too much for FB too. “Showing nips” is a no-no. They are so strict on this. We have even had posts banned for featuring an appropriately-clothed good looking model showing her legs or arms in a completely non-X-rated way!
Of course, if you are doing adult entertainment then there are a different set of rules, but the adult entertainment “universe” lives pretty much in a different world online to the non-adult-entertainment universe. There is a very clear “separation” between these two worlds that is almost universal. When people try to cross over between the two – especially on social media – is usually when problems happen.
6. Getting Into Arguments With Trolls
Don’t get triggered, even if someone writes / says something despicable and infuriating. It’s not worth it. If you fire back, the person could take retaliatory action – flagging your account, filing a spam or hate speech report etc. If you build up a social media following, sometimes, the comments people write will drive you crazy. People make a lot of assumptions and can say terrible things from the safety of being ‘behind the keyboard’. Just don’t get drawn in. Delete / ban offensive commenters on your profiles and steer clear of heated discussions of any kind. You have better things to do anyway – you could be creating new awesome content and making money. 😉
7. Alternative Health
I just can’t wholeheartedly recommend the natural health niche any more – especially to newcomers. Health is not one of the easiest niches these days. You need a level of genuine expertise that makes outsourcing the content creation more difficult (& expensive) than typical article creation. If you are already a professional in the natural health field then you’re ok. It’s just not something that someone should take on when they are thinking “what niche should I blog about?” There’s also some opposition – depending on your topic spectrum. My natural health site got strikes despite my content being top quality, referenced to peer-reviewed scientific studies etc – but I was getting a bit noisy when it came to my critiques of Big Pharma. They don’t like that and they have a lot of influence! Just be careful when it comes to anything that can be considered contrary to current narratives. I believe you have a right to speak your truth – but if you have “something to say”, be sensible and don’t do it from a place where they can hurt your business, that’s all. If you are going to do natural health, the “carrots and yoga” end of the spectrum is much safer than the “criticizing orthodox medicine” end.
8. “Before and After” Pictures
Typical examples are weight loss programs and dental treatments. The reason these are often struck down is because they are often fake and deliberately fraudulent because they get many clicks.
The rules are different on different sites here. Many sites have special dislike of these – whether genuine or fake. Certainly against ToS on Facebook and they are stringent – however I often see them in Youtube thumbnails and Pinterest pics. On YT, people seem to be getting away with it in a big way. Read the ToS. I have to cover my ass and say that I can’t advise it and think that you should just steer completely clear.
9. Conspiracy Theory / Alternative Science / Unorthodox Views
No matter how well researched, this can often get demonetized and even banned. Again, keep it separate from your business.
10. Fake News
This is a complex and extremely controversial topic because not everyone shares the same beliefs about what is real and true. One thing that is known is that the fact checkers seem to “cherry pick” the types of topics they go after – so avoid known trigger topics and fact check your content as best you can before you publish.
11. Fake Functionality
Another thing that could get you banned is “fake functionality”. Back in the day, we used to put “play buttons” in my Facebook post images to increase the clicks, with the video being available on my website for people that clicked through. I was careless – it was against ToS! Just for this infraction I lost two FB pages that had over 100k fans each. Ouch. No warning shot, no appeal, no recourse. It was very heavy handed; if they had said “don’t do this ever again” I would certainly not have. But I have to own this one. It’s my bad for being careless and they don’t have all day to “train you” in what the rules are… you are expected to read and follow them so take heed!
12. Using Fake Accounts / Bots To Bump Up Your Numbers
If you create fake accounts or use trick methods to put fake likes on your own content and boost its ratings… you are VERY likely to get banned. Just don’t, it’s not worth it. Create content that people love!
13. Affiliate Links
Many social media sites have a special dislike of affiliates. This is a complex topic and different sites have different rules, so you really need to learn the rules of the platform you are on. As a very general rule of thumb, read the ToS first and just assume that posting affiliate links directly on social media is a risky game.
I see many videos posting Amazon affiliate links under Youtube videos so that seems ok – and I have heard of people posting Clickbank links on Youtube too. I would absolutely not risk Amazon, Clickbank or other aff links on Facebook though. Promoting affiliate offers directly from FB is likely to get you banned.
I am going to cover my ass and say “just don’t” – but if you still want to do it, you may find it safer to link from FB to a specially created “bridge page” on your own website, where you have full control, then link through to the offer using your aff link from there. Even then I would use an HTML redirect from your own page so that the affiliate link is not immediately visible to bots – which I do believe FB may use to determine whether the link you put on Facebook is promoting an affiliate offer. I’ve done that and been fine (so far) but can’t guarantee that this entirely safe either though, so it’s “at your own risk”.
I have been wrapping all the affiliate links on my sites in HTML redirects for years and not run into problems, however an entirely separate matter is that you definitely have to disclose aff links to your viewers. That’s a legal matter. The person viewing it should know that it is an affiliate link / sponsored placement. See the FTC’s Dot Com Disclosures document for a full official explanation of this.
14. Buying Likes From Anywhere Except The Platform Itself
Absolutely avoid services that offer cheap likes, clicks etc. They are probably using bots or fake profiles. The big social media websites and ad networks have advanced detection systems for that kind of activity nowadays. These kinds of likes also WRECK your engagement scores and it comes back to bite you in the butt in a big way, literally preventing your account from picking up traction. This is a sure fire way to ruin your chances of social media success.
15. Fake Clicks
This relates to ads on your site; not so much social media. Don’t click your ads and don’t have anyone click them for you. Seriously. They know who is clicking. If you lose an Adsense account for example you will lose all your unpaid-out payments up to that point which could be a lot of money – up to almost 2 months worth! I used to be so nervous of people clicking my ads in a misguided attempt to help me that I literally didn’t even tell my friends about my websites. This might have been taking it too far but you get the point.
This may not be an exhaustive list. Read carefully the Terms of Service of the site(s) you are working on, know the rules of the game and keep it legal too!
How To Get Un-Banned
The first important fact to note is that while getting banned can be a big pain in the butt and perhaps even a very big income drop, it is not the end of the game. You figure out why it happened, you try to get the account unbanned if you can, you create new accounts, you start new websites on new web hosting, you move to new traffic sources – and most importantly don’t ever get over-dependent on one social media site, traffic source or niche…
If however you got banned… here’s what to do.
First, be aware that a ban may sometimes seem very unjust – and try not to take it personally. I know, that’s hard. Your years of work just got “wiped out by a stupid machine”. You may also find support to be terrible at best and non-existent at worst. You just have to accept it as a fact of life. They have a billion people to deal with, including 100,000 “real spammers” – and they outsourced that part to the lowest bidder. Your account, that made you a million dollars, is now being handled by someone being paid $2 per hour, who doesn’t care – and why should they?
⭐ Pro Tip: Be very nice to them! That extra spoonful of sugar on top can make magic happen, trust me. Remember, it’s not the support agent’s fault at all that their big boss’s algorithm wiped out your site. 🙂
There are different levels of banning that can happen. Any posts that caused a strike or a temporary ban should be removed asap. Sometimes on Facebook, you have to try to guess which post it was based on the time of the action.
Actual account bans, where your account is there one day and gone the next, are at the “top end” and there will often be little recourse, however I have sometimes been able to get both Facebook pages and Pinterest accounts reinstated by appealing.
First things first – try to figure out what you did to get banned, and fix that! Read the ToS and ask yourself if you did any of those things. Then appeal – nicely. When appealing, always be appealing. Getting angry, ranting, insulting etc will not help your cause and you can practically guarantee that your appeal will not work that way.
The frame is this: You are one of the good guys and you LOVE PINTEREST / FB / whoever it is. But they did no crime by banning you; someone just made a simple mistake and pretty please sugar on top can you have your account back? If there is anything you need to do in order to improve your profile, you are eager and willing to do it. I know. It’s cringe. But keep focused on the goal. Sugar coat it.
⭐ Pro Tip: Note that you may have to appeal more than once. The chances are very high that your inquiry will be handled by a completely different person the second time. So if your appeal does not work, wait a week and then appeal again. Do not reference the previous appeal. It will likely be read by a different support agent and you might get the account back this time! This really does work sometimes even if you got a flat out no from one person before.
Other types of ban include the notorious recurring 7-day ban on Facebook (they will not tell you why and I don’t think anyone ever reads the appeals). I have given up appealing there – waste of time! Deleting all the most recent posts going back a few weeks might help.