When Facebook wall is silenced, what’s a news site to do?

Nearly 38  million small businesses operate nationwide, constituting half the GDP.  Don’t you think they deserve a little customer service from Facebook as it encourages them to come on board and set up pages?

Virginia Citrano, editor of MyVeronaNJ, thinks so.

Citrano’s opinion comes from her experience as both a small-business person and editor. She’s been suffering Facebook’s infamous benvolent neglect since the page for MyVeronaNJ developed a problem more than a week  ago. Since Jan. 19, she’s not been  able to post her publication’s stories to her Facebook page.

When Citrano tries to post a news link on her wall, her post is blocked by a pop up that says the message is spam.

It looks something like the message I received when I tried to post one of her links to my wall earlier this evening .

“I am able to communicate to people on the Facebook page, but I can’t post the link to the stories,” Citrano says.

Today is  Thursday Jan. 26.  Citrano says she’s reported the problem through the Facebook Help, but that system only addresses certain known issues. My test of the system confirms this and I bet yours does, too.

In it’s clunky sincerity, Facebook almost has a sense of humor.

Citrano is not amused.

“You can report through Facebook’s help system all you want and I think it just goes into a giant blackhole,” she says. “I don’t know what this is or how it got started but I felt that I needed to talk with a real person.

“In two years, we have trained most people to go to our home page,” she added. “But Facebook is definitely a valuable channel and I want to make sure it works.”

Through contacts, Citrano found her way to troubleshooter Vadim Lavrusik, Journalist Program Manager at Facebook.

Lavrusik turned the matter over to the page specialist, but Citrano’s yet to hear from them.

When I contacted Lavrusik for this article, he replied in a message “It’s not a glitch, but rather our spam filter that’s causing the issue because of the way the ad server is setup on her site.”

Earlier Thursday evening Lavrusik messaged a response to my query asking whether the problem had been resolved, saying: “There’s a bug filed to resolve it, so hopefully it will get addressed soon.”

An external public relations consultant for Facebook replied to my repeated requests  for an interview:

Unfortunately Facebook won’t be able to set up an interview, but there’s more information about resources for journalists and media organizations at this Page:http://www.facebook.com/media

Citrano says LocalYokelMedia who manages ads on the MyVeronaNJ site has repeatedly checked for anything that would trigger a spam warning and has come up with nothing.

“They have been very thorough and gone in a tweeked their code. I really don’t think that’s it,” Citrano says. “The warning they are getting is exactly the same problem that Snopes was getting and that eventually Facebook backed down.”

On  Dec, 12, 2011, ZDNet reporter Emil Protalinski  reported that urban legend vetting site Snopes was declared off limits by Facebook spam detectors and users were unable to post links to Facebook.

Facebook looked more deeply into the Snopes situation and found that the page was blocked in error. Protalinski wrote:

Update: I was right, this was a mistake on Facebook’s part. “The page was was blocked in error and access has been restored,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. “We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.”

Citrano thinks this is what is happening to her site.  And she say that her situation points to a bigger problem at Facebook related to serving the small-business customer. “I think they have a responsibility to make sure that their own technology is clean. They don’t even have a reporting process for this kind of problem.”

Citrano has a point. BIA/Kelsey projects that small and midsized businesses in the U.S. will spend $16.6 billion in the online/digital media space by 2015, and a good chunk of that will be on Facebook advertising.

Last summer, Facebook Marketing Solution held a series of free Marketing Bootcamp webinars. People who attended — I was one — were called by Facebook a few weeks later and offered special assistance to launch their marketing programs for $2,000 per month. I’ve been reporting on social media  for a while, and this  is the only instance in which I have spoken to a live person representing Facebook. I’ve not had that problem with Google. Perhaps and probably Facebook sees sales of  marketing hand-holding as a valuable piece of  their revenue equation.

Fortunately, journalists and news organizations on Facebook have Lavrusik as a resource.

Craig Kanalley, Social Media Editor at NBC News, told me in a message that he brings his outlet’s problems directly to Lavrusik.

“He’s really the contact person, Vadim is, if we are having issues… We go to Vadim and he helps us sort it out,” Kannalley said.  “Alternatively there’s a Facebook group called Social Journalism. Not sure if you’re familiar with it, but there’s 1,000+ journalists interested in social there.”

The Social Journalism group is a closed group, but Kannalley, who is the administrator,  encouraged me to share it with the independent online news world and BlockXBlock. Journalists from independent online news organizations can request an invite and be added.

“Feel free to utilize that group yourself, ask questions, comment, etc. whenever you’d like. It can be a great resource. We all learn a lot together,’ Kannalley added.

I have been hanging out there for a few days and I can vouch that there is wisdom in the crowds. I’ve  seen Lavrusik posting there.

So next time, your news page is suffering from a glitch, you might want to 1) message  Vadim Lavrusik;  and 2)  head on over to social journalism and see what your colleagues say;  then 3) cross your fingers.

Sally Duros is a social journalist working toward the next generation of successful, credible online newsrooms. Connect with her on  and on twitter at saduros.


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