in Projects, Programming, Technology

5 reasons Facebook pages are evil

If you’re disgruntled with your Facebook page, you’re not alone. The story goes something like this. Cheryl starts a Facebook page for her business. She requests all of her friends and family like the page. She links to it from her blog and email newsletters. She plunks down a few hundred dollars to pick up more fans with ads. Then, she decides to email them all, or do a report to see how many of her existing customers are fans. Then it hits her…

If you have a Facebook page with more than 500 fans,
there is no way to know who they are.


A couple years ago, I coded up a script that would export up to 10,000 Facebook fans to a CSV file. I couldn’t get email addresses, but I could get photos, names and profile links. Facebook has now made that impossible. Now, all you can do is see 500 of your fans through your admin page.

This is a real problem for small companies and giant brands alike. Many companies spend thousands of dollars each month advertising to fans on Facebook. Through the course of multiple versions of the script, I’ve corresponded with people about how they use their Facebook page, why they need to get their fans out, and what other problems they have.

What Facebook page owners want

1. Reward a random fan

“We’re a small business looking to download our list of fans so that we can make a ‘true’ random selection of our users for contests.”

It is surprising that most page owners simply want to do a contest or raffle to select one page fan. Discovering this, I did a little bit of research and found it is against Facebook’s terms of service to pick a random fan. To be honest, the regulations around contests are really confusing.

It seems most people either use a Facebook event to build a list of entrants, or an app to manage their contests (which is different from just selecting a random fan). Several people are using’s third-party draw service which is integrated with Facebook events. One draw for 100K fans costs $249.

2. Know who the fans are

“I’m from Chile and I own a .com business with a great number of visitors, so it would be very interesting to know who these people are and see their profile in order to improve our service and offers.”

Facebook’s latest demographic tools let you get a pretty good idea of how your fans are distributed demographically. You can now also target updates based on location and language. This technically should take care of the requirement to understand your fan. However, it is not as useful as being able to see each person and click through to their profile.

3. Get fans’ email addresses

“I have a Fan Page and would like to have just two pieces of data: Name and Email.

With this info, I would like to conduct an email campaign asking fans if they want to subscribe to my weekly newsletter.”

Not surprisingly many page owners want email addresses. Presumably this is to add them to an email list, or a customer database. Email is still the primary way to access customers, Facebook should make it easier for you to opt into giving your email address to a page owner, just as they do with apps.

If you’re a page owner there is no way to export or detect your fan’s emails. The only way to collect it is with a custom tab where you can ask the user to enter their email. It should be technically feasible to tie that email back to their Facebook profile, though I’m not sure if any tools out there do this.

I experimented with a few Facebook custom tab apps.

  • Tabmaker has a very confusing user interface.
  • Wildfire seems to be the most popular, and offers sweepstakes functionality.
  • Venpop is simple and offers just the right features for free. I know the developers and sent video feedback.
  • Lujure – another popular platform, I’ve met the founder and a lot of people love it.

There is a brand new Facebook feature that allows users to communicate with your page. If the user initiates, then you can respond. It would be a good idea to simply pin a post saying “message us with your email if you have any questions.” One app for managing this across multiple pages is

4. Cross reference fans with a customer list or CRM.

“We’re trying to match FB profiles to profiles in our CRM via email address.”

When I first created my exporter, I wasn’t sure anyone would want it without the ability to get email. I quickly learned companies that have spent a lot of money advertising their page (or promoted it in an email campaign) want to know how many of their existing customers they’ve reached. Many times, name is sufficient to do the match (email is not required).

5. When did they become a fan?

“I work for the City of X, and we’re hosting a social media event to orient new students.  We’re giving away a Farmers Market gift certificate to students who like our page on the night of the event.”

One important piece of data that Facebook demographics leave out by not showing you who has fanned your page is who recently fanned your page. This is critical when organizing real-world events or ad campaigns.

If you’ve found solutions or workarounds to any of these problems, please leave a comment below. For updates on the Facebook exporter script, please sign up with your email at the top of this page.

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    • Hi Madhu, this is definitely skewed. The people I was corresponding with all wanted to get a list of their fans. This is not representative of all page owners.

  1. The only way i’ve found of getting a list is to run Javascript in the Google Chrome console. Browse to your FB page and view your likes, scroll down and keep hitting to view more. When it maxes out open up the console (ctrl + shift + j) and paste the following

    var elements = document.getElementsByClassName(‘fsl fwb fcb’);
    var list = new Array();
    for(var i = 6; i ‘);
    var end = sentence.lastIndexOf(‘<');
    list[i-6] = sentence.slice(start+1, end);
    for(var i = 0; i < list.length; i++){
    document.write(list[i] + '’);

    This will extract their names and then just overwrite the facebook html with a list of the names that you can copy and paste into excel. I’ve managed to get up to 680 fans out this way.

    • This is awesome Kyle, I did something in a chrome add-in once (or Greasemonkey, I can’t remember) – but I thought it maxed out at 500. Have you noticed if the ones at the top of the list are the most recent?

  2. Hi Adam,
    Thanks for the tips. I tried Venpop — loaded the app on my page but now can’t get anything when I go to the app (certainly don’t get the editor you show in your video). It gives me an error message saying something about “timing out”. I noticed in your video you said something about knowing how to name the app and change the settings. Just go to your fan page and click Manage>Edit Page>Apps>Custom Tab>Edit Settings. Here you can name your tab. To change the icon image just hit “change” and then “change” again and upload the image you desire.

    • Hi Betsy, Thanks for the tip. I forwarded your feedback on the timeout to the developers, since I know them. They gave me some tips as well, which were useful. I’ll see if I can find them and post them here.

  3. Thanks for the update. The company I work for has seen the success and viral nature of holding giveaways on Facebook, and like many other page owners, being able to easily hold a random drawing on Facebook is important to us. The 23.1% seems pretty accurate to me, if not a little low! I never considered creating an FB event and letting people “RSVP” to enter. We’ll do some more research and check that out. Thanks again.

  4. Everything is making me nervous. Facebook Changes everything all the time. Great post I need to merge my profile to page. Scared it will have really bad result to my 5,000 friends whom were not wanting to be page likers.

  5. There’s good information here. I did not think about it this way. Most page owners add content and wait for people to see it and get interested in their products.
    However, a few page owners think about sending e-mails to likers … Maybe it’s better just to use it as a business profile.

  6. I know that for contests, is pretty easy and people can enter using their facebook, and…you can set up mutltiple ways to enter, including via EMail.

    Not sure about emails and all that good stuff…Id have to say..doing it the old fashioned way. Track as you go if you have time. Its easy to find an email address with a name, if new likes come in. Do your research. Although its time consuming, it probably takes just as much time as trying to figure out which application or script to use to gather that information.

  7. HA!!! Dude…do you think FB is working for you? No way.

    When Steve Jobs pitched NYTimes delivers their content via iTunes, the NYTimes execs asked who owned the subscriber. Jobs said iTunes did. NYTimes walked out even tho it hurt them to do so. Why?

    Cuz the subscriber ownership IS their business model. And as businesses move to content-driven biz model, the ownership of the subscriber becomes a real sticking point. FB is hoping they’ll get enough of a lead start that companies will forget to ask what NYTimes exec’s asked Steve Jobs.

    Your fans on your biz page are not yours. They belong to Facebook.

    Happy Facebooking 🙂

  8. currently, i only get [up to] 5 pages of 99 contacts each – i counted them – its not even 500 for me.
    they are DEFINITELY not in any perceivable order, certainly not in date/time order.
    I wanted to write a routine to grab these periodically so I could find how who UNLIKED us, but that seems like it going to be impossible now. 🙁

    curse you Facebook!

  9. There’s good information here. I did not think about it this way. Most page owners add content and wait for people to see it and get interested in their products.
    However, a few page owners think about sending e-mails to likers … Maybe it’s better just to use it as a business profile.

  10. I used to get around some of these points by having a Facebook profile for my ‘work’ self. Every new fan we had who liked our business page, I would add as a friend and send a personal message hoping that we could build a better relationship.

  11. Sometimes I wish the creators of Facebook had been those behind Wikipedia. I find the medium insults our intelligence, and though I use the social platform, I do so infrequently as possible.


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