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 random.org’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 contax.io.

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.