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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Facebook Community Pages - A few things you should know.

Last month, it seemed that the entire world was up in arms over Facebook privacy. (I discussed my thoughts, as well.) And, while Mark Zuckerberg was taken to task about whether or not the new controls were fair or easy enough for the public to understand, discussions of Facebook's more egregious move - the implementation of Community Pages that are holding brands hostage - haven't been nearly as loud.*

Bold statement? Maybe. Here's the skinny. You tell me what you think ...

Adding to existing user-generated Fan Pages, Facebook has auto-generated thousands of Community Pages based upon items listed in public profiles. Community Pages co-exist in Facebook right along with any official Fan Page with the same title, and in many cases, the unofficial Community Page outranks the official Fan Page in search rankings.

Where brands are being hijacked, though, is the fact that they have no control over the content of these pages.

Content from Wikipedia ...

Here's a look at the Facebook Community page for Kane Consulting:

Notice the stock icon of the briefcase. That is Facebook's default for Community Pages for businesses. You'd think we could go in and put our company logo there, right? Wrong.

Now, notice that Facebook asks to suggest a relevant Wikipedia article or the Official Site. Ok, fine. At least Facebook is making an attempt to connect to official information. But, while Kane Consulting has both an official Fan Page and website (both of which have been "suggested") we do not have a Wikipedia entry. Within Wikipedia's policies is the statement, "Do not create pages about yourself, your company, your brand or your friends, nor pages that advertise, nor personal essays or other articles you would not find in any encyclopedia." Doing so is likely to get your page deleted from the Wikipedia altogether.

If a brand is fortunate enough to have a valid Wikipedia entry, that entry just became a highly visible online communications tool.

Notice that Starbuck's Community Page entry is a nearly mirror image of their Wikipedia entry:

Content from public posts ...

Feeling overwhelmed, yet? Let's move to the body of the Community Page. Instead of a Wall, Community Pages contain "Related Posts," - aggregated content from status updates of all Facebook users. These appear in two sections, "Posts by Friends" which will display any post by one of your Facebook friends referencing the subject of the Community Page, and "Related Global Posts," which includes any public post by any Facebook user who references the subject.

What is troubling is that, oftentimes, these posts are ...

... not necessarily favorable to brands:

For instance, here's a post I just grabbed from the Starbucks Community Page:

... or, even all that "related" to the subject:

As you can see in these posts taken from the Community Page for the retail store, Target:

And, I can't help but wonder if this proud mom knows that her birthday wishes to Josh are displayed on various Community Pages for "Beer":

So, what can we do to manage online reputation?

Despite the thousands of Community Pages that have been created, and the confusing mess it has spawned, for the most part, it's fairly apparent that the content on Community Pages is auto-generated, and not being provided by the brand itself. At the same time, in order to preserve or establish official brand presence on Facebook, here are a few things to consider:
  • Increase the likelihood that customers will find an official Fan Page instead of any related Community Pages by including links to the official Page across any social media channels and on the company website.
  • Continually "suggest" relevant pages to Facebook, via the Community Page.
  • If the brand has a valid Wikipedia entry, ensure that the information displayed is accurate and that the image is consistent with the current logo/brand identity.
  • Make sure that your clients and their staff understand the difference between Community Pages and Fan Pages, and help them to establish policies and brand guidelines and to manage privacy settings so that their own posts don't compromise brand reputation.
In the end, Facebook holds the reins, and we've chosen to go along for the ride. We are held to their guidelines and the moves they make, but that doesn't mean we can't look ahead and shape the path a bit.

*There were, in fact, some smart people who were talking about this early on. Take a look at the posts by Kammie Avant and David Griner on The Social Path as well this video from Ike Pigott.)