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Are Facebook Community Pages a Threat to Your Brand?

Facebook recently launched community pages that allow people to “like” generic topics such as “dancing” and the “beach” as well as company brands and people.  These pages can be linked in user profiles under their “Likes and Interests” section.  Per Mashable,  “these community pages aren’t run by individuals so they don’t have a wall and don’t send updates to users’ feeds.  Instead, they import streams of public content from user status messages.  Status text is split into updates from friends and from all Facebook users.  Community pages also include relevant information from Wikipedia under a Wikipedia tab.”  Even if a person doesn’t “like” the community page or list it under their “Likes and Interests,” if they write a status update that incorporates the name of the community page, such as writing “I love going to the beach!”, that status will show up on the “beach” community page.

These community pages are of concern to brands that have spent time and money developing a Facebook page for their brand because community pages are now listed in the search function and compete with the official brand page for user attention.  Some community pages even feature brand logos, which can further confuse Facebook users about which page they should “like.”  Brands cannot control what is included in the community page feeds and cannot respond to status updates pulled from users’ feeds.  The only information that a brand can add to the community page is the company website address.  So, should brands be worried?

As with all forms of social media, the most important thing to do is to monitor the community page for the brand.  These pages are an opportunity for companies to see what people on Facebook are saying about their brand all in one place.  Facebook users have made comments about brands in their status updates before – the only difference is now everyone can see it.  Community pages are another monitoring tool for companies to use to find out what is being said about their brand.  Even though brands cannot comment on a community page, each status update a brand makes will show up on the community page (assuming the brand’s Facebook name is the same as or includes the community page’s name).  Therefore, people looking at this community page can also see the brand’s official fan page status feeds.

There is concern that community pages create a loss of control for brands.  While it is frustrating that a brand’s fan page must now compete in Facebook search for attention with the community page, the idea that a brand has lost control over what is being said about the brand doesn’t really hold true.  People have made comments about brands on Facebook long before community pages existed.  The only difference is that now everyone can see them in one place.  There is also an argument that messages a brand intended just for Facebook can now be seen throughout the Internet.  Brand fan pages were always public and so these status update messages were always available for anyone on Facebook to see.  Status updates and responses to fan comments on a brand’s fan page should always be made with the assumption that anyone and everyone has access to read everything on the fan page.  As Nestle learned, everything that happens on a brand’s fan page is open for the public to see and if a brand doesn’t handle something well, the whole world will know – and comment about it!

If your brand doesn’t have a fan page on Facebook, it is still important to check Facebook to see if a community page has been created, and, if so, what is being said.  Community pages have already been set up for some companies that do not have official fan pages.  It also might a good time to re-visit the idea of whether your brand should start a fan page.

If your brand’s logo is on the Facebook community page and you don’t want it there, call your local Facebook sales representative and tell them that you want your brand marks off the community page.  Since your brand’s Wikipedia page (if it exists) will show up on the community page, be sure to routinely review the Wikipedia page to make sure that it includes correct information.  Updating and correcting Wikipedia posts can be difficult as Wikipedia has strict rules about brands making updates, so making changes is often a slow process.

Social media analyst Jeremiah Owyahng pointed out that not only has Facebook upset brands by creating community pages, but they have also created a forum where member’s status updates can be shared with everyone on Facebook.  Facebook members may not be very pleased that their statuses are made public and, perhaps even taken out of context.  As with any social media platform, it is important for brands to monitor what is being said about their brand and contribute value-added information to the conversation.

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