Keep from losing control of your brand on Facebook's new Community Pages

Community Pages show up in search results alongside fan pages, such as these for BP. Community Pages show up in search results alongside fan pages, such as these for BP on Facebook.

Facebook "Community Pages" have added new ways for people to connect around interests, but at the same time they pose a potential threat to your company and your brand. How so? They create public pages (that nobody owns) around any common interest people have added to their profiles (for example, music artists, movies and products). If you manage a popular brand, don't be surprised if you find pages on Facebook with your product or company name on them, displaying content you didn't write and can't edit to your liking.

Like it or not, the days of completely owning your own message are gone. You can't hide behind press releases or your own claims anymore, especially if your company and your products get a lot of attention. Networked customers and stakeholders who have an opinion about you—positive, negative and all shades inbetween"will find each other. Today, your brand has evolved into the sum total of your customers' and stakeholders' thoughts about you, as shared on the web.

How do Community Pages work?

Facebook says they aim to make each Community Page "the best collection of shared knowledge on [this topic]". They do this by bringing in the topic's Wikipedia article along with recent posts mentioning the subject. This means whatever people are saying about the area of interest—good or bad—has the potential to get aggregated. Read Facebook's blog post on the topic for a full understanding of how this works.

Read About What is at Stake

If you represent your company's image or if you are involved in corporate communications of any kind, take the time to fully understand this trend. John Bell says Facebook Community Pages are no big deal once you accept what they are. Invest the time to read his article for an analytical perspective. Once you've read that, study Jeremiah Owyang's matrix on how Facebook Community Pages impact brands and consider the advice he brings as a seasoned analyst.

Example: BP on Facebook & Boycott BP Pages

Take BP for example. When you search for BP on Facebook, you'll see a list similar to the one on the right. The first result, "Boycott BP," is a Fan Page, or a page that a user created and owns. The fourth one, an Organization page, is a Community Page. It shows the Wikipedia summary for BP and aggregated user posts on the company—all negative, given the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Your Words and Actions Matter

While you never can insure against a coordinated social media attack, you can take action and do a few things consistently that earn respect and loyalty from your customers:

  • Deserve the trust you seek by being honest. Transparency doesn't mean showing all your cards, but it does mean telling the truth about the claims you make.
  • Demonstrate expertise. Build trust by showing your competency through how you interact socially on the web and through the content you produce about your product and industry.
  • Demonstrate your commitment to your customers. Follow through on the promises you make both privately and publicly. By doing so, you'll give them every reason to speak well of you, and no reason to speak ill.
  • Empathize with them. Even when people have bad experiences with your product or service, a little empathy goes a long way. See the problem from their perspective as you resolve it by doing the first three things.

The Best Defense is a Good Offense

You can pre-empt bad PR by creating your own advocacy program of engaged customers who promote you online. Jeremiah Owyang outlines how with this handy checklist.

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