What Brands Should Learn From Facebook’s New “Community Pages”

Sunday, 06 June 2010

As a user, I find community pages supremely annoying. Yes, the push to greater connectivity is pretty cool, but connected doesn’t mean “created out of thin air.” I’m all for connecting me to an existing page that already has good content, but I’d rather not have Facebook troll my profile for random phrases that may or may not mean anything to a single other soul on the site, then create a so-called community page connected to my singular profile. Kinda defeats the purpose, don’t you think?

Are Community Pages Good for Brands, or for Users?

However, if we’ve learned anything from this ongoing privacy debate, it’s that no one cares much about the average Facebook user. It’s all about the money. Which, as a free site for most of us, means it’s all about the brands and businesses that use the site for marketing.

Brands seem to think that community pages are bad. I agree, but not for the same reasons they cite. Other marketers think they are no big deal. And while they are at least heading in the right direction, I’d argue that they are in fact a very big deal. Or, more accurately, community pages are a rude awakening that includes a little kick in the pants.

What a Community Page Really Is

Basically, nothing. Facebook community pages are created when a user allows Facebook to match the interests listed on their profile to pages on the site, but some of their interests do not match up with actively managed pages. These pages then display with a placeholder molecular-looking image and a copy of the Wikipedia article most closely related to the interest keyword.

Community pages are often the same or very similar to the throw away “official” pages that had been popping up recently, asking people to  like “sitting on the beach at night” or “looking down at your cellphone to avoid someone walking by” (real pages, by the way).

The Big Deal for Brands

Brands are, understandably, a little miffed that there are now essentially duplicate pages that use their brand name and include people who have actively shown that they like the brand, but that the brand can’t access or engage in any meaningful way. They are frantically trying to find legal recourse to take control of these pages. But they are missing the big picture.

Instead of focusing on what they can’t or don’t have, brands should look at their existing presence on the social network, and try to improve it. Perhaps if their presence was better or more attractive, Facebook users would spell it correctly and be connecting their profile to the real page, and not a community knock-off. Chances are, their page could use a little SEO work to make it easier to find and identify.

Even if their current presence is optimized, outstanding and engaging, brands could utilize community pages to interact with other users and send to the official page.

Fine-tuning Your Facebook Presence

The point is, community pages are not an affront to brands on Facebook; they are a fact of life, and a signal that brands may need to re-evaluate their social media marketing strategy. People spell things wrong; we see this day in and day out with Google searches. People also like to make things their own, sometimes incorporating your brand name. It’s a compliment. And, more than likely, a sign of someone who would love to be alerted to your official Facebook page.

Before you freak out over a page you can’t control, look at the one you can. Make sure it’s optimized for maximum search visibility, in both Facebook internal search and external organic internet search. Develop a content strategy that makes people want to come back. Keep it fun, engaging and easy to find, and those pesky community pages will soon be a thing of the past.

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