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How should brands handle unofficial communities?

2 min read

Marketing Strategy

Facebook continues to tweak the way that brands and consumers interact on the network, replacing unofficial fan pages with “community pages,” as noted in the lead story of today’s SmartBrief on Social Media.

Facebook officials say the change is meant to support the fans while preserving the official status of branded pages. Is this a knee-jerk reaction to the freewheeling nature of social media? Or is it smart brand management?

My take on it is that your official Web presence should never be in competition with your fans. If it isn’t obvious which page really speaks for your brand, realize you have a choice. You can act like Ford and try to punish your fans for supporting you too effectively — or you can do what Coca-Cola did last year and try to bring your fans into the fold. Having passionate fans is a gift; treat them as such.

What about those unofficial pages that are only tangential to your brand? I’m not convinced they dilute a brand’s image — in most cases.  It would be one thing if the page were patently offensive or purported to speak for your company in an official way, but most of these pages are just harmless fun. They’re not meant to be replacements for your official presence — and it wouldn’t surprise me if they often attracted users who would be reluctant to follow your brand directly.

The new community pages don’t look like they’ll do away with this kind of harmless fun; rather, they’ll enhance the distinction between the official and the unofficial. That’s all well and good, but I think brands would be remiss to try too hard to round all their fans up into a single community. The ability to support a range of voices is a strength of social platforms, not a weakness.

Are you in favor of the shift toward community pages on Facebook? How do you handle your unofficial fan presence? Do unofficial pages have a hidden downside I’m not seeing?

Image credit, Vibrant Image Studio, via Shutterstock