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

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9 responses to “How should brands handle unofficial communities?”

  1. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by jittergram: How should brands handle unofficial communities? http://jit.ly/lE /via @SBOSM…

  2. Roxy says:

    I like the idea. I am not a "fan" of trying to weed through the unofficial pages in order to find the official page.

  3. […] How should brands handle unofficial communities? Published: April 5, 2010 Source: SmartBlog On Social Media 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 SmartBr… […]

  4. This topic came up recently during a session at SXSW Interactive. There was a young woman from Disney in the session on Community building and she was concerned about all of the unofficial communities that had sprung up. It appeared as though the powers that be at Disney want to try and "control" these unofficial communities.This was my feedback:

    As a Disney fan, I love all things Disney. I have found a wealth of information and have, perhaps, become more of a Disney addict due to the overwhelming number of unofficial places where I can get my "fix."

    As a shareholder, I ask why would you want to do anything to alienate your community, the people who love you and care enough about what you offer to spend their time creating and participating in communities that celebrate you?

    As a marketing pro, I understand managing your brand. But, policing the communities that have sprung up as a result of their adoration of you is simply bad brand management. Instead, why not engage the community leaders, applaud their efforts and invite them to participate in your sandbox?

  5. Moyna Srivastava says:

    I agree with Stephanie… an unofficial community is created in the honor of the official community and hence punishing them or trying to eliminate them means u are disrespecting either your customers or fans hence one thing than an official page can do in link these unofficial communities to expand there reach and increase there base

  6. @johnhaydon says:

    Jesse – The Facebook Community page is tipping a long-time marketer's paradigm further on it's head. You elude to this by writing: "try too hard to round all their fans up into a single community". It seems that many brands will ask: "How can we 'move' these people from Community Pages over to our Page?"

    The real job of marketers is to watch these Community Pages – and learn. Then respond with wisdom and creativity.
    My recent post What Are Facebook “Community” Pages Anyhow?

  7. Ted Rubin says:

    Plain and simple… embrace anyone who has the good graces to feature your brand in an advocate environment. Positive or negative feedback should make no difference. Enhance the positive and adjust for the negative. Listen, learn, and adjust accordingly.

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  9. […] From a recent post on SmartBlog on Social Media, Jesse Stanchak addresses:  How should brands handle unofficial communities?   […]