Should you be using ‘official’ or ‘community’ Facebook Pages?

You can call Facebook many things, but “simple” is no longer one of them. In the last three years they have piled on the features and, in doing so, cranked up the confusion.

If you’re an online marketer you probably already know to avoid the most common mistakes when adding your brand presence to Facebook. For 90% of marketing initiatives, an “official” Facebook Page (aka fan pages or brand pages) is the best choice.

But be aware that official pages are actually quite limited in scope. They are only for use by “official representatives” of one of three narrow categories of people: local businesses; brands, products or organisations; and artists, bands or public figures.

So your summer promotional drive may work nicely as a standalone page, as might your unofficial charity initiative, but Facebook would have every right to close both of them down for violating their (labyrinthine) terms of service. And they do –- regularly and mercilessly. I’ve seen pages closed down for the slightest infraction –- never to be restored.

But what about when you want to create a page for something that doesn’t fit into any of the “official” boxes? That’s exactly why Facebook decided to introduce community pages — to cater for everything else their users might want to express their (unofficial) support for.

Well, that’s the party line anyway. In reality Facebook created this new class of pages so that they could stop the likes of “I Love Sleep” — an official page with over three million fans — from being hijacked by spammers.

How does this work? Starting and running a community page is, for all purposes, exactly the same as an official page but without those annoying restrictions. Sounds great, right? Except when the page reaches a certain number of fans, (“thousands” is as specific as Facebook are willing to be) it will be “be adopted and maintained by the Facebook community”.

That’s a nice way of saying you will no longer have admin access to the page you started. The page will change into something more like this community page for the topic “Cooking”. So, in short, if you’re thinking of expending time and energy on growing a community page, it’s probably not worth it (at least not from a branding perspective).

But community pages actually create a whole new problem for a lot of brands. Take a brand I used to work on, South Africa’s popular Huisgenoot magazine. If you search for it on Facebook, the official page does show up first, but so do a half-a-dozen Community Pages, over which they have no control.

Where did all of these come from? Facebook automatically spawned them by trawling through topics and preferences people had listed on their profiles, and populating the resulting pages with related Wikipedia articles and status updates. That’s why “Die Huisgenoot” and “Ek lees net Huisgenoot” are also in the search results.

So what should brands do about these random community pages? The best defence is to concentrate on recruiting fans to your official page. Nothing says “official” like a vibrant, frequently updated page.



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