Facebook last week took another step toward redefining the relationship between its users and brands with the introduction of "community pages." The initiative will encourage users to start community pages for brands, entertainers, and politicians rather than unofficial fan pages, which have been a source of some confusion on the site.
Big brands that have seen their official Facebook fan numbers hindered by third-party fan pages will likely welcome the move. For instance, even Coca-Cola - with its Facebook-leading 5.3 million fans - stands to benefit. A Facebook search query for Coca-Cola produces more than 500 fan page results, and some have been started by individuals who have accrued thousands of fans of the beverage company. There's the five-month-old fan page, "Coca-Cola In A Glass Bottle Is Way Better Than Plastic," which has built up a following of nearly 400,000.
And if Palo Alto-CA-based Facebook's community pages prove successful, they may create a buffer between companies and the sometimes bizarre fan pages that associate with a brand (e.g., "There would be less drunk driving in the world if Taco Bell delivered"). At least that's one of the specific results the social site appears to desire.
"We've seen all the creative ways our users have used the product to capture the causes, topics, and ideas that they care about," said Meredith Chin, Facebook spokesperson. "So we've created community pages to give our users opportunities to express their enthusiasm and creativity, while allowing for official pages to continue representing official entities such as businesses, bands, and public figures."
Kevin Barenblat, CEO of social media marketing company Context Optional, said the community pages will indeed help make official brand pages more distinct from third-party pages and groups on the site. "Facebook wants to help brands establish a clearer presence on the site, as well as make things less confusing for users," said Barenblat, whose San Francisco-based firm has aided McDonald's and other brands with their Facebook initiatives.
Meanwhile, with Facebook scaling back on use of the word "fan," the concept of "community pages" seems intriguing enough. As the social site appears poised to phase out the "Become A Fan" button for "like" in the near future, it hasn't made clear how the word "fan" would be used on the rest of the site - if at all.
Whether brands will build "liker" bases as their followers mount separate communities remains to be seen. In an e-mail to ad agencies sent on March 29, Facebook advised marketers to use language such as "find us on Facebook" and "like us on Facebook" in future campaigns.
You can follow Christopher Heine on Twitter at @ChrisClickZ.
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Christopher Heine was a senior writer for ClickZ through June 2012. He covered social media, sports/entertainment marketing, retail, and more. Heine's work has also appeared via Mashable, Brandweek, DM News, MarketingSherpa, and other tech- and ad-centric publications. USA Today, Bloomberg Radio, and The Los Angeles Times have cited him as an expert journalist.
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