Matrix: How Facebook’s ‘Community Pages’ and Privacy Changes Impact Brands

This is one of those important posts to forward to your marketing team, agency partners, and to Facebook themselves.

While there’s been plenty of coverage about user privacy concerns, attention on Facebook’s changes on brands hasn’t been adequately covered, this analysis is intended to unravel what’s at stake –and what brands should do.  I’ve spoken to a handful of brands and their representatives to learn what’s eating at them.

Summary:  Facebook has quietly launched ‘Community Pages’ Hampering Brands
Facebook has launched  several new policies and features since the F8 Conference ‘Crusade of Colonization’ which has resulted in a large backlash from media around user privacy.  It’s not clear if beyond the vocal media if users will leave the site in droves.  Perhaps more importantly,  Facebook launched “Facebook Community Pages” (read the official post) a feature that aggregates content from wikipedia and Facebook wall posts.  Think of it as a cross between Wikipedia with user comments –sometimes unwittingly.  These changes cause confusion for users, diminishing control for brands, and strains on the already torrid relationship between Facebook and brands.

Motives: Facebook Must Go Open To Increase Monetization Inventory
Facebook continues to leap ahead of their competitors in terms of innovation, however that often comes with risks to their community.  Here’s why they are making these moves:

  • At Facebook, Innovation Means Asking For Forgiveness Later. This is a pattern.  Facebook believes in their vision and launches innovative products (by innovation, I mean features others have not dared to do first) and then asks for forgiveness later.  They often move faster than their community is ready, from going for .edu to public, exposing wall posts features, to Beacon, they push forward in the name of innovation.
  • Aggregation is a Cheap and Effective Way of Creating New Content. It’s a brilliant model to repurpose existing content from other sites, as it’s low-cost for Facebook.  However, the downside is that content aggregated from Facebook members wall pages may not have been intended to be created as public.
  • Resulting in More Content Inventory for Advertising Opportunities. Facebook knows that in order to compete with massive Google, they need more content to be public. As a default, most features and content types are now being published in public, and you’re seeing why they’re aggregating existing Wikipedia content to drive up SEO and advertising revenue.  They must be open to win the end game of monetization.

Matrix: How Facebook’s ‘Community Pages’ and Privacy Changes Impact Brands

The Change Description Impacts to Brands What No One Tells You
Community Pages In the spirit of Wikipedia, Facebook launched a feature that aggregates content from Wikipedia and public wall posts from users This has created confusion among users as many iterations of a single brand may spread from ‘official’ Facebook pages to now community pages. (see example from Arbor Day) Additionally, this causes angst among brands who were told to invest. Facebook struggles with being public, so their strategy is to aggregate the public web into Facebook. Yet expect brands to revaluate spending time and money in Facebook as trust has been broken.
Aggregation of Wall Comments Content from users public wall posts may be aggregated to Community Pages.  However users may not: 1) Know the content is public, 2) It’s being aggregated out of context There are a few embarrassing examples of people’s content who are being aggregated such as “My Stupid Boss” as well as content being aggregated on Community Pages that are not contextually relevant. A search powerplay for Facebook. Facebook’s betting on more public content by aggregating existing content, which in the long run will influence brands to come to Facebook as SEO scores increase.
Wikipedia Aggregation Wikipedia content about any topic (including that of a brand) is now being fed into Facebook Community Pages Less control for brands.  Brands already struggle with updating and keeping accurate their Wikipedia pages, now the content will be spread to more locations.  There appears to be a nod that Facebook will allow this content to someday be community edited. To be successful, brands must keep their Wikipedia pages fresh and accurate.  Expect savvy brands to ignite their advocates to manage this as Wikipedians have a general disdain against brands.
Logo Usage Facebook Community Pages aggregate in corporate logos onto these webpages, often without brand content. These real logos may cause confusion for users as they could mistake Community Pages to be the official page over Facebook pages.   Legal department sending questions to the social strategist who’s not in control. Expect embarrassment and frustration for social strategists where the Community Pages have more followers than Facebook pages.
Lack of Commenting Ability The Community Pages only aggregate content (some which is out of context) and do not allow for two way dialog in the form of comments Brands that have incorrect content on Community Pages, or brand detractors are not able to respond directly. This will cause frustration for brands as they try to respond into the aggregated wall post section from their own Facebook Page, causing continued confusion.
User Privacy Woes There’s been much written (read the Q&A with a FB exec) about the privacy woes as more content is public, with complicated privacy toggles and controls. As users become frustrated (albeit, a small vocal amount), trust in Facebook will diminish, and brands will also lose interest in investing in Facebook. Although consumers say they care about privacy, but in most cases, don’t expect them to do anything about it until it impacts their personal lives.
Communication With Brands These Facebook Community Pages (as I’m told) were not communicated in advance to brands, and they were generally caught off guard Partnerships are built off trust, and trust has been diminished by this recent move.  I’m told (but can’t confirm) that Facebook has generally responded in email and sent a link to a web form and answered a Q&A (Which I’ve read, but will not publish) to brands. Further degradation in trust as communication is not met both ways, brands will seek other opportunities.  Such as investing in community platforms on their own sites.
Advertising Impacts More advertising inventory has been created by Facebook as Community Pages already have ads on them (once you’re logged in, see right nav). For brands that are not active in Facebook, they may see this as a “highjack” model in the recent criticisms of Squidoo, Get Satisfaction, and Wikipedia.  They’ll be forced to participate as communities rally around their community pages. The savvy brands are already active in Facebook, and those that are hesitant will continue to approach with caution (now that trust has been broken).  If Facebook continues with Community Pages, expect this increase in inventory to offer increased revenue streams.

Facebook has Diminished Relationship with Brands
For the last few years, Facebook has told brands to invest in their relationship through advertising, Facebook Pages, and connecting with applications –yet recent moves erode the relationship.

  • The Trend Continues: Power Shifts Away From Brands. Nothing new, more of the same: power continues to shift away from brands, read how some colleges are ‘freaking out’ by the lack of control. However what’s different is that in the past the ‘Groundswell’ as an unstoppable force from customers, brands weren’t expecting their power to be eroded from their media partner, Facebook.
  • Brands Frustrated As Community Pages Outnumber Official Page. Facebook must become more open, and expect community pages to continue to be created.  (see Tweet testimonial) I’m told that Facebook will migrate community pages to your official Facebook page, but more community pages are continuing to be created.
  • Burning The Bridge To Revenue Island Will Take Considerable Repairs. Because these Community Pages were launched without the consent or preview from brands, skepticism has emerged on trust of these new features.  If the long term strategy of Facebook is to generate revenues from brands (I know of a 7 figure deal in the works that could be re-evaluated) due to these changes.   It’s important that Facebook go back to the core values that communication foster trust, which fosters relationships, which fosters partnerships, which fosters revenues moving.

What Brands Should Do:
Although I like what Dave Fleet has had to say, there’s little advice has been offered to brands, here’s how companies should approach these changes:

  1. Work as a Collective. Nothing like using the power of community in order to influence a community that has power of you.  Brands should connect to each other to both share intelligence, develop a common voice.  Start with GasPedal’s Peer to Peer ‘Social Media Business Council‘ and the WOMMA trade organization, you’ll also find like-minded marketers in Marketing Profs, who may also offer an SMB perspective the others do not.   By joining with your peers and approaching with a common voice, brands will be able to force their hand.  You’ll have to work together.
  2. Monitor Your Brand on New Assets. If you already have a PR agency gleaning insights or have a listening platform in place, turn the listening devices towards Wikipedia and the newly minted community platforms.  Setup alerting systems as changes on Wikipedia will now impact Facebook Community Pages.  We’ve listed out the listening vendors in our latest report, Social Marketing Analytics.
  3. Spread Bets, Bring Community Closer To You. With power diminishing, brands shouldn’t place all their bets in just a few social networks. Instead, conduct socialgraphics to find out where your customers are, then invest in other networks.  Furthermore, start analysis on building your own community off your corporate website for customers, advocates, and lifestyle communities.  Give customers a choice to interact with others on your own properties rather than relegating to Facebook alone.  Look at vendors like Mzinga, Awareness, Lithium, Kickapps, Telligent, Jive, Pluck, Liveworld, and beyond.
  4. Develop An Advocacy Program Now. I strongly insist that advocacy programs are key for today’s brand.  They may have access to update Wikipedia pages, influence prospects, and become brand advocates when companies are unable to scale.   Use this advocacy program checklist to get started now.  See how vendors like Zuberance, Expo TV, and in some form, Bazaarvoice can spur forward advocates voices and aggregate.

I’ve spent a few days sorting this out, and reading as much as I could, however if you’ve got more to add, please leave a comment with your observation, or suggestion for brands below.  Update:  I’d like to thank LaSandra Brill, a strategist at corporate who was a great source of information. I rely on her for her perspective, and I think you should too, follow her on Twitter. I like how Peter Friedman has made clear points on how Facebook must live with their world, both in comments and his latest post.

Update May 27th: Roy Young, the head of Marketing Profs, has conducted a survey of users and marketers about Facebook’s changes in privacy, which are related to the community pages changes. Their findings indicate that trust has eroded in Facebook, and Marketers were more concerned over privacy than consumers. The most important findings is that marketers will ‘somewhat increase’ their investments in Facebook in next 3 months.