As a company you will usually have multiple channels you use both for business and marketing and it is clear which online property belongs to you. In social media this can be a bit muddy, sometimes, as any Joe can make a page and look like they might be the official deal. Sometimes this can work out well, but other times it is less than ideal.
There are some great stories about fans creating a page or group for a brand, making a huge success of it and ending up employed in the brand. These stories are not your everyday occurrence and are less and less likely the more companies embrace social media.
So what do you do when you find yourself facing many unofficial pages of your brand (some brands have 100’s), especially in the early days when you are still building your fans and it might not be clear to a Facebook user which page is the real one?
Facebook’s stance is that pages are only to be created by somebody who has authorisation and who is an official representative of whoever the page is created for. Groups are for fans or haters who would to support or take a stand. Therefore, any one who is not official is breaking their terms and conditions. Facebook will merge all the non official pages fans with your page and take down those pages. You will gain the fans who are not already a fan of your page from these.
The real dilemma for a company is how fans will react to this, is it right to treat fans of your company/brand like that and whether it will cause a problem that will become a PR nightmare? The decision taken will be different for every company or brand depending on circumstances.
The things that you will need to consider when deciding is:
1. Is your brand/company image being compromised by these pages?
2. How are they unofficially using company images and does this pose any problems like licensing or contractual (e.g. actors and permissions for usage)
3. Are you happy with the way they are representing your company and brand?
4. Have the people who have fanned the unofficial page done so believing it to be official and therefore are being misled?
5. How active are these unofficial pages?
6. Will the fans get a better quality experience by being merged into the official page?
Advice and a Plan
Perhaps involve your PR department and get advice if you are still not sure. Sometimes brands merge these pages and the fans don’t even realise that it has happened and start to see the official messages and become more engaged with your company or brand.
At the end of the day it is an important decision that needs to be carefully considered and you need a plan in case of any backlash. Remember these fake pages are breaking Facebook’s terms and conditions and these people should be encouraged to create a group rather than an official page.
Have you had to consider this and what did you decide?