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Is Facebook Highjacking Non-Profit Brand Identities?

Milly Diaz
Milly Diaz
Associate Director of Social Media
14 September 2010

Today I discovered something rather odd about the non-profit profile pages on Facebook.  Often times, it appears they have two “official” profiles, and the second profile is a community page. Ultimately, this Facebook community page means Facebook has designated non-profits as a subject the entire FB community can mold without any direct branded control by the organisation themselves.

These are examples of three non-profit organisations.  Save the Children runs a Fan Page with almost 80,000 “Likes” and plenty of recent wall posting activity, the page is on its way to being a great success.  Dogs Trust has a fan page with almost 110,000 Likes, and the non-profit British Film Institute (BFI) boasts 8,000 Likes.

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But I found a community page for each of these organisations, and none of them have the ability to manage these pages.  For Save the Children,  the community page has little activity with only 744  Likes.  The BFI page has only 61 likes.  And Dogs Trust holds 32 community page Likes.

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Facebook describes their community pages as a “collection of shared knowledge.”  Ironically, the majority of the time these pages are not built by the community.  In most cases they are piggy backing data from Wikipedia articles which have been scraped for content.

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Is this simply Facebook’s attempt to bulk up their content farm?  Or are they justly using Wikipedia articles as a catalyst for creating their own internal user generated content? They even feature a Questions tab, which is eerily similar to Yahoo Answers or Answers.com.

Every community page is capable of picking up Facebook user updates which include a link to the official website, and cataloguing them as “related global posts.”  In this example, Adam Courtney posted mentions a Save the Children advert on his TV.  Seeing as all community and fan pages are public, now everyone can read his update.

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This Related Global Posts tab pushes the Facebook user privacy issue a bit further.  While users understand their updates are accessible in association with their own name, are users aware Facebook is directly posting their updates to relevant community pages?  Does Adam Courtney want his post appearing on the Save the Children Community page, where it advertises his guilt and affinity for crisps?  He’s not indicated an interest in the organisation by Liking it, he simply mentioned it in a status update!

This could lead to some serious reputation management damage, and from what I can see there is no option to block my updates from being transferred to relevant community pages.  Essentially, Facebook is sharing my user generated content without my approval.  I have done some tests, and it’s very unclear exactly what privacy settings one must have in order to appear as a Related Post like Adam Courtney.

From what I’ve been reading, there is no option to delete a Facebook Community Page.  What should these non-profits do?  Hope that their more popular Fan Page, which they have direct control over, remains the more popular page for user to “Like”?  The Community pages are clearly lagging in popularity now, but what if Facebook invests in promoting them?

In short, what concerning to me is that Save the Children, Dogs Trust, and BFI are the organisations, but Facebook has decided non-profits like these are actually community property and hence, everyone should be able to participate in shaping that brand through a community page.  Do you think that’s fair for their brand reputation management?

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