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Facebook: Now Presenting, "Brand Destruction!"

Since we created an Evolving Media and Technology Team here at KMK, I have been telling brand owners to proactively manage their presence on Facebook by creating an official, corporate, Facebook page and strategically selecting the fan pages and copycat pages to shut down.  After yet another “update” to its site late last week, Facebook has now made this kind of brand management exponentially more difficult for trademark owners.

Facebook’s latest scheme to (apparently) amp up its advertising revenue is something they call “Community Pages.”  Community Pages are discrete pages on the system that are somehow automatically created by pulling content from individual users’ interests, posts, and Wikipedia.  This is (I guess) a fine idea when someone lists “football” as an interest, or something similar.  Facebook then creates a Community Page about football and will link content from Wikipedia along with posts from the user who indicated he liked “football.”  This is NOT a fine idea when the user lists “Coca-Cola” or some other brand as an interest.  In this case, Facebook’s little pest-bots create a Community Page all about Coca-Cola…complete with an unauthorized reproduction of the Coca-Cola logo to lend authenticity to the site (ed.’s note:  also known as “false designation of origin”), along with content from the Wikipedia entry for Coca-Cola (whether it’s accurate or not), and finally posts from those “fans” of Coca-Cola who talk about Coca-Cola on their Facebook walls (whether they’re positive or brand-crushingly negative).

I won’t go into all the detail about why this is bad, evil, inexcusable, greedy, and designed to alienate trademark owners.  That work has already been done in masterful form by Jeremiah Owyang on his Web Strategy blog.  Highly recommended reading there (and don’t skip the comments, as they are equally insightful).

I will just add my own two cents to the discourse.  I’ve said on more than one occasion that if your company wants to create an “official” presence on Facebook, you have just created a new full-time position, because that site has to be constantly updated and monitored in a fashion no different from your existing corporate website that lives in Web 1.0 or the “static internet.”  The message that you so carefully crafted in Web 1.0 has to be maintained and duplicated in Web 2.0, and when you have people pushing content to you as opposed to the other way around, it is a lot harder and more time consuming to do that.

Unfortunately, Facebook is now working against you in these efforts.  Facebook’s Community Pages run the risk of mucking up your branding message in ways you never could have imagined for really no good reason whatsoever.  Oh right – I forgot that each one of these new Community Pages is cluttered with sidebar ads just like any other Facebook page, so the “good reason” is “more money for Facebook.”  At your brand’s expense, of course.  While they’re using your brand in ways you haven’t authorized. 

Sounds a heckuva lot like trademark infringement to me.  I’m eagerly awaiting the first law suit over this.  It can’t come quickly enough.