Taking Control of an Unofficial Facebook Brand Page Without Igniting a PR Disaster

Having set up your Facebook Brand Page, you may have noticed that there are one or several unofficial Fan Pages related to your brand already in existence.
There are a number of reasons you may want to attempt taking control over an unofficial Facebook brand page:

  • to reduce confusion for potential fans over which might be the official page
  • to absorb their membership into your own
  • to reclaim and use the Facebook ‘vanity’ URL for your own Brand Page
  • to limit potential damage in statements being put out on this unofficial page in a manner which may look official due to the brand association

Legally, your brand has the right to request that Facebook close these pages down using the Username Infringement Form if you feel your intellectual property rights are being contravened.
However, this will lose any community built up; there are no guarantees that Facebook will fulfill your request and – importantly – this carries the potential for a social media backlash.  In general we would recommend another, gentler, approach.
1.    Identify who the main Administrator is for the unofficial page and reach out to them publicly or privately. Make sure to praise and thank them for their efforts so far.
2.    Explain what you want to achieve, whether that’s taking over the unofficial page wholesale, asking the Admin to badge it as unofficial and not connected with your brand, or asking the Admin to promote your new official Brand Page.
3.    If you decide to take over the unofficial page, or offer to be a joint Admin, and use it as your new official Brand Page, it’s kind to make some sort of acknowledgement to the previous Administrator thanking them for helping to build a community around your brand.
4.    If you are merely asking them to indicate they are an unofficial page but continue what they are doing, you could offer them some privileged information packs or promotional material to further tighten their bond with your brand.
OK, so you’d rather simply take the fans of the unofficial page and merge them into your new Brand Page? As long as you are prepared for potential backlash, then experience has taught us that this is the most effective way to get Facebook’s cooperation:
1.    Put down some money in a Facebook Pay-Per-Click account and spend some of it on a small campaign.
2.    You will be assigned a Facebook contact. Contact them to discuss marketing options, and mention that there is an unofficial page about your brand, and that you represent the brand officially.
3.    They will then transfer the fans of the unofficial page to your own Brand Page.
Just expect some kind of reaction to this act of attrition. It’s always better to contact the Admin for unofficial pages and ask if they’d mind – in almost all cases the likelihood is that they would be thrilled to see their efforts recognized.
Update 3 Aug 2011:  (see article in InsiderFacebook). Note that this applies to community Pages only and not unofficial Pages …
Facebook has added a new “Merge” option to the Resources tab of the Page editor. It allows Page admins to apply to roll duplicate community Pages into an identically named official Page they control, adding the fans and check-ins of the community Pages to the official Page. Facebook has privately done this kind of merger in the past for prominent celebrities and businesses, but the option has never before been publicly available.
The merge tool will allow official Page admins to gain the ability to publish content to and target with ads users who’ve accidentally Liked an unofficial version of their Page, helping some Pages instantly grow to their rightful size.

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