How Do You Treat a Fan Who Owns Your Facebook Page?

According to PageData, the folks at Coca-Cola seem to have accomplished something pretty amazing on Facebook – the Coca-Cola fan page is the 2nd most popular Page on all of Facebook with over 3.3 million fans, second only to Barack Obama.

The only catch? The page wasn’t created by Coke, but by two Coke fans in Los Angeles, Dusty Sorg and Michael Jedrzejewski. In a recent AdAge story, the two tell of how they were recently contacted by Coca-Cola and asked to partner with Coke to manage the Page in a move that showed a graceful approach to social media by the company.

It’s an increasingly common question for brands interesting in building their Facebook presence: What do I do if someone has already created a Facebook Page for my brand? Or in the case of big brands like Coke – hundreds of Pages?

There are a variety of options at your disposal, and how you choose to proceed is really up to you.

1. Ask Facebook to transfer control of the Page to you. Most brand managers who plan to actively invest in Facebook promotions want to control the destination Page, and Facebook’s policy on Pages is that they may only be controlled by the rightful brand owner. If you’ve found a Page for a brand that  you’re the rightful owner of, contact Facebook and they can transfer it to you once they can confirm your identity. However, of course, you’ll need to consider whether and how this should be communicated to the Page’s fan base – especially if there’s already a strong community in place.

2. Ask the Page owners to transfer control to you. For those brands concerned about alienating the fans that have invested their time in creating and building a Page – sometimes over a period of years – talking with the Page owners directly may be a more appropriate approach to try first. Facebook doesn’t make the contact information of Page owners publicly available, so you’ll have to either just post a message on the Page’s wall or ask Facebook for their contact info. From there, you can have a conversation with the Page creator about how to proceed.

3. Ask the Page owner to share control with you. In cases where the fan community has become very large and the brand isn’t incredibly perturbed by the way the Page owner is running things, a more innovative approach to sharing administrative responsibilities can work. In the Coca-Cola case, “Facebook made the decision to either close the page or let Coca-Cola take it over. Coca-Cola instead proposed an alternative: Let the creators keep the page but share it with a few of Coca-Cola’s senior interactive folks… Coke instead flew the guys down to Atlanta for a few days of meetings, a tour of the World of Coke museum and a visit to the company’s legendary archives.”

4. Ask Facebook to shut the Page down. If for some reason you just don’t want this Page to exist any more, brands can ask Facebook to shut it down. Facebook can either simply delete it or roll over the fans of that Page into another Page that you own. However, in this case especially, you should be careful to communicate this in such a way that it does not create a jarring or otherwise poor experience for the Page’s community.

5. Let the Page continue to exist, and start an “official” Page of your own. For those that don’t mind having “unofficial” Pages around, you’re always free to do nothing and let it ride. However, fans searching for your page may find the unofficial ones instead, which could be confusing and/or splinter your community. Facebook itself may notice that there are duplicate Pages and ask you if you’d like to consolidate them at some point.

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