Should our chain company shut down unofficial employee pages on Facebook?
June 2, 2010 6:13 AM   Subscribe

Should our chain company shut down unofficial employee pages on Facebook? Any case studies or examples of others actions?

Our company is a somewhat large chain of restaurants. We have an official facebook page. There are also a number of unofficial pages mostly run by employees. There is some concern we do not control the messaging for those pages, they may incorrectly answer guest questions, etc. Most of the pages only have, at most, a couple hundred "Likes", while we have thousands of likes. I am not sure shutting them down is the smart thing to do. It seems these are likely are happiest, most dedicated employees and turning them into enemies by shutting them down would be a bad idea. Better to simply let them know they are responsible for what they say. However, I do wonder if this is correct or if I am on the wrong track. Any experiences? Data? etc?
posted by IzzeYum to Work & Money (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'd ask them to link to the official page somewhere on their page, and have the official page admin write stuff on their walls occasionaly, but like you, I'd be concerned about quashing enthused employees facebook pages.
posted by garlic at 6:39 AM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Are these actual pages made by employees, or are they some of the random pages Facebook apparently created using user info? I had no idea FB was doing that until I read this. So it's possible these people didn't even mean to create pages, and a message pointing them to the page and the official page might help -- ask them to link to the official page somehow?
posted by dpx.mfx at 6:44 AM on June 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm assuming the primary motivation for this question is messaging and brand control. In that case you have to trade off whether the viral marketing (which is mostly out of your control) is more benefit than having strict control (but more limited distribution) over your marketing.
In my opinion, it seems you have a team of marketers working for free. There are not contracts and no enforcements, but I also wouldn't discount the market power and advantage that gives the company.
posted by forforf at 6:47 AM on June 2, 2010

It sounds like what's probably happening is what dpx.mfx describes. Facebook automatically links a user's employment (and education) history to "pages," which are always public. This doesn't indicate that the user is so enamored with their job as to create a fan page for the employer. What has happened is that Facebook is now using pages to surreptitiously take away the option to keep this information private or restricted to friends.
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:13 AM on June 2, 2010

I think from the company point of view most companies want control over their message. But why are you on social media at all? Is it just another way to send out press releases or is there some actual enthusiasm for your brand you want to nurture? I would be interested in working with these pages and seeing if you can add some of the same information which is on the official page but in a nice, not central committee lays down the party line, sort of way.

And if customers are really talking about your product on these sites you should read every word.
posted by shothotbot at 7:15 AM on June 2, 2010

Are the pages maintained (eg. updated with sales or menu changes; responding to comments from visitors)? If they've only been created, but aren't supported, I see no problem in shutting down the "dead end" pages and directing people to the official page.

Can you organize those employees into an unofficial "task force"? Encourage their enthusiasm for your brand by giving them a direct link to the corporate marketing team. Seek their input and ideas and implement them officially.

(I have somewhat similar experience as the "small, unofficial" group setting up the rogue pages; our official brand wasn't active enough for our audience, so we tried to change things. Decent results, with admittedly fragmented messaging.)
posted by steeb2er at 7:17 AM on June 2, 2010

I'd say that rather than framing it as an order to shut down their efforts, frame it as an effort to "consolidate marketing communication", and work together on a single, positive message for the brand. As long as you keep it positive, and give them the option to stay involved, you'll get a lot of buy-in to the concept.
posted by Citrus at 8:36 AM on June 2, 2010

I work in digital marketing and I get this question a lot from my clients. My usual advice, which I had good experience with, is this:

Let them be, especially when there is an official, highly frequented brand page which users interested in your brand can easily identify as the right one.

Your company will gain little to nothing by going through Facebook getting these inofficial pages shut down, in the worst case there will be some sort of backslash turning into potential PR disaster. If the admins of the pages can be identified - just have the marketing team talk to them, maybe they are even interested in supporting the official page by creating content, moderating, answering user questions, etc. Most of our clients, even large international cooperations, are always short on resources to manage their social media engagement and having motivated, savvy employers interested in representing the company can be a huge asset. The same goes for avid fans that create unofficial fan page, find a way to integrate them into your presence, give them little tasks and a little incentive.

Part of being present on the social web is letting some control go - it's important to realize that and not try to be overly obsessed with anything that happens with your brand - you will never be able to control everyone and everything,
posted by starzero at 9:49 AM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

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