Analysis & Opinion

Saving Face in Facebook

July 24, 2009 MullenLowe


Facebook has an identity crisis on its hands. When the company opened up fan pages so you could have a customized name ( a torrent of URL name grabbing took place on a scale not unlike greedy Gold Rush prospectors grabbing land out West in 1849. Now fans could also make their page look even more official with a customized URL.

By releasing naming rights to the public Facebook compounded an already difficult challenge for companies trying to unify their official presence within the walls of a social network. Here’s what Facebook itself has written about its fan page policy:

Note: Fake Pages and unofficial “fan pages” are a violation of our Pages Guidelines. If you create an unauthorized Page or violate our Pages Guidelines in any way, your Facebook account may be disabled.

Now what if someone were to take your name, post content about you as though they were you, and then spread false information about you. When your friends visited Facebook, they might inadvertently friend the faux you. When your boss (new client, old flame, mom) looked you up on Facebook, they would see this “you” and then your false presence could interact with the people who are really important in your life. If they were an evil false version of you, they could deliberately request to be friends with your real friends, and wreak havoc with your reputation.

Would you stand for this? I don’t think so. So why should a brand stand for it? The plot seems to be pulled from an awful Michael Keaton movie, Multiplicity. Multiple versions of the same person is a running theme for Charlie Kaufman, the brilliant screenwriter of films Being John Malkovich (who has 3 profiles), Adaptation (in which Nicholas Cage has an identical twin – 4 profiles for him) and Synecdoche, New York (starring Philip Seymour Hoffman who has 6 profiles by the way, and many more doppelgangers in the movie).

Fan pages do not display their administrators or contact information in many instances. And if you write on the wall asking who they are and if they’re “official” expect to be ignored. The burden of proving falsehood of a fan page is on the company that wants to own its brand experience in Facebook.

Facebook should drop the “Welcome to the official Facebook Page” prefix they automatically tag onto all pages listed with search results. They’re not official unless a company has authorized them, per the policy. Also, make page administrators contact information a requirement for creating a page, and enable Facebook to contact them to determine whether they are authorized to speak on their behalf.

Rather than rely on having a brand take over a false page by starting a whole other page with the same name, let the brand import all existing fans automatically into the real authorized fan page. Seems it would be simple to do with some coding.

Let the fans remain in groups where different rules apply. This isn’t about being Big Brother; this is merely a form of reputation protection. If Twitter can have verified accounts why can’t Facebook?

Now it’s been reported that a woman and a man, both named Kelly Hildebrandt, met on Facebook and are now getting married. I wish them the best of luck with their nuptials. I’m so glad they found each other and hope they keep it real. For all of you walking the line between your personal and professional brand, and the brands of your clients, what’s the best resolution so we can all live happily ever after?