Don’t Have a City Facebook Page? It’s OK, Facebook’s Made One (For You?)

Back in April, Facebook launched something called “Community Pages,” which far as I can tell, simply scrapes Wikipedia content and public status updates and populates the pages with “fans” who mentioned the page term in their profile.

Thought your city didn’t have a fan Page on Facebook? I’ll bet it does.

Your council’s been handwringing over content and presentation? No worries, Facebook’s got a page for your city – and no one is running it.

In fact, City of San Francisco has a curated fan page, with more than a quarter million fans (impressive!). But Facebook’s automatically populated page comes up first in Facebook search. Type in San Francisco and hit ‘enter,’ and the scraped page pops right up. So Facebook has prioritized its own page over the official city page, and over the curated page set up by the Convention & Visitors Bureau. Same is true for London.

I bet it’s true for your city, too.

Update: Facebook Hijacks U.S. Government Pages

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Adriel Hampton

Interestingly, Facebook search also constantly adapts to the pages you click on, so four unofficial pages for the SFPD (including the scraped page with the police dept.’s logo) are quickly replaced in search by the official page once it’s located and viewed.

Kristy Dalton

They also created a community page for Reno, Nevada, and even ripped off a photo of our famous Reno Arch for the profile pic (we’re using the Arch for our OFFICIAL page’s pic). What possible good could come from causing confusion between an official city page and their imposter page? Major boo to Facebook on this one. (Not that it will do anything, but I reported the page for impersonation, and I vented here http://www.facebook.com/government)

Kevin Knutson, ICMA-CM

They’re planning on eventually opening them up to the community for editing–so that anyone can jump in and add content or change the page. Here’s what they put in their blog:

“Community Pages are a new type of Facebook Page dedicated to a topic or experience that is owned collectively by the community connected to it. Just like official Pages for businesses, organizations and public figures, Community Pages let you connect with others who share similar interests and experiences.

“On each Community Page, you’ll be able to learn more about a topic or an experience—whether it’s cooking or learning a new language—and see what your friends and others in the Facebook community are saying about this topic. Community Pages are still in beta, but our long-term goal is to make them the best collection of shared knowledge on a topic. We’re starting by showing Wikipedia information, but we’re also looking for people who are passionate about any of these topics to sign up to contribute to the Page. We’ll let you know when we’re ready for your help.”


Anyone can set one up; on the “Create a Page” page, it says:

“Community Page–Generate support for your favorite cause or topic by creating a Community Page. If it becomes very popular (attracting thousands of fans), it will be adopted and maintained by the Facebook community.”

Either way it means that you will be competing for fans (“likers”?) with these new community pages, which you’ll have very little control over. And who knows what kind of mischief will be possible for people who want to have a little fun at your expense.

I think it’s particularly problematic for brands.

On Mashable (http://mashable.com/2010/04/01/facebook-community-pages/) Adam Ostrow says that “Another goal for Facebook is to keep official Pages in the hands of their respective brand owners. A company spokesperson tells us that Community Pages ‘give our users opportunities to express their enthusiasm and creativity, while allowing for Official Pages to continue representing official entities such as businesses, bands and public figures.'”

Hopefully there will be adequate controls in place to keep things civil and orderly once they start to open things up.

Kerri Karvetski

Adriel, I was a bit skeptical of the Community Pages when they first came out. As the changes have been more fully documented, I can’t say that I share your enthusiasm for the Community Page.

Facebook Community Pages offer no control for the social media manager – an official Page is much more powerful in its capabilities (Community Page posts don’t appear in the user’s newstream, the holy grail of Facebook communication). The Community Pages are actually making it quite difficult for online managers – see these two posts for some of the trouble I allude to: http://bit.ly/9Sw6FN and http://bit.ly/dnXi4n.

Adriel Hampton

Kerri, sorry, too sarcastic. I have killed my Facebook profile and the literally thousands of hours I’d put into it. Facebook has gone rogue.

Arvind Nigam

My 2 cents: Facebook is way too powerful today even if entire conscious America decides to abandon it today. And the rest of the world may or may not follow suit in future coz the markets outside are still in forming stage.

Privacy issues, legal protection of data, consideration of business interest etc. are not a matter of concern for so many people out there who might blindly & innocently continue to use FB’s powerful platform and ambitious ones too.

Fingers crossed because I’d prefer Google anyday considering their track record of never ever sending me a business mail/advertisement mail for last 10 years and always accepting their mistakes in public whenever they committed it.

This is exactly the reason for my love for internet too.


Stephen Peteritas

Wow, I hadn’t really thought about it before, all I did was get frustrated when I would type and it would auto-complete to whatever was SEO’d. But I mean this is kind of a serious issue. It’s almost like facebook is so huge it needs to have net neutrality enforced within the actual site itself.

Adriel Hampton

Yeah, Stephen, I had not noticed it before yesterday either. I’m not a Google fan, but when I think about it in light of this, the differences between how it and Facebook act is huge. In Google, you very visibly toggle on and off personalized search – I don’t know if or how you can do that in Facebook. Google also clearly marks sponsored content in searches, while Facebook apparently knows you well enough to just tell you what you want.

Meagen Ryan

Adriel–great post. These are huge issues. I imagine the latest Facebook changes, and the hue and cry around privacy, have Government agencies rethinking their use of Facebook. If so, what would replace it in the short run? Would this mean a step back for citizen engagement, or is there another tool that can fill the gap?

Stephen Peteritas

As far as other tools to replace facebook, I’m not so sure anyone could fill the gap legally. See a few months ago facebook got a patent for the “newsfeed” function and hence could go into a legal war with most other social networks if they really wanted to. Thus far they haven’t flexed the muscle but I can’t imagine they wouldn’t if people started fleeing for some other network.

Gray Craig

Thanks for the heads up on this Adriel. I searched for our County and found Police Officer (Roanoke County) and Deputy Sheriff (Roanoke County). My search also turned up more than 120 community pages for Roanoke County Schools (insert generic staff title, subject, grade). This will get interesting before it’s over.

Kerri Karvetski

The Facebook flap is less about privacy and more about trust. Facebook keeps changing the rules on the fly, making it confusing for users to know what’s going on, but great for advertisers to suck up all your info.

The idea behind what they want to do is revolutionary – make anything online into a social object. But that system should not be opt-out, it should be opt-in. It should be open.

In e-mail marketing, they call that spam. You can’t just grab someone’s e-mail address; likewise, you shouldn’t be able to commandeer someone’s online social profile for monetary gain, especially when you’ve roped them in with the promise that they can control their social graph. That’s what they’ve done, and that’s a violation of our trust.

The first thing I thought when I saw the changes was – they’re trying to monetize my personality. Sorry, that’s my job.

You should be able to completely opt-out or transfer your social graph somewhere else.

I’m not quitting Facebook, but I am pulling back on what I personally share on the network. Facebook Pages by design are public, so I see no reason to pull back on Pages.

Adriel Hampton

Kerri, trust is absolutely the issue, as are the control issues you point out re: monetization.
Gray – 120! I don’t think that’s going to be curated well.
Meagan, Stephen – I wrote in early 2009 about Facebook presence not being Gov 2.0 because it’s too easy to slap up a page and call yourself social. It would be interesting to see more governments look at real engagement strategies, including things as simple as dynamic blog commenting. Interesting NYT article tweeted by Mark Drapeau points out that open web linking is actually the largest social network online.