I am trying to understand why restaurants are not claiming their “Facebook community pages” for their own. For example, the Buffalo Wild Wings chain has nearly 2,000 unclaimed pages with 800,000 fans (“likes”) and over 3 million check-ins!
They are not the exception, as a small sampling of restaurant chains show, many chains have way more unclaimed community pages than official business pages.
In this sample between 61% to 94% of the facebook pages are unclaimed.
I will try to explain what these “community pages” are, describe how to claim them, speculate on why these restaurants aren’t claiming these pages, and show why claiming them should be a no brainer.
Back in 2010 (ages ago in internet time…), Facebook introduced “community pages”
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.
Mari Smith wrote a very good blog about Facebook Community Pages: What Your Business Needs to know. She explains how Facebook automatically created 6.5 million pages from users’ “Likes and Interests” and “Work and Education” data. The result was that many businesses, especially restaurants, had “community pages” created for them - without their knowledge!
In addition, Facebook lets users create community pages on their own and many more restaurant pages got created by users while “checking in” on their mobile phones. If a user tries to check in to a restaurant using the Facebook app and the place does not show up in the nearby list, the user can create the place on the spot.
A chain like Buffalo Wild Wings with 821 locations has 179 official fan pages and 1,998 “community pages”. There are often multiple pages for a location due to the importing and user creation. Many of these community pages have a large number of fans and checkins - much larger than the official page! For example, just one community page for the Visalia, California location has 1,169 likes (fans) and 53,465 check-ins.
This is a real waste of an opportunity for the restaurants. People are checking in, liking, and even posting photos to these pages. The opportunity to engage and promote their brand is being lost. Or worse, malicious people can post negative or damaging material.
Facebook does allow official business owners to ‘claim’ these pages. Once you prove you are the owner/manager, you become an “Admin” for the page and can fully control the content and permissions for that page. You can basically turn a “community page” into a “business page”.
If you already have a business page for your location, you can “merge” the newly claimed page into the official page. This moves all the likes and checkins over to the official page. Doing this can often dramatically increase your fan count.
So this is where the speculation starts. Why are restaurants not claiming these pages? I am guessing that there are two reasons.
First, many restaurants just don’t know these pages are on Facebook. Even if you want to find these pages, Facebook search isn’t great. I have found that if you use the search field in the Facebook header bar, it will often not find a place. I had to write some software that uses the Facebook Graph API along with geo-coordinate locations (latitude and longitude) for a place in order to find all these community pages for my research. [By the way, I would be happy to search for your place for you, gratis - just shoot me an email with the restaurant name and address to firstname.lastname@example.org]
The second reason may be that the larger chains are relying on their main brand page. For example, Buffalo Wild Wings has a very good and active Facebook fan page for their brand. The idea of managing 821 pages for all their locations probably seems rather daunting.
I think this is a mistake.
Why They Should?
The whole point of social media is to leverage the powerful relationships people have with their friends and their communities. This includes the local businesses they frequent, often with those friends.
I believe that if you want to build strong brand loyalty you have to combine the strong identity branding of the chain with the more personal relationship with the local, favorite restaurant.
The prevalence of mobile and the increasing number of people who “check-in” to locations and let all of their friends know, makes location specific pages even more important. This, by the way, is the most effective form of increasing your likes: many friends of the person checking in will like the place!
Finally, there is technology that makes managing all these pages very doable. For example, with PubUpdate, you can create the common brand messages once, and it will automatically send that message to all of the location pages. It also allows you to have location specific messaging that is also automated. You get the best of both worlds: strong identity branding and more personal, location specific relationship building.
If you have thoughts on why restaurants are not claiming their Facebook pages, I would love to hear them.