New "community pages" adding to Facebook confusion, but don't panic

Facebook has recently introduced a new feature: Community pages. Folks on Twitter are asking lots of good questions about the implications for nonprofits and other organizations, and I'm here to say to those of you who are confused: don't panic. I'll explain how we got to this point, and how this new development really doesn't change anything for you or your organization.

You see, up until now, an organization who wanted a presence on Facebook essentially had two choices: start a group or start a fan page. There are advantages and disadvantages to each, but in my experience fan pages are much more effective if you're looking to push messages to your fan base, as your page's status messages will show up in people's news feeds.

But now "community pages" have been thrown into the mix. Why? Well, for the past year or so, people have been creating unofficial fan pages that effectively either duplicate official fan pages (i.e. Coca-Cola has an official fan page, but people have created fan pages like "I Love COKE!") or aim to be the equivalent of a bumper sticker on people's profiles, like:

"John Hare is the Loveliest British Man"

"I can only handle so much stupid before I have to say something"

"I FREAKIN LOVE FRIED CHICKEN"

So Facebook has finally realized this is a trend, and their answer, months after this practice became popular, was to create "community pages" for the unofficial fan page/bumper sticker creators. Unfortunately, Facebook is too late with this development, and creating fan pages is simply too easy, so this new feature really isn't going to do much other than confuse people. It's not that it's a bad idea; they're just way too late to roll out this feature for it to have the impact they desire.

At any rate, if you are creating an official presence on Facebook for your organization and you wish to retain control over it, my recommendation is to ignore the new community page feature altogether and simply create a fan page. While on the face of it, community pages and fan pages may seem to be very similar, there is one critical difference that makes your decision of which one to create very easy. According to Facebook, "If [your community page] becomes very popular (attracting thousands of fans), it will be adopted and maintained by the Facebook community." In other words, if you start a community page as opposed to a fan page, you risk losing control of it. I don't think any organization wants that to happen.

So once again, don't panic. This new feature introduction really doesn't change anything. I would be curious to hear if there were an organization or company that made good use of this new feature, but really, it's not built for anyone looking to create an official presence for their brand on Facebook.