Oh, Facebook. Just when we think we’ve reached an understanding, everything changes again.

Once upon a time, Facebook allowed brands and other official entities to claim Pages that should be affiliated with the authorized Page, but weren’t. Some of these pages were created by users, but many were generated with the introduction of the Community Page feature that took data entered by users in Interests and then filled it out with data from Wikipedia. (A new feature in 2010, it caused a bit of brand uproar.) Until January 2011, there was an actual link to submit a claim and while the process was convoluted and the actual number that could be claimed limited, it was certainly better than nothing.

Somewhere along the way and with no fanfare, we’ve lost the link to claiming a page. Rumor has it that if you are a big enough fish in your advertising with Facebook and have a dedicated Facebook Advertising Account Manager, something can still be done through back channels to scoop up those renegade pages and affiliate them with the Authorized Page. But if you don’t have that influencer on the inside, then those renegade pages will keep floating up in the Facebook Search Results. They might have your brand’s logo, if the information that moved over from Wikipedia included it. They might even take a lead spot in the search ranking, depending on what the search algorithm EdgeRank is calculating that day.

If the rumor about needing an Inside Man to consolidate or squash a renegade Community Page is true, then for Brands this means there is no way to proactively address the issue without also advertising through Facebook.  

When you travel to Palo Alto to meet with the gang at Facebook and discuss why your minimum spend should be at least $1M per brand/product this year, make sure to blurt out at a critical moment, "Hey, what's up with those community pages?" John Bell of Ogilvy, 2010 Apparently, this is still the way to go about getting a little attention.

  B. L. Ochman warns that these unclaimed Community Pages are “nightmares waiting to happen”, stating that over a third of the Fortune 50 have unclaimed Community Pages that could be easily be swamped with complaints, online activists, and misinformation that the brand itself would have no way to moderate or direct. (Her prime example is an O&G, but any company, large or small, is in danger of having a doppelganger page become the main platform for dissidents and madvocates.)

According to this study by EisnerAmper, an accountancy and advisory firm, “Reputational Risk” is the number one concern of Boards of Directors. In this world of instant-access, 24-7 social media, where a pin drop on Twitter can be heard around the world before a journalist even begins sourcing a story, online reputation management is no small part of a reputational risk audit. Unclaimed Community Pages might be a small hole in a brand's armor against a potential online crisis, but not an insignificant one.