You do not have any right to fans of a Facebook page that is dedicated to you or your product, that was created by someone who is not you or acting on your behalf.

There have been cases where companies have tried to seize control of unofficial fan pages and take them over, as if they were somehow entitled to the community that was built by someone else. It’s so wrong.

Some are trying to use trademark or copyright law as a means of bullying their way into these pages and, in doing so, they risk damaging those fan relationships. In fact, the bullying itself is rather hard to understand because in many cases, they are essentially treating their customers like thieves. Completely the wrong move.

Now, obviously, there are people who abuse trademarks. If someone is pirating your movie or flat out telling people that they represent you when they don’t, by all means, go legal on them. I’m totally on board with that. Shut them down (you still don’t have any right – in my opinion – to take over the current base of fans, just to shut them down).

But the mere act of uttering your brand’s name, including it in a fan page usename, displaying your logo or artwork on the page does not give you some sort of ethical, moral or legal right to the community that has been built by the unofficial page.

If anything, when you discover a legitimate fan page, you should be thanking them and giving them some access. Ask for their help and offer yours. Make sure any legal issues you bring up are important and worth the time and introduce them in a kind, respectful manner. Consider adding them to your page’s “favorite pages.” In other words, act like a friend. You do not compete with fan communities. That is craziness! Sadly, some have taken that approach. They are a part of your ecosystem, surviving independently and, yet, helping your bottom line.

It amazes me that some corporations still don’t get the beauty of legitimate, unofficial fan pages. Let me break this down:

  1. They love you.
  2. They give you money.
  3. They are self-sustaining and often make their own money. They do not take up your resources or require your interference.
  4. They’ll tell you when something is wrong – just read the wall or discussion posts.

Not a bad deal. Don’t mess it up!