And we still have no idea how Coca-Cola did it. Or didn't do it.

Every time I speak with a client before beginning work on a Facebook page for them, I am sure to set realistic expectations when it comes to the touchy subject of number of fans.  For all PageStarter orders specifically, my clients are small businesses and sole proprietors, and I always use Coca-Cola's Facebook public profile (formerly "page") as an example of what not to expect in terms of page growth rate.  Right now, with 3.3 million fans and counting, Coca-Cola's profile is second in popularity only to President Barack Obama.  But the real kicker here is that nobody working at Coca-Cola had to so much as lift a finger to achieve this; two honest-to-goodness coke fans just found a nice, high-quality image of the product, threw up a page in homage to their favorite carbonated beverage, and the page just exploded on its own.

Much as our first instinct may be to envy Coca-Cola's natural growth on Facebook, insanely popular profiles like Coca-Cola's might actually be more overwhelming or even frightening to those responsible for the company's branding than anything else.  After all, when your goal is to carefully cultivate a certain image for your product, you're not about to feel comfortable entrusting that image's care to somebody else right away.  Yet in our thoroughly-connected world, wherein some random guy on Facebook can inexplicably manage to draw over 3 million users to a page about your product, we're forced to recognize that whatever control we once believed ourselves to have was at best an illusion; you cannot control your consumers' perceptions of your product.

But here's where I get to the good news: those 3.3 million users who opted to become "fans" of an unofficial Coca-Cola profile on Facebook are all the proof any company or brand should need to show that consumers want to connect with your product, even if only out of pure loyalty.  And while you may not be able to control consumer behavior, but social media makes it possible to learn from and work with your fan base!  Though Coca-Cola's Facebook profile was created initially by a completely unaffiliated Facebook user, Facebook's ToS adjustments last year required Coca-Cola to either take over the page or delete it entirely.  Perhaps surprisingly, Coca-Cola proposed a slightly different approach: the page would remain more or less the same, with the original creators continuing on as administrators - but sharing this access with some key Coca-Cola executives.  Rather than lay claim to the page and use it to blast its fans weekly with Coca-Cola news and blatant advertising promotions, Coca-Cola decided to allow the page to be what the fans wanted it to be: an expression of their love for Coke.  Consequently, the Facebook profile works really well with Coca-Cola's worldly image as a classic product enjoyed all around the world, and aside from multi-lingual wall posts from adoring fans from all over, they've also created a few albums reposting images published by their fans to show off their fanbase and coincidentally show them their appreciation.

Personally I do love that Coca-Cola didn't go all "big-brand" on the page by flooding it with glossy advertising images and promotions, but what do you guys think?  Is there still more that Coca-Cola just isn't taking advantage of?

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