Behind the Scenes at the Biggest Brand on Facebook: Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola Facebook pageTaking the business mantra of  “think global, act local” to its maximum, Coca-Cola’s Facebook page is tailored to its 36 million fans around the world. While nearly all those fans access it through a single page, what they see differs based on where they are.

Coke micro-targets different messages in different languages daily to people in more than 100 countries – sometimes even to particular cities − according to a recent post on  Thus, what people in the United States see on the Coca-Cola Facebook page will differ from what fans in most other countries see.

The page is managed by a team of seven at the company headquarters in Atlanta. But Coke employees in more than 200 countries help decide what should appear on the page, generally selecting options from approved content provided from HQ.

But they’ve got to manage everything in realtime. That’s because the world is full of critics, activists and cyber-graffiti artists who delight in posting petitions, political polemics, and pornography on the site.

Coca-Cola has hired a listening partner, which it won’t identify, to help watch the site and protect against vandalism. But the company won’t remove critical remarks or even shout-outs to competitors as long as they abide by the “house rules” posted on the site that prohibit material that can defame, abuse, harass, stalk, threaten or otherwise violate the rights of others.

On the contrary, Coke encourages its fans to post material on its site. And when it comes across something elsewhere online that it finds relevant and amusing, it often will reach out and ask permission to share that on its own Facebook page.

For example, on a recent visit to the Coca-Cola Facebook page, visitors could click to view fan photos of a Coke can balanced at a 45-degree angle, a heart shape formed from more than seven dozen cans or a wind chime made from a Coke can. No one has ever refused Coca-Cola permission to post their online content, according to Michael Donnelly, group director of worldwide interactive marketing for the brand.

It’s rather recent that the company actually took over direction of its wildly popular Facebook page. Originally, it was created by two Los Angeles friends, Dusty and Michael, when they couldn’t find an official Coca-Cola Fan Page on Facebook. Others followed and at one time there were more than 100 fan-created pages. That ended four years ago, when Facebook demanded that Coke collapse all the micro-sites into mega-pages.

Despite the change, Coca-Cola continues to encourage fans to interact on the page, rather than focusing on pushing the product or boosting sales. The company also retained Dusty and Michael as brand ambassadors, linking to their Facebook page from its own. As Donnelly says, the Coca-Cola page is “very, very fancentric.”