Facebook is like a box of chocolates.  You never know what you’re going to get.  And sometimes, it’s not even sweet.

While most social media advisers are bullish on Facebook as a marketing channel — and certainly there are some amazing success stories — in my classes I teach a more holistic view of the opportunities and the PERILS of what you might get into.

I use the screen shot above as a way to illustrate the dark side of exposing your brand on the social web. Let’s take a look at what’s going on here.

The first wall comment is from a guy who is using a cute little girl as his avatar. I’m guessing this is simply a proud papa, but without careful observation, or taken out of context, you might make the conclusion that this is a perversion or that this cherubic girl is thanking Budweiser for participating in an alcohol-related promotion in Kansas City.

Curiously, the next avatar is also from a Bieber-like child who is clearly below the drinking age. This little boy is thanking Budweiser for supporting LGBT issues. This stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transsexual. While Anheuser-Busch may very well support this demographic, it certainly is not reflected in its advertising or core brand promise.

In any event, a casual observer would be thinking, why are these two little kids posting on Budweiser’s Facebook page?

Finally, Joe Doyle thinks this photo is so funny he posted it TWICE. Remember the Southwest airline attendant who got fed up with his job and abandoned his flight?  Yup that’s him. Joe goes on to suggest a Facebook site encouraging Bud to feature the wayward flight attendant in an advertisement.

From a traditional marketing standpoint, this is a mess.  Everything you do, and everything you don’t do, communicates about your brand.  What is being communicated by these community comments and how does this reflect on the most powerful beer brand in the world?

While social media represents a true opportunity for connection, listening and service, a wacky page like this seems to overwhelm those positive opportunities, doesn’t it?

I had the privilege of working with Anheuser-Busch senior execs for four years and I know the extreme pressure on brand managers.  After viewing this page, if I were Bud’s marketing director, I might be thinking “WTF … Who talked me into being on Facebook?”

I’m not necessarily suggesting that they shouldn’t be on Facebook, but I’m making a point that in an era when many “gurus” think every marketing problem can be solved with a Facebook page, you better be prepared for all possible consequences.

Marketing on Facebook is hard work … as we see by this example. Considering that a brand like Budweiser is probably going to consistently attract “diverse” and unusual comments like these, how do you weigh the benefit versus expense of a high-maintenance page like this?

Is this a case where a brand has to be there or be conspicuously absent?  Is Facebook like your industry trade show – you just have to go or people will notice if you’re not?

Or, does Facebook represent an opportunity to legitimately inform, engage, and communicate in exciting new ways in a case like this, or is this a daily nightmare for an important brand?

Let’s get down to basics.  Is a Facebook page going to help Budweiser sell more beer?  How does it fit into an integrated strategy?  What do you think?

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