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Geolocation is a great tool for personalizing messages to users based on where they're located.

So it shouldn't come as a surprise that Coca-Cola has applied geolocation to its Facebook Page, which has nearly 34m fans from all over the world.

But last week, the beverage company learned the hard way that a geolocation error can cause big problems on Facebook.

AdAge explains:

Basically, all of Coke's posts are geotagged so that its fans see only posts in a relevant language based on their IP address. U.S. users see posts in English; Brazilian in Portuguese and so on.

But something went wrong today and two posts, one in Portuguese and one in Romanian, were visible to everyone for about 10 minutes, according to a Coke executive.

Not a big deal, right? Unfortunately, the temporary geolocation flub sparked a firestorm. Some commenters expressed confusion and frustration, while others wrote angry, pathetic rants about non-English languages.

While the outcome of this mix-up is lamentable, it does highlight an important point: a Facebook Page does not represent a single 'community.' On the world's most popular social media platform, brands speak to diverse groups and interests.

As AdAge notes, 80% of Facebook's users are now outside of the United States. Individuals from different places and walks of life generally don't have trouble co-existing on the site, as they get to control who is in their social graphs, but global brands, through their Pages, don't have it so easy.

Obviously, Coke recognized that it speaks to lots of different people through Facebook and implemented a system to personalize its messages. It apparently worked well until a bug put it out of operation for a short while. But plenty of global brands don't even try to speak in multiple voices.

If anything, Coke's Facebook incident should not be looked at as a reminder that some users are about as well-rounded as a shoebox, but rather it should be looked at as a reminder that Facebook is not a social network -- it's a platform of social networks. Savvy brands will make sure their Facebook strategies reflect that.

Patricio Robles

Published 15 August, 2011 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Matt

This is such a non story, Coke had some technical issues that were resolved within 10 minutes. This could have been used in a post about using Facebook across international markets, but it is not a story in its own right.

about 5 years ago

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Barry Bridges

Ditto. Mistakes happen. This was - in the grand scheme of things - trivial. It's easy to draw gasps of exasperation and concern by creating stories about branded facebook mistakes just because the mistakes are so visible, but I bet you Coca Cola gets more complaints each year from people who hurt their finger on a ringpull, for example, which should put this into perspective.

about 5 years ago

Guy Redmond

Guy Redmond, Digital Marketing Engineer at Nestle

@Matt, I agree; on the surface it is a non-story, but, I think this highlights the power of SM and the (high) expectations of its users.

I think the story (case study?) should be how Coke handled this and the implications of geo-location tools…

about 5 years ago

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Barry Bridges

But @Guy - I'm not sure what can be learnt from CocaCola's handling. In my view, they did a good job. They took it down, moderated and quashed the flames. Responding would only add fuel to the fire or draw Coke into a debate about socio-political issues which are not where it wants to be.

As for the implications of geo-location tools? They let you target content geo-locationary (if that is a word?). Again, there's not a huge amount to learn here.

If there is a lesson, it is this: brands make mistakes, because humans do - and humans run social media for brands. In any world there will be jerks - and for a popular brand such as Coke a few fans will always be jerk-like. The solution: just don't panic, don't make a big deal out of it and the problem will go away. In about 10 minutes. No biggie.

about 5 years ago

Guy Redmond

Guy Redmond, Digital Marketing Engineer at Nestle

@Barry, sorry perhaps my facetious tone don't come across too well...

Totally agree with you both, but here we are wasting time commenting on a non story and I bet you prefer Pepsi?!

about 5 years ago

Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles, Tech Reporter at Econsultancy

Matt,

Did you read the post? That's essentially the point that was made:

"While the outcome of this mix-up is lamentable, it does highlight an important point: a Facebook Page does not represent a single 'community.' On the world's most popular social media platform, brands speak to diverse groups and interests."

"As AdAge notes, 80% of Facebook's users are now outside of the United States. Individuals from different places and walks of life generally don't have trouble co-existing on the site, as they get to control who is in their social graphs, but global brands, through their Pages, don't have it so easy."

"...plenty of global brands don't even try to speak in multiple voices."

about 5 years ago

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Scott Rodgers

Agreed, more of a non-issue in this case. But, it is interesting AND could be a larger and very interesting issue in a different situation...

Instead of Coca Cola, image media sources and political candidates that are having targeted conversations with their audiences. The audience would feel as though they are being spoken to in a like-minded sort of fashion...and could gain the impression that the majority of people share their same views. Just as it would be possible for people to think most Coke drinkers speak English. (really, though?)

Imagine then when people realize other people are being spoken to in a similar fashion, but with views that are actually different and potentially conflicting. For example, a politician tells a group of union workers he supports their interests. Everyone feels good. Then, the same politician tells a group of corporate executives he shares their views. They feel good too. But, when the person is elected and forced to vote on policy that affects the two potentially conflicting groups / views... a moment of truth arrives.

In reality, this has been happening for years, but technology is making it possible for brands et al to have sophisticated, targeted conversations like never before. Coke felt the affect of an imbalance in those targeted conversations. But we are sure to see more, and very interesting examples of this in the future...

about 5 years ago

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